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21 February 2024

Unknown Man Assaults Transgender Woman -- Let's Find Out Who He Is


I received this message last night:

"A friend of mine was assaulted at work by a customer for being transgender. The police don’t care it seems. He threatened her. Told her he would kill her. Groped her. Called her horrible names."

To protect the victim from further repercussions or other possible incidents, I'm releasing what information I can.

The victim works at a store here in Medford and she's very upset. The incident happened on Feb. 17.

Medford PD was contacted and an officer took information -- but that's it.

She made contact with another cop a few days ago and they advised her to keep in contact with the primary officer.

That officer will not be back on duty until this Friday.

This is the alleged assailant's picture. Please share it. Let's find this guy and see that he's held accountable for his actions.

29 October 2023

The Dangerous, False Narrative of Decolonization

This is an interesting article about this "decolonization narrative" used by some,  that's basically dehumanizing Jewish people and overlooking or distorting facts.

It's from The Atlantic and there's a paywall -- I copied it and provided the link if anyone wants to check it out.

The Decolonization Narrative Is Dangerous and False

It does not accurately describe either the foundation of Israel or the tragedy of the Palestinians.

By Simon Sebag Montefiore

Peace in the israel-Palestine conflict had already been difficult to achieve before Hamas’s barbarous October 7 attack and Israel’s military response. Now it seems almost impossible, but its essence is clearer than ever: Ultimately, a negotiation to establish a safe Israel beside a safe Palestinian state.

Whatever the enormous complexities and challenges of bringing about this future, one truth should be obvious among decent people: killing 1,400 people and kidnapping more than 200, including scores of civilians, was deeply wrong. The Hamas attack resembled a medieval Mongol raid for slaughter and human trophies—except it was recorded in real time and published to social media. Yet since October 7, Western academics, students, artists, and activists have denied, excused, or even celebrated the murders by a terrorist sect that proclaims an anti-Jewish genocidal program. Some of this is happening out in the open, some behind the masks of humanitarianism and justice, and some in code, most famously “from the river to the sea,” a chilling phrase that implicitly endorses the killing or deportation of the 9 million Israelis. It seems odd that one has to say: Killing civilians, old people, even babies, is always wrong. But today say it one must.

How can educated people justify such callousness and embrace such inhumanity? All sorts of things are at play here, but much of the justification for killing civilians is based on a fashionable ideology, “decolonization,” which, taken at face value, rules out the negotiation of two states—the only real solution to this century of conflict—and is as dangerous as it is false.

I always wondered about the leftist intellectuals who supported Stalin, and those aristocratic sympathizers and peace activists who excused Hitler. Today’s Hamas apologists and atrocity-deniers, with their robotic denunciations of “settler-colonialism,” belong to the same tradition but worse: They have abundant evidence of the slaughter of old people, teenagers, and children, but unlike those fools of the 1930s, who slowly came around to the truth, they have not changed their views an iota. The lack of decency and respect for human life is astonishing: Almost instantly after the Hamas attack, a legion of people emerged who downplayed the slaughter, or denied actual atrocities had even happened, as if Hamas had just carried out a traditional military operation against soldiers. October 7 deniers, like Holocaust deniers, exist in an especially dark place.

The decolonization narrative has dehumanized Israelis to the extent that otherwise rational people excuse, deny, or support barbarity. It holds that Israel is an “imperialist-colonialist” force, that Israelis are “settler-colonialists,” and that Palestinians have a right to eliminate their oppressors. (On October 7, we all learned what that meant.) It casts Israelis as “white” or “white-adjacent” and Palestinians as “people of color.”

This ideology, powerful in the academy but long overdue for serious challenge, is a toxic, historically nonsensical mix of Marxist theory, Soviet propaganda, and traditional anti-Semitism from the Middle Ages and the 19th century. But its current engine is the new identity analysis, which sees history through a concept of race that derives from the American experience. The argument is that it is almost impossible for the “oppressed” to be themselves racist, just as it is impossible for an “oppressor” to be the subject of racism. Jews therefore cannot suffer racism, because they are regarded as “white” and “privileged”; although they cannot be victims, they can and do exploit other, less privileged people, in the West through the sins of “exploitative capitalism” and in the Middle East through “colonialism.”

This leftist analysis, with its hierarchy of oppressed identities—and intimidating jargon, a clue to its lack of factual rigor—has in many parts of the academy and media replaced traditional universalist leftist values, including internationalist standards of decency and respect for human life and the safety of innocent civilians. When this clumsy analysis collides with the realities of the Middle East, it loses all touch with historical facts.

Indeed, it requires an astonishing leap of ahistorical delusion to disregard the record of anti-Jewish racism over the two millennia since the fall of the Judean Temple in 70 C.E. After all, the October 7 massacre ranks with the medieval mass killings of Jews in Christian and Islamic societies, the Khmelnytsky massacres of 1640s Ukraine, Russian pogroms from 1881 to 1920—and the Holocaust. Even the Holocaust is now sometimes misconstrued—as the actor Whoopi Goldberg notoriously did—as being “not about race,” an approach as ignorant as it is repulsive.

Contrary to the decolonizing narrative, Gaza is not technically occupied by Israel—not in the usual sense of soldiers on the ground. Israel evacuated the Strip in 2005, removing its settlements. In 2007, Hamas seized power, killing its Fatah rivals in a short civil war. Hamas set up a one-party state that crushes Palestinian opposition within its territory, bans same-sex relationships, represses women, and openly espouses the killing of all Jews.

Very strange company for leftists.

Of course, some protesters chanting “from the river to the sea” may have no idea what they’re calling for; they are ignorant and believe that they are simply endorsing “freedom.” Others deny that they are pro-Hamas, insisting that they are simply pro-Palestinian—but feel the need to cast Hamas’s massacre as an understandable response to Israeli-Jewish “colonial” oppression. Yet others are malign deniers who seek the death of Israeli civilians.

The toxicity of this ideology is now clear. Once-respectable intellectuals have shamelessly debated whether 40 babies were dismembered or some smaller number merely had their throats cut or were burned alive. Students now regularly tear down posters of children held as Hamas hostages. It is hard to understand such heartless inhumanity. Our definition of a hate crime is constantly expanding, but if this is not a hate crime, what is? What is happening in our societies? Something has gone wrong.

In a further racist twist, Jews are now accused of the very crimes they themselves have suffered. Hence the constant claim of a “genocide” when no genocide has taken place or been intended. Israel, with Egypt, has imposed a blockade on Gaza since Hamas took over, and has periodically bombarded the Strip in retaliation for regular rocket attacks. After more than 4,000 rockets were fired by Hamas and its allies into Israel, the 2014 Gaza War resulted in more than 2,000 Palestinian deaths. More than 7,000 Palestinians, including many children, have died so far in this war, according to Hamas. This is a tragedy—but this is not a genocide, a word that has now been so devalued by its metaphorical abuse that it has become meaningless.

I should also say that Israeli rule of the Occupied Territories of the West Bank is different and, to my mind, unacceptable, unsustainable, and unjust. The Palestinians in the West Bank have endured a harsh, unjust, and oppressive occupation since 1967. Settlers under the disgraceful Netanyahu government have harassed and persecuted Palestinians in the West Bank: 146 Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem were killed in 2022 and at least 153 in 2023 before the Hamas attack, and more than 90 since. Again: This is appalling and unacceptable, but not genocide.

