Once again the idiotic citizens of Portland are all up in arms over the giant, “historic” neon sign that sits on the west side of the river over the Burnside bridge. Around 10 years ago everyone freaked out and shit themselves when it was changed from saying “White Stag” (an old outdoor clothing company) to say “Made in Oregon” (a company that sells things only made in the state). Now the University of Oregon owns it and wants to change it to say “University of Oregon.”
Honestly, why the fuck are we even talking about an ugly neon sign? I hate to use the old “rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic” saying but come on people. The salmon are rapidly going extinct right in front of us. Street names? Neon Signs? Really? This is what you’re spending your time talking about while land that gives us life withers under the destructive, imperialistic agricultural regime? This is what you’re choosing to emotionally invest in while dams, logging, commercial fishing and pollution are wreaking havoc on the innocent lives of plants and animals with which we depend?
Oh wait, I’m sorry. No, let’s sit around and debate what we should name a street. Grand Avenue or Cesar Chavez Ave? Oh and if you say Grand you’re a fucking racist! If we are looking towards quality of life, I see no way in which a neon sign adds more quality to my life. I see that sign every once and a while and it leaves no impression on me, anymore than any other grotesque Clear Channel billboard, only it’s a vintage advertisement so it’s like, totally cool or something. What the fuck is wrong with you people? You know what leaves an impression on me? Stands of Black Cottonwood that stood 200 feet tall with a width of 7 feet, lining the shores of the Willamette river. Camas fields so dense that the valley looked like a great sea of purple. Land that was so rich from indigenous, sustainable land management that it baffled the agrarian fundamentalists who first encountered it.
While my family does not belong to the Native American populations who tended the lands here for 8,000 years, we have lived here longer than Grand Avenue, longer than that disgusting neon sign. As a fourth generation Portlander, and a recovering agrarian fundamentalist, I can tell you that I would rather have that funding go to life-giving historic monuments, like say, salmon runs so thick you can’t wade through the river than old energy consuming advertisements. As the climate crisis heats up, as economic collapse melts our society down, we need to restore the local, sustainable food systems that humans had in place here for thousands and thousands of years.
Shame on you Multnomah county, with your so-called “green technology” and “sustainable development.” You’re supposed to be the most liberal, environmentally conscious, eco-forward county in this country and yet you quibble over the most meaningless bullshit, spending tons of money, time and energy, distracting yourselves from doing something sincere for the future generations. Here is an idea, let’s just change the sign to say “Fuck the Planet.” That way you’ll be able to clearly remember every time you look at the sign where your priorities lie. Either way, it will be very clear to the generations of people that come after us, that the people of this land cared more about pretty little bright lights than rewilding our ravaged lands.