Oregon is on fire. Throughout the state, tens of thousands of people have been forced to take refuge. They are sleeping in their cars, in a convention center, on the floors of packed prisons. Several towns have been destroyed. Cities have been evacuated. Hundreds of homes have burned. The suburbs of Portland are threatened, and the situation might get worse: Unusually strong, dry winds and very high temperatures make the wildfires hard to fight. As across much of the West Coast, the skies are an apocalyptic orange, at least when they are not darkened by black smoke and ashes. More houses will burn, and people will die.
Two months ago, Oregon was on fire—but mostly metaphorically. Angry protesters filled the streets of Portland. Or, rather, angry protesters filled a few streets in Portland. On those few streets, armed men in camouflage, sent in by the Trump administration, battled the demonstrators, even sweeping some of them away into unmarked vans. Federal law-enforcement agents’ presence escalated the violence rather than calming it. Some demonstrators even tried to set the federal courthouse on fire. Across the internet, social-media feeds lit up with—yes—apocalyptic scenes of masked men locked in battle, as if in a video game or a Hollywood movie. A month later, real tragedy followed. Attracted by the chaos, supporters of Donald Trump arrived brandishing paintball guns and pepper spray. A self-described antifa supporter shot one of them to death.