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Turn election angst into local energy

Finding common ground after the scorched-earth red vs. blue presidential campaign will be difficult. The path to purple is particularly murky given that we have (for only the third time in the past 128 years) a president-elect who will take office despite losing the popular vote.

Oregon residents upset by Donald Trump’s victory have reacted in a variety of ways — from peaceful protests to violent hooliganism. Even some who voted for the victor are voicing concerns about their unconventional candidate — worries outweighed by a deep distrust of their government.

In fact, the urge to blow up the political process, as documented by a recent poll by DHM Research, is now shared by a majority of residents in blue-state Oregon.

So where do we go?

Maybe it’s time for the adults, who got a lot of things wrong during the election, to get out of the way. Last Friday, students from several Portland high schools gathered at Grant High School to map out a week’s worth of activities, launched on Monday, to “ensure a safe, united and equitable culture and climate in our city.”

They included:

n “Safe spaces” during the lunch hour for students to “express their concerns and be heard.”

n A call for students to put “positive messages” on Post-it Notes around their schools.

n Participation in the “safety pin” movement — wearing safety pins to signal that the person is supportive of groups that felt threatened by Trump’s campaign rhetoric.

n Support for a districtwide “unity day.”

None of these actions will alleviate all the students’ concerns, but they share two common characteristics. They are local and doable.

It may feel good to rail against the electoral college, but you can’t get rid of it. On the flip side, you can scream for Trump to “drain the swamp,” but he’s already busy hiring D.C. lobbyists and GOP insiders for his transition team.

Divisiveness only breeds more divisiveness. We’re stronger as Oregonians and as Americans when we put aside the polarizing rhetoric of the campaign and work on some issues that all sides can agree must be addressed.

We like that the students are advocating for changes within their schools, and we encourage the grown-ups to do the same — by focusing a bit less on the problems of the Beltway and a bit more on the challenges facing their communities. There are pressing needs in Oregon that aren’t shaded red or blue. No party we know of is in favor of hunger and homelessness.

If the presidential results have you tossing in your sleep, volunteer for the night shift at your local homeless shelter (http://pdxhfs.org/volunteer/).

If you support cutting government programs — or fear what a Trump administration will do to Michelle Obama’s food and nutrition initiatives — put your money (and time) where your mouth is and help out the Oregon Food Bank. (www.oregonfoodbank.org/).

And, if you’re like most Oregonians and think the political system is broken, then stop griping from the sidelines and enter the game. Every community, from Portland to Prineville, depends on involved citizens to make local government run. There are chronically unfilled positions on nonpartisan library advisory boards, budget committees and local arts commissions.

Your inside look at local government may confirm your worst fears, but we’re betting the experience will show that the vast majority of those involved in public service are trying to make their communities, well, great.

Along the way, you may bump elbows with someone who shares a different political philosophy. It may not turn you from red to blue or blue to red, but at least it may broaden your understanding of those with whom you so vehemently disagree.