Finding hope and safety on our Sanctuary campus

Illustration by Aaron Osborn

Everything feels different now. I’m not sure how to clearly define it, but everything is most certainly different.

Our fundamental values have been shaken enough to cause many of us examine our own beliefs. Our country is divided and busying itself with questioning integrity when the real inquiry should focus on ethics. Families are drawing lines in the sand over ideals and scruples and what each person considers right or wrong.

The recent presidential election weighs heavy on the heads and hearts of Americans—especially now that it’s over. Since I reached voting age, no election has been as contentious, with both candidates trailing a backlog of unsavory decisions.

Social media has exploded with stories and memes degrading one side or the other. We have seen the streets all over the United States heaving with thousands of demonstrators protesting the outcome of the election and the possibility of a future we are petrified to envision.

Worst of all, we have been witness to countless intolerant citizens spewing hate and threats of violence at one another. Yes, even here in hyper-liberal Portland.

Our city has a reputation for being open-minded and accepting. Sights such as Darth Vader riding a unicycle while playing flaming bagpipes don’t phase us one bit. We embrace eccentricity and live by our motto to “Keep Portland Weird.”

People love living in Portland partially because we can be whoever we want, without judgment. That’s why I was so surprised to experience a public display of hate-vomit from a well-dressed middle-aged man downtown recently. He was yelling “Go home! You don’t belong here anymore! God bless America! Make America great again!” at a group of mixed-ethnicity youth who were crossing the street.

They were shocked and laughed nervously as they kept walking. He followed and continued his litany of insults. To engage or not to engage: that was the question. I did, catching the verbal assaulter off guard long enough for the kids to be on their way.

This is the world we live in now.

While we grapple with the decision of whether it is better to be a bystander or a participant in this political upheaval, it’s important to support each other however we can.

Portland State University and Reed College have both announced that they are sanctuary campuses. PSU President Wim Wiewel issued a statement to faculty, staff and students declaring the university “a sanctuary campus dedicated to the principles of equity, diversity and safety.” If you’re wondering what exactly that means for students, Wiewel decreed a “commitment to the protection and support of all PSU students, in response to concerns about possible immigration law changes.”

The major point made in his statement has received a lot of backlash: “The Portland State University Campus Public Safety Office does not and will not enforce federal immigration laws as is required by state law.”

This is a controversial stance that supports PSU’s sustainable and inclusive mission while disregarding federal law. State schools are largely funded by the federal government. However, that doesn’t mean we should just roll over and do what we are told. If we don’t stand up to support each other, who will?

If our community members, no matter their race, sexual orientation or cultural background, cannot turn to each other for safe harbor, how far are we from a real breach in our society? We as a people are not made up of laws but of individuality, each with our own stories and backgrounds.

That is what makes America great.

All this is to say: We need to act like humans, not like policies. We need to remember that neighbors on all sides are fundamentally similar: We get out of bed each morning, make breakfast and kiss our loved ones goodbye before we head out the door.

Things are a changin’, that is for sure. Whether for better or worse, remains to be seen.

Right now our country’s divided mentality might feel like the beginning of the apocalypse, but never forget that we have sanctuary in each other.


  1. Our country feels divided because this election was based in two completely separate realities. The real world, and the world the mainstream media tells you is the real world. Once you understand this, and figure out that a lot of what you are being fed by the mainstream media is simply not the truth; you can begin the process of educating yourself, taking that educational responsibility unto oneself instead of placing it with the corporate owned media who feed the majority currently.

    Roughly 5 Corporations own almost all news media organizations in the United States, including many news organization you wouldn’t expect. For instance, Vice News is owned by Disney etc. In nations described as Authoritarian, media ownership is at the top of the list for complete state control both directly and indirectly.

    I don’t say this because I’m some shill for Donald Trump, he has his own problems, I’m saying this because the more important factor in all this is the understanding that what we are being fed by the mainstream corporate media is in large part, a big fat lie. If this election didn’t prove this to people I don’t know what will.

  2. The illustrious Wim Wiewel will get you killed, that’s all. Have you seen Trump’s cabinet picks? Go against the Feds and you’ll all be herded out on those rails that were installed at the PSU campus back in the 90s. You are no more “political dissidents”, so much as you are fraudulent poseurs. You have been following the politics and the constrained rhetoric of old men who are mourning their youth, and using you to feel heroic once again, even though they themselves have had comfortable, bougie jobs for years and are reaping the financial and social rewards. Liars. I’m no fan of ANY of these politicians, but the federal hammer is about to come smashing down, and all the costumed, “unicycle eccentricities” and studied “weirdness” in Portland will not be able to stop it, and will not protect you. Read your history, and don’t be so naive. Don’t just be “woke” – wake up!


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