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Joe Beach

When we first started working on The Other Oregon nearly two years ago our goal was to bridge the urban-rural divide.

It seemed then that the gulf had never been wider.

Then the wounds from what had been a divisive national election were still sore. Democrats in Salem were proposing tough environmental legislation that would hit rural Oregon hard. There were violent demonstrations in Portland.

Having followed recent events, I find myself looking back and remembering those as the good old days.

The 24-hour news cycle and the steady beat of social media makes it easy to get lost in the rancor of today’s political and cultural wars.

But I’ve been struck by how little politics comes up in my conversations with both urban and rural Oregonians. While I’m sure opinions would readily come forth if solicited, the things that dominate the news rarely seem to be the topics that dominate casual conversation.

People talk about their families, their jobs and the other prosaic subjects that form their daily lives.

No matter what happens in Salem or Washington, I think all Oregonians want the same things. They want good educations for their kids, expanding economic opportunities for their families, decent and affordable healthcare, and a sense of security.

Everyone has a different idea about what those things look like and how to achieve them. But there are more things that unite us than divide us. If we turn down the noise and listen to one another, that’s a lot easier to see.

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