Thursday, December 1, 2016

Faking Left

Posted on Thu, Dec 1, 2016 at 12:58 AM

Dan Brooks, I mistook you for a progressive. Blaming the Democratic Party for the election of Donald Trump ("Filling a void," Nov. 17) excuses the real culprit: the uninformed electorate. Hillary was on the progressive side of every issue: civil rights, religious freedom, climate change, universal health care, income inequality, reproductive rights. The Democratic Party produced the most historically progressive platform ever, thanks in part to Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Hillary embraced this platform. You wrote as if extending the policies of the Obama Administration was a bad thing. From day one, Obama was obstructed by Republicans on everything! Who held up his infrastructure bills? Who made it impossible for our own Max Baucus to obtain universal health care through a public option? Which party denies climate change?

Rachel Carson wrote in Silent Spring, "Along with the possibility of the extinction of mankind by nuclear war, the central problem of our age has become the contamination of man's total environment with such substances of incredible potential for harm—substances that accumulate in the tissues of plants and animals and even penetrate the germ cells to shatter or alter the very material of heredity upon which the shape of the future depends. ... We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost's familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end is disaster. The other fork of the road—the one 'less traveled by'—offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth."

Donald Trump won't "drain the swamp." He is the swamp.

Beth Taylor Wilson


Speaking up about assault

Posted on Thu, Dec 1, 2016 at 12:58 AM

Please bear with me and read to the end. Sexual assault is not a topic I'm thrilled to discuss. I bring it up because it is something that needs to be talked about. I heard a statistic today that 62 percent of Americans get their news from social media. Maybe what I say will positively affect just one person.

This is not about politics, so please do not twist it into that. The fact is that the future president of the United States has made admitted sexually deviant acts acceptable as good ol' boy antics. The next four years, it is up to the good people of our nation to volunteer our time or to give money if we can afford it, to programs that we feel may be cut with this new administration. I am going to go back to volunteering for sexual assault survivors. I use the term survivor instead of victim, because I am a survivor of rape, sexual assault, attempted murder and of random stranger violence.

I am speaking up because of the recent conversations taking place accusing the women or questioning why they did not speak up sooner. And because of the comparisons of sexual assault to consensual extramarital affairs as being the same thing. No one wants to share stories that elicit emotions ranging from extreme pity to the opposite extreme of condemnation or blame. The easiest thing to do is to tell no one. I have actually been told not to play the victim, when in fact I am a strong survivor. The men who assaulted me when I was 19 were going to kill me, but I escaped. That was empowering for me.

What many people do not realize is that so many survivors of assault suffer the biggest trauma after the actual act. The trauma is the feeling of injustice. The violence is often not recognized as a crime, not to mention the usual failure of the criminal justice system. If either assault had left a larger scar on my face, it would validate the violence.

Speaking for myself, I harbor no resentment for the assailants in these crimes. I expect bad people to do bad things. It is the aftermath, when good people do not do the right thing, or do not act the right way.

I want to share this because I was listening to a young woman yesterday who was date-raped, and she did not want to tell anyone because she felt she was stupid for putting herself in that position. We need to talk to the girls and women in our lives, and let them know that unwanted physical contact is a crime and should not be tolerated. And we cannot forget about the young boys and young men who do not come forward at even greater rates.

There are many issues that we will have to be more proactive on for at least the next four years. (I know that hearing this story also elicits compassion and can be upsetting, but please, please, please... I almost did not write this because I don't want this to be about me.) We cannot let our society take giant leaps backward. An entire young generation sees that almost half of the electorate gave this man their approval.

Pamala Burke


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Standing against hate

Posted on Tue, Nov 22, 2016 at 2:55 PM

Certain people may be vulnerable in the wake of our presidential election. It's not what Trump will do, it's what others will feel emboldened to do because of his hateful rhetoric.

