Thank you, Dan Brooks, for your excellent column of November 10, "Either/or: a tale of two outcomes." I cancelled my subscription to the Missoulian after George Ochenski's petulant column from October 24, 2016. His column was on the same subject, the 2016 presidential election. But instead of imaginatively and humorously contrasting Hillary, Donald and possible outcomes as Dan did, George's column, "American ennui: A state of dis-union," equated Hillary Clinton with Donald Trump. This false equivalence, believed by many low-information voters, cost Hillary the election, even though she actually won the popular vote. As a result, we "elected" a bloviating, racist, misogynistic climate-change denier to the presidency of the United States.
Before canceling, I submitted a letter using the very last words from Elizabeth Kolbert's book The Sixth Extinction regarding evolution and the threat of remaining blindered to climate change. Those words bear repeating: "We are declaring, without quite meaning to, which evolutionary pathways will remain open and which will forever be closed. No other creature has ever managed this, and it will, unfortunately, be our most enduring legacy. The Sixth Extinction will continue to determine the course of life long after everything people have written and painted and built has been ground into dust and giant rats have—or have not—inherited the earth."
Missoula needs a progressive voice. Thanks again, Dan.
Beth Taylor Wilson
I have posted several photos of your Nov. 3 cover to let the world know that Missoula (or at least some of it) has managed to retain a sense of humor in the face of degradation, fear, aggression and gross ignorance. This Independent cover is the only thing that has made me laugh out loud about politics or issues during this whole election year. Thank you so much. I'm still smiling.
When I found out about uranium mining threatening the Grand Canyon I was shocked. Runoff from this toxic practice makes its way into the Colorado River, which runs directly through the national park. This pollution threatens the ecosystems in the national park, the lives of many animals, including the endangered California Condor, and of course the 25 million people who live downstream. Every time I hear these facts, images of small children enjoying the cool river in the summer flash through my mind.
Here in Montana we are no strangers to river mishaps. Just this past August, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks closed down 183 miles of the Yellowstone River. This closure, and the deaths of about 10,000 mountain whitefish, are due to a parasite called tetracapsula bryosalmonae. While I understand this is not the same as mining pollution, both Montana and the Grand Canyon are facing some river issues, so we as Montanans should sympathize.
I am here to ask President Obama to create the Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument before he leaves office. I am imploring him to do this because I know that he has the power and the ability to do so. So far this year he has created the largest marine monument in Hawaii and the first-ever completely oceanic monument off the coasts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. If he can create these monuments, I hope he understand the urgency of creating this monument in order to maintain one of the most naturally beautiful and enriched ecosystems in the country before leaving office.
Friday, November 11, is Veterans Day.
In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations..."
Many communities recognize our veterans every year on Veterans Day by holding parades or flag-raising ceremonies.
I would like to offer an opportunity to recognize and serve our nation's veterans every day.
We are in critical need of volunteer drivers to transport veterans to their VA appointments.
In Montana, the group Disabled American Veterans donates vehicles to the Veterans Health Administration. These vehicles are used to transport veterans who have no other means of transportation to and from VA appointments. Volunteer drivers are needed for local transportation as well as long distance.
Many of our volunteers are veterans who want to give back to their brothers and sisters. Others who haven't served in the armed forces volunteer to help those who gave so much to our country.
We welcome licensed drivers over 18 years old who are interested in this program to contact Voluntary Service, VA Montana Health Care, at 406-447-7345 to receive more information.
Let us remember and serve our veterans not only on Veterans Day, but every day.
Chief, Voluntary Service
VA Montana Health Care
It is a few days before the election. I have been stuck in a downward spiral of despair as I watch this country go to a bunch of ignorant racists and bigots. Though I can't predict who will win, it doesn't matter. The damage is done. I watch while a maniac on stage incites violence. He whips up the crowd, babbling forth an incomprehensible word soup steeped in xenophobia. Some people may wonder how we got here, but I feel like I have been watching this trainwreck approaching for some time.
