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Bikers Continue to Defy Stereotypes in OregonTim King Salem-News.com
Salem-News.com is recognized again for our fair position toward motorcyclists and clubs.
(SALEM, Ore.) - Thousands of Americans returning home from World War Two, who fought for their own lives and those of others; men who won the war of all wars... found life in the U.S. sluggish after being in such a violent event.
A large number suffered from advanced cases of what we now know as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and that created myriad problems for individuals trying to reintegrate into a society that is very, very different from what they came to know in Europe and the islands of the South Pacific. Clark Gable, the actor, is one example of the men who turned to Harley Davidson after WWII.
This is the basis of the American biker movement, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
In Oregon, like other places, clubs exist and constantly absorb grief from police and authorities, even business owners. I contend that if most of these individuals knew the bikers they discriminate against, they would feel differently about it. A large percentage of club members have never been arrested in their entire lives.
Almost every club today has mutual association with other clubs. This is where the dividing line comes into play.
Police and anti-biker types in other aspects of government, can not stand biker unity. I'm not sure if the acceptance of peace among clubs threatens their job security or just what it is, but it is the case. There are officers and deputies and troopers who treat bikers with respect, but there are not enough.
Those who seek to ban motorcycle club membership and restrict the rights of riders, suggest, with the media frequently parroting their lines, that clubs are 'rivals' and pose danger toward one another and consequently, the public.
While there is truth to this if you go out of your way and look for it, it amounts to very little. Police agencies have rivalries too and when their egos get in the way the public, who expect police to serve them, suffers.
In my time as a reporter which is well more than 20 years, I have never covered a story where a biker threatened or assaulted a member of the public, or police for that matter. I'm not saying it doesn't happen, or hasn't happened, but I have covered every type of story from LA to Baghdad and I've yet to see it.
With the reputation bikers have inadvertently earned, there does seem to be a conspicuously missing trail of bodies. Instead you find things like Christmas Toy Runs to benefit kids, and if you really pay attention, you might know about the time last year when members from several clubs simultaenously responded to a house fire, calling 911, evacuating residents, and actually battling the fire to the point that it was mostly out when fire teams arrived.
Media doesn't report this, (we did) and they also overlook the fact that one of the supposedly 'dreaded' and bar-banned clubs has 100% firefighter membership.
It is the public who loses, because most would love the positive stories about bikers that the newspapers and TV stations overlook.
In order to vilify one local MC club, police cite a murder from the 1960's. I have news for you, there isn't a group or culture or club in existence that hasn't run awry of the law. There is however, a history of police harassment, prejudice and legal discrimination that needs to end.
Bonnie and I have been honored not once recently, but twice by the biker community. The first instance was receiving the Oregon Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs November 2010 'Excellence in Journalism Award' in Portland in November, 2010. Then in May, we were flown to Albuquerque, New Mexico where we received the 2011 Silver Spoke Media award at the National Coalition of Motorcyclists Convention.
Then this week, we were honored again by the gathering of local clubs during a special event during which the main photo above, was taken.
For those who don't know, this team of reporters at Salem-News.com has a strong military veteran presence, and one of the subjects we have covered consistently since going online in 2004, is PTSD. The importance of dealing with this war-induced condition can not be overstated. I wish people in this country could grasp the connection. Not all bikers are veterans but most are. Some clubs are exclusively for veterans, while others have veterans comprising 80% or more of their membership.
Considering how bike clubs started after a great world conflict, all over the world for that matter, it isn't surprising that their unity today is a major tool in helping members live with and deal with this associated post traumatic disorder of war. We should be glad for this support system and in turn, offer our support toward these fellow Americans who are often the most solid individuals any of us are likely to meet.
Remember 'Support the Troops', well this is an extension of that same thinking.
It is not illegal to ride a motorcycle, it is not illegal to be part of a club, and above all it is un-American to judge a group at large for the acts of a few.
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