Growing up in a cross-cultural Eugene home, I learned to be optimistic about conflict resolution. I was a 9-year-old in 4J schools when the U.S. invaded Iraq 20 years ago this week. While I was brought up an anti-war child by default, my adult self has sought to recognize how persuasive the pro-invasion misinformation was at the time.
Americans were terrified about their families’ and nation’s future after Sept. 11. Spooky terminology like “WMD” and “Axis of Evil” became commonplace. Due process floundered as Congress embroiled us in a costly offensive war that brutalized communities, economies and our nation’s sense of collective identity. The public’s righteous cry for post-9/11 consequences was misappropriated by forces of division, demonization and resource control.
I worry that we are no less quick to escalate conflict today, when threatened. In a local example, we cannot let our righteous disgust with the recent “sexual fantasy” assignment from a Churchill High School health class mislead us toward demonizing legitimate and age-appropriate sex education, targeting students at meetings, leveling specious/conspiratorial accusations at strangers or going to war with teachers’ working conditions.
The good news? This assignment was removed and widely condemned as appalling and unacceptable. A great deal of parents and families used their organizing power at the March 15 board meeting for good. Board member Gordon Lafer was thanked for swiftly condemning the assignment. Board member Judy Newman articulated that we must not “back off” from providing “a comprehensive, trauma-informed and fact-based sex education.” I agree.