Looking for a charming modest affordable home in Lake Oswego, Oregon’s First Addition neighborhood? Fuggetaboutit.
This delightful 1,380 sq ft 1960 bungalow with an adorable backyard playhouse, (described as “The Very Best of First Addition Lake Oswego”) could be an option, but it is probably doomed, even though it is listed at $864,000.
In our disposable culture, it will likely be replaced by a hulking, extravagant bloated McMansion built as close to the lot lines as possible.
After all, the modest house that used to be next door sold in 2020 for $586,000 and it was still torn down. A newly built 3,922 sq ft house on that lot (described as “A confluence where good ol’ American farm style meets sophistication.”) sold for $1,965,000 in February 2021.
Zillow puts this property’s current value at $2,038,000.
The construction of some of these McMansions may be driven by the desire to outdo the less wealthy (or the less indebted), reminding others of the Ozymandias line: “Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair!” And real estate agents probably love them. The commission on the sale of a $1.5 million McMansion is most certainly much larger than on a $400,000 cottage.
Whatever the motivation, the quaint First Addition of old, platted in 1888 and 1925 and once praised by the American Planning Association for its “housing variety and affordability (and) small-town atmosphere,” will soon be no more.
As Washington Monthly recently put it, “The modus operandi is always the same: Take a totally usable older house that is the same style and size as neighboring dwellings, though perhaps needing a rehab, and knock it flat, along with every mature tree on the property—there will be no room for them, owing to the enormous footprint of the planned structure. Then construct a particle-board chateau that has at least 75 percent more square footage than the neighbors, complete with a quarter-acre driveway for the obligatory Range Rover.”
Drive or walk around First addition and the proliferation of large homes that have replaced smaller ones is evident everywhere.
Massive condos are taking root in First Addition, too.
Blazer Homes built six 3,376 sq. ft. townhomes on 4th St. in First Addition in 2018. The most recent sale , on March 3, 2022, was for $1,445,000.
With dreams of another big payoff, the company recently bought an adjacent lot on 4th and plans to build similar condos on the site.
A just-released Education Update sent out by Colt Gill, the Director of the Oregon Department of Education, notes that his department and the Oregon Health Authority have created a toolkit centering on safety, health and belonging as schools transition to face covering optional policies.
In his determination to cover all his bases, he says the goal of the toolkit is to create safe, supportive, welcoming schools, particularly for “students who experience disability and those who are Black, Indigenous, Latina/o/x/e, People of Color, Tribal members, and/or are members of the LGBTQ2SIA+ community.”
Gill clearly sees the K-12 education universe as nothing more than an assemblage of distinct and maligned minorities. This is the kind of identity politics that foments perilous division of our state and our country. Rather than emphasizing common values and interest, Gill’s identity politics stresses differences and creates a feeling of ‘zero-sum’ competition between groups.
In a Medium article, Benjamin Morawek posited that there are two types of identity politics.
“The first kind is what I call inclusive identity politics and it is synonymous with the term “common-humanity identity politics” used by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt in their book, The Coddling of the American Mind. This kind of identity politics, they explain, mobilizes identity “in ways that emphasize an overarching common humanity while making the case that some fellow human beings are denied dignity and rights because they belong to a particular group. This is the identity politics of the civil rights movement and a shining example of its use is Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.”
“… the second kind of identity politics, exclusive identity politics, calls for the value of marginalized groups based on the very identity that makes them different,” Morawek wrote. As Oberlin College professor Sonia Kruks said in Retrieving Experience, “The demand is not for inclusion within the fold of ‘universal humankind’ … nor is it for respect ‘in spite of’ one’s differences. Rather, what is demanded is respect for oneself as different.”
One problem with Gill’s identify politics is that it leads to even more minority designations. “Once identity politics gains momentum, it inevitably subdivides, giving rise to ever-proliferating group identities demanding recognition,” says Amy Chua in Political Tribes.
Gill’s reference to “the LGBTQ2SIA+ community” illustrates this point.
The Oregon Department of Education says this “…means a term that encompasses multiple gender identities and sexual orientations including Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Two-Spirit, Intersex, and Asexual. The plus sign (“+”) recognizes that there are myriad ways to describe gender identities and sexual orientations.”
“Originally LGB, variants over the years have ranged from GLBT to LGBTI to LGBTQQIAAP as preferred terminology shifted and identity groups quarreled about who should be included and who come first,” Chua wrote.
Russia’s war in Ukraine is showing that its gotten a lot harder to keep the homefront in the dark.
For a long time after invading Afghanistan in 1979, the Soviet government told its citizens that its soldiers were there fulfilling their duty, building hospitals and schools, planting trees and helping the Afghans build a socialist state. It wasn’t until 1990 that a book written in Russian by Svetlana Alexievich, a Belarusian Journalist, disclosed the full reality of the brutal, horrific war. I read the book a long time ago, but it is still relevant.
