by Deborah Steele Hazen
A handful of volunteers have been preparing for months, and will be working very hard over the next week to put on Clatskanie’s biggest celebration of the year.
The Heritage Days theme this year is “Having a Blast in Clatskanie!” We want everyone to have fun. We’re hoping that the people of this community and their visitors will attend, enjoy and whenever possible, participate in the various activities.
We’re also hoping that those who value the celebration of this community’s heritage and our nation’s birthday will contribute by giving a donation and/or buying raffle tickets and buttons. (See the article and advertisements elsewhere in this issue).
As we are celebrating, we should also be mindful that there are those in our community who are embraced by our heritage, and there are those who are not, or who have not, had “a blast in Clatskanie.”
The speech given by 2013 Clatskanie High School (CHS) graduate Holly Burghardt at the commencement ceremony June 8 was a beautiful tribute to the community she loves and which nurtured her. We were so impressed by it that we published it on the front page of the June 8th edition
Around the same time, we received an “open letter to the Clatskanie community” from Matthew Keranen, who graduated from CHS in 1991 after enduring years of bullying and harassment. Last week we published his powerful and moving letter in this column.
In advance of publication I shared Matthew’s letter with Clatskanie and Rainier school administrators and received very gratifying responses. While we hope the kind of harassment that Matthew endured is getting more rare, we know that various kinds of bullying still persist. Matthew’s story will be used to raise awareness among today’s teachers and staff members, but we also hope that it will stimulate some soul-searching in the community as a whole.
Clatskanie’s interim superintendent George Lanning wrote the following in an e-mail to us about last week’s Trident: “I would hope our schools can provide a safe, secure environment for students. It really takes the entire community to work with all the children to prevent this type of tragedy. Teachers are more aware today of the entire spectrum of hazing, harassment, intimidation, bullying and menacing. Cyber bullying is the latest addition to the list of issues we must address in the schools that may not have been present when Matthew was a student. I’m sorry his school experience was not more positive, but I do appreciate his willingness to speak out. .. This is an issue that needs to be addressed by the entire community.
Yes, it is an issue that needs to be addressed by the entire community.
Home Sweet Home
Last week a local resident with whom I’m acquainted, but don’t know well, visited my office, partially in response to Holly’s tribute to Clatskanie’s “unique bond of small town closeness” – the positive character of this community that this column and this newspaper has boasted about numerous times.
This man, who has lived in rural Clatskanie for about 20 years, doesn’t agree. His experience with Clatskanie and the people of this community has been more negative than positive.
He repeated the sentiment I have heard a number of times – that it is difficult for an “outsider,” someone who isn’t of a multi-generational family, to become accepted into the positive spirit of community here.
As I have written in this column many times, I am a fifth generation resident of Clatskanie, but I spent 10 years during my teens and early 20s elsewhere. When my grandmother’s sudden death prompted my return to Clatskanie as a young adult – not intending to stay very long – it took a number of years – years in which I became involved with organizations and volunteerism – before I felt fully back into the fold. Most of this was due, I believe, to my own reticence, but part of it was what seemed like a barrier created by the intense camaraderie between those who had spent all of their growing up years together.
The man who visited my office last week also spoke about some bad experiences with rude people who happen to be Clatskanie natives.
I repeated to him a thought about Clatskanie that has been in my mind for years – that it is a microcosm of the larger world. We have very good people and a few very bad ones; intelligent and stupid people; knowledgeable and ignorant; cultured and crude; caring and self-centered; kind-hearted and jerks.
He said that Clatskanie has a reputation among people he knows of not being a very friendly town.
I know many people who have the exact opposite impression. I know “newcomers” who have become community leaders very quickly because they have out-going personalities, they haven’t sat back and waited for someone to reach out to them, and have unhesitatingly jumped into the mainstream of community volunteerism.
The point is that Clatskanie – like every other place in the world – can be caring or cruel. It embraces many, and it turns its back on others.
Bullying, harassment and intimidation is one thing – it cannot be tolerated.
Making Clatskanie more welcoming to newcomers or those who are just shy, is more subtle, but it is worth thinking about.
We should stick together, but not in a closed circle – or more accurately, closed circles, because Clatskanie has numerous groups all of which may be perceived to be less than totally-inclusive.
We shouldn’t wait for the newcomers to come to us. We should extend a welcoming hand of friendship and tolerance, kindness and courtesy, and make them part of all that is good in this town.
Those of us who love Clatskanie should do whatever we can to make it loveable for visitors and for everyone who has chosen to make it their home.