I am a proud compromiser.

I am a proud compromiser.

I allow people to pull ahead of me in traffic.  I may flip them off because they cut me off, but I don’t drive headlong into their rear bumper.

I allow women to go ahead of me, as I open a door.  Not because they need to go before me, but because my dad would come back from the dead and give me a severe spanking if I didn’t.

I often don’t get my way.  I don’t get the first parking spot, I don’t get to attend the concert of my dreams and sit in the front row, I don’t get to go on a cruise every year.  But, I don’t attack those who focus on those benefits as necessary for their lives to be complete.  I don’t reject the idea that concert halls, sports arenas, and schools need to be built even when I can’t afford the events and won’t every have children that attend them.

If I wasn’t a compromiser, I would vote down every school bond issue, saying I don’t get a benefit, and that my taxes shouldn’t go to where I don’t get a direct benefit.  Families should pay for their children, and not get a tax break for them.  If they are stupid enough to have four children, let them be charged a surtax for any about two.  But, I don’t go around attacking school budgets.  In fact, I would prefer that my share of school taxes go to music programs.  But, unfortunately few music programs have survived.

I am comfortable paying into social security, knowing others who haven’t been as successful have safety nets for themselves.  I think everyone should have to save for their retirement, but I understand that people sometimes have life events that destroy their hopes and dreams.  I would require that companies be forced to contribute 6% of all salaries, and that employees were forced to contribute 8% into a retirement plan.  And, rather than simply wish them dead, I am proud I belong to a country that will help those who need assistance throughout their lifetimes.  I am proud that social security provides living assistance to women who are old, who weren’t given chances to compete with men only 20 years ago, and that social security – while discriminating against those women based on their incomes, or their dead husbands, still provides something.

I felt the implementation of Medicare Part D was a terrible idea, with many problems, which have been supported by the data.  Yet, I still provided education about it to my clients. And helped 90 year olds understand they had to use the internet.  And, I did it for free.

I felt that Medicare Part D should be improved by allowing Medicare to negotiate for all drugs, not just at the insurance company level, which would provide a better benefit to seniors.  But I am glad that seniors now have an updated Medicare solution, though the costs could be reduced.  I would compromise by creating  more efficient solutions that benefit all Americans, not just those who are related to the Pharmaceutical companies.

I don’t always agree with the majority (in fact rarely – because stupidity normally wins in a democracy), but I work toward a community of shared values, giving freely of my time.  I opposed both wars, even to the point when others called me a traitor, and experienced suspicion for my beliefs.  I was placed on the terrorist watch list for over four years by the Bush Administration.  Yet, everyone who knows me knows that I would never be violent.

I opposed the creation of Homeland Security because I felt it was the seedling of a new introverted America that does no good in the globalization efforts that are in the best interests of America.  I feel that it creates a suspicious environment where every American is suspect who doesn’t goose step to the majority party in power.   And, it was the most costly increase in government spending in 30 years.  Yet, I continue to participate in America.  Will we start consolidating all those Homeland security departments for savings?

I oppose demonizing of latinos, mexicans, and other darker skinned people from south of the American border who want to participate in the greatest country on the earth.  I refuse to call them “illegals” as I know that is a term intended to make them feel little more than slaves in our country. I oppose ignoring their plight, refusing them charity, hope, or help.

I want my taxes to go toward fixing our immigration policies so that everyone can benefit from an amazing America of diversity.  I want my taxes to address social ills.  I want hate mongers to go to jail, yet I want those who aren’t hurting people to receive treatment not isolation, education not prison.

I want a social safety net for those who need it.  I want America to stop going to war every single time that a politician wants to go to war.  I want our military out of Afghanistan and Iraq, Korea and Germany, as well as Japan.  And, I want a draft reinstated.

I want a Federal Investment into the cure for AIDS and Cancer, not just a profit focused response from multi-national Companies, because I don’t believe there is an incentive for cures, when companies can provide pills to simply maintain or keep the disease at bay.

I want a tax policy that actually creates jobs.  In the 50s and 60s, tax policy encouraged owners to create jobs.  With the reduction of taxation on income, reduction in dividends, reductions in capital gains, the encouragement to create jobs has been reduced 70%.  Tax reduction doesn’t create jobs.  Economic history proves that.  Drastic tax reduction increases wealth disparity which in turn causes social class warfare.  A strong middle class creates a stronger peace, less volatility in markets, and a more certain future.  Since the 1980’s, America has damaged the relationship between owner and worker, eliminated 90% of all pensions, left most retirement up to the individual at the expense of the community, transferred extraordinary wealth to the top 10%, and created a struggling poverty class that our country hasn’t seen since the 1890s.  If Social Security and Medicare are extensively destroyed, America will effectively return its population into similar demographics as we had in the 1890s which were abhorred by those at the turn of the 20th century.