“All we know about this war…is what ‘they’ consider it safe for us to know,” Alexievich wrote in Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices from the Afghanistan War. “We have been protected from seeing ourselves as we really are and from the fear that such understanding would bring.”
In an Introduction to a 1992 English translation of Zinky Boys, Larry Heinemann, a college professor and Vietnam vet, wrote of how the book revealed Soviet efforts to keep news of the war and the dead from the people at home:
Letters were heavily censored and photographs were not permitted. So thorough was the censorship that few battlefield photographs by the soldiers survive. Soviet veterans of the war were told bluntly and firmly not to talk about what was going on – a pall of denial by the government not unlike the experience of Vietnam GIs.
The corpses of Soviet soldiers were sent home in sealed zinc coffins, accompanied by military escorts with orders that the coffins not be opened. The families, in their bottomless grief, could never be positively certain that their sons and brothers and husbands were actually dead and their bodies actually present in the coffins.
No explanation for the deaths was given; funerals were conducted at night to keep down the crowds; tombstones were inscribed with the words ‘Died fulfilling his international duty’, which became the euphemism for Killed-in-Action.
Russia also tried to smother information when it seized Crimea and went into eastern Ukraine with unmarked troops in 2014 and 2015.
“Authorities at first denied any involvement, then suggested any Russian soldiers there were on vacation.,” according to The Wall Street Journal. “When Ukraine captured a unit of paratroopers, Russian officials said they had got lost and strayed over the border.”
It’s a lot harder now for Putin and his minions to hide the realities of the Ukraine invasion from the Russian people, including the mothers whose children are dying in the fighting.
Look for Yours, a Ukrainian channel on the Telegram messaging app, is one outlet making sure of that.
Today’s edition of The Wall Street Journal describes the coverage by the channel and a website, run by officials from Ukraine’s interior ministry, in all its horror.
“In one, the body of a man in camouflage uniform lies rigid in a snowy field, with mangled flesh and blood where his face used to be. “Unidentified,” reads the caption…Some pictures and videos on Look for Yours depict gruesome scenes of charred corpses and twisted bodies amid wrecked vehicles. They also show videos of prisoners and identification documents of the captured and dead.
“Unfortunately, it’s not possible to recognize the person in every photograph,” says Viktor Andrusiv, a Ukrainian interior ministry official, speaking in Russian in a video on Look for Yours. “Those are the horrors of war launched by your president.”
The Ukrainian channel shows videos of Russian prisoners, including several saying that their commanders abandoned them and that they had been sent to Belarus for military exercises last month not knowing that they would be invading Ukraine.
On the Look for Yours website, Andrusiv appealed to relatives of Russian soldiers. “Do everything you can to end this war, and so that your children, husbands and sons don’t die in our country,” he said.
Russia has long tried to obscure the extent of its military operations in Ukraine, which included its seizing of Crimea and direct military interventions in eastern Ukraine with unmarked troops in 2014 and 2015.
Authorities at first denied any involvement, then suggested any Russian soldiers there were on vacation. When Ukraine captured a unit of paratroopers, Russian officials said they had got lost and strayed over the border.
John Mueller, in War, Presidents, and Public Opinion (1973), used data principally from the Vietnam and Korean wars to argue that publics will rally behind presidents who go to war, but that these rallies will eventually fade and support for intervention dissipate as home-country casualties mount over time—something known as the casualty aversion hypothesis. “Some historians have argued that the United States lost the Vietnam War not only because casualties mounted but also because television turned the conflict into a “living room war” that exacerbated the public’s casualty sensitivity by making the war’s human costs more vivid.”
Although some have challenged this proposition, the US government believed there were hazards to exposing the public to the reality of war when images of dead GIs were almost entirely forbidden in American media during WWI and WWII.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could now be the “first social media war,” as individuals on the ground in the besieged nation are able to share real-time reports from the frontlines, Peter Sucui argues in Forbes. “That ability to post updates, share videos could help ensure that the first casualty of this war isn’t the truth.”
Reuters has reported how some of social media’s youngest users have experienced the Ukrainian conflict from the front lines on TikTok.
“Videos of people huddling and crying in windowless bomb shelters, explosions blasting through urban settings and missiles streaking across Ukrainian cities took over the app from its usual offerings of fashion, fitness and dance videos. Ukrainian social media influencers uploaded bleak scenes of themselves wrapped in blankets in underground bunkers and army tanks rolling down residential streets…”
Reuters noted that TikTok users have also urged Russian users, in particular, to join anti-war efforts.
Pictures of massacred Ukrainian civilians and dead Russian soldiers lying in the snow on social media may prove to be Putin’s Achilles’ heel.