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After #standupFG: build walls - or bridges?

As a resident of Forest Grove since 1974 when I joined the Department of Politics & Government at Pacific University, I gradually became aware of the racial divide between the Hispanic and White communities.

Back then most Hispanic residents lived in Cornelius and shopped at Hank’s Thriftway. By contrast one seldom saw Hispanic residents shopping at Forest Grove’s Safeway store.

But as the years passed these visible walls have crumbled while obviously other walls remain to be torn down — walls of misunderstanding and ignorant trash talk.

That’s what makes the protest rally and march #StandUpFG over a banner entitled “Build a Wall” historically significant. Will

this be a seminal moment for our local community?

When several hundred FG High School students stage a rally at FG High School that culminates in a march through downtown Forest Grove, it reminds one of similar marches in other turbulent times.

Fortunately this protest rally and march were done in a peaceful non-violent manner according to media reports. The students who took part should be praised for their courage and responsibility.

They acted in the spirit that motivated other young people back in the day who marched for civil rights, peace and farm worker rights — legacies of Martin Luther King and Cesar Chavez.

The rally and march comes within the context of the national debate created by Donald Trump’s run for the presidency and the inflamed rhetoric he has employed to galvanize his supporters.

Trump’s calls for banning Muslims from coming to the USAv, his sexist comments about women, his over the top remarks about Mexicans and the violence at his rallies have caught our attention.

Some view Trump as a racist or fascist. Others regard him as a savior of the White working class. Like Alabama’s George Wallace back in 1968 Trump is a blend of both sides of this political coin.

It will be up to the voters in November to make the ultimate decision — is Trump a political con artist out to make his biggest “deal” or is he a serious candidate with serious ideas about how to govern?

Personally I find him to be a fraudulent defender of those who have suffered from the Great Recession. His billionaire biography belies his promises about making “America Great Again.”

But one must give the devil his due — he’s woken Americans up. Nobody who is paying attention can be neutral about The Donald and his brand of what The Bern terms the “political revolution.”

Forest Grove High School students put our community on the national and international news and social media map. We are no longer that sleepy little town in Western Washington County.

Good for them. Now can they build not walls but bridges between them and their peers as well as within the wider Forest Grove/Cornelius community? Or will this just be a blip on the screen of daily life?

For a political science professor one indicator will be the degree to which Hispanic residents become fully a part of the political structure of our local community.

That may be the long-term legacy of what happened here in the Grove when students peaceably assembled to remind us about how complex our community really is.

One hopes the lilies of the field will grow out of this moment in time.

Russ Dondero is a Forest Grove resident and professor emeritus at Pacific University.