by Deborah Steele Hazen
Inside this issue is a letter to the editor from Michael and Kerri Tennis of New York state, who happened to be camping in the Clatskanie city park during the Heritage Days festivities.
They had a wonderful time here. They loved our 4th of July celebration; they even won a couple of raffles, and the townspeople they encountered were friendly, welcoming and helpful. They think Clatskanie is just great.
They have seen Clatskanie at its best – the one we love to brag about.
But, as we’ve been painfully reminded recently, it is not the only face of our community.
In June, Matthew Keranen, who graduated from Clatskanie High School in 1991 and now lives and teaches in Finland, wrote to us about the Clatskanie he experienced as a boy growing up here in the 1980s and early 1990s – a nightmare of bullying and verbal abuse. He shared his story in hopes that those inclined to bully would think twice about their actions; that those who didn’t participate, but who saw it happen would intervene; that adults would become more aware of the signs of bullying, and that youth and adults alike would reach out a hand of friendship to its victims.
We have no doubt that Matthew’s story is absolutely true because we know of other cases of bullying that took place around that same time, and even years before.
While we were still processing that sad story from over two decades ago, headlines burst out across the region about Clatskanie’s “sextortion” case.
According to the much-publicized lawsuit, the teenage girl, who is the plaintiff, was tricked into texting a nude picture of herself to her “boyfriend,” who then shared it with his friends. That, according to the lawsuit, spurred a cascading series of continuing intimidation, harassment and even physical and sexual assault that resulted in the girl suffering trauma and a stress-triggered heart condition.
In interviews and press releases since the lawsuit was filed in Columbia County Circuit Court, the victim, her mother and attorney allege that there are other perpetrators and other victims in our community.
We realize that the 38-page lawsuit, which alleges wrong-doing against five local juveniles and their parents, represents only one side of the story and that there are always at least two sides. This is a civil lawsuit and it will be decided in court.
However, we are deeply disturbed at the possibility that even a fraction of these allegations could be true.
If something like this could happen in Clatskanie, we have little doubt that similar problems may also be occurring anywhere and everywhere. But it is the communities served by this newspaper about which we are most concerned.
“The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.”
- Dante Alighieri
Perhaps it is time for all of us to do some soul-searching.
Are we teaching our young people common decency and common sense – self-respect and respect for others?
Every generation up until the present has lived without carrying cell phones and texting. Do minor children and adolescents really need cell phones – all the time? If they do have use of cell phones, is that use being monitored for their own protection?
Parental love includes protecting our children – even, if necessary, from themselves. It is not wrong to say “no,” especially when saying “yes” puts children at risk.
Are we as adults – parents, grandparents, teachers, co-workers, friends, neighbors, community leaders – exemplifying the values we want young people to emulate?
Regardless of faith, or lack thereof, can we not agree to treat each other as we want to be treated, and teach that simple “Golden Rule” to the next generation?