My friends and visitors, help us: remain faithful to the values that bring us together

By Mike Jopek

Sooner or later it hits, that flood of emotion accompanying the realization that the world feels wrong. The people in positions of decision-making seemingly abandoned the shared values that make our country great.

It’s a worldwide endemic and the numbers say the contagion is growing in spots like mad. In the Flathead, there are vanloads of visitors saturating the public streets, trails and towns. It likely feels like a safer place, away from the sickness that has overtaken many states in the nation.

The reports of realtors busier than ever, as out-of-state buyers gobble up a piece of the Flathead coincides with what local people are saying. There is little room for wage-earners and old-timers should expect a huge spike in property tax valuations.

The astronomical alignments feel like fuel for the emotions of everyday people. The summer heatwave is about here, forest fire season looks bad, and good people are in the streets demanding justice.

What’s a local to do? Every statewide elected official of consequence is distracted, busily running for elections come November. Combined, it feels like enough to drive a regular person mad with uncontainable emotions.

I went downtown for take-out pizza and quickly felt overwhelmed by the barefaced boys of summer congregated, inching toward me, and massing up and down the sidewalks of town outwardly without a care in the world. They had found heaven on earth and enjoy the rights and attitudes of tourism.

Places like Whitefish have proactively set up testing centers in parking lots to assure that front-line workers know when they’ve been infected by the deadly coronavirus that’s swept the nation. Places in America are seeing double-digit rates of infection, with states even reporting multiple thousands of positive coronavirus cases per day.

Whitefish extended a heartfelt welcome to the economic-driving tourists to help stay the bills, assure workers earn a wage, and keep our economy humming. It seeks to minimize contagion.

Whitefish had promoted a safety campaign toward tourism, asking the potentially millions of visitors to keep it clean by washing hands often. To remain careful and maintain 6-foot distances and wear masks in enclosed spaces. And stay connected by visiting informational web sources like

From my vantage point, working on the farm, visiting downtown occasionally, and listening to younger voices from town, it seems like many of the indoor workers of the valley are trying hard to practice safety protocols. Some not, for sure. So far, workers have free testing to see when and if they’ve been infected by community spread.

Yet it looks like the bulk of the burden is upon workers and business owners, the people who use our hands and minds to make it happen. Please help us keep it safe. We know thousands of Americans who get COVID-19 will die.

I hear anecdotal stories of the rude tourist behavior, the reckless drivers, and snarky visitor attitudes. These barefaced bandits find our towns attractive. Who wouldn’t? It’s the best place on the planet. Our towns are great.

We live here for similar reasons. We love the outdoors, cherish the community, and seek a better, smarter life for our kids and their kids.

The chaotic vision in these words is clouded by the tears from burying our farm dog, coupled with a perceived lack of humanity, which I hope and trust returns soon. A bit of mercy would help, kindness would go far to cure our politics, and give some prayers for the future.

My friends and visitors, help us. Remain faithful to the values that bring us together. We’re here for the same reasons. It’s really a special place. Help keep us safe. We’re still in this together. I wouldn’t want it any other way. Not today, not tomorrow.

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