Although there is a strong instinct to make this a Holocaust-mirroring “genocide,” it is not: The Palestinians suffer from many things, including military occupation; settler intimidation and violence; corrupt Palestinian political leadership; callous neglect by their brethren in more than 20 Arab states; the rejection by Yasser Arafat, the late Palestinian leader, of compromise plans that would have seen the creation of an independent Palestinian state; and so on. None of this constitutes genocide, or anything like genocide. The Israeli goal in Gaza—for practical reasons, among others—is to minimize the number of Palestinian civilians killed. Hamas and like-minded organizations have made it abundantly clear over the years that maximizing the number of Palestinian casualties is in their strategic interest. (Put aside all of this and consider: The world Jewish population is still smaller than it was in 1939, because of the damage done by the Nazis. The Palestinian population has grown, and continues to grow. Demographic shrinkage is one obvious marker of genocide. In total, roughly 120,000 Arabs and Jews have been killed in the conflict over Palestine and Israel since 1860. By contrast, at least 500,000 people, mainly civilians, have been killed in the Syrian civil war since it began in 2011.)

If the ideology of decolonization, taught in our universities as a theory of history and shouted in our streets as self-evidently righteous, badly misconstrues the present reality, does it reflect the history of Israel as it claims to do? It does not. Indeed, it does not accurately describe either the foundation of Israel or the tragedy of the Palestinians.

According to the decolonizers, Israel is and always has been an illegitimate freak-state because it was fostered by the British empire and because some of its founders were European-born Jews.

In this narrative, Israel is tainted by imperial Britain’s broken promise to deliver Arab independence, and its kept promise to support a “national home for the Jewish people,” in the language of the 1917 Balfour Declaration. But the supposed promise to Arabs was in fact an ambiguous 1915 agreement with Sharif Hussein of Mecca, who wanted his Hashemite family to rule the entire region. In part, he did not receive this new empire because his family had much less regional support than he claimed. Nonetheless, ultimately Britain delivered three kingdoms—Iraq, Jordan, and Hejaz—to the family.

The imperial powers—Britain and France—made all sorts of promises to different peoples, and then put their own interests first. Those promises to the Jews and the Arabs during World War I were typical. Afterward, similar promises were made to the Kurds, the Armenians, and others, none of which came to fruition. But the central narrative that Britain betrayed the Arab promise and backed the Jewish one is incomplete. In the 1930s, Britain turned against Zionism, and from 1937 to 1939 moved toward an Arab state with no Jewish one at all. It was an armed Jewish revolt, from 1945 to 1948 against imperial Britain, that delivered the state.

Israel exists thanks to this revolt, and to international law and cooperation, something leftists once believed in. The idea of a Jewish “homeland” was proposed in three declarations by Britain (signed by Balfour), France, and the United States, then promulgated in a July 1922 resolution by the League of Nations that created the British “mandates” over Palestine and Iraq that matched French “mandates” over Syria and Lebanon. In 1947, the United Nations devised the partition of the British mandate of Palestine into two states, Arab and Jewish.

The carving of such states out of these mandates was not exceptional, either. At the end of World War II, France granted independence to Syria and Lebanon, newly conceived nation-states. Britain created Iraq and Jordan in a similar way. Imperial powers designed most of the countries in the region, except Egypt.

Nor was the imperial promise of separate homelands for different ethnicities or sects unique. The French had promised independent states for the Druze, Alawites, Sunnis, and Maronites but in the end combined them into Syria and Lebanon. All of these states had been “vilayets” and “sanjaks” (provinces) of the Turkish Ottoman empire, ruled from Constantinople, from 1517 until 1918.

The concept of “partition” is, in the decolonization narrative, regarded as a wicked imperial trick. But it was entirely normal in the creation of 20th-century nation-states, which were typically fashioned out of fallen empires. And sadly, the creation of nation-states was frequently marked by population swaps, huge refugee migrations, ethnic violence, and full-scale wars. Think of the Greco-Turkish war of 1921–22 or the partition of India in 1947. In this sense, Israel-Palestine was typical.

At the heart of decolonization ideology is the categorization of all Israelis, historic and present, as “colonists.” This is simply wrong. Most Israelis are descended from people who migrated to the Holy Land from 1881 to 1949. They were not completely new to the region. The Jewish people ruled Judean kingdoms and prayed in the Jerusalem Temple for a thousand years, then were ever present there in smaller numbers for the next 2,000 years. In other words, Jews are indigenous in the Holy Land, and if one believes in the return of exiled people to their homeland, then the return of the Jews is exactly that. Even those who deny this history or regard it as irrelevant to modern times must acknowledge that Israel is now the home and only home of 9 million Israelis who have lived there for four, five, six generations.

Most migrants to, say, the United Kingdom or the United States are regarded as British or American within a lifetime. Politics in both countries is filled with prominent leaders—Suella Braverman and David Lammy, Kamala Harris and Nikki Haley—whose parents or grandparents migrated from India, West Africa, or South America. No one would describe them as “settlers.” Yet Israeli families resident in Israel for a century are designated as “settler-colonists” ripe for murder and mutilation. And contrary to Hamas apologists, the ethnicity of perpetrators or victims never justifies atrocities. They would be atrocious anywhere, committed by anyone with any history. It is dismaying that it is often self-declared “anti-racists” who are now advocating exactly this murder by ethnicity.

Those on the left believe migrants who escape from persecution should be welcomed and allowed to build their lives elsewhere. Almost all of the ancestors of today’s Israelis escaped persecution.

If the “settler-colonist” narrative is not true, it is true that the conflict is the result of the brutal rivalry and battle for land between two ethnic groups, both with rightful claims to live there. As more Jews moved to the region, the Palestinian Arabs, who had lived there for centuries and were the clear majority, felt threatened by these immigrants. The Palestinian claim to the land is not in doubt, nor is the authenticity of their history, nor their legitimate claim to their own state. But initially the Jewish migrants did not aspire to a state, merely to live and farm in the vague “homeland.” In 1918, the Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann met the Hashemite Prince Faisal Bin Hussein to discuss the Jews living under his rule as king of greater Syria. The conflict today was not inevitable. It became so as the communities refused to share and coexist, and then resorted to arms.

Even more preposterous than the “colonizer” label is the “whiteness” trope that is key to the decolonization ideology. Again: simply wrong. Israel has a large community of Ethiopian Jews, and about half of all Israelis—that is, about 5 million people—are Mizrahi, the descendants of Jews from Arab and Persian lands, people of the Middle East. They are neither “settlers” nor “colonialists” nor “white” Europeans at all but inhabitants of Baghdad and Cairo and Beirut for many centuries, even millennia, who were driven out after 1948.

A word about that year, 1948, the year of Israel’s War of Independence and the Palestinian Nakba (“Catastrophe”), which in decolonization discourse amounted to ethnic cleansing. There was indeed intense ethnic violence on both sides when Arab states invaded the territory and, together with Palestinian militias, tried to stop the creation of a Jewish state. They failed; what they ultimately stopped was the creation of a Palestinian state, as intended by the United Nations. The Arab side sought the killing or expulsion of the entire Jewish community—in precisely the murderous ways we saw on October 7. And in the areas the Arab side did capture, such as East Jerusalem, every Jew was expelled.

