The House's discussion on HB 2020B revolved around the division between rural and urban areas of Oregon. I don’t agree with that assessment.
There’s a division between the haves and the have nots. The haves can be described as the Combine in Ken Kesey’s novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. This comprises of Nurse Ratched and what she represents; threatening to confiscate everything that those around her cherish. The have nots are the psychiatric patients who render themselves helpless; at the mercy of the haves and left with nothing. Who are the have nots in HB 2020B? Who are the haves in HB 2020B?
Oregon proletariats – working-class people – are the have nots. We had something once. It’s on the verge of extinction. It’s our purpose. It’s our livelihood. It’s our family. It’s our community. It’s our existential quality of life. It’s a life we were coerced into because past legislation forced us into living a certain way. We live in stick houses. We live in trailer parks. We’re students of public education. We deliver your food. We cultivate your produce. We make your paper. We’re raised in foster care. We couldn’t afford college degrees. We’re the volunteers who sacrifice ourselves as enlistees of the armed forces.
This life that I describe is one that starts us at the bottom of the barrel. We’ve climbed out of that barrel. We’re trained. We have family-wage jobs. We’ve stopped the cycle of alcoholism that plagued our unemployed ancestors. We’ve gone out to the woods. We’ve mastered the forests. We’ve persevered, and we’ve conquered. The barrel is never too far away for the have nots. We’re one bad choice away from winding up at the back of the line. HB 2020B doesn’t offer us the choice to make it or break it. It breaks us. It’s a lobotomy that severs us from our spirit.
Representative Power concluded the House debate by referencing that climate change is the greatest crisis of our lifetime. That’s untrue. The greatest crisis of our lifetime is when the proletariats of a civilization are not included in life-changing decisions. We’re the most affected by everything; climate, economy, and anything in between and we were not included in the development of HB 2020B. We are the have nots.
The haves are the developers of the bill. Representative Power teared up as she referenced long days away from her family during the drafting of HB 2020B. Her sacrifice isn’t like ours. She doesn’t lose fingers while logging. She doesn’t watch a shipmate off himself on a submarine. She doesn’t work 12-hours shifts on her feet at a mill. She doesn’t miss Christmas because she has to pack wounds in a hospital.
What we do is more than work. It’s a culture. It’s a religion that commemorates trees, family, the great outdoors, and honest living. We’re afraid it’s going to be taken away. We’re afraid the haves are going to stick ice picks into our existential eye sockets and render us lame.
Nikole Young is a Columbia County resident. She may be reached at Nikole.firstname.lastname@example.org.