Civil War In Portland Narrowly Averted

Vicious brother-against-brother violence was narrowly deterred here in Portland yesterday as Measure 26-151, which would've turned the city into dystopian police state, failed miserably.

Oh, sorry, I'm mistaken. It was about adding trace amounts of fluoride to Portland's water supply.

You would not believe the uproar over this issue. I got in angry discussions with friends over this topic, and I didn't even have an opinion. It was like the city was under siege by Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, only Bane was all of us, and his philosophy primarily consisted of water fluoridation.

It was such a pain in the ass, you guys. There were arguments on both sides, some of them even reasonable, but you would've thought we were passing a resolution on whether drones could bomb us at random. Even stranger, it was difficult to tell people's opinion based on previous political stances. Liberal...conservative...none of this mattered. You were either for or against, and you defended that position rabidly regardless. Just listen to this guy:
"...Justin Holt, who moved to Portland from North Carolina, is wearing a blue campaign T-shirt and a necklace of meditation beads. He says he wrote two songs and posted them on YouTube to support the campaign. One of them is called 'How Will We Forgive?'
"'It's basically about how, if this is wrong, how will I forgive myself if I don't do anything?' he says. "I knew that fluoride is poison to ingest.'"
How, indeed? How? Like the tell-tale heart, the raw guilt would eat at us from the inside, which I'm assuming would then combine with fluoride to make a superpoison a million times stronger than anthrax. Leave it to a North Carolinian. How will we forgive? Maybe I'm an optimist, but I think we'd find a way. Mankind always finds a way.

I'm sure this is making me sound pro-fluoride, but I assure you I am not. I would generally prefer our water stays the way it is. I grew up right below Mt. Tabor's east reservoirs, and that water was pristine and delicious. Maybe the fluoride would be noticeable and maybe not, but why mess with a good thing?

In the end, though, I was probably closer to 55% pro-fluoridation simply because the anti-fluoride people were so incredibly annoying. Maybe they were exhausted due to co-sleeping with their whooping cough-addled toddlers. Whatever, though. It's over. The next step is learning to forgive each other...and ourselves.

UPDATE: Gawker's Adrian Chen has a takedown of the vote up today. I recommend it.


  1. I'm with you on the irritation factor, but for both sides. Even now that it's over. Just today a physician friend was posting on facebook about how Portland has apparently given in to idiocracy. That whole, "shame on us for this" attitude (and actual words) chafes bad. Do people think that sort of smarter-than-you smack talk is going to change minds? Or do they just enjoy being like that? Cavities are not worth this kind of arrogant, judgmental crap anymore than having fluoridated water (like most everyone else) is worth fear-mongering spin about "chemicals" or conspiracies or whatever. Not the end of the world if it passes, nor if it doesn't.

    Ultimately, i voted for good manners, meaning that i think forcing things on people (even if their objections are way overblown) is rarely worth the trouble, and cavity prevention is far from worth the trouble. There are other ways to get fluoride to people that wouldn't be so hard for the fear-mongers to avoid.

    1. I'm sure the rhetoric was going the other way, but I didn't hear it as much.

      I sympathize with the physician angle more, though, because this city is really weirdly anti-science. I mean, not totally, but there's an innate distrust of traditional medicine, and by "traditional", I mean, "effects have been researched heavily". And people who've spent years practicing medicine are kind of bewildered and frustrated by it all. It's almost like a cultural thing where people here don't want to admit they don't know everything, and if they can't understand something, they don't trust it. There are certainly aspects of traditional medicine we should be wary of, primarily due to pharmaceutical company influence, but it just gets a little crazy.

    2. I know what you're talking about, i think. And i think you are right that it is a cultural thing. But I haven't got so much a sense of not wanting to admit they don't know everything as a sense of cultural upturned nose at "western" things. As your quotes around "traditional" and careful definition indicate, you know they are biased in favor of traditional whatever, as long as it is not western tradition. Or maybe that's even too harsh a description for some, who may merely find it *more* fashionable/attractive/cool/whatever to be into things attached to buzzwords that resonate in their heads like natural/native/organic/traditional/home.

      Because many people and love (and honestly respect) embrace this culture, but i've always been a science nerd with a number of physician friends, i find myself always trying to straddle the two and look for a perspective outside either. Though, i might do that anyway. I think i've got a fetish for taking "third party" perspectives in any conflict. Helps me feel special. Thus my landing on civility as the decider in my fluoride vote; it was an as-yet-unclaimed rationale. :)

  2. The most interesting thing I took from this is your curious position on people from North Carolina.

    1. Only as they relate to Oregonians. My grandma was from North Carolina, so I connect a lot with that state, but outsiders who suddenly become crazy Oregonians can shove off.