Sitting there on those old hardwood chairs, that creaked every time you moved, I was listening to a state senator. The seats must’ve been 100 years old. A lot of my fellow elected members had sheep skin cushions. We did plenty of sitting.
In the other chamber, they enjoyed cushy looking recliners that I hear are uncomfortable. In later years the House acquiesced, sighting safety reasons, and got some proper seats.
A vote was upcoming and my colleague wanted to talk. We sat, creaking in our chairs. The vote was a primary seat belt law for Montana that passed the Senate. Some drivers remain mad at being told to wear a seat belt. I hear about it now and then, probably will again.
My colleague asked about my upcoming vote. I hedged, said freedom, mentioned liberty. I planned to continue, had plenty to say. He stopped me, said “will it save lives?” I replied likely, to which he retorted, “what’s the problem?” and left the uncomfortable chair.
Later in some legislative session filled with thousands of bills, votes and debates about nothing and yet everything, there was another vote on more legislation for which I still receive guff. Drinking and driving was legal in Montana in the mid 2000s.
We debated familiar points about liberty, freedom, highway funds, and on and on as we should. Again, health and safety won. The grieving widow and left-behind children tales proved convincing.
What really got people riled was when we debated smoking in public places like pubs and restaurants. That was a fundamental freedom, given to us by our creator, it sounded, and with good reason. Men enjoyed a long history of smoking cigars at the capitol.
It seemed more a fundamental right of the barkeep, in Whitefish, to not be forced to inhale second-hand smoke all day long, in a dark roomful of cigarette smoking patrons. Today, no one smokes in public pubs.
The same health and safety that were at the forefront of those debates face us today, locally in the valley and across the towns and cities encompassing America. There’s little doubt the roads ahead will feel jarring.
It will take a battalion of calm-minded people to keep us united. Together we stand, divided we fall, one and all feels more real these days.
There’s always been loudmouth and blowhard behavior in politics. It’s not uncommon for elected policymakers to get threats. Bullying is the tactic, slows the work, backfires often.
It feels like everyone is talking, no one listening. Like the codes and words don’t make sense, a foreign language. More talk or louder talk won’t make much difference. Yet we persist as we should.
Today nearly everyone appreciates the Montana laws to buckle up, don’t drink and drive, and no smoking at the bars. Most can’t believe there was any question. But not everyone, never will, no amount of debate thankfully softens the ideology of personal freedom and liberty.
My Flathead friends, we remain in this together. It’s a burning crisis and most of us know it, feel it down to the bones. The boors won’t ever get it, instead peddle skullduggery.
We’re going to have to stitch the fabric of society back together, one suture at a time. The next several months are sure to prove painful as elections approach.
Montana needs your help. Many good people do service work from nursing to teaching to giving. There are countless good deeds throughout our valley. The values we share are the common bonds that keep us together, safe and peaceful.
Everyone comes to realization at different speeds. Today is built for leadership. It’s your time. Keep it kind, understanding, and forward moving. One step at a time, we’ll get through this.