What happens when the man who gets elected to the highest office in the land: 1) Talked about men grabbing women in the crotch, and found humor in it. There are men who think that women are objects for their pleasurewhat will they do now? 2) Mocked a reporter with a disability. It's not funny, it's dangerous. In Nazi Germany people with disabilities were either sterilized or exterminated. 3) Said hateful things about Muslims, Mexicans, the LGBT community and people of color, which may embolden others to carry out hate crimes. The KKK is on the rise and swastikas are showing up all over the country. Hate literature already distributed in Missoula again blames Jewish people for our problems. 4) Said hateful things about immigrants, which makes international students and international visitors feel not only unwelcome in this country, but fearful for their safety. What a rich source of cultural diversity we will be losing!

We know that people who voted for Trump had good reasons for doing so. But now all of us together have to make it clear to our government officials at all levels that we will not stand for hate and hate crimes.

To paraphrase a famous quote by the anti-Nazi pastor Martin Niemö¨ller, "They came first for the LGBT community, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't LGBT." Do we think we are safe because we are white and Christian? But are we white enough? Are we the right kind of Christian? Edmond Burke said, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

Frankie and Mike Flaherty


A mandate to engage

Posted on Tue, Nov 22, 2016 at 2:55 PM

Clinton won the popular vote even though Trump took the presidency. Republicans lost seats in both houses of Congress but maintained control. There is a mandate here that challenges us to engage powerfully. The burden is on us and I believe this will be the fight to determine our generation's legacy.

Local governments will be key. Acting Mayor Marilyn Marler wrote a letter in response to the election saying that city government will protect the values we cherish. We need to hold them accountable and demand visionary leadership.

Our town is home to a Nobel laureate climate scientist, in a country that is changing policy to deny the existence of climate change. Can we become a carbon neutral city? Or incentivize alternative energy? Or expand our bike network? Initiate a free bike-share program?

I am a quiet victim of sexual assault in a city that was investigated by the Department of Justice for its mishandling of rape cases. Our community has worked hard to heal from this, but I fear this election may validate a paradigm that we are struggling to change. Can we invest in programs to empower girls? Institutionalize the teaching of consent from an early age? Press the state to redefine rape?

We are opening our community to some of the world's most vulnerable populations while our president is threatening deportation and registration of Muslims. Missoula is a Welcoming Communities member—can we do more? Can we declare ourselves a sanctuary city? What can we offer humanity at this pivotal moment?

These are the difficult conversations that I hope to see at city hall and between friends over beer, families over dinner, co-workers at the water cooler—we all need to be having these conversations.

Don't despair. Don't disengage. Call our congressmen often! Participate in peaceful protest! Support nonprofits working to protect your values! Volunteer! Denounce hatred in all its forms! Rest. Make love. Have dinner parties. Dance. Connect with people and feed your soul. This is going to be a long, arduous journey. We need to take care of ourselves—and each other—along the way.

Deana DeWire


The bitter ends

Posted on Tue, Nov 22, 2016 at 2:54 PM

Regarding "Don't spread the love" (Nov. 17), I found it a little odd that the perspectives from both authors seemed pretty positive and unbiased, but both chose to end their commentary with what they portray as negatives. The girl crying in the bathroom could have been crying for any number of reasons. Maybe it was guilt, maybe it was conviction in her heart, or maybe she just found out bad news. The guy who texted the question that "wasn't a joke" doesn't in any way take away from the message. Maybe the pastor simply didn't know how to respond at that moment. Pastors are like any of us, they can sometimes make a joke to lighten a situation. I'm always afraid to read these things because I used to be atheist and I know how many people feel about religion and God. I made fun of it all for most of my life. As a believer now, I still can't stand religion. I'm about Jesus. Anyway, I appreciate that the Missoula Independent covered this event and came at it with what seems like an open mind. It just confused me why both authors felt it necessary to try to get a dig in at the end.

