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A Sociopolitical Analysis of Brookings, Oregon

By Brendan S.

July 24, 2020

A flock of seagulls departs to Goat Island as I walk along the beach about a dozen meters away from them. Harris Beach, Brookings, Oregon, July 2020.

Along a lightly trafficked Brookings beach, the Oregon seagulls seem more scared of humans than those of California, perhaps less exposed to the elixir of fast food consumption and overcrowded fishing piers often found on the heavily trafficked beaches a few hundred kilometers south.

An Oregon-flavored alternative to California’s Port Hueneme and Oxnard, Brookings is a town of class stratification and social juxtaposition. The reactionary hyper-capitalist grasp on the town could be sensed before it was seen in the form of a prominent GOP headquarters. A class apartheid could be distinguished immediately, with dozens of starving vagrants roaming the streets representing the forced underclass of a town which regards them as underlings.

Across from them, a healthy middle class, wholeheartedly unwilling to look after their fellow townspeople, but eager to drape an assortment of reactionary banners across their homes.

Patches of yard with every square foot flooded by motorbikes, boats, trucks, and ATVs encircling numerous homeless encampments as if to say to the Brookings underclass:

“We are the ones who won the game, and you didn’t.”

A homeless encampment in Brookings Harbor. (KTVL)

A 6,500-person town, supported by a myriad of sectors, fully capable of looking after its own, yet blatantly and decisively annihilated by classist apartheid.

Another tragic microcosm of the American state.

The local police force, with numerous Dodge Chargers as their patrol vehicles each costing roughly $35,000, stood ready to pounce on anyone who dare divert from the cult-like acceptance of class apartheid and question the power structure. Law enforcement virtually supports the economy, with nearly 10% of the town’s labor force employed by the department. A grossly unnecessary population of roughly 206 employees of the department for a small 10.7 square kilometer settlement of 6,500 people.

Cops of the Brookings Police Department, geared up to go to war with the homeless. (Curry Coastal Pilot)

Hence, the police department has not only forcefully integrated itself into the sphere of power, it has made the town economically dependent on it. The resemblance to a capitalist police state could be seen on every street and every wall in one form or another.

Representation from congressmen who hate indigenous people, a mayor who hates the Earth, an all-white reactionary city council, and a police department which accounts for a concerning portion of the city government, all conglomerating into a semi-fascist hellscape, surrounded by the sacredness of old-growth redwood and pine forests. A stark juxtaposition of tragedy, and beauty.

Map of the approximate historical tribal territories within the settler-drawn borders of Oregon. (Tribes of Oregon)

In near complete isolation from non-whites, the people of Brookings and many nearby towns are highly susceptible to the xenophobic and white ethnocentric rhetoric carried on unquestioned from their settler ancestors, who massacred the native Chetco peoples and forced them into extinction.

Post-genocide Brookings has witnessed a distinct history. It was the site of the sole aerial bombing of the contiguous United States during WWII. In 1942, the town was targeted by Japanese submarines, then subsequently bombed by floatplane pilot Nobuo Fujita, with the intention of creating a massive forest fire to draw US manpower away from the Pacific Theater. After the war, Fujita considered committing seppuku out of shame for following these orders.

Fujita in flight gear during WWII. (Atlas Obscura)

In 1962, during his first postwar visit to Brookings, Fujita presented the city with his 400-year-old family katana sword as a symbol of regret and repentance. It is now on display in the Brookings Public Library. In 1992, Fujita planted a tree at the site of his bomb’s detonation. Five years later, as he was passing away from lung cancer, Fujita was proclaimed “ambassador of good will” and “honorary citizen” by the city of Brookings.

The people of Brookings can learn many things from Fujita, of which unfortunately none have manifested. Such as, holding the same regret and repentance toward the indigenous peoples their ancestors sent into extinction...

With history overflowing on many Brookings streets, thousands of Trump flags suspending from buildings and vehicles could also be observed, juxtaposed by an abundance of cannabis dispensaries lining the roads. One of which, I happened to buy some 50-milligram THC edibles from. Without a doubt, a piercingly leftward thorn in the sides of the townspeople, one they’ve had little control over since Oregon became the first state to decriminalize cannabis in 1973.

We don’t know what Brookings’ future will look like. However, we certainly know what its past and present look like. An indefinite bubble of American rogue capitalism and corrupt authority, forged in the genocide of indigenous people. This small Brookings bubble along the southern Oregon coast is, in the grand scheme of things, not far off from the American state itself.


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