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Divisiveness has no place on mountain.

Byline: Bob Welch / The Register-Guard

In his book about Mount Everest, "Into Thin Air," my Corvallis High School classmate Jon Krakauer writes of mountain climbers deciding on "turnaround times."

Days before an attempt to summit a peak, while relatively rested and unemotional, the climbing party agrees on a time that they'll head back down because of darkness, oxygen shortage and exhaustion - whether or not they reach the top.

Last week's Ferry Street Bridge squabble between Kerryites and Bushites reminded me that some climbers already are too spent to make such rational decisions.

Regardless of our political bents, would it be too much to ask that, with the Election Day summit looming Tuesday, each of us come up with a personal "turnaround time"?

A promise to ourselves that, win or lose, we'll act rationally and treat others with respect?

A promise that we'll turn around and come back down before doing something really stupid like engage in drive-by shoutings?

A promise that we'll look in the mirror and see how hypocritical it is to be touting how much more Our Guy is for liberty and freedom - while we're being the Playground Bully at the bridge?

(`Give me liberty or give me death' has a certain noble venerability; `I was here first!' does not, nor does `Were not!')

I realize it may be too late for members of the VFSW (Veterans of the Ferry Street War), whose Friday night tussle required the police to respond. (The first victim of war is truth, well illustrated by those who quickly labeled the Democrat sign-carriers as `terrorists.')

It may be too late for the sign-stealers and the guy heard Tuesday on The Register-Guard's police scanner who actually hired someone to watch his Bush/Cheney sign so it wouldn't be vandalized or stolen. (I'm assuming the next step will be armed guards.)

Last week, in an Arlington, Va., sports bar, I watched two guys shouting at each other after one exploded while watching a man on TV sing "God Bless America" during the seventh inning of a Yankees-Red Sox game.

"He screwed up the words," Guy One said. "It's `from the mountains to the valleys!' Not `prairies.' '

"The guy had it right," Guy Two countered. "It's `prairies.' '

Guy One started getting belligerent. The volleys escalated until calmed by a U.N. peacekeeping force disguised as a bartender. I haven't seen America so prickly since four years ago - when chads were all the rage.

So here's a suggestion for us all:

You love the song "God Bless America?" Wonderful. Show us how much by how you treat your fellow Americans - not just from the mountains to the prairies (Guy One had it wrong; it isn't "valleys") - but from your bar stool to the guy's down the way.

You a fan of George Bush? Fine, here's what he said during his acceptance speech at last summer's

convention: "The story of America is the story of expanding liberty: an ever-widening circle, constantly growing to reach further and include more."

Honor that liberty by allowing others with different political persuasions to stand on the same swath of grass with their signs. Soldiers have died for their right to express themselves freely, even if you disagree with them.

You a fan of John Kerry? Fine, here's what he said during his acceptance speech last summer: "Values spoken without actions taken are just slogans. Values are not just words. They're what we live by ... . Let's build unity in the American family, not angry division."

Honor that actions-over-slogans concept by not sending fire-fueling e-mails suggesting that the Ferry Street incident symbolized "the Republican philosophy of territorial aggression by possession."

We're all grown-ups here, or should be. Regardless of our political leanings, folks, we're all on the same mountain - and, like it or not, will still be roped together come Nov. 3. In the thin air of politics, we dare not let emotions replace reason, lest we endanger our fellow climbers.
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Title Annotation:Columns
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Column
Date:Oct 28, 2004
Words:657
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