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Talking Story 
by Polo


From The Asian Reporter, V27, #3 (February 6, 2017), page 7.

Three faces of River City

And the work ahead of us all

Friday, January 20, 2017 was the 44th peaceful transition of presidential power for our United States of America. In response to Donald J. Trump’s inauguration, protesting Portlanders filled Pioneer Courthouse Square. I saw a small Magic-Markered sign that read "Take Care of Each Other." It bobbed just above our heads. I also saw a black-hooded skull bigger than our youngest brother’s double-doored Frigidaire. Really big. Huge. It loomed and stared over us. Its skeletal knuckles, fingers, and killer nails, longer than me, hung to its left and right. Acrid turmoil filled the air.

Beginning early Saturday morning, women and girls, their men and boys, began pooling under and around Naito Parkway’s bridges. More and more, then still more and more poured in from all over Oregon. While Pacific Northwest rain poured on us. Portland’s Women’s March filled 44 downtown blocks, followed by another 44 blocks worth of marchers, then another. All of them, concerned about our nation. Everyone, content among each other. Like familia. Wellbeing filled what little space remained between us.

On January 22 — on a Sunday, on that reflective day just ahead of everybody’s next big-city workweek — rabbi and cantor Cahana filled their heavenly domed Beth Israel synagogue with Christian and Muslim, Catholic, Jewish, and Buddha sanga Portlanders. After prayer and inspiration, everyone walked wordless across rushed Burnside street; we walked silently by our Timbers’ stadium and our stately Governor Hotel; we waited patiently for Maya Taqueria’s corner crosswalk signal — infectious mariachi raised our chins and lightened our steps. We passed empty Director Park then walked slowly onto Portland’s Living Room. Pioneer Courthouse Square.

We filled that place, our silence did. Our little candles did too. This silence rose from red brick underfoot into our azure evening sky, then it rose on and on through the chill of airless space. And maybe someday, some several million light years from here and now, our silenced and humbled hearts will reach what both wayward physicists and our simply faithful call the face of God.

Back down here — as we ended our expression of trust in pretty cool Portland, in anxious America, in our achy little earth — the Reverend Dr. Héctor E. López was trying to explain something tough to capture by local TV news cameras. No creepy skeletons or scary bottle throwers, no lovely mothers or pink-pussycat hat babies.

"Some people think silence is not appropriate," Dr. López said, "because it looks like inaction."

"But, oh no. No-no-no," he smiled, wagging his well-worn finger, correcting us like a Mexican abuelo, like a Moroccan jaddi or an Eire grandpa. "Silence is an interstitial moment before action. A time to reflect on the challenge we have been given in 2017."

Silence is necessary. Silence allows sacredness to seep in. The sacredness of us in this place, this confluence of our generous river matriarchs Willamette and Columbia. These shores of chocolate soil, stewarded by 140 centuries of native families living and loving here.

Silence is necessary, before we rise and breakfast among those people we love. Then let’s get to work. The work of community building in all the ways, all us very different and very dear Portlanders, do this work. Our work.

* * *

Nota: For this third demonstration of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Beloved Community, for this expression of how Portlanders are, terima kasih banjaak (I offer our love to you): Rev. Dr. Héctor E. López and pastor Lynne Smouse López of Ainsworth United Church of Christ; to Br. Wajdi Said, Muslim Educational Trust co-founder and president; to Janet Musgrove Elfers, executive director of Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon; to Rev. Michael Ellick of First Congregational United Church of Christ; to pastor. E.D. Mondainé of Celebration Tabernacle; and of course to senior rabbi Michael Z. Cahana and senior cantor Ida Rae Cahana of Congregation Beth Israel.

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