In this brutal war, Israelis did indeed drive some Palestinians from their homes; others fled the fighting; yet others stayed and are now Israeli Arabs who have the vote in the Israeli democracy. (Some 25 percent of today’s Israelis are Arabs and Druze.) About 700,000 Palestinians lost their homes. That is an enormous figure and a historic tragedy. Starting in 1948, some 900,000 Jews lost their homes in Islamic countries and most of them moved to Israel. These events are not directly comparable, and I don’t mean to propose a competition in tragedy or hierarchy of victimhood. But the past is a lot more complicated than the decolonizers would have you believe.

Out of this imbroglio, one state emerged, Israel, and one did not, Palestine. Its formation is long overdue.

It is bizarre that a small state in the Middle East attracts so much passionate attention in the West that students run through California schools shouting “Free Palestine.” But the Holy Land has an exceptional place in Western history. It is embedded in our cultural consciousness, thanks to the Hebrew and Christian Bibles, the story of Judaism, the foundation of Christianity, the Quran and the creation of Islam, and the Crusades that together have made Westerners feel involved in its destiny. The British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, the real architect of the Balfour Declaration, used to say that the names of places in Palestine “were more familiar to me than those on the Western Front.” This special affinity with the Holy Land initially worked in favor of the Jewish return, but lately it has worked against Israel. Westerners eager to expose the crimes of Euro-American imperialism but unable to offer a remedy have, often without real knowledge of the actual history, coalesced around Israel and Palestine as the world’s most vivid example of imperialist injustice.

The open world of liberal democracies—or the West, as it used to be called—is today polarized by paralyzed politics, petty but vicious cultural feuds about identity and gender, and guilt about historical successes and sins, a guilt that is bizarrely atoned for by showing sympathy for, even attraction to, enemies of our democratic values. In this scenario, Western democracies are always bad actors, hypocritical and neo-imperialist, while foreign autocracies or terror sects such as Hamas are enemies of imperialism and therefore sincere forces for good. In this topsy-turvy scenario, Israel is a living metaphor and penance for the sins of the West. The result is the intense scrutiny of Israel and the way it is judged, using standards rarely attained by any nation at war, including the United States.

But the decolonizing narrative is much worse than a study in double standards; it dehumanizes an entire nation and excuses, even celebrates, the murder of innocent civilians. As these past two weeks have shown, decolonization is now the authorized version of history in many of our schools and supposedly humanitarian institutions, and among artists and intellectuals. It is presented as history, but it is actually a caricature, zombie history with its arsenal of jargon—the sign of a coercive ideology, as Foucault argued—and its authoritarian narrative of villains and victims. And it only stands up in a landscape in which much of the real history is suppressed and in which all Western democracies are bad-faith actors. Although it lacks the sophistication of Marxist dialectic, its self-righteous moral certainty imposes a moral framework on a complex, intractable situation, which some may find consoling. Whenever you read a book or an article and it uses the phrase “settler-colonialist,” you are dealing with ideological polemic, not history.

Ultimately, this zombie narrative is a moral and political cul-de-sac that leads to slaughter and stalemate. That is no surprise, because it is based on sham history: “An invented past can never be used,” wrote James Baldwin. “It cracks and crumbles under the pressures of life like clay.”

Even when the word decolonization does not appear, this ideology is embedded in partisan media coverage of the conflict and suffuses recent condemnations of Israel. The student glee in response to the slaughter at Harvard, the University of Virginia, and other universities; the support for Hamas amongst artists and actors, along with the weaselly equivocations by leaders at some of America’s most famous research institutions, have displayed a shocking lack of morality, humanity, and basic decency.

One repellent example was an open letter signed by thousands of artists, including famous British actors such as Tilda Swinton and Steve Coogan. It warned against imminent Israel war crimes and totally ignored the casus belli: the slaughter of 1,400 people.

The journalist Deborah Ross wrote in a powerful Times of London article that she was “utterly, utterly floored” that the letter contained “no mention of Hamas” and no mention of the “kidnapping and murder of babies, children, grandparents, young people dancing peacefully at a peace festival. The lack of basic compassion and humanity, that’s what was so unbelievably flooring. Is it so difficult? To support and feel for Palestinian citizens … while also acknowledging the indisputable horror of the Hamas attacks?” Then she asked this thespian parade of moral nullities: “What does it solve, a letter like that? And why would anyone sign it?”

The Israel-Palestine conflict is desperately difficult to solve, and decolonization rhetoric makes even less likely the negotiated compromise that is the only way out.

Since its founding in 1987, Hamas has used the murder of civilians to spoil any chance of a two-state solution. In 1993, its suicide bombings of Israeli civilians were designed to destroy the two-state Olso Accords that recognized Israel and Palestine. This month, the Hamas terrorists unleashed their slaughter in part to undermine a peace with Saudi Arabia that would have improved Palestinian politics and standard of life, and reinvigorated Hamas’s sclerotic rival, the Palestinian Authority. In part, they served Iran to prevent the empowering of Saudi Arabia, and their atrocities were of course a spectacular trap to provoke Israeli overreaction. They are most probably getting their wish, but to do this they are cynically exploiting innocent Palestinian people as a sacrifice to political means, a second crime against civilians. In the same way, the decolonization ideology, with its denial of Israel’s right to exist and its people’s right to live safely, makes a Palestinian state less likely if not impossible.

The problem in our countries is easier to fix: Civic society and the shocked majority should now assert themselves. The radical follies of students should not alarm us overmuch; students are always thrilled by revolutionary extremes. But the indecent celebrations in London, Paris, and New York City, and the clear reluctance among leaders at major universities to condemn the killings, have exposed the cost of neglecting this issue and letting “decolonization” colonize our academy.

Parents and students can move to universities that are not led by equivocators and patrolled by deniers and ghouls; donors can withdraw their generosity en masse, and that is starting in the United States. Philanthropists can pull the funding of humanitarian foundations led by people who support war crimes against humanity (against victims selected by race). Audiences can easily decide not to watch films starring actors who ignore the killing of children; studios do not have to hire them. And in our academies, this poisonous ideology, followed by the malignant and foolish but also by the fashionable and well intentioned, has become a default position. It must forfeit its respectability, its lack of authenticity as history. Its moral nullity has been exposed for all to see.

Again, scholars, teachers, and our civil society, and the institutions that fund and regulate universities and charities, need to challenge a toxic, inhumane ideology that has no basis in the real history or present of the Holy Land, and that justifies otherwise rational people to excuse the dismemberment of babies.

Israel has done many harsh and bad things. Netanyahu’s government, the worst ever in Israeli history, as inept as it is immoral, promotes a maximalist ultranationalism that is both unacceptable and unwise. Everyone has the right to protest against Israel’s policies and actions but not to promote terror sects, the killing of civilians, and the spreading of menacing anti-Semitism.

The Palestinians have legitimate grievances and have endured much brutal injustice. But both of their political entities are utterly flawed: the Palestinian Authority, which rules 40 percent of the West Bank, is moribund, corrupt, inept, and generally disdained—and its leaders have been just as abysmal as those of Israel.

