OK, let's leave aside the politics of immigration reform (including the lack thereof, so far).
What I found most fascinating about the twin Sheriff Joe Arpaio rallies at the Capitol yesterday -- a pro-rally on the Capitol steps, and a counter anti-rally right across the street -- was the differing "vibes" of each.
A video I made from my iPhone footage focuses on the counter rally, where I spent most of my time.
Now, I realize that some of the people at each rally were from out of town. But many, perhaps most, were from the Salem area. I recognized a lot of folks at the counter rally.
So during the 70 minutes or so I spent on Court Street watching the goings-on, I was struck by how the two sides of the street seemed to epitomize two sides of Salem -- along with Oregon, the United States, and even the world.
(I took most of the photos below soon after I arrived at the rallies; though the crowds were smaller than later on, the atmosphere at each rally didn't change.)
The pro-Arpaio rally was mostly populated with middle- to older-aged white folks. They seemed to view things quite seriously. When I walked around on the Capitol steps taking photos, I didn't feel very comfortable.
Of course, I'd come from the other side of the street.
American flags were much in evidence on both sides of Court. But there was something off-putting about how the pro-Arpaio people used the flag. Not as a symbol of coming together. Of keeping unwanted people out.
Sheriff Arpaio, of Phoenix, has been found guilty of racial profiling and his jails have been ruled unconstitutional. So he isn't exactly a warm and fuzzy guy, nor would I expect his admirers to be.
The Oregon Republican Party booth displayed Arpaio's famous pink underwear, which he mandated be issued to all prisoners.
Maybe it was my longish gray hair, or my bright neon-green shirt, or the orange folding bike I was wheeling along, but for some reason I wasn't beckoned over and urged to join the GOP. Again, the vibe was serious. I had the feeling that these guys and gals felt they were defending the country against people like me.
And especially against many of the darker-skinned people across the street. Who -- gasp! -- perhaps aren't in the United States legally.
Well, that possibility didn't bother me at all. I found the diverse bunch of people at the counter rally on the north side of Court to be much friendlier, positive, energetic, and welcoming than the pro-Arpaio group.
These sorts of messages were much in display at the counter rally. On the Capitol steps, not at all. Again, I'm not really talking about the politics of immigration reform here. There are good arguments for bolstering border security, just as there are good arguments for legalizing the immigrants already here.
I just found the "neighborliness" of the counter-rally to be in sharp contrast to the divisiveness of the pro-Arpaio, anti-immigrant people on the Capitol steps.
Right on, sign-holder.
I felt a lot more love in the air at the counter-rally. It was great to see Hispanic families arriving, parents, grandparents, children, carrying signs to show their support for a diverse, welcoming Oregon.
It was also clear that love carried the day, attendance-wise. The Statesman Journal story tells the number-tale.
About 100 people gathered on the steps of the state Capitol on Saturday for a rally to hear Joe Arpaio, sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, speak about immigration, drugs, gun laws, taxes and getting tough on crime.
...Also in front of the Capitol, but across the street, about three times as many people gathered in protest of Arpaio, who is known for his conservative stances on immigration and hard-line policing.
Figures. Salem is a liberal-minded town which, at the moment, is governed by a conservative Mayor and City Council majority.
I didn't really feel like the counter-rally yesterday was primarily about politics, though. Sure, most of the people on one side of the street were Republicans, and most of the people on the other side of the street were Democrats.
The common denominator, of course, is that word: people.
One side, the counter-rally, embraced love, cultural diversity, creativity, human rights, and joyful celebrating. The other side? I felt rigidity, judgmentalism, and narrow-mindedness coming from the Capitol steps.
Salem, like everywhere in America, has various sides. Not just two, naturally. We are a multiplicity, E pluribus unum, "Many uniting into one."
The challenge is to foster oneness, and decry divisiveness. That was the drama I saw playing out at the Capitol yesterday. I'm confident that love will win out over hate, neighborliness over get-out-of-here'ness.
The much greater energy, positivity, and enthusiasm shown by the folks at the counter-rally testify to that.