Today I am joined by Brandon Johnson on Twitter you can follow him@BCJohnson7Be sure and show him some love on his blog at Ubiquitous Musingshttp://brandoncjohnson.blogspot.com/ Brandon is a grad student at Western Seminary who lives with his beautiful wife, Chrissy, here in Portland, Oregon. Brandon loves writing, and he hopes to be a published author someday. He currently works as a delivery driver for a cleaning company, and worships with a great group of fellow travelers at the Evergreen Community.
The Adventures of Being a Man: Hiking the Trails through Portland’s Diverse Terrain
I have a confession to make. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I’m not a native to Portland. There, I said it. I hope you can forgive my foreign birth and accept me as the immigrant I am. Perhaps even worse is that I am originally from California, and oddly, it took moving to Missouri for college before I finally made it to the Beaver State (which, I have to say, is a pretty silly state nickname…). Moving to Oregon—and Portland, more specifically—was one of the best decisions of my life.
I love it here. Western Seminary is what drew me here to begin with, but it has become so much more. It has become where I have made some of my closest friends, come to belong to the most meaningful church family I have ever had (The Evergreen Community), experienced the best of God’s creation sandwiched between the Cascades and the Pacific, and come to know the most fun in human cultural expression. Perhaps most of all, this is where my wife and I came to live out the first years of our marriage and where our first child is soon to be born. No matter where I end up, Portland will hold a special place in my life and my heart.
A few guys and I recently started getting together to meet as a Men’s Community Group once a week to develop friendship and partner in helping each other grow as followers of Jesus and as men. I started thinking about what it looks like to be a man in Portland. I think Portland provides some of the greatest and most destructive opportunities for men that can be found anywhere.
One of the amazing things about Portland is the incredible culture of outdoor adventuring. We have mountains and ocean and rivers and forests and desert and the Gorge either on our doorstep or within the distance of a short drive. It’s breathtaking really. I love those days when I can drive up and down Marine Drive, taking in the majestic beauty of the Columbia River, Mt. Hood, Mount St. Helens, and forested hills of Washington across the water, all at once. It’s no wonder so many of us men (and women) who live here fall in love with hiking and biking, rafting, camping, running, and climbing. We practically live in Eden itself. Even the rain isn’t so bad. It’s part of what supplies the endless landscape of greenery we love so much—and I’m sure it helps motivate us to make good outdoor use of those precious, sunny summer days!
Oregonians are famous around the country for being environmental nuts. Oregon was ‘going green’ way before the term existed, and it became a national movement. I don’t think that comes from liberal ideology or hippie extremists so much as it does that we live in paradise and don’t want to lose it. Coming from California’s San Joaquin Valley, I can tell you that when you live in what seems like an endless wasteland that doesn’t even have the decency to be a real desert, protecting nature doesn’t fall very high on your priority list. But Oregonians live surrounded by the best creation has to offer, and they wouldn’t dare profane God’s handiwork. Men living in Portland have the opportunity to experience adventure in their own backyard like nowhere else.
Another of the wonders of Portland offers to any man with a taste for life is the flow of handcrafted beer, made with barley, hops, and love. We have the highest number of microbreweries per capita in the nation. Second to the natural beauty, surely this ancient brew is one of God’s greatest gifts to man. As a Portland foreigner, I have a special appreciation for it, I think. As anyone else who comes from another part of the country has probably experienced, beer is seen as trashy, cheap, and the stuff domestic violence is made of. That is a poor picture of what beer really is, but it’s not surprising when most places the best you can get is cans with “cold activated” indicators filled with what must be the equivalent of mountain urine. That is certainly not the case in Portland. Real beer has more complexities and richness of flavor than fine wine, and it is no small feat to be a true beer connoisseur.
As a man living in Portland, I am afforded the opportunity to sample some of the best beer in the world. It is made by restaurants and pubs that have their own breweries, and people who brew their own beer abound. You don’t have to get drunk to appreciate a great glass of beer. In other places, the stuff tastes so bad, getting drunk is the only reason to drink it. But here, the taste is the reward.
On the other side of things, men in Portland face unique (or at least, uniquely pervasive) challenges. While we can celebrate the abundance of microbreweries, we unfortunately, have the opportunity to mourn the highest number of strip clubs per capita, as well. As men, any of us who frequent such establishments denigrate and corrode ourselves and the girls and women who are used to feed our cravings. Even more, what most don’t realize is that a heartbreakingly large portion of the girls in that industry arrived there by means of human sex trafficking, modern slavery. It is estimated that, right now, over 1000 of Portland’s underage daughters are being used against their will, raped fifteen to twenty times per day, solely to satisfy the lust and greed of evil men. The average age girls enter this horrific life is 13 years old. The average life expectancy after entering forced prostitution is six years. It’s enough to make me ashamed to be a man.
Men are the problem, so men need to be the solution. As a man in Portland, I feel it is my responsibility to educate other men about the truth of what is happening right under our noses. I would hope that if men understood what is really going on, we would stop using women for sex, women who aren’t really women but are really little girls. I would hope we would stop pouring money into strip clubs that are staffed by trafficked girls, stop providing paychecks for pimps and slave owners. I would hope we would stop paying for pictures and videos of exploited girls, clicking on web pages that provide access to viewing naked girls, over half of whom are not there by choice but are just as trapped and helpless as any slave before the Civil War.
Unfortunately, while education can help, there will always be men who don’t care. There will always be men who not only don’t care who they hurt, but they prefer the taste of captive children to that of willing women. We men in Portland, the real men, need to stand up to effect change in legislation to treat the girls as victims, not criminals; to make it harder for men to seek the pleasure of a teen girls body; to find and stop the pimps who are getting rich off the misery of little girls. We need to be real fathers to our children. We need to bring up our sons to respect women and value them as the priceless wonders they are. We need to bring them up to love being the courageous hero, not the cowardly villain. We need to love our daughters so they know it. We need to make them feel beautiful, so they don’t ever need to find affection from a strange man just to be lured into sexual slavery.
It’s time for the men in Portland to act like men.
I’m passionate about Portland, both its amazing benefits and its horrific secrets. I love it here in a way no other place on earth has been able to captivate my heart. There are so many more things about, in, and around Portland that are wonderful and worthy of sharing, but there simply isn’t the room and time to describe it all. As a man of Portland, it is only right that I enjoy all it has to offer. As a man of Portland, it is only right that I work to make it a better place. Understanding its shortcomings doesn’t make me love Portland any less. I love Portland enough that I am willing to stick around to help it grow, to embrace the beauty and repair the damage of corruption.
I hope all the men in Portland join me as a force for change and freedom in our city, and as we struggle to be the men Portland needs, I hope you’ll join me for a hike and a pint, as well.