There are certain subjects and points of view expressed in The Columbian’s reader letters that seem to regularly appear to be rehashed yet again. The two that most stand out to me are complaints about the visual impacts of homelessness, usually disconnected from any understanding of the causes and showing a lack of compassion for those unable to secure housing; and vitriol directed at Portland and the concern that Vancouver is becoming more like its neighboring city to the south.
In both of these cases, a common denominator is a tribalist attitude that treats differences between socioeconomic groups, ethnicities and even geographic locations as threatening, undesirable and to be avoided whenever possible.
Scientists tell us that the study of DNA confirms that we are much more alike than different, and psychologists confirm that we all want the same essential things for ourselves and our families. Many more people are closer to being homeless than we care to admit, and the problems that both Portland and Vancouver face are essentially the same. Let’s see our homeless citizens as deserving of our compassion and respect, and the future of our cities and states as inextricably linked. Instead of shaming, blaming and othering in our civic discourse, let’s recognize that we are all in this together and assume the best until proven otherwise.