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Posted: July 16, 2016

Is it safe to drive to Oregon?

Gerry WarnerPerceptions by Gerry Warner

So the good wife and I are going down to the Oregon coast next week for a little R&R and to refresh my memory of one of the most beautiful coast lines in the world and when I mention this to a friend his immediate response is “be careful down there.”

So has it come to this? A little holiday in the United States of America is cause for a dear friend to express concern for your personal safety?

I guess it has got that way when you have mass shootings almost every month, cops being mowed down five at-a-time and the possibility that the most vulgar man in politics could become president by the end of the year. That can only mean things are sliding into the sewer.

But you know, it wasn’t always that way. Roll the tape back 60 years or so and the US was the great beacon of power and democracy in the world, standing like a colossus over the rest of us mere mortals. As a young lad, I can remember trips to Spokane with my parents and gaping in wonder at the incredible variety of goods on display at Penny’s and the Bon Marche. The Woolworth’s Five and Dime in Trail didn’t cut it after that.

I first saw TV in 1954 in Los Angeles where we drove to in our old, green, Chevy pickup with a crude camper on the back that my father built out of scrap lumber from Cominco. My sister was still a toddler then so in the days before Pampers my mother kept a diaper bucket in the camper and Lord how that camper stunk. Then, after reaching a campsite, my mother would wash the diapers and hang them on various parts of our truck as we enjoyed dinner cooked on our trusty Coleman gas stove.

I’m sure we looked like something out of the Beverley Hillbillies!

Newport, Oregon. Above image, Oceanside, Oregon. Photos by Ian Cobb/e-KNOW
Newport, Oregon. Above image, Oceanside, Oregon. Photos by Ian Cobb/e-KNOW

I can also remember the adults talking politics and one of the biggest political items of discussion was should Canada join the United States as one country. Who would even raise that topic now? But back then it sounded like a pretty good idea to many naive Canadians and we were certainly some of them.

But you have to put yourself back in those halcyon times. Uncle Sam was clearly number one. In most people’s minds, the US had won the Second World War as long as you ignored what Stalin did to Hitler on the Eastern Front. President Eisenhower was a war hero and rightly so and the fear then was of communism despite what our Russian allies had done to help us win the war. And what was the only country on earth that could stand up to the Bolsheviks? The US, of course. They were the mightiest military force on earth, and of course, they had the bomb. No one was going to mess with them.

The American economy was also by far the biggest on earth. Europe was still in shambles recovering from the war, the Chinese were barely on bicycles and Russians could only dream of owning a car. It seemed nothing could go wrong for that generation of Americans, which is often referred to as “the greatest generation.”

But oh how the mighty have fallen!

Today the US is clearly an empire in decline. It’s true they still have the world’s most powerful military, but when was the last time they won a war? The American economy is still the biggest in the world, but China will surpass it in less than a decade and wealth distribution is falling into fewer and fewer American hands with each passing year. In fact, according to a recent New York Times article, the average Canadian middle class family now has a higher income than its American counterpart though the one per cent of super-wealthy Americans are still the wealthiest in the world.

But what’s wealth, even super-wealth, if it’s not safe to walk down the street? But I hear that Oregon is still safe and its coastline is beautiful beyond mere words.

That’s enough for me.

Gerry Warner is a retired journalist and an eternal traveller.

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