Don’t Reinforce an Us-Versus-Them Mentality

My children are seventh-generation Montanans, and I want to create a more desirable place to live

By Brian Friess

“Don’t California Our Montana” (column in the July 17 Beacon) reflects a “Montana value” that I grew up with – a prejudice-based resistance to outsiders and change. Something about this value concerns me, however. It reinforces an “us-versus-them” mentality and inhibits wholesome (inevitable) growth. It needs to be replaced with something higher. My children are seventh-generation Montanans, and I want to create a more desirable place to live, even if it means challenging some long-held mindsets. Of course we close the door to malignant immigration (including lawlessness and oppressive tycoonery) but also open the gates to healthy migration and management that must accompany it. The valley was not prepared for its expansion, somewhat because of that very value, as pictured in the division of economic centers between the traditional downtown area of Kalispell and the booming Hutton Ranch. Outsiders who had vision and resources migrated to places they could build, uninhibited, to keep up with the demand and need. The issues the article mentioned are not inherent with all out-of-staters. I welcome anyone who has a vision for helping build a healthy, prospering community, even in favor of long-standing Montana residents who don’t. Like having a child, growth means taking mature responsibility to support, protect and nurture it in a holistic way – not giving place to neglect or abandonment, through myopic vision. “Freedom” doesn’t authorize a kind of irresponsible independence that abdicates being your brother’s keeper and community planning. The valley will see generous visionaries and investors who actualize their responsibility to build a year-round economy, not one that is merely seasonally fruitful and over-dependent upon tourism. We will grow educationally to value real-life wisdom insight, and creativity. We will host diverse people who have great ideas that benefit everyone. Some, if we can swallow our pride long enough, will come from healthy “outsiders.”

Brian Friess