Anna Starkel


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The state of disunion

Posted on Wed, Nov 16, 2016 at 2:01 PM

I have been thinking a lot about the state of humanity in the U.S. I was pained by the presidential election and truly heartsick at the outcome, as were many others in our community. My first reaction was to assume this meant a majority of Americans are aligned with Trump's hateful bigotry and misogyny, which was shocking to consider. Then, as I actually spoke with and listened to people who had voted for Trump, I learned that many people did not share in his hate, but voted for him in spite of it, believing he would lead the way to a better life for them and their families. The hatred he espoused and his discriminatory plans just weren't as important to these voters as other concerns. I believe this priority is at the very heart of why Americans are so lost, so full of conflict and distrust, and why we have some of the highest rates of addiction, depression and suicide in the world. Americans are a diverse people. At the same time, we are largely the same, and we are connected, interdependent. What hurts you hurts me. What hurts the planet hurts all of us.

Recently I have had the privilege to spend time with the Congolese families who have moved to Missoula for a safe haven. This experience has been a beacon of light and hope during these dark times. Even though these families lost their homes, suffered trauma, and faced loss and poverty that most of us will never have to face, they have kept their humanity intact. These families have opened their hearts to us, trusting us with their families, and reminded us of what is most important in life. It is not about realizing the American Dream, or being a "self-made man," or "pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps." It is about kindness, compassion, respect, love, family, community, sharing, and taking care of one another, including our animal and plant friends. It is about taking care of this planet we call home. This is what gives life meaning. This is what is worth living for and arguing for and working together for. So please, next time we are faced with the question of whether we can forfeit members of our community for the sake of something more profitable, remember that your future is tied to mine, and to all the members of our community. It is only through kindness, compassion and understanding that we have a chance.

Sue Silverberg


Regurgitation nation

Posted on Wed, Nov 16, 2016 at 2:01 PM

There is no rational explanation for what happened on Election Day.

During decades of guzzling the wine of self-satisfaction and smugness, the leadership in both the major U.S. parties, Democrat and Republican, offered almost nothing to the majority of the American people. This is particularly true in the American heartland, the broad, bread-producing gut of the USA, and in a Rust Belt I've known since my childhood 50 years ago.

Democrats offered nothing other than more of the same: industries kaput, regulations that stifle development of natural resources, a healthcare offering (Obamacare) that looks like a Frankenstein creation compared to the socialized medicine available in virtually all other Western nations, and a loophole-riddled tax code that allowed a disparity between the rich and the poor approaching the inequality of the Roman Empire.

On the Republican side, only obstruction for decades. A party system in which the elite treat regular folks with undisguised arrogance and accepts a status quo of vast wealth at the top while factories are shuttered and production-line equipment is sold for scrap. "Hooray-for-me-and-the-hell-with-you." That has been the undisclosed slogan of the post-Reagan GOP.

Then along came the Great Spewing Mouth, Donald Trump. And the system puked him up into the highest office on this planet. Out of 20 or so candidates for the presidency, the American people picked the worst among them. Why?

It is foolish to believe that the next President of the United States will use his power wisely. He must see his election as a vindication and legitimization of his entire selfish life.

Clearly, the second presidential election in 16 years in which the winner of the popular vote loses demands the end of America's electoral college.

And preserving a professional political class that does not transform experience into wisdom makes no sense. So let's put term limits on Congress.

Lastly, America needs more major political parties, not just two harboring all the control and a few fringe competitors. Sen. Bernie Sanders demonstrated that a Populist Democratic Party dedicated to a broad social agenda could be vastly different from the mainstream Democratic Party of Hillary Clinton. And the serious conservatives that Donald Trump mocked on his way to a demagogic victory show that a Constitutional Conservative Republican Party could present a candidate who would show Trump's reality-show politics for the joke it is.

Ed Chaberek


A tale of two columns

Posted on Wed, Nov 16, 2016 at 2:00 PM

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


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Kitty kudos

Posted on Wed, Nov 9, 2016 at 3:40 PM

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.

Deborah Woody


You listening, Barack?

Posted on Wed, Nov 9, 2016 at 3:40 PM

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.

Becca Mosson


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