What’s in a name? A lot, it turns out
Last updated 1/24/2023 at Noon
Brian David Owens stopped by The Nugget last Thursday to clear a couple of things up.
Owens lives in the forest west of Ponderosa Lodge, and he was mentioned — by first name only — in Bill Bartlett’s story “Forest thinning reveals forest dwellings,” (The Nugget, January 18, page 1). He and his dog Dude came into the office, and we rang up Bill, and we all had a good conversation.
Owens prefers that his full name be used. He wanted it understood that his friend JD was making a joke when he referred to himself as “JD — as in Jack Daniels.” Owens says that both men are sober, and he insists that they don’t trespass across Ponderosa Lodge property, where a fence is being built (see related story).
Most of all, he wanted to let us know that he doesn’t like being referred to as a “forest dweller.” He’s an Army veteran, and he says he prefers to be referred to as “an American citizen.”
It seems we can’t agree on the language used to address the issue of homelessness in Sisters Country — and across the nation — much less agree on how to grapple with it. “Homeless” has fallen out of favor and “houseless” is preferred — but not by everyone. Some folks prefer “forest dwellers,” a term Brian David Owens finds offensive.
There are a wide range of viewpoints on this complex and persistent issue, and a lot of people wrestle with contradictory feelings. It doesn’t help when we don’t know how to talk about it. Constant shifts in nomenclature can have sincere motives — a desire to be more precise and/or inclusive in how we define something. They can also be used as a way of manipulating and controlling the discourse.
Some folks here in Sisters have told us they are reluctant to express themselves because they don’t want to be judged by their neighbors for using the “wrong” words or having unpopular opinions. That’s not good.
Concern for those in difficult — and sometimes dire — circumstances is legitimate. The folks who live in the forest have a right to speak for themselves, too, and there’s more than one voice to be heard. Equally legitimate is the point of view of people who see their quality of life threatened or diminished by the impact of homeless camps in the woods. They ask where compassion, both individually and as a community, slides into enabling behavior — and it’s a valid question.
Folks with differing points of view may never see eye to eye on this subject. Sisters may never be able to come up with a community consensus and a clear path forward. After all, nobody else seems to have “solved” the issue. Recognizing that no single point of view has the answers, we’ve got to keep talking with each other. Because forest dwelling is here to stay.