Hamas is a diabolical killing sect that hides among civilians, whom it sacrifices on the altar of resistance—as moderate Arab voices have openly stated in recent days, and much more harshly than Hamas’s apologists in the West. “I categorically condemn Hamas’s targeting of civilians,” the Saudi veteran statesman Prince Turki bin Faisal movingly declared last week. “I also condemn Hamas for giving the higher moral ground to an Israeli government that is universally shunned even by half of the Israeli public … I condemn Hamas for sabotaging the attempt of Saudi Arabia to reach a peaceful resolution to the plight of the Palestinian people.” In an interview with Khaled Meshaal, a member of the Hamas politburo, the Arab journalist Rasha Nabil highlighted Hamas’s sacrifice of its own people for its political interests. Meshaal argued that this was just the cost of resistance: “Thirty million Russians died to defeat Germany,” he said.

Nabil stands as an example to Western journalists who scarcely dare challenge Hamas and its massacres. Nothing is more patronizing and even Orientalist than the romanticization of Hamas’s butchers, whom many Arabs despise. The denial of their atrocities by so many in the West is an attempt to fashion acceptable heroes out of an organization that dismembers babies and defiles the bodies of murdered girls. This is an attempt to save Hamas from itself. Perhaps the West’s Hamas apologists should listen to moderate Arab voices instead of a fundamentalist terror sect.

Hamas’s atrocities place it, like the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, as an abomination beyond tolerance. Israel, like any state, has the right to defend itself, but it must do so with great care and minimal civilian loss, and it will be hard even with a full military incursion to destroy Hamas. Meanwhile, Israel must curb its injustices in the West Bank—or risk destroying itself—because ultimately it must negotiate with moderate Palestinians.

So the war unfolds tragically. As I write this, the pounding of Gaza is killing Palestinian children every day, and that is unbearable. As Israel still grieves its losses and buries its children, we deplore the killing of Israeli civilians just as we deplore the killing of Palestinian civilians. We reject Hamas, evil and unfit to govern, but we do not mistake Hamas for the Palestinian people, whose losses we mourn as we mourn the death of all innocents.

In the wider span of history, sometimes terrible events can shake fortified positions: Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin made peace after the Yom Kippur War; Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat made peace after the Intifada. The diabolical crimes of October 7 will never be forgotten, but perhaps, in the years to come, after the scattering of Hamas, after Netanyahuism is just a catastrophic memory, Israelis and Palestinians will draw the borders of their states, tempered by 75 years of killing and stunned by one weekend’s Hamas butchery, into mutual recognition. There is no other way.

03 June 2023

Former cop and his views on the LGBT+ community


David Cunningham posts his comments regarding the story of a Rogue River family harassed by a bigot.

It looks like Cunningham stopped drinking Bud Light.

Someone should ask Cunnigham who the enemies are.

From the Stoneridge Tactical Academy Instagram account: David Cunningham

Let’s talk about David Cunningham, who owns Stoneridge Tactical Academy. According to the website, Cunningham “began his training in 1991 as a member of law enforcement having worked for the Jackson County Narcotics Enforcement Team and then becoming president of his department's police association for two years. He was a Field Training Officer with the department and trained other officers in such subjects as defensive tactics, high-risk felony stops, report writing, use of force, search and seizure, and evidence handling, and was a Certified Child Abuse Investigator and a Certified Death Investigator.” (

Cunningham retired and opened his “academy,” cultivating a loyal following of Gravy SEALs, Meal Team Sixers and other Oath Keeper/III Percenter types. He’s fairly active on social media. He's not afraid to speak his opinion: My first encounter with him was years ago, when the Medford Public Library was promoting their first comic Con and Cunningham used that opportunity to troll and mock cosplayers and fans.

When KOBI 5 posted their story about the Rogue River family harassed and intimidated by a bigot, Cunningham – as “stoneridgetactical” – weighed in.

When one person commented: “Why do people’s sexual preferences affect others? Literally makes no sense it’s almost like their own secret desires and ways of life are what’s really bothering them. I’d be more concerned about our government and media selling children and freaking letting kids get married at 13 with old pedophiles. Literally makes no sense is it that hard to let people be with someone they love as long as they are of legal age and an adult. There is bigger fish to fry makes no sense as to why people are blind to their own ignorance.”

Cunningham responded:

stoneridgetactical: “You’re quite delusional. What they do in their own homes is none of my biz. When they bring my kids into it or attempt to shove it down my throat is when they lose me! Nice try on the false flag or straw man argument. You'll get better at it when you grow up.”

To another commenter, Cunningham said: 

stoneridgetactical: “They can put crap like this up. It does not protect them from any repercussions though. No legal protection there. Sorry.”

Imagine being a victim of a bigot and their aggressive actions and Lt. Cunningham arrives on scene. Given his attitude towards the LGBTQ+ community, would he take the situation seriously?

Take a look at some posts from his own Facebook page and make your own decisions.

And ask him about it.

Stoneridge Tactical Academy

411 N. Front St, Central Point, OR 97502

Phone Hours: M-F 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

21 May 2023

Rogue River Family Harassed By Stranger

Incident happened over a flag


Pictured above is Charles Messimer, who harassed a Rogue River family about their pride flag. The incident happed on May 17 and was caught on video. Pictures courtesy of Jessica VanDerslice.

Pictures of Charles Jake Messimer at the August 29, 2020 BLM Rally held in Rogue River.

By Brad Smith

ROGUE RIVER, Ore. – A man enraged at the thought of his culture destroyed – by Black Lives Matter, Antifa, the LGBTQ+ community and others – verbally harassed a Rogue River family for having a gay pride flag.

On May 17, at around 4:18 p.m., Charles Messimer was so enraged by a rainbow gay pride flag displayed at a house that he stopped his car, got out and walked into the driveway of Jessica VanDerslice’s home, one she shares with their partner, David Angel Zavala, and their children. The brief exchange between VanDerslice and Messimer was caught on a Ring camera.

“Can I help you?”

On the recording, Messimer cleared his throat and asked, rather gruffly, “What makes you guys think it's right to fly that flag in a conservative town?”

VanDerslice responded that it was her right, adding that if Messimer – someone they had never met before – didn’t leave, the police would be called.

“Call them all you want,” he said calmly. “It’s not acceptable anymore.”

As Messimer left, VanDerslice used her mobile phone to video him as he said the flag represented a “disgusting agenda.”

VanDerslice posted the videos and some pictures of Messimer on their Facebook, their friends soon sharing it as well; one of those friends sent the links to me. I posted the videos as well and, thanks to our mutual friend, had an email exchange with VanDerslice.

VanDerslice and their family lost their Phoenix home during the 2020 Almeda Fire. They said the family lived in hotels for about a month after the fire.

“We found this house and fell in love with the beautiful, quiet community,” VanDerslice told me. “It felt like a place we could heal from losing everything, a place to rest for us and our traumatized children.”

The incident with Messimer reminded them of problems that still exist here in the Rogue Valley area.

“I have faced bigotry before, having slurs yelled at me,” VanDerslice said. “Being an out pansexual openly dating women in the Midwest drew some ire – but I’ve never experienced something like this. As a mixed-race family, we have also dealt with some bigotry there and David has certainly gotten the brunt of that as a Mexican man living in this valley.”

Frustrated, VanDerslice posted to a Rogue River Facebook group.

To VanDerslice and Zavala’s dismay, some people defended Messimer’s actions.

Some of the comments included:

Braeden Michael

Move back to California if you're feelings get hurt that much from someone engaging in conversation.


