Historic Hood River
I wrote this piece for The Hood River News. I believe it’s in today’s newspaper. It’s a little different from our normal fare, but I hope you find it interesting.
History has a funny way of offering perspective. A couple of weeks ago I was researching Hood Riverâ€™s 125th anniversary and came across something which I filed away as a â€œfun factâ€ to pull out some day. Today is that day, though the â€œfun factâ€ no longer seems fun.
Ordinance 5 was the first real law the Hood River City Council enacted, after they finished all the technical stuff you have to do to create a new city. It addressed contagious disease. Ordinance 5 created rules for everything from how you report disease to what color flags you put in your front yard to indicate quarantine, and who burns the clothing of the infected person.
The fact this was our cityâ€™s first real action wasnâ€™t a random choice. Every person alive at that time lived in constant fear a random contact one day could leave them seriously ill the next. Contagious disease for which there was no effective treatment was a basic fact of life.
There was no particular outbreak going on here in 1895. There was simply the fact that if the purpose of their new government was to promote the general welfare, the first thing they needed to address was how the community should deal with contagion. This fear wasnâ€™t a temporary or novel condition. It was the human condition, and It had been so for all time.
Until recently most of us forgot to be afraid of contagious disease. The fact people were debating vaccination a couple of weeks ago shows how deeply we had buried that fear. Or perhaps itâ€™s more accurate to say recent generations have replaced that fear with new ones: nuclear winter, terrorism, school shootings, climate change. Weâ€™ve had monsters hiding under our beds, but contagious disease wasnâ€™t one of them. And now it is.
Despite living with this constant fear of contagious disease, the authors of Ordinance 5 proceeded to invent our modern city. They got to work on sanitation, water and electricity. They installed sidewalks. They cut down the oaks in the middle of Oak Street so they could grade and pave the street. And, for some reason, they regulated jugglers (Ordinance 7).
I am sure you would like to know what history says about how long this will last. I canâ€™t answer that question, but I can tell you that as a community we learn to live with our fears. The authors of Ordinance 5 figured out how to live their lives day to day, taking the appropriate precautions to deal with fear and risk, and they built the remarkable little community which is now ours. It has withstood disease, ice storms, war and economic collapse, and it has thrived.
The fear, the economic disruption, the losses and all the heartbreak that that come with this pandemic will become history as well. What will be its legacy? History suggests trials and times of darkness trigger creative impulses. You may have heard Isaac Newton formulated the basic concepts of calculus and William Shakespeare wrote â€œKing Learâ€ and â€œMacbethâ€ while under isolation during bubonic plague epidemics.
I already see creativity emerging from our current hardships. Every day people are sharing new ideas with me. Some have ideas for a new product, others have a new idea about how they can help their community or advance a favorite cause. We process our fear, then we start solving problems. We put in place our personal â€œOrdinance 5â€ then get on to more productive pursuits.
So while some are predicting we will emerge from our social distancing cocoons to a baby boom, I predict a surge in entrepreneurial and philanthropic activity. Weâ€™re pretty good thinking creatively once we have figured out how to process our fear.
Are there any shortcuts to quiet the mind so you can get back to creative thought? I suggest you ignore Ordinance 7 and try juggling.