Political Kisses and Sewer Misses: The News Week in Review

October 11 was National Coming Out Day.

October 11 was National Coming Out Day. An internationally observed day of celebrating individuals who publicly identify as bisexual, gay, lesbian, and transgender, the day was founded in 1988 by New Mexico psychologist Robert Eichberg and National Gay Rights Advocates head Jean O’Leary. They chose October 11 because it is the anniversary of the 1987 National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.

October 11 was National Coming Out Day.

At the University of Oregon, National Coming Out Day was met with wild fanfare, with rainbow balloons and a parade making its way through the University Street Faire. But advocating for LGBTQ&A rights has evolved over the decades: “Sylvester, who came up with the idea for the banner and planned many of the week’s events, decided to make a last-minute addition to the afternoon’s happenings after experiencing a moment of prejudice earlier in the week. ‘Some of the street preachers said some pretty insensitive things to me,’ Sylvester said. ‘So in response to that I called in a “kiss in.”‘ Sylvester explained that a ‘kiss in’ is an event where people may hug, kiss, or hold hands in protest of homophobia and ignorance.” [1]

Kiss-ins have become all the rage. After the controversial National Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day happened earlier this year, protesters protested back with their own protest: that’s right, a kissing protest. Activists planned “‘National Same-Sex Kiss Day at Chick-fil-A’…As part of the event, couples [were] encouraged to go one of the chicken restaurant’s locations and take a photo or video of themselves kissing.” [2]

Public displays of affection are now political, apparently. And you don’t have to look hard to find other political PDAs, like the Eugene City Council’s public displays of affection for the Downtown Exclusion Zone. But not everyone likes such PDAs: “Instead of allowing the exclusion zone, also known as the Downtown Public Safety Zone, to expire Nov. 30, the council voted 4-4 (with Mayor Kitty Piercy breaking the tie) to extend the zone for another year…[But] Lauren Regan of the Civil Liberties Defense Center plans to file suit against the city in November regarding the exclusion zone and a host of human rights issues related to the homeless in Eugene. Regan has won several legal cases and settlements against the city.” [3]

You don’t have to look hard to find political PDAs, like the Eugene City Council’s public displays of affection for the Downtown Exclusion Zone.

The City of Eugene also ran afoul of public affection when it scheduled a vote regarding the coal train debate without providing the opportunity for public input. “Despite the controversy surrounding coal trains running through Eugene and Lane County, the Board of Lane County Commissioners had scheduled a vote in support of coal trains and the Coos Bay Bulk Terminal for Oct. 3 with no public input. After outcry against the resolution arose, Commission Chair Sid Leiken suggested the vote be moved to Oct. 17. The commission will take public comments at that time, and also at its Oct. 16 vote in Florence.” [4]

Not letting the public weigh in on an important city issue can be perceived as dirty business. But what’s really dirty business is the business of cleaning up sewage mishaps. “A weekend break in a sewer line connecting the Oregon coast communities of Gardiner and Reedsport has sent an estimated 50,000 gallons of raw sewage into the Umpqua River. The World newspaper reports that the Gardiner Sanitary District shut down the line and sewage has been rerouted through a temporary pipe.” [5]

Speaking of sewage spewing everywhere: the Vice-Presidential Debates took place on Thursday night. While the night consisted of mudslinging, smirks, and ad hominem attacks, a rare moment of humility and authenticity arose when the candidates addressed the issue of abortion. “With two Catholics on stage for the first time, [moderator Martha Raddatz] stressed that they ‘talk personally’ about how their religion affects that stance. In a rare and brief quiet moment in the debate, the men obliged. Ryan told the story of seeing an ultrasound of his first child, weeks after conception, at Mercy Hospital in Janesville, Wis. She looked like a bean, Ryan said. And that’s her nickname to this day. ‘Now, I believe that life begins at conception,’ he said. Biden, speaking quietly, said he’s a practicing Catholic. He accepts his church’s opposition to abortion, he said, ‘in my personal life. But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews,’ he said.” [6]

The City of Eugene ran afoul of public affection when it scheduled a vote regarding the coal train debate without providing the opportunity for public input.

On the subject of abortion, people disagree pointedly. But on the subject of fugitive child molesters, people tend to have but one stance: Get ’em. Lane County was thus in full alert when news broke that, “One of the 15 most wanted fugitives in the United States is suspected to be hiding in Eugene, the U.S. Marshals Service said Friday. Frederick Cecil McLean is a fugitive child molester who fled the San Diego area in 2004-05. The USMS said he molested dozens of children over a 20 year period while in California, using his position in the Jehovah’s witness Church to find victims.” [7]

On the one hand, fugitive child molesters are in serious violation of the law. On the other hand, drunk Duck funs are not — though they can be a public nuisance. It comes as no surprise, therefore, to learn that, “Eighty-two people were ejected from Autzen Stadium during last Saturday’s Oregon-Washington game. Of that total, 60 spectators were kicked out for alcohol-related violations. Seven of them were issued citations, according to statistics compiled by University of Oregon officials. Authorities ejected 12 more people for unauthorized entry into the game, and three for misusing a ticket. Three spectators — one of whom was cited for assault — were ousted for fighting, and two more for disorderly conduct. One person was booted from the stadium for a drug violation, and another for urinating in public.” [8]

One of the 15 most wanted fugitives in the United States, child molester Frederick Cecil McLean, is suspected to be hiding in Eugene.

But it wasn’t just Ducks fans that got drunk last week. A Duck player got drunk, too. “The Ducks indefinitely suspended a senior defensive tackle who was cited for DUII ‘pending clarification of an incident that occurred Friday morning in Eugene,’ head football Coach Chip Kelly said in a press release. Kelly did not describe the incident or how senior defensive tackle Isaac Remington was involved.” [9]

It is because of situations like this that public safety organizations try to teach people to not drink and drive. But sometimes lessons are hard to teach. Fortunately for Oregon public schools, however, lessons are being taught — and better than they were before. “Oregon education officials have released the report card ratings for public schools and districts. The state said Thursday that 31 percent of Oregon’s 1,155 schools were rated outstanding in 2011-2012 — up from 28 percent the year before. But schools judged to be in need of improvement also increased, from 8 percent to 10 percent.” [10]

Sometimes all a kid needs is someone to look up to as a role model. But in a world of lawsuits, spilt sewage, child molesters, and drunk athletes, it’s understandable why kids these days might feel like something’s amiss.

R.L. Stollar writes the Local Nation segment at EDN. He has a B.A. in Western philosophy and literature from Gutenberg College in Oregon and a M.A. in Eastern religions from St. John’s College in New Mexico. Follow him on WordPress (rlstollar.wordpress.com/), Twitter, (@RLStollar), or Facebook (facebook.com/rlstollarjournalist).

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