Tolerance for me but not for thee

Portland is a proud city. One of the things it's proudest of is its tolerance for different life styles. It's the reason so many outsiders move here.

Some years ago, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that full nudity and lap dancing are constitutional. As a result, the city hosts the World Naked Bike Ride, which the Court called "a well established tradition in Portland." The City of Roses is also the City of Strippers, with more strip clubs per capita than San Francisco and Las Vegas.

If you are gay, lesbian, or transgendered, you're accepted in Portland. Straight couples, married to each or not, are accepted. Single moms and single dads are accepted. Interracial couples and their children are accepted. Jews are accepted. Muslims are accepted. People of color are accepted. Liberals and libertarians are accepted. Atheists and agnostics are accepted. Even Californians are now accepted.

Portlanders voted for Barack Obama by a wide margin and helped him become America's first African-American president. They have had a black police chief, a female police chief, and several Jewish mayors, even though Jews make up less than ten percent of the population.

In the area of civil rights, Portland has gone farther than most places. In a case that originated in the city, the Oregon Supreme Court struck down a law making it a crime to publicly insult a person if the insult might produce a violent response. Consequently, free speech is protected even if you call someone racist names.

But for erstwhile Democrats who became or will become Republicans, tolerance has left this town. It doesn't matter to most Portlanders that a Republican (Abraham Lincoln) freed the slaves, that more Republicans than Democrats voted for civil rights in the 1960s, that a Republican (Richard Nixon) established diplomatic and economic relations with Communist China, and that a Republican (Ronald Reagan) broke the back of the Soviet Union and ended the Cold War. Nor does it matter to them that the Democratic party of Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama is not the Democratic party of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John Kennedy, or Lyndon Johnson.

In this city if you voted for George Bush in 2000 and 2004 and for John McCain and Sarah Palin in 2008 - and told people that you did - you are either pitied or damned. Pitied because you are suffering from Alzheimer's disease and are understandably out of your mind. Or damned because you live in the bluest city in the land and are supposedly sane and smart enough to know that in Portland one must always do what is politically correct.

A number of Portlanders who put McCain-Palin signs on their lawns during the last presidential election saw them shredded. A number of Portlanders who displayed McCain-Palin stickers on their cars saw them vandalized. Many were socially ostracized. Friends and neighbors stopped talking to them the moment they learned that they failed to vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden. God knows what will happen if a significant percentage of Democrats and independents show buyers' remorse and vote Republican in 2010 and 2012.

The French Enlightenment philosopher François-Marie Arouet, better known by his pen name Voltaire, coined the phrase "I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it." Sadly, his civilized notion, and the behavior that should accompany it, has gone missing in Portland, Oregon.