Symbol of a Deeper Problem

By Beacon Staff

I echo the sentiment of your article, “Kalispell Icon at a Crossroads” (Sept. 5 Beacon). Having grown up in the valley with seven generations of family here, I take a certain amount of responsibility in seeing my community flourish and progress, while valuing the good history that is here. I really want our valley to be a place that has excellence in hospitality for visitors. I want to create a desirable place to live (lest we get too proud of where we have “arrived”), especially for “decent folk.” I love meeting Californians or other “out-of-staters” who have a vision for helping build a healthy community: in arts and entertainment, business, education, government, media, faith and family. I welcome them with open arms, even in favor of long-standing Montana residents who don’t have this vision.

“Pole dancing contests” (an overt attempt to pave the way toward strip clubs) on one of the largest billboards in town doesn’t exactly communicate decency; it gravitates toward lawlessness and exploitation. Maybe it isn’t coincidental that one of the founders as well as some of the current characters that surround it are, well, “outlaws.” It is time to stop romanticizing about some dark character of the old West or other symbols of a culture of death in our valley, and look at what spirit has taken up residence here now.

The Outlaw Inn is just a symbol of a much deeper problem I see in the Flathead Valley – idolizing the sacred cow of “historical” monuments as a desperate attempt to attract tourists. People will come, regardless. The truth is, some people hold certain buildings, memories, or decadent culture as “historical,” whereas people who visit here just see them as “junk” – like a bad episode of “Hoarders.” We have slowly become a “museum community,” where some things are “so very precious” and may be interesting to look at, but very little is useful, practical or allowed to be used – especially by residents. It’s a kind of sentimentalism that suffocates creativity, ingenuity, economy and commerce. As King Solomon once penned: “Don’t long for the ‘good old days’. This is not wise.” Hand the soul of the valley over to people who will make it live: practical, decent, and healthy for the people who live here, as well as those who visit. “Winnow out the bad,” while keeping the good.

Brian Friess

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.