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Popular News In Perspective

Since June first, there have been several major news events that Clarke Broadcasting has covered. The events were stressful to me personally and learning about my family’s history helps put it all in a new perspective. Local updates about Covid-19 restrictions are important news stories but the single most read news story is about the Black Lives Matter Protest In Sonora. The June 3rd news story here has 4.7% more views than the 10 acre Quarter Fire which threatened Cedar Ridge as detailed here. The first day of what became the 1,455 acre Walker Fire also has tens of thousands of views. The article detailing the organization of the Black Lives Matter protest has nearly the same views as the Tuolumne Lumber Jubilee changing to be held as a protest. The news about Sonora imposing a curfew after the protests and declaring a local state of emergency rounds out the top 10 articles since June 1.

Covid-19 restrictions kept me from going to see my mother in Oregon. Talking over the phone it gave us time to discuss our family history. With fires I, like many, have ancestors who lost their Oregon homestead to a fire. The 1902 Yacolt Burn was estimated to have burned over 500,000 acres, the majority of the burned area was across the Columbia River in Washington. My ancestors housed and fed several neighbors who could do nothing but run/ride horses away from the blaze and if they were lucky had a few precious items in a wagon. In the days before organized fire fighting efforts and phones, they didn’t know when or if it would be safe to return home. We know their story from a community college project that studied the burned homesteads, sadly yes, even my ancestor’s home was not safe. It puts into perspective how important and impressive it is that we can get vital near real-time information on where a fire is and what the containment measures are.

My grandfather was born in 1919 in Oregon. During the 1918 Spanish flu his family packed up and moved several miles to be closer to family in Newberg, Oregon. My mother reminds me this is the second pandemic she has lived through, the first was the HIV/AIDS pandemic when she was just starting out providing care for pregnant women as a Certified Nurse Midwife. We talked about Polio and how vaccines were tested on children and others without consent. The safeguards in place now were set up due to a dark history that goes all the way back to George Washington’s choice to force his troops to submit to smallpox exposure.

With regard to the protest in Sonora, in my office downtown I felt protected. Our news team put out news stories before, during and after the event. I realized Clarke Broadcasting Corporation, owned and operated since 1956, was broadcasting in Atlanta, Georgia when, during the summer of 1965, riots erupted across the state. According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia Georgia’s largest riot occurred in Augusta in 1970, triggered by the torture and murder of a black teenager in a city jail but reflecting many years of simmering tension.

I didn’t feel a personal connection to protests until I spoke to my mother about what women went through to achieve the right to vote. It turns out before women could vote, instead of protecting the women’s right to free speech and peaceful assembly, the police arrested them. On August 28, 1917 the charge was for obstructing traffic, sidewalk traffic, in front of the White House. Refusing to pay a fine, the women were sentenced to sixty days in Occoquan, Virginia women’s prison. Individual states had extended voting rights to women starting with Wyoming, then Colorado, Utah, and Idaho, with California, Oregon, and Washington and others allowing it before 1913. Women campaigning to vote for President sometimes had their children taken away because time spent campaigning could be construed by doctors as irrational behavior; a woman should be the parent at home. During many imprisonments suffragists went on hunger strikes but the year of the Spanish flu newspapers publicized the brutal forcible feeding “treatment” and popular opinion shifted. A scene from the award winning HBO historic drama of 2004, Iron Jawed Angels, captures a discussion among two men at the time:

Dr. White taking the side of the suffragists quotes Patrick Henry, “Give me liberty or give me death.”

District commissioner replies “Apples and oranges.”

Dr. White says, “In oranges and women courage is often mistaken for insanity.”

President Woodrow Wilson finally lent his support to the suffrage amendment in January 1918. The amendment was approved by Congress shortly thereafter. Women achieved the right to vote with the August 18, 1920, ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment when the 36th state, Tennessee, approved it nearly 100 years ago.

In November my first child will be able to vote for the first time, due to the 26th amendment ratified July 1, 1971 which changed a portion of the 14th Amendment. My father enlisted at that time and served at the Berlin Wall in Germany. In the 1970 case Oregon v. Mitchell, a divided U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Congress had the right to regulate the minimum age in federal elections, but not at the state and local level. Amid increasing support for a Constitutional amendment, Congress passed the 26th Amendment in March 1971. The states promptly ratified it, and President Richard M. Nixon signed it into law that July.

There are many stories to remember in 2020 and we will continue to learn and gain perspective in these challenging times.