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February 19th, 2003 The Nose | The Nose
 

All too quiet in Little Beirut.

     
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Is that the acrid odor of obedience the Nose smells in the Rose City air?

Across the globe last Saturday, millions marched against America's plans to wage war on Iraq. In London, Chicago, Paris, Detroit and Augusta, Maine. In Berlin, San Francisco, Rome and San Jose, Calif. Worldwide, it was judged to be the largest peace demonstration in memory. In Oregon, 1,400 people marched in Salem; 4,000 turned up in Eugene.

Here in Portland, this state's largest city?

Zilch.

Well, not quite zilch. There was a two-bit rally on the North Park Blocks on Saturday, after which a few anarchists split off and took over a downtown intersection to stopper SUV traffic. But that's it--unless you want to count the 700 who walked downtown Saturday to protest the loss in funding for school sports.

So what's the deal? Has our fair city has grown immune to the calls for sanity in the headlong rush to redraw the map in the Middle East? Have even the peaceniks concluded that this is one war worth waging? Has Bull Run been spiked with testosterone?

This might be unfair. After all, the peace protests in Portland last month were among the largest anywhere. But in recent weeks, it seems Portland is developing a growing weariness about protesting--or even questioning--the war.

It was even in the atmosphere of liberal coziness at the Schnitz Thursday night, when former U.S. Senator and presidential wannabe Bill Bradley "debated" ex-presidential handholder David Gergen at Pacific University's annual civics forum. Bradley's protests about President Bush's campaign were met with polite, muted applause, rather than a standing ovation.

What explains this attitude? What happened to our legacy of "Little Beirut"? Why is it that the "People's Republic of Multnomah" has apparently been swayed by what Maureen Dowd of The New York Times calls the Bush team's "locker room taunts."

The Nose has theories:

1. We're all too busy buying duct tape.

2. Who can worry about the lives of a few thousand Muslims when we have more direct things to panic about? Like the shortest big-city school year in America. Or a state economy that appears to have slipped back to 1983. Or the lack of snow on Mount Hood.

3. It's a backlash against those "old" Europeans. As one local acquaintance told the Nose, "I was ambivalent about war until France--who sold Iraq a lot more weaponry than we ever did--and Germany shot off their mouths. It wasn't that long ago that we helped liberate those people and held their hands to prevent their moral and economic collapse. Who the hell are they to tell us we can't defend ourselves?"

4. Because we're starting to realize we can. Portlanders are mostly Americans, after all, and as Of Paradise and Power author Robert Kagan says, "Americans believe in the use of force. Europeans are not up to the challenge of meeting the war on terrorism. Those who have more power are inclined to use it."

The Nose has another, purely indefensible theory about Portland's short attention span nowadays when it comes to war: because there is no draft.

The middle-class residents of this city (face it, Portland is still a white, middle-class town) have relatively few sons and daughters who are overseas, preparing to don chem suits and take the streets of Baghdad. You think it's a coincidence that none of Oregon's six Gulf War casualties came from the metro area? We have, in a very real way, less to lose.

Could this be why the city council in the military-base town of Tacoma voted against the war but ours didn't?

Then again, the Nose could be completely wrong. The next planned peace protest, scheduled for next month, could put Portland back on the map.

 
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