Our Opinion: Honor what unites us
Last week, we reported on an idea whose time has come: giving U.S. Highway 30 a symbolic name to honor Oregon's military veterans.
In 2015, the Oregon Legislature voted to designate Interstate 5 as the Korean War Veterans Memorial Highway. U.S. Highway 101 on the coast is the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq Veterans Memorial Highway. Interstate 205 is the War Veterans Memorial Freeway. Highway 26 is the POW/MIA Memorial Highway.
The list goes on.
It's right that the Columbia River Highway should also be named in honor of veterans, as the Oregon Veterans Memorial Highway. We support Senate Bill 790, which would do so.
Read our story on a possible new designation for U.S. Highway 30, first published online March 4, 2021.
It might seem repetitive to have highway after highway after freeway named in honor of those who have served. Some of the names may seem redundant, also.
But that's exactly the point, we believe. These routes connect communities that have long been connected in another way: All have sent brave men and women off to war. Some of them never returned. Others came back forever changed by the experience.
It's all too easy to forget the ties that bind, especially in this era when we are grappling both with this persistent pandemic and the domination of social media.
As echo chambers proliferate online, "blue" communities get bluer and "red" communities get redder. If familiarity breeds contempt, a failure to communicate, understand and see eye to eye breeds something much worse.
Scappoose and St. Helens have been rivals for many years — that's nothing new. The Indians and the Lions have duked it out on the football field, on the basketball court and on the softball diamond. City and economic development officials have competed to woo businesses and jobs. Politically, they've drifted apart more recently, with St. Helens leaning more conservative and Scappoose realigning more toward the left.
Both Scappoose and St. Helens are more akin to one another than either is to, say, Portland. And it's probably fair to say they have more in common than either has with Rainier or Clatskanie, well to the north and more economically oriented toward Longview, Washington.
Certainly, Portland-bashing is not a new pastime in Columbia County. Residents here have always taken pride in their rural roots and agricultural heritage. We appreciate small-town living here. In Portland, city politics and infighting are practically a blood sport, to say nothing of the distressingly frequent confrontations between protesters and police officers. Scappoosians and St. Helensites are happy with good ol' football, stock car racing and the rodeo, thank you very much.
Of course, Highway 30 runs through every community we just mentioned. It connects them all. So does our military heritage, as evidenced by the veterans parks in Columbia City, Rainier and Scappoose and the veterans memorials in Clatskanie, Portland and St. Helens. People from every one have given blood for the United States of America. Maybe they grew up sneering at the sensibilities of the next town over, but they stood shoulder-to-shoulder with brothers and sisters in arms under our country's flag.
Especially at a time like this, it's good to be reminded of that. It's good to remember that we are all Americans. It would be good to see the Oregon Veterans Memorial Highway, from Astoria to Baker City, making that connection explicit. For all of our differences, we can take pride in the heroes who stood together for all of us, and we can salute them — wherever they are from, whatever they sacrificed.
We urge the Oregon Legislature to approve SB 790, and we hope that in its spirit, they can find the common ground they need to deliver for Oregonians this year and beyond, in Columbia County and beyond, as we work to overcome this crisis together and build a more perfect union.
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