So, I still pay taxes, I don’t threaten America’s future by destroying its present.  I work for solutions even though people get elected who couldn’t pass a basic economics class.  I still believe in America even when corporations are allowed to own media centers and call it journalism.  I still believe in America, even when it doesn’t recognize that it discriminates against me, denies me basic rights, and often threatens my ability to make an income.

So, yes, I am a proud to compromise.  I believe even stupid people should be allowed to live in America.  I accept that even churches that preach that I should be killed can exist in America.

Because I believe that as an American, we can live together in peace.  I pay my taxes, even though taxes are spent in ways I would oppose.  I simply want everyone to pay 20%, no matter their write offs.  My mom shouldn’t pay 23%, and the super wealthy only 18, as it stands now.

But, I would be willing to compromise.

When You See A Need (The Impact Doris Bond Has)

I learned as a child a principle that I have lived by my entire life.  “When you see a need, you become responsible to address that need” and the corollary to that principle is “When you are asked, determine how you will say yes.”
When I swam on a swim team in La Grande, Oregon, I raised money for the team through asking for donations per lap.  Every year we knocked on doors, asking for community support.  And, at La Grande First Baptist Church, we learned how to tithe to our Church and raise money for summer camp visits.
Since my college years, I have served communities where I have lived for over two decades.  I have worked in grassroots organizations striving for equality among different groups, helping youth receive services they desperately needed, led business organizations when other leaders needed to focus elsewhere.  I have recruited volunteers and board members for many organizations.  One organization is still running 17 years after I developed its bylaws and recruited a board, yet I have often been a part of other organizations that are no longer needed, or were merged into other organizations for a myriad of reasons.
I have followed those two principles.  When I see a need, I am responsible in some way to address it.  And, when I am asked to serve, I determine how I may serve.
Beyond the thousands of volunteer hours I have contributed to my communities, there are few who match my passion, but those who do, I fear at times I may never achieve the level of influence they have through their caring, their consistency, their vision, and their wisdom.
Fortunately, one of them is someone who for years, I simply knew as my Aunt Doris.  She is a woman who taught preschool kids.  A woman my mom not so secretly revered.  And, for my mother to revere someone, well, let’s just say, a son takes note.
I didn’t know what made my Aunt so special.  She seems like any other woman who raises kids, gets frustrated with kids, has a husband who didn’t turn out to be superman, who certainly has her own idiosyncrasies.   Like anyone else, she worked, she loved, and she cared for her family.  Yet, she has done more.
After retiring from her work of influencing preschool children most of her adult life, she stayed involved.  She joined the Friends or Quakers, served as the Clerk of the Quakers group in Redding, CA.  If you have lived or been through Redding, I am sure you just took a step back to consider that position.  Not the center of liberal thought, I will tell you.
Yet, she has served on additional boards, from serving to address multicultural issues in Redding, to making sure access for children less privileged have access to facilities where they can learn to think, could learn to interact, and may one day become the leaders of tomorrow.
But, she moved me recently, this Aunt of 77. 
Background of Eric in relation to Aunt
Many years ago, nearly 20 years ago, I was filmed driving Portland Chief of Police Potter in a Gay Pride Parade.  It was one of my earliest volunteer assignments with an organization.   No one else could drive a stick shift on the committee.  And, considering one of my first driving experiences was a 1963 International Scout, I can pretty much drive anything with four wheels.   Originally, I thought nothing of driving an old classic car in the parade.  And, it wasn’t for someone that significant.  It wasn’t someone I thought would be important to my life.  In fact, wasn’t a police chief the guy you saw on old Batman reruns?  He didn’t have any impact in my life.  In fact, it was going to be a great parade; no one would even notice I was there.
I was just slightly wrong.  Tom Potter, the Chief of Police in Portland at the time, was in fact making a stand.  His daughter, a lesbian, needed his support.  And, he saw the need, he was asked, and he did determined what he could do best.  He became the highest ranking uniformed police official in the country to participate in a gay pride parade.  And, in the political environment of the anti-gay initiatives of Portland, it made a very big impact.  That evening, the news anchors howled about a Chief of Police endorsing the Parade, but what was missed by them, was the exposure a 23 year old who wasn’t out to his family, much less a community.  When the Oregon Citizens Alliance demanded Police Potter’s resignation, and didn’t get it, the same 5 seconds of film rolled for over three weeks.
But, after all the exposure, there was not a sound from my family. 
In October 1991, I was asked to debate the media director of the OCA, Scott Lively, on cable access.  I thought, “No big Deal.”  It would be a Thursday night.  No one watches cable access.  And, even if they did, my parents would be at Choir Practice.  The debate was a success, and not until two weeks later did I learn how cable access areas share media, thus an entire state watched a debate on whether gays and lesbians should be allowed to teach in school, have state licenses, or be given any level of equality of protection.
