By Dr. Jim Ferguson

As I pen this essay Becky and I are homeless. Actually, we’re “tweeners,” between our former home (Big House, which my daughter and her family now occupy) and our New House, which is not quite ready. It’s worked out OK because we’ve been with my Mom, who had surgery and needed a capable nurse; she settled for an internist. Currently we’re in Portland, Oregon babysitting my granddaughter. It’s been a bit unsettling because as I wake up now I sometimes have to think where I am.

Portland has been in the news lately after a certifiable nut-job knifed to death two men on the local tram and then pleaded not-guilty to the assault. And as one of the victims lay bleeding to death a homeless man stole his backpack. The creep also stole the victim’s wedding ring which the perp was still wearing when he was caught.

Like Knoxville, Portland attracts a large number of homeless people. Social services and generous hearts are readily available for people who are unable to make it in society or choose not to do so.

When we were last here, I learned that petty crime is a big problem. The local Fred Meyers (Kroger) instructs its employees not to hinder shoplifters as they walk out the door. Apparently, it’s cheaper to send a bill to the insurance company than to prosecute. While walking the dog, my son-in-law encountered a man walking down the alley with a flat screen TV at six am; and Freddy’s doesn’t open until 7am.

Twenty years ago my wife, Becky, published an essay in Newsweek magazine about petty crime. Her thesis was that small crimes that go unpunished lead to more serious ones. It’s the same with gateway drugs such as marijuana which often lead to more serious drug usage.

We were in Portland last fall just before the election. We saw no yard signs for Trump, undoubtedly because Portland is a very liberal-progressive community. Interestingly, I only saw one Hillary yard sign, many for Bernie Sanders, but dozens of Black Lives Matter signs. Those BLM signs are still everywhere though some are thankfully shrouded by spring flowers.

The notion that Portland is uber-liberal was recently challenged by a controversial essay in the Washington Post, entitled “Portland Isn’t Portlandia” (after the sitcom). The author maintains that Oregon is mostly white, anti-black and racist. Such sweeping conclusions are inherently prejudicial, and it amazes me that so many liberals see color in everything. There must be a low incidence of color blindness among liberals.

Perhaps the Washington Post essayist is manifesting “white guilt,” after the book of the same name by Shelby Steele. Of course we all have prejudices, but I challenge the notion that Oregonians are racists. And I challenge the notion that just because I live in the South and I am conservative, I’m a racist or a bigot. I judge people by their thoughts and actions, not the color of their skin. It’s time for Americans to stop being played by activists and the media. It’s time to use reason instead of emotion. And it’s time to get the signs out of our yards and hearts.

I never know where my stories will come from. The world looks different when you’re walking instead of driving. It was yard signs which started this essay as I strolled with my granddaughter through the neighborhood and away from the neighbor’s construction project.

The neighbors are raising their home six feet and digging out an additional 9 feet in the subfloor to stabilize the sagging foundation of their house. I learned that poor foundations are a common problem in Portland because of alluvial soil in the Columbia River basin, and problematic concrete in older Portland homes.

It all began about 12,000 years ago when the earth began to warm. You may be surprised to learn that we currently reside in an inter-glacial period called the Holocene epoch. The world was literally frozen for the previous 70,000 years, with the ice pack at Niagara Falls one mile deep. Fortunately for man, global warming, er…, climate change occurred.

As the earth warmed the glaciers melted and began to recede. Ice melt filled the Great Lakes which had been gouged out by glaciations. Lake Superior filled to a depth of 1000 feet. And as the glaciers melted, the Pacific Northwest was subject to repeated massive floods as ice dams forming the Missoula Glacial Lake repeatedly collapsed. The raging flood waters surged at eighty miles an hour and cumulatively deposited fifty cubic miles of soil across northern Idaho, Washington and the Columbia River Basin.

I’m reading a book by Philip Yancey who says few people are persuaded by argument or even a discussion. You probably wouldn’t quibble with my research of the Missoula floods. Why would I lie? On the other hand, you might take issue with my perspectives in the first part of this essay or argue with me about anthropogenic global warming. I can report that a week in Portland caused me to again question global warming. Mark Twain once said, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”  For a southerner like me you could substitute Portland in the quotation for San Francisco.

Jesus knew the hearts of men when he advised his followers to let their light shine so others would see their good works and glorify their Father in Heaven. Yancey sides with Jesus, stating that people are persuaded by relationships and love, not debate, and certainly not by the politically correct term “conversations” which have become an oxymoron.

Last Sunday, as I sat in church among Portlandians, this Tennessee boy identified with other fellow Christians. These folks may be more liberal than me, but we share faith, language, culture and country. So, how did we become so divided? In WW II Americans were unified against Nazis, jingoistic Japanese and communism – with the possible exceptions of some elites and media (NY Times) who were sympathetic of Uncle Joe Stalin’s murderous communism.

I’ve asked myself this question many times and have come to the following conclusions: we have been divided by political and media operatives (class warfare); our national identity, founded on Judeo-Christian principles, is being systematically subverted; our public discourse is shaped by emotions rather than facts and reason; and the rule of law under the Constitution is eroding as is our freedom.

So what do we do? Francis Schaeffer summed up the proper response in his book “How Then Should We Live.” He said we should follow the wisdom of the Bible (not the Koran). We should speak the truth (with love, as Paul added). And we must pray for the lost and remember that God is with us. And I would add the admonition of a friend, “get inspired; get informed and get involved.”