They were young, male and they bore a terrible trauma on their souls. Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev? The Central Park Five? In 21st Century America any disaffected male minority can lay claim to ancestral suffering to explain bad behavior. Here in Oregon, the state Senate recently passed a bill requiring that any new legislation include …
Pamela Fitzsimmons lives in Portland, Ore., and was a reporter and editor at newspapers in California and Washington state for more than two decades.
She grew up in Medford, Ore., a working-class town that was once populated with pear orchards and formerly home to lumber mills, fruit-packing houses and excellent public schools (among the required reading in senior year: Arthur Koestler’s “Darkness at Noon”). She worked her way through the University of Oregon as a forest fire lookout for the U.S. Forest Service, stationed on mountains in the Umpqua, Wallowa-Whitman and Willamette national forests.
In the decade of the 90’s, like hundreds of other reporters in Southern California, she wrote about gangs, drugs, deteriorating schools, urban sprawl, poverty and its offsprings: more babies, more poverty, more social problems. In her case, the focus was on San Bernardino where smog obscured the San Bernardino mountains, and there was never a hint of orange blossoms in the air.
By the time she returned to the Pacific Northwest, parts of it were starting to look like San Bernardino, minus the smog. Gangs, strip-commercial sprawl, declining schools, the meth epidemic, illegal immigration – California’s bad dreams had moved north. Didn’t anyone read the news and see this coming?