Welcome in Whitefish
In a rapidly changing world, I have once again witnessed the essence of Whitefish. We are a close-knit community that rolls up its sleeves, gets things done, and takes care of each other. We may not always agree on issues, but we respect one another.
While I was dismayed by the recent media frenzy and hate language I have received by those outside of our town trying to intimidate members of our community, I have been inspired once again by the Whitefish I know and how we rally to help others, respectfully stand up for our beliefs, spread kindness, and support our neighbors. I feel confident in our local police force to keep our community safe.
Our city government listened to citizen concerns about Whitefish being identified as the headquarters of a white nationalist institute, and acted with a formal proclamation on Dec. 5, 2016. We wanted to go on the record: "The City of Whitefish rejects racism and bigotry in all its forms and expressions. The City of Whitefish reiterates its commitment to the values... honoring the inherent worth of all people regardless of race, creed, national origin, sex or sexual orientation. The City of Whitefish will continue to honor its responsibility to promote tolerance, non-discrimination and diversity within our community." Everyone is welcome in Whitefish.
Similar statements have followed by Montana's governor, Montana elected officials, the Whitefish School District, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, faith leaders of Montana, and the Whitefish Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau. Their statements clearly denounce discrimination and acts of hate.
As our world keeps changing around us and challenges continue to present themselves, I ask for special attention to civil dialogue and respectful discourse as we move forward into the New Year. Please practice compassion, open-mindedness, acceptance, tolerance and kindness toward all people. A very happy New Year to everyone, and thanks for keeping me inspired.
Mayor, City of Whitefish
Regrets? A few.
At the end of a tumultuous and uncertain time, students, faculty, and the community built around the university must forge ahead bravely to determine what might make the University of Montana successful again. Engstrom must be given credit for trying, however. He did his part to trim the fat of many programs that were seeing declining enrollment, and, like a good businessman, he worked toward downsizing the less productive branches. The decision to prioritize certain programs with transparency over the process was a stroke of genius. Because no good business can expect to compete in a tense market unless its employees are also competing with each other. Besides, studies show that people are much happier to work for a boss that isn't the bad guy. It wasn't a passing of the buck or a cowardly transfer of responsibility. Rather it was a bold and brave attempt to let the programs decide among themselves who should have places in the life raft. Engstrom's shortcomings were much more to do with an inability to read the market quickly enough. Can we hold a businessman responsible for not being able to tell the future? No. The accountability should not be given to the man in charge or the investors, because it is the workers who are ultimately in charge of the product. I only hope that Engstrom's replacement possesses enough business acumen to deftly manage the corporate image of this storied institution. And my only regret during his tenure is that there were not more athletic facilities built over parking spaces across the campus.
Lessons from Princess
This past week I have been watching our cat die slowly. There is little to be done for her as she is 17 and is dying of old age, which must claim us all if we last long enough.
Our goal, that of my wife and I, is to keep her comfortable. Warm, some water. She has stopped eating.
Her name is Princess and we love her very much. We have no children and, perhaps, this makes her going harder. But I have no measure. I know a woman with six grown children who was recently deeply devastated by the loss of her small dog. Perhaps because they are so dependent upon us, we gather so much love and compassion into their time with us that their going leaves a huge hole.
Children, after all, do grow up and become independent. Our small pets—some not so small—are forever children. Our love pours out.
There are people on missions to kill other people, those they perceive as enemies, as the cause of their own inadequacy. This happened very recently in Germany, and in Turkey. This has happened in France and in our own country, and in so many places. There are people who foment anger and hatred, who dehumanize others, even though they themselves keep "clean hands" when it comes to actual physical violence. We are seeing this in Montana, and the voices that cry out against such callousness are noble voices.
But I understand those fomenters of bigotry and hatred. Though I would inflict now no misery even on an animal, I was not always this way.
I, too, was a fanatic after my own fashion, filled with purpose, rage, immense ego and an inner ruthlessness. I understand the rage of the fanatic. But it takes a person who learns nothing from life to preserve such single-minded craziness into old age.
They must be stopped, those who are fanatics, those who are as I was. They must be punished severely when they move beyond legal bounds. Still, they need to be understood, because they are always as we, perhaps, once were, or as we might have been.
Anyone who puts an idea above humanity ceases to be fully human.
Now, this Christmas season, as I watch Princess' life slowly go, I know life is simply richer in love than it could ever be in hate.
That is why God came to earth to live among us, and to die by the hand of people who placed ideas and rules above love and compassion.
The original print version of this article was headlined "Letters to the Editor"