Presley Tiger 

yeah on her property asking questions, very calmly I might add, don't know about all you Californians but going to someone's door to talk out disagreements is how it works in that small town. The guy was very respectful and frankly had every right to ask questions as he is a contributing member of the community as well. It's hilarious to me that y'all can harass, name call, and play the blame game with conservatives in the community but the moment we question your actions, you all of a sudden feel "intimidated". GROW UP. If you are gonna fly controversial flags in a small community be be ready to take the heat just like us conservatives do. That's all.


Khara Tiger

Looks like in your gf video, she approached him through the door, if she was scared or felt threatened wouldn't she have not came outside to greet him? He wasn't yelling at all that I heard, and he didn't even park in your driveway. To me he was calm about the situation he was expressing his thoughts about your flag just as you express your thoughts by flying it.

“It was a lot, just dealing with the emotional fallout of course and watching other members of our community standing behind this man made it feel even worse,” VanDerslice says. “Some people dismiss the experience and called flying the pride flag ‘controversial’ which I don’t even understand. It’s upsetting to find that this new community we’ve been building for ourselves post-fire is so full of hate towards us.

“It (made) me feel like I’m just being soft or sensitive when I literally had to deal with hate speech in front of my children on my own property. It’s unfortunate how normalized bigotry is here. My partner is Mexican and I’m sure that doesn’t help either. A mixed-race queer family in their white nationalist conservative community? Shocking!”

However, a number of Rogue River residents leapt to the family’s defense and denounced the blatant display of bigotry. Some offered to show up – armed – if there was more trouble.

“Just call me,” one person commented. “We have enough firepower to occupy Monaco. We’ll be there in a few minutes.”

Others offered to buy more pride flags and signs for the family’s home. Others were working to identify Messimer – whose identity was still unknown at the time.

VanDerslice found solace in those comments and offers.

“I’m so appreciative of the love and support of the part of the community that doesn’t hate us – and don’t want us gone. We’ve posted some signs and will display more flags. We refuse to be run out of town or silenced – and if our flags help a single person not feel alone, it’s worth it.”

VanDerslice said their family “is quiet and tend to keep to themselves.”

“We have yet to meet any of our neighbors. I had a heart attack at the beginning of last year,” they said.  “A community member, Ken Hart, reached out and brought us a care package, easy to prepare food and a blood pressure cuff I needed. We were immensely grateful to have someone in the community reaching out to us.”

They contacted the Rogue River Police Dept. and an officer took a report, as well as copies of the videos and photos. VanDerslice was told night patrols would be increased in the neighborhood.

“I absolutely believe that this was a hate crime, one with great potential for escalation,” VanDerslice said. “Between entering my property armed, yelling at me to ‘get out of Rogue River’ and then the threats over the phone, I think it’s clear this is a hate crime. The police say he didn’t do anything wrong in the original incident but that I could have him trespassed if I could identify him. I am still working with them in the hopes that they will help protect us.

“The first officer I spoke with did sympathize with me and apologized for the community, but also said there wasn’t much he could do – which was frustrating.”

On Friday morning, I received a few anonymous leads regarding VanDerslice’s harasser. Following up on them, I found a business listing under the name of Charles J. Messimer. There was a phone number . . . so, I dialed it up.

“This is Charles.”

Now, I’d listened to the videos several times and I recognized the voice. Still unsure, I told him who I was and asked what he’d be doing that Wednesday afternoon. Instantly, he asked why I had an Antifa symbol on my profile. I guess he found an old profile picture. As I tried to ask a question, he talked over me, saying:

“I want you guys to know. You will not make it out of this. You will not bring your toxicity into our community. I will make sure you guys do not thrive here.”

Messimer was the man who harassed VanDerslice and their family.

It didn’t take long for Messimer’s identity to go viral. A Google page for his business got hit with negative reviews – some calling out his bullying behavior. Which led to another phone call from him. It was similar to the earlier conversation but Messimer went into more detail about how he believed his culture was under assault from Black Lives Matter and Antifa, who were godless Marxists and socialists. The LGBTQ+ community were a threat to children and have “a disgusting agenda,” as he said to VanDerslice.

Messimer’s words, as he soon found out, would haunt him.

His Google-hosted business page was hit with negative reviews – some of them calling out his actions and behavior towards VanDerslice and their family. In at least one social media comment, someone stated that they had work done by Messimer; however, due to what had happened, cancelled future work orders with him.

By sometime Saturday, Messimer’s page was shut down.

“It’s a relief to know who this bigot is, especially as it meant I was able to have him officially trespassed from my property,” VanDerslice said. “I don’t believe it will stop him from escalating, especially after his threats to us and statements that we ‘would not make it out of this’. I fear for my family, I fear for my children. I fear retaliation not just from him but from other members of the community who continue to support him, people who call a flag dedicated to love a ‘controversial symbol.’”

VanDerslice and their family have no plans on leaving Rogue River.

“We’re members of this community whether they want us here or not,” they said. “David was actually recognized at city hall while paying a bill and was handed an application for city council. We’ve always been activists for queer and trans rights and BLM, but this definitely pushes us to be even louder. I want bigots to know they are the ones not welcome here, and more importantly, I want all our LGBTQ+ citizens to feel safer and have more community. 

“We will not back down. We're installing new cameras; we placed a no trespassing sign and we plan on many more rainbows to come.”

04 February 2023

Local neo-Nazi and Covid-19 denier Erickson dead


By Brad Smith

The Rogue Valley's most infamous neo-Nazi is dead.

According to the Oregon State Police, on Jan. 28, Keith "Biome Michael" Erickson was seriously injured when he rolled his vehicle off Williams Highway south of Murphy. 

At around 8:45 p.m. last Saturday, the OSP,  Rural Metro Fire Department and American Medical Response were dispatched to the single-vehicle crash in the 7200-block of Highway 238. OSP troopers said Erickson,47, was driving a Mercedes Benz 300 west on the highway when he lost control for an unknown reason. They said the vehicle rolled several times before coming to rest in a ditch. According to OSP, Erickson was ejected from the vehicle. He was transported by ambulance to Three Rivers Medical Center with serious injuries.

Erickson reportedly died on Jan. 31.

On his social media accounts, Erickson described himself as a "White (Aryan) Male American National Socialist / Historical Revisionist."

In October 2012, Erickson gained some national attention when Comedy Central selected him to be featured as a One of a Kind Candidate for its Indecision Forever website. Erickson gained attention as being a "goofy, hippy" Ashland mayoral candidate. Local media outlets snapped up the story, Erickson shared a few quips about it and he would eventually -- not surprisingly -- lose the election.

It was good for a few laughs.

Flash forward to December 2018, as Erickson and fellow neo-Nazi Gregg Marchese were barred from entering Havurah Shir Hadash, an Ashland synagogue, where a packed audience turned out to hear a presentation about anti-Semitism in the U.S. and around the world. According to local media reports, Marchese once posted on Facebook that the KKK was created to protect Southerners from "powerful Jews who had Lincoln killed (and) roaming gangs of recently freed slaves inflicting murder, rape and vandalism on whites."

