I’ve been driving around in downtown Portland a couple times in recent weeks. Did you know they totally revamped the whole bus mall area? Yeah. Now when you make right turns you have to turn into the FAR lane. Because the bus and the streetcar are taking up the normal lanes you’d turn into.
It’s kinda weird. But whatever. I”m all for mass transit, here, people. ALL for it.
But in conjunction with this whole bus mall revamping, I heard that the local PDX police were cracking down on jaywalkers in the bus mall area. Cracking down hard. Like they’re some sort of hardened criminal element, like oh say drug dealers. Because we never have THOSE in downtown Portland, right?
I am a proud jaywalker. I would gladly pay any fine for the privilege of crossing a street with intention. I cross with intention by checking both ways and seeing whether or not there are any cars coming, and then crossing, regardless of what some stupid machine is telling me to do. It’s a minor rebellion, but it’s important to me. Allow me to explain.
Fully half of my mother’s side of the family died during World War II. A relative did our family tree and of the 10 or so siblings alive before the war, less than half were alive afterward. Under each name of a sibling (some very, very young) who did not survive, was just one word: Holocaust. It’s a chilling thing to see. And then there is this, from Pastor Martin Niemoller. I’m sure you’ve heard it before:
When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.
Then they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
I did not protest;
I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
I did not speak out;
I was not a Jew.
When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out for me.
What does this all have to do with jaywalking, you ask? Relying on my senses instead of relying on a rule is my one small way of affirming to myself that I will never blindly follow rules. I will protest rules that persecute others. For all my relatives who died, I risk punishment for not following a rule that makes no sense to me, because I think that using my eyes, ears and brain works much more effectively. Much like I protest against rules that prohibit gay marriage, or gays in the military, because they truly do not make sense to me either.
True, it may be a stretch to remember victims of the Holocaust by jaywalking. But every time I step off that curb, regardless of what the sign indicates…it is the millions who died that are in my thoughts.