But, after all the exposure, there was not a sound from my family.  Except, with the exposure, I knew I had to honor my parents, and inform them of my political stance of inclusion, and my religious belief about gays, and my own self discovery process to accept my orientation.  All something we couldn’t do by providing a book at that time.
The first years were atrociously harsh.  My mother said nothing and my dad used every holiday as a forum for attacking my faith, my politics, and worse, my orientation.  By the end of 1993, I was prepared to divorce my family, both sides, so as not to have to deal with the silence, the judgment and the anger.
But, after some intense discussions, our family agreed to a truce of sorts.  The wounds might never heal, the views may never change, but we could once again see each other as family.  But, the lack of acceptance was still there.  The silence could be deafening.  But, the values we held did not allow for us to leave, to abandon or to avoid each other. 
My Aunt’s Influence
Then, after years of being a bystander, caring for her own children, my Aunt entered my life.  For years, living a state away, she began visiting, reaching out to family beyond her kids, and I began to learn about her.  She learned my history, my hurt, my background.  And, she listened, she began to serve, and she extended her love.
Where my parents weren’t able to accept, she did.  Where my parents haven’t been able to acknowledge, she acknowledged.  And, where I couldn’t understand, she agreed that she couldn’t understand, either.  And, she was related!  No way!
Where I had no family relation who related, she has stood up, grabbed hold, and moved forward. 
In the last 10 years, without asking, I have started to organize the family reunions.  And, my Aunt is the one who sends a note to express her appreciation that I care about keeping such a diverse family together.  See, in our family, we have warriors and pacifists, liberal democrats and right wing republicans.  In our family, we have several Catholics, Baptists, Quakers, and Lutherans.  So, diving into debate requires a tad bit more wine and beer than many might think.  For without these gatherings, it would be more difficult for her to maintain her connection with family.
My family is frustrating in one very interesting way.  They don’t know how to use a phone.  They can pick it up, but they can’t seem to dial.  Since I am in sales, apparently this disability has been driven from my natural DNA, so I am an exception.  I make a lot of outbound calls.  But, since my Aunt has lost her husband, her DNA has adjusted somewhat as well.  Our 45 minute visits monthly keep us informed about the four families on my mother’s side.  And, with my sister, we keep everyone in touch.
See, my sister and I vie for our Aunt’s position of “favorite”.  And, while I know my sister may achieve the title instead of me, I am happy to be a runner up.  I can’t compete with a sister who has mastered the art of Home Depot remodeling.  I cannot reorganize a garage in 2 days, and a garage sale in one more.  While my sister can argue with the best construction worker about how to complete a project, that isn’t my expertise.
My only skill is my ability to pick up the phone, listens, and see a future.  And, seeing a future, make plans to help it along the way.  And, I think my Aunt understands that just a little, seeing that she has helped thousands of people see their futures.
Yes, my Aunt Doris is an amazing woman.  But, she continues to amaze me with her ability to see what I need, when I don’t think I have a need any longer.  Recently, she got on the phone to tell me that she attended the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus when they visited Redding, CA.  It was in response to the Proposition 8 issue that has divided Californians over gay marriage.  She was thrilled to be in attendance, in a sold out venue. 
And, at the end of the story while sharing this event, she shared something even more impactful to me.  At 77, she joined the Redding, CA Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.
She, without a request from me, without me expressing a need or desire, she perceived an unmet need.  She must have sensed a need that family accept and support family.  Without a word, or an expression of encouragement from me, she heard a secret hope that I have had since being in a Gay Pride Parade in 1991.  At Gay Prides since 1989, I have watched this group, PFLAG, and have wished I could see a family member of mine walking with them.  But, then reality would set in, and I would push that wish down deep, and not let the disappointment chill the very air at the parade.
She demonstrated her acceptance and favor for me.  And, she must have deduced that my biggest desire would be that family would stand with me, yet my parents could not and would not.  So she has determined how she could meet that secret desire.    At 77, Doris Bond, one of my favorite people, did what I didn’t even know I needed her to do.  She did something that for me can heal hearts and hurts, bring family together, and change views that create division.
She does what I have wished since I saw a group of mothers and fathers walk in partnership with their children, supporting their children’s right to love whom they chose.  And, when my mother couldn’t do it, for whatever reason my Aunt could.  My Aunt has done what I felt no one would ever do.  She represented me, in the one organization in which I am the benefactor, but could never be a member.
She quietly stands as a leader in her home, her family and her community – and can miraculously see a need, determines how to say yes, and is amazing in her ability to do both.
And to Aunt Doris:
Thank you, Aunt Doris, for a life of loving, caring, and continued impact on myself, my family, and communities from San Diego, CA to Portland, Oregon, to La Grande, Oregon. 
I hope your next 10 years are as impactful as your last 78.  Because the last 15 have brought tears of hope, smiles of joy, and at least one heart that can see a brighter future because of what you do, out of love.
Your Nephew (and favorite nephew)
Eric Brown