In January 2019, Erickson and Marchese appeared at a Medford anti-hate crime event featuring Oregon's Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum. "I don't feel safe myself," Erickson told the visibly upset audience that night. "And, I'm confused why Jewish people don’t like me. I have nothing against them. I just follow the truth and know the real history of the Holocaust. I want to be safe," he said.

"If I want to say that white pride is good, I should feel safe doing that."

By 2019, Erickson had already caused a stir on social media with his posts. Aside from being a vehement Holocaust denier and 9/11 conspiracy theorist -- the Israelis, the Freemasons and so many more -- "Biome Michael" was also a staunch anti-GMO activist, hated 5G technology, worried about chemtrails and, not surprisingly over the last year, jumped on the Covid-19 "Plandemic" bandwagon.

Erickson reportedly shut down his Facebook after numerous activity suspensions. His Twitter was still visible but he hadn't posted anything publicly in a long while.

The Rogue Free Press contacted an individual who had a number of encounters with Erickson and was often the brunt of his antisemitic rants and even death threats. They were relieved.

"(Erickson) made my life a living hell," they said. "He scared the fuck out of me and I feared for my life. I worried about my family and friends, I had horrific nightmares. He's the reason why I got a gun. Am I glad he's dead?

"Yes. Yes, I am."

Note: The Rogue Free Press has a few articles about Erickson and his activities, which are still posted.
More information about Erickson and other Rogue Valley extremists can be found here:

31 October 2022

Monica property up for sale

This is the picture featured in real estate listings for Susan Monica's property -- the site of two grisly murders that happened more than a decade ago.

By Brad Smith

If you have more than $475,000 and want to own a piece of Oregon's dark history, you can buy the property once owned by Susan Monica AKA the "Pig Farm Killer" or "Pig Lady."

The property, located at 9184 West Evans Creek Rd., was listed on Aug. 26 of this year. It's described as: "Property with lots of potential!!! 19.99 acres of opportunity awaits to be further developed and made into your very own paradise or investment. Home site is established with the beginnings of a home with a basement as well as power, well and septic. Additional features the property offers is a large metal shop, perimeter fencing and a pond. Schedule your showing today to see what all this property has to offer!!"

In Oregon, a seller must disclose to the buyer any material defects known to the seller that would not be readily apparent to a buyer. That's all, however. Realtors, however, don't have to disclose anything regarding the property's history -- from allegations of hauntings and/or other paranormal activity to things such as murder.

"I'm very aware of what happened there," one local real estate agent said. "Yes, I would tell a potential buyer about what happened there. I think they should know."

A lot happened at 9184 West Evans more than ten years ago -- and none of it was pleasant.

In January 2014, Wimer residents and those in nearby Rogue River were shocked to discover that one of their own had some grisly secrets. That's when Susan Monica, then 65, an eccentric woman who sometimes kept to herself and was rumored of having a volatile temper, was arrested for double homicide. According to information from the Dept. of Veterans Affairs, Monica was born on July 8, 1948 as Steven Buchanan and enlisted in the Navy during the Vietnam War.

During the investigation and in court proceedings, it was revealed that Monica shot and killed Stephen Delicino, 59, in August 2012 and Robert Haney, 56, in September 2013. After which, in both cases, she fed the bodies to her pigs. As multiple law enforcement agencies joined in the initial investigations, there were rumors of Monica being a serial killer and more bodies buried on the property.

No other bodies were discovered.

Monica was found guilty on all counts on April 21, 2015. The trial lasted six days and the jury's deliberation lasted only an hour. The trial was reported on not only by local and regional media outlets, but even Great Britain's Daily Mail covered it, using a Google Earth map of Monica's ranch property.

She was known for her metalworking and many still say she was very good at it. While in the Navy, she had been trained as a welder. She did a lot of work for people in the area; her 20-acre property was a like a compound, with a barn, outbuildings and a few vehicles. There was a camper trailer on the property -- that's where those who worked for her lived. According to some, she wanted to build an underground home. "It was going to be like a bunker," one person said.

Those interested in seeing one of the listings can find it here.

20 October 2022

Some Hallowe'en Fun

By Brad Smith

It's October, almost Hallowe'en, so it's to revisit earlier articles about all things spooky and paranormal.

Let's get started.

Ghosts haunt Ashland and the surrounding area – it’s a place rich in paranormal lore.


Southern Oregon University has a few stories. From the Ghosts and Critters website, here’s a rundown of its most notable stories:

Southern Oregon University’s Plunkett Center has been put to many uses since the University acquired the old building in 1966. It has been alumni and development offices on its second floor and the first floor is used as museum displays by the local historical society. This building is also known as the Swedenburg House, taken from its former tenant, Dr. F. Swedenburg. Swedenburg was a prominent local physician who lived in the house from 1919 until he died in 1937. 

Since the University purchased the property there have been ghost stories surrounding it. Some skeptics believe the stories get more elaborate year after year. Believers who counter this opinion included a University professor and the head of campus security. 

Joey Ngan began his experiences with the Swedenburg house when he was a junior campus security guard. Ngan had the graveyard shift when he started out working for security. He always felt as if he was being watched when he went onto the second floor. He would announce himself and explain that he was just there to check out the building. If he did not do this he always felt as if something did not want him there. 

The house was restored in the early 1980s and a new security system was installed. Ngan and another officer had just finished checking the building and ensuring that the alarm system was operational. Later they drove by the house and saw a woman illumined by the porch light. She was sitting beside a window in a first-floor office. They saw her for a second and then she was gone. They entered the building and searched it for her. The door was locked and the building was empty. 

Political Science Professor Bill Muelemans came to the University in the early 1970s and collected several of the stories over the years. In 1973 the building was closed down and the electricity was turned off. Muelemans, a security guard and three students decided to hold a vigil in the house. They went to one of the second story rooms with candles, flashlights and a Ouija board. The board spelled out messages, including a statement that one of the students had tried to commit suicide in the past. This was true, though no one besides the student knew this. The board began moving and seemed to jump in the air about 18 inches. 

At that point they ran out of the building. The security guard was the last one out. As he was locking the door he felt as if his hand was frozen to the doorknob for about 30 seconds before he could break free. Many visitors have seen another specter. A young girl dressed in an old-fashioned pinafore dress with her hair in pigtails has been seen by many unrelated visitors. She is usually seen out of the corner of the visitor's eyes and only for a few seconds. There are rumors of burglar alarms going off and glowing apparitions seen by students late at night. It is hard to pin them down to a definite location.

There are a few other stories, buildings haunted by long dead janitors, teachers and students. Universities and colleges have those kinds of stories, ranging from botched hazings to distraught students dying by suicide. And, some of them are urban legends: The same basic story transferred from one school to another, with some details changed to fit local history or what have you.

Think about it: How many hotels or other places have stories of the jilted bride who killed herself? Yes, at some point, it happened . . . . And then a slightly altered version of the story found its way attached to another hotel or well-known resort. Then, it spreads from there.

Then, you have some local folklore altered into a ghost story.

Tunnel 13 is a good example.

It was called the last great train robbery of the American West. On Oct. 11, 1923, the DeAutremont brothers – twins Roy and Ray along with their younger brother Hugh – robbed the Oregon–California Express as it was on its way to San Francisco. During the robbery, four men were killed and the brothers fled empty handed. Thanks to the efforts of a Berkeley chemistry professor name  Edward Oscar Heinrich and his forensic skills, the DeAutremont brothers were eventually captured and sentenced to prison.

