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SHARON NESBIT: The Outlook's popular columnist clicks off her final thoughts as 2019 comes to an end.

Year-end cleanup:

I read this week about the difference in the measurement of the foot. Turns out there is an international foot — based on meters — and a U.S. Survey foot, which is a skosh smaller.

Sharon NesbitYou have to wonder how that happened and why someone didn't straighten it out. But then we are a nation caught up in an impeachment, which makes you wonder why anything happens. Or if anything will happen.

What I know for sure, is that I am even shorter than I thought.

Fear and bad decisions

I read that it was December 1944 when the U.S. Supreme Court declared that the internment of Japanese residents during World War II was illegal. In Gresham and Troutdale, some local Japanese families began to come home from exile in camps in California and Idaho. Many did not have homes to come home to, and most stores posted signs banning Japanese.

It doesn't hurt to remember that as a nation, frantic with fear, we really screwed that up. Japanese families were locked up while their sons were fighting in the war. It was a huge misstep and highly racist.

The same act used to imprison the Japanese, also included Italians and Germans, but only a relative handful of the latter were interned.

Troutdale's Kaz Fujii, now deceased, was drafted into the U.S. Army before the war, the only soldier of Japanese descent in his unit. He went on to fight his way through Europe with the famed 442 Infantry Regiment of Japanese-American soldiers. He never got over the irony of seeing his family banished while he was given a gun.

The best we can do?

I read that a new shelter in Southeast Portland to house homeless families will get them off the street for 120 days. Could I, I wonder, get my life turned around and become a solid, citizen in 120 days? Sometimes it takes me two days to find my grocery list.

I am reading Gresham resident Cheryl Graves' book about a plan to help the homeless. She sees a village concept — not unlike the old county farm — where people rebuild lives. The despair of those tents alongside the freeway, damp, cold and noisy, haunts me. I never want to see a blue tarp again.

It's in the bag

Come New Year's Day, say goodbye to single-use plastic bags and remember your reusable bags. I wish my car had a little alarm in it, a voice that came on when I parked at the store: "Don't forget your grocery bags."

I get my exercise walking back to the car to get them. We will get used to being without plastic bags. Hawaii has been without for several years and the difference along the roadsides is remarkable. Likewise the law keeps bags out of ocean where they do great harm to sea creatures.

And while we are at it. Let's get rid of balloons. They are trash on a string, loosed to get caught in trees and streams and oceans.

Somehow, balloon releases have come back into style with no thought as to where they end up. It is sentimental claptrap.

Plant 100 trees instead. Twelve feet apart. If you can figure out how far that is.


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