The spirit of Independence Day takes on a special meaning this year for the people of Malheur County. The revolt of state Sen. Cliff Bentz in standing for the people he represents was an act of defiance widely applauded in the community. As Vale embarks on days of observing the holiday and enjoying the fruits of rural life, let’s be mindful of the power of conviction.

Bentz’s act of rebellion has been compared in some quarters to the Boston Tea Party of nearly 250 years ago. Then, Americans rose in anger over British impunity in its treatment of the colonialists. Now, Bentz rose in anger over Democratic acts to impose climate change legislation. He acted on principle, and he acted in defense of the rural way of life in Oregon. He spoke for a minority feeling unheard and unheeded.

His act is even more notable because Bentz isn’t known as a flame thrower. He’s a thoughtful legislator and public servant. He has demonstrated time after time an ability to work with Democrats. This time, he and fellow Senate Republicans felt they had been pushed too far.

Bentz hasn’t been alone in Salem in taking care of Malheur County. Rep. Lynn Findley, the retired BLM administrator and former Vale city manager, has distinguished himself this session as one of the most effective freshmen legislators. He has carefully shepherded through the Legislature bills that will serve the needs of Malheur County and rural Oregon. Given the polemics in the Capitol, that’s quite a feat.

And so this comes as Vale turns to celebrating the Fourth of July, something it’s done as a community for more than a century. There is no shortage of events. The Vale 4th of July Rodeo crew has been hard at work for months to again stage an event that touches the spirit of the West – and Malheur County – as no other event can. Leaders of the revived Vale Chamber of Commerce have helped organize one venue after another, from the big parade to Oregon Trail Days. Local businesses, too, are serving up community fun, ranging from the Vale Veterinary Clinic’s dog show, the A Street Tavern’s street dances, the live music at the Diamond Back, and the dunk tank at Mal’s Diner.

In every way, these events and more allow us to pause and revel in the joys of rural life. And that we can do so is a testament to the great power of freedom and democracy to hold government in check and to resist leaders who stray from representing all. Let us never forget the role each of us plays in preserving and guarding that freedom. The voice of a stirred people, as we’ve seen in Salem, is a power not to be deterred. – LZ

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