Since then, many have claimed Tunnel 13 is haunted. People claim to have felt cold spots as they walk through the tunnel – well, it’s a tunnel. It’s a tunnel with a violent past and it’s like the funhouse effect, as some of us paranormal investigators call it. It’s like when people look at a spooky old building and think it’s haunted.


Because it looks spooky.

It’s the same with Tunnel 13. It has the right perquisites for a haunted location. Remote, foreboding, violent history and – most importantly – it has the number 13.

It has to be haunted.

I love history, crime stories and forensics; so the Tunnel 13 story has plenty of hooks for me as it is. And, yes, as a paranormal investigator, I’d love to check it out but I feel that there isn’t enough documentation to say there’s any paranormal activity at the location. There’s a lot to assume and the YouTube videos I’ve seen . . . well, I’m not impressed. Anecdotal evidence might be an interesting hook but it’s not real evidence.

Now, if someone has a different view or even evidence – please, let me know. As Mulder’s poster so famously says, I want to believe.

Ashland is home to a number of ghosts and here are few of their stories.

Spanning more than 90 acres, Ashland’s Lithia Park is the city’s largest park, with famed landscape architect John McLaren overseeing a number of improvements. One of the park’s most well-known ghosts is the Blue Lady or Blue Girl. According to the accounts, back in the 1880s, a young woman was sexually assaulted and murdered. Since then, many witnesses have reported a mysterious blue light – or a glowing mist – floating throughout the park, particularly the duck ponds.

Always at night, of course.

The Blue Lady, in her mist form, has been known to move out in front of moving vehicles or seemingly appear out of thin air. In these accounts, as the vehicles pass through the blue mists, the occupants are hit with a cold chill.

Then, the cold goes away along with the mist.

Another story has it that a logger was killed during an accident. According to some accounts, the ill-fated logger used a drinking jug as a musical instrument . . . witnesses claim to hear strange musical sounds as they walk through the park at night.

Where the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Black Swan Theatre now stands, nearly a hundred years ago, there was a large parking lot (an automobile dealership would later take its place). During the day, a young man – called Dog Boy or Dog-Faced Boy due to an accident that scarred his face – would sell pencils out of a tin cup; at night, he would break into parked cars or burglarized nearby businesses. However, local vigilantes, according to one story, caught Dog Boy in the act and beat him to death.

Ever since, Dog Boy has been seen the in the area, looking for another vehicle to rob or maybe even seeking shelter from vigilantes.

Famed stage and film actor Charles Laughton went to the OSF in the early 1960s and enjoyed the shows he saw. It’s been said Laughton had always wanted to play King Lear at the OSF and, supposedly, the deal was made. However, Laughton died . . . stories have it that whenever Lear is produced at the OSF, Laughton or some shadowy figure can be seen in the audience during rehearsals or his footsteps can be heard backstage.

In the town’s old railroad district, what’s now the Peerless Hotel was once a boarding house for railway workers and is rumored to be haunted by a ghost prostitute who visited the men.

It should be noted that these stories are based on various accounts and urban legends. Each story probably has several different versions – that’s the nature of folklore.

A few miles west of Gold Hill, Ore., right off of Rogue River Highway, is Rock Point Cemetery.

According to locals and a number of paranormal investigators, it’s haunted.

There was once a small community call Rock Point and it had a post office along with a train station. Some buildings reportedly still stand but the cemetery remains. Rock Point Cemetery is more that 26 acres in size and has an Independent Order of Odd Fellows section and the rest, in the past, has been called the Pioneer Cemetery. IOOF members maintained their section while the rest of it fell into a state of disarray. Eventually, Gold Hill citizens banded together and started cleaning the cemetery.

Over the years, a number of stories about paranormal activity have swirled around the cemetery, even to the point that paranormal investigators and curiosity seekers from all over the state have come to visit.

One of the most well-known accounts is about a hooded figure, carrying a lantern and sometimes bathed in green light, that roams the cemetery. When people approach the hooded figure, it vanishes into the night. There are a pair of crypts located in the cemetery and there are stories of both surrounded by green mists or even green fire. Strange lights, eerie sounds and – again – that green mists were experienced by nighttime visitors . . . typically, local young people who went to the cemetery as a dare or even for teenaged romantic escapades.

As I was working on my first Rock Point article, I discovered that a common dare was for someone to lie across one of the crypts and wait for the green fog or flames to happen. Some stories have it that as young people drove through the cemetery, their car windows would crack or shatter due to an unseen force.

Both sextons and members of the Gold Hill Historical Society claim that people wearing Victorian era clothing have been seen wandering the cemetery – then disappearing. One such spectral figure, a woman, is usually accompanied by the strong fragrance of lilacs.

It is a beautiful place during the fall and spring, thanks to the local cleanup efforts. A number of the gravesites are fenced off and have been decorated with ornaments and toys.

As I researched Rock Point’s history, I discovered who the hooded figure was.

At some point in the late 19th Century, a Civil War veteran moved to the Gold Hill area. On some nights, he would put on his military longcoat, grab a lantern and go to the cemetery. He would visit the gravesites of other veterans, checking on them and even talking, as if having a conversation with the dead.

Many years after his death, it appears that the old veteran still patrols the cemetery grounds.

Happy Hallowe’en . . . .

27 August 2022

Email From A Reader: The Saltshakers and their bad behavior

"You may find a video of an incident that occurred yesterday, interesting.   

"Salt Shakers are taunting an upset, shirtless man, laughing at him, making  derogatory comments, calling him a demon, etc., seemingly mocking him for possibly being unhoused,  and then asking the police to have the man arrested.  This took place as they protested in front of Newman Methodist Church. The man kept yelling to be left alone, and the video shows Casie and Jon Peterman continuing to push his buttons, and advancing, when the man tried to retreat.  It's on her Casie May Facebook page.  Comments on the page are sad, as well, as they have no empathy for the guy, who was  clearly not having his best day. Jon says the man should have been punched in the mouth more, as a child."

16 May 2022

How safe is the Rogue Valley's LGBTQ community?

As the hate group RV Saltshakers and other bigots step up their protests and attacks, some in the LGBTQ community are seeing an increase in harassment and intolerance

By Brad Smith

JACKSON COUNTY, Ore – Tyler should be a happy young man: He loves his home, loves his job and is deeply in love with someone.

He should feel safe – but doesn’t.

“There are times when I’m out in public, I feel like something bad could happen,” he said. “There are times when I feel so wary and uneasy, I can’t allow myself to relax or have fun.”

Tyler is gay. Openly gay. For him and others who belong to the LGBTQ community here in southern Oregon, it’s not a very easy thing to be. “I knew who I was early on. I just knew,” he said. “I accepted it and was fine with who I am. However, many in my family didn’t handle that very well. There was a lot of hostility and religious indoctrination. It was for me, emotionally, very brutal. I’m still coping with PTSD from that time of my life.”

According to studies published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), family rejection is strongly associated with mental health problems and suicidality, substance use, and sexual risk. Not surprisingly, parental rejection is linked to increased depression, suicidality and substance use among LGBTQ youth.

The research also states:

“It is important to note that those LGBTQ youth who do perceive strong support from their families tend to have better mental health and lower risk of substance abuse and – to a lesser extent -- sexual risk behaviors. The presence of parental support in the lives of LGBTQ youth indicates that parents and their children were resilient in the face of coming to terms with the teen's LGBTQ identity, which is often a significant stressor for both parents and teens.”