People close to me know I am passionate in nature and prone to not holding my tongue. But I wish I would not have been so reserved. The Right quiets those who are offended by their overt bigotry with a false outrage about political correctness. This complaint is really just a facade that conservatives hide their bigotry behind.
I am sitting at home as I write this, listening to my Iggy Pop collection turned up really loud. It is making me feel better. I love Iggy Pop. I love his attitude. It reminds me of being young and not worrying about offending people. Iggy's attitude is reflected in the words he once used while describing his early band, The Stooges: "This is The Stooges, so fuck off." We need more Iggy Pops. We need an army of Iggy Pops. Too many people think we need to take the high road or act diplomatically in the face of this wave of fascism taking hold of our country. You've heard it: "When they go low, we go high." And so, quickly and cowardly, Hillary Clinton backed off her "basket of deplorables" comment. We need to rise up and yell from the top of our lungs. I am sick of my fellow liberals getting their teeth kicked in by this rising wave of hatred. And they respond with politeness. What is most troubling to me is the number of young adults who think it is best to act diplomatically. Sure, diplomacy has its place, but not in response to people backing Trump. It's like these young adults are proud of themselves, proud that they can be so mature and level-headed. To them I ask, "What the hell is wrong with you?" Stand up and yell from the top of your lungs. Who are you afraid of offending?
As the coordinator of the event and a longtime performer, I am writing to share a few experiences about the Missoula Festival of the Dead.
I have learned so much from participating in this festival. Throughout time people have "borrowed" aesthetically pleasing "things" from other cultures and groups to more fully explore their individual expression—which, in turn, can change a cultural tradition.
I have seen elementary schools, high schools and University of Montana classes present meaningful artwork inspired by other cultures. Hats off to all the hardworking teachers who take the initiative every year to educate their students not only on other cultures, but on cathartic pathways for healing in the face of death.
Each year I am brought to tears by poignant and personal artwork created to honor loved ones. The Festival of the Dead procession creates a communal embrace that honors and respects this display.
The festival's organizing committee would like to host community conversations to address cultural (mis)appropriation. We want to hear personal stories and learn how to be better allies. We also would love to strike up conversations about future workshops that can help draw our community together through the arts and allow personal expression to shine a light on our common experience of death.
As a cofounder of the original Festival of the Dead in 1993, I want to share some historical perspective. Michael de Meng and I, both recent art school graduates, both working heavily with themes of mortality, were brainstorming projects at the time. We were both attracted to the Mexican/Latin American Dia de los Muertos celebration, with its colorful, artistic, community-minded expressions of life and death. We felt that Missoula was ripe for an event that would help us to address issues of mortality. Our idea was to create a Missoula-style event inspired by celebrations of Dia de los Muertos. Given that we are Caucasian, and that Missoula had a very small Latino population, we decided to call it Missoula's Annual Festival of the Dead and emphasize cultures represented in our area. The common theme that drew and still draws us together is that we all live and we all die and we have all experienced the deaths of others. Our focus was on artistic expression and performance. In the beginning, a handful of Latino people came forth to teach and share traditions. We also invited Native American drum groups, Scottish bagpipers, Middle Eastern belly dancers, a Haitian dance group—the list goes on. All kinds of creative expressions and interpretations have developed, to our delight. We did not feel comfortable or have a reason to reach back to ancient pre-Hispanic or pre-Columbian ceremonies.
The Missoula community has embraced Festival of the Dead, and it has evolved in interesting and wonderful ways. Our world is a melting pot, and there are fewer hard lines between cultures and ethnicities. We wanted to invite people to participate in their own unique way, according to their own cultural background, expressing their own beliefs and experiences regarding issues of mortality. We've always asked that people participate in a respectful and considerate way. The current controversies are good in that, hopefully, they generate positive dialogue and change.
Bev Beck Glueckert
Over the five years that we have been involved with the Missoula Festival of the Dead, we have spoken with, walked with and made art with hundreds of people who are working through difficult losses, or trying earnestly to teach their children healthy ways to cope with death, or teachers who are finding creative ways to educate their students about cultures and ideas that will expand their capacity to be thoughtful and empathetic citizens. We wish to publicly recognize the courage and vulnerability it takes to seek support from the community. It has been an honor to provide support through our workshops, the group art show and the procession.
