Finding hope and safety on our Sanctuary campus

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.