That wasn’t the case for Tyler.

“I’ve become the black sheep of the family,” he said with a laugh. “Some relationships with my family have been very strained and show no signs of changing. However, things have gotten better with other family members. It’s been a slow process but it’s progress nonetheless.”

Over the past year, he has found love.

“Meeting Eli is the best thing in my life. I love my job and I do have friends – but there was something else missing. That was Eli. Having them in my life made all the difference. However, there was a slight problem. Well, it was a problem for my family when they learned Eli is Black.”

It didn’t go well. Tyler said some of his family were “very outraged” upon learning Eli was Black. There was angry outbursts or tense, judgmental silence.

“I guess they felt that I’d gone out of my way to piss them off,” he said. “It’s upsetting because it seems that no matter what I do, or who I am, they’re not happy and they want to make me feel miserable.”

Eli’s family is unaware of the relationship.

“Based on what we experienced with my family,” Tyler said, “Eli and I are taking a more careful approach. It’s frustrating for us but it’s what we have to do.”

Eli, Tyler added, has been dealing with prejudice as well.

“It’s like this: We’ll be walking down the street and a white person gets out of their car. They look at Eli, stop, turn around and lock the doors. Sometimes, they don’t hide their fear and hate. You can clearly see it on their faces. It makes me sick.”

There have been times when Eli visited Tyler, as they drive through the neighborhood, someone stopped them and demanded why they’re in the neighborhood or who they’re seeing in the area.

“People have used their big pickup trucks to block Eli’s car and then comes the shouting, the threats,” Tyler said. “Or people will be on the sidewalks or in their yards, yelling and screaming at him. In my neighborhood, there are more than a few Trump signs or flags, Blue Lives Matter signs or Confederate flags.”

Tyler said that he and Eli have talked about moving elsewhere.

“We’re looking at Talent or Ashland,” he said. “Someplace where we’ll feel relaxed and safe. Safer, I should say. We don’t want to leave the area; this is our home and we do love it here. I don’t want to do that.”

Tyler and Eli aren’t the only ones who feel unsafe in southern Oregon.

A few years ago, the LGBTQ+ Community Survey was developed by the steering committee of the LGBTQ+ Listening Project – a group of queer and trans folks in Jackson and Josephine Counties in southwestern Oregon who came together with the leadership of Rory Meza in 2019.

The survey’s aim was to learn more about the needs of the LGBTQ+ community and the resources available in southern Oregon region. It was developed between February and June 2020, released in July 2020 and remained open until Oct. 31, 2020.

According to the survey information, more than 550 people responded. Reading the survey, it was troubling to learn that over 86 percent of those who answered felt “like they need to leave the area to live a good life.”

Here are some of the comments:

·         “Many people tell me I need to move to Portland or Eugene to feel more welcome.”

·         “Grants Pass is a very hard and dangerous place for non-straight, non-white people to exist and it's hard to get the money saved to move away due to unlivable wages, especially for non-white people.”

·         “My transfemme friend is about to move away, and another transwoman in the community also left for Baker City. She carries a gun because she never feels safe here. I think queer folks here are incredibly resilient and interesting and I would like our stories to be more known without putting anyone at risk.”

·         This area is an absolutely beautiful place to live, but the “open mindedness” extends only as far as white supremacy and privilege has shown through experience. You can’t meditate away oppression. People here are completely unaware of the BLM movement and revolution needing to continue happening throughout our country and the world, and people here (as a generalization) are completely ignorant to queer history and culture.”

·         “Thanks for trying. I moved here from California because I couldn't afford to live there anymore and it's been a pretty depressing transition, having such a toxic atmosphere to try and survive in. I hope it gets better.”

·         “Recent protests have brought out alt-right white men with their guns. I don't feel safe at all anymore. Can't imagine what QPOC people feel right now.”

·         “I moved here for my ex’s job and got stuck here. I’ve been wanting to get out every day since. Having a community would make a big difference in feeling like this place was even somewhat politically acceptable.”

But there was more troubling data, several indications on how serious of a problem southern Oregon has with bigotry and harassment.

  • 77 percent of people reported “feeling like you have to move out of the area to meet your needs or live a good life” at least once. 47 percent of people reported feeling this way frequently or somewhat frequently.
  • 80 percent of people reported “feeling unwelcome at a public event or in a public space because of your sexuality, gender or appearance” at least once. 32 percent of people reported feeling this way frequently or somewhat frequently.
  • 73 percent of people reported “harassment or bullying because of your sexuality, gender or appearance.” 25 percent of people reported feeling this way frequently or somewhat frequently.
  • 83 percent of people reported “feeling you need to hide or change your sexuality, gender, or appearance to avoid harassment or discrimination” at least once. 42 percent of people reported feeling this way frequently or somewhat frequently.
  • 32 percent of people reported “being targeted, harassed, or treated with unnecessary force by police because of your sexuality, gender or appearance” at least once. 9 percent of people reported having this experience frequently or somewhat frequently.
  • 45 percent of people reported “being threatened with or experiencing physical violence because of your sexuality, gender or appearance.” 12 percent of people having this experience frequently or somewhat frequently.

Little over a month ago, Tyler said he “felt being under pressure and depressed.”

He voluntarily checked himself into a hospital for a 72-hour mental health evaluation. During that time, Tyler said he was able to “sort things out” and think about his life.

“I’m glad I did that, I needed to do that,” he said. “I felt on the edge and needed to get help. It was scary but Eli and a few other friends were there for me. They helped pull me back from the edge. I’m very fortunate. Some aren’t that fortunate.”

It’s a sad, sobering reality. According to the Trevor Project, suicide is a serious problem within the LGBTQ community, especially among younger people.

Here are the facts:

  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people aged 10 to 24 (Hedegaard, Curtin, & Warner, 2018) – and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth are at significantly increased risk.
  • LGBTQ youth are more than four times as likely to attempt suicide than their peers.
  • The Trevor Project estimates that more than 1.8 million LGBTQ youth (13-24) seriously consider suicide each year in the U.S. – and at least one attempts suicide every 45 seconds.
  • The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that 42 percent of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth. 

It's a lot of information to absorb but that’s the seriousness of the problem. Tyler realized how dangerously close he was to having an emotional breakdown or even suicide. He had a loving partner and a network of close, personal friends who cared for him.

Some aren’t that lucky.

“Have things gotten better? Yeah, some progress has been made. Some,” Tyler said. “But it can always get better. And there’s a lot of uncertainty – especially here. We have a lot of hateful people here in the valley and I worry more will join them. As I said before. Eli and I don’t feel safe here.”

As of this writing, the two plan to move. Ashland or Talent are looking like safe places for them. They’ve even talked about Portland. However, Tyler said the last few times he and Eli were in Ashland, they were met with “unfriendly stares” from people on the streets or in restaurants.

“It was a very unpleasant vibe. Shocking, too. Maybe Ashland isn’t safe, not anymore. Are we safe anywhere? The thing is, I was born here,” Tyler said. “This is my home and the thought of me being forced out of my hometown really pisses me off. I want Eli and I to be safe and happy. That’s all I want for us.

“Is that too much to ask for?”

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