The ZACC takes great care to offer free workshops that honor Missoula's own traditions as well as the history and meaning behind the procession. There is an educational component to each workshop. We offer the workshops and the annual group art show with sponsorship from Hospice of Missoula as a way to give our community opportunities to explore the meaning behind the procession and create dialogue about how we as a culture experience and respond to death and how we can learn and grow together through multicultural exploration and art.
The ZACC and the festival's volunteer committee members are very sensitive to the concerns regarding cultural appropriation, and we are committed to listening, evolving and growing as a community. For this reason we have decided to omit the free face-painting this year, and we are working to set a date for a community conversation on cultural appreciation vs. appropriation. We are eager and willing to listen to concerns, thoughts and ideas for positive change.
While we are grateful for the conversation, out of respect to the hundreds of people we have worked and walked with over the last five years, we reject Dan Brook's depiction of the procession as "white people putting on death-mask makeup and marching down the street holding skeleton prints, laughing and cavorting with no regard for the holiday's real meaning," and "a bunch of white people dressing up as Mexicans for Halloween II" (see "A fine line," Oct. 27). This is simply not an accurate depiction of 95 percent of the people who participate in this procession and does not recognize the earnest work of community members over the last 24 years to make it a meaningful event.
The Zootown Arts Community Center
Change is always with us, necessitating modifying our behaviors if we wish to maintain the best quality of life for ourselves and future generations. As a fifth generation Montanan, my great-great-grandfather, DB, homesteaded in Montana in 1864 and times were much different then. While out haying one day, his dogs started barking at a bear. When DB and his brother-in-law, Carpenter, tried to get closer for a good shot, the bear charged, knocking DB into a sandbar and biting his leg to the bone. In the flurry, Carpenter shot at the bear, but most of the heavy shot hit DB, who never fully recovered from the bear bites and gunshot wounds.
Now, 150 year later, being stewards of Montana shifts the focus from survival to preserving the state's wildlife. Trapping also adds to the costs to taxpayers once a species is endangered. That area loses jobs in mining, timber and other revenue.
As Teddy Roosevelt said, "We have fallen heirs to the most glorious heritage a people ever received, and each one must do his part if we wish to show that the nation is worthy of its good fortune." I-177 would help achieve Teddy's vision.
Hopefully more people are appreciating that they cannot vote for a political party that promotes mostly extremist candidates, since doing so perpetuates governmental disfunction.
We have such an extremist candidate running for Montana Supreme Court, Kristen Juras. Whereas other leaders with strong religious beliefs (Presidents Kennedy and Carter) have recognized their obligation under our secular U.S. Constitution to separate their religious beliefs from their public duties, Juras longs to be in a position to make her fundamentalist, sectarian religious beliefs have the force of government behind them.
Take Juras' claim to support religious freedom. Under the U.S. Constitution, that is the freedom to believe in a religion (or not) and to reasonably practice that belief with others in private spaces. But it does not mean one can use government spaces or their government job to force their religious beliefs upon the rest of society.
Religious freedom is extremely important, as what separates us from the warfare and oppression of so many Middle Eastern countries today is not that they are Muslim and the U.S. is mostly Christian—it's that their governments made particular religions mandatory, whereas ours isn't supposed to.
But people like Juras hate that secular requirement. She wants "religious freedom" to mean her right and duty to make the rest of us comply with her religious beliefs.
So Juras sued (and lost) to prevent the University of Montana student newspaper (when most students are adults or nearly so) from having a column about sex. She sued the law school she worked for (and lost) when the dean refused to disburse student activity funds to the Christian Legal Society Juras advised (on the grounds that it would have been a breach of the separation of church and state; CLS members must sign covenants opposing gay rights, extramarital sex and a woman's right to choose).
Vote for Judge Dirk Sandefur instead!
William H. Clarke