Portland is a city (and the Mercury a paper) that occasionally erupts in bursts of vitriolic civic engagement over issues that could not be less important. See: The Cesar Chavez Boulevard rename. Also: Sidewalk tape arguments at the Rose Festival. And of course: Major League Soccer. There are very few Portlanders, I think, who are able to rise above the Rose City noise and focus on issues of genuine life-and-death importance. Sadly, there is now one fewer.
If there's a heaven, Bonnie Tinker is probably already bored up there. Unless there's some raging injustice over the distribution of harps and angelic foot rubs—in which case I guarantee Tinker will be causing trouble in paradise. Still, "resting" in "peace" seems inappropriate for Tinker, whose 61-year life was ended prematurely last Thursday, July 2, when a Mack truck ran her over at a Quaker conference in Virginia. I first met Tinker in 2007 after she was arrested along with her partner, Sara Graham, for daubing the walls of a military recruitment center on NE Broadway with water-soluble fake blood, made from corn syrup and food coloring. Tinker and Graham led Portland's Surge Protection Brigade, a group of politically active senior citizens who became known as the "raging" or "pissed-off grannies."
The first thing that struck me was that Tinker and Graham had definitely done it. There was no denial. In addition they told me: "We're not sorry." And still they beat the District Attorney's criminal mischief case in court, arguing under the first amendment that the blood symbolized both Good Friday, and the blood of dying soldiers in Iraq. I admired their ability to turn the court case into a public discussion about the war.
Tinker and Graham were arrested again in June that year, after lying down in front of a World War II tank during the Rose Festival. "It's not right, at a time of war, to have a tank on the streets of this city," said Tinker, making no reference to any ongoing arguments over sidewalk tape that may have been also been "raging" at the time.
I hope young and creative Portlanders like us can take a lesson from Tinker's life, now that she's gone. It's a shame we can get mad over the noise regulations for food carts on Hawthorne or sucked into the minutia of the mayor's sex life while seldom directing our energy, our indignation—or better yet—our guts, toward the really dreadful shit.
On that note, the effort to recall Sam Adams begins in earnest this week [rolls hipster eyes]. Bonnie Tinker, you'll be missed.