Recently at a favorite downtown restaurant, a 1957 bride and I were sitting near a middle-aged couple, newly arrived residents from Southern California.
They said the main reason they left the Golden State (at least it was gold in the 1930s and 1940s when Jacqueline and I grew up there) was because California resented people who carried loaded firearms to supermarkets, pharmacies, gas stations, banks, churches, restaurants, etc. Then the husband pulled his jacket aside and, with apparent pride, revealed a 45-pocket. My chattering bride, never for political correctness, said, “Well, great for California!” Then the couple rolled their eyes, sneered, and then pretended we weren’t there. Apparently we were lily-eyed hermaphrodites. Maybe even book readers.
For such newcomers—many seem to flee modern California and in a great rush to honk, backdoor, and act rudely—I share this advice: Relax, be nice, and start working for, not against, the common good.
I would like to remind them that our state is a nation of laws and the archetypal democracy of the planet, not the tyranny of the many current anti-American saboteurs – QAnon, Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Oath Keepers, Neo-Nazis, Skinheads, KKK, conspiracy footsteps, etc. Seems to work for. The Pacific Northwest is for those of us who live here the geographical and cultural gem of this archetypal democracy – not a rampart for failures and haters.
Instead of licking their chops over Armageddon seemingly flirting, they might join the National Guard. Or apply for employment with one of our efficient, friendly, and low-paid law enforcement teams. Then pulling the guns will be routine, not scary. Furthermore, the condescending and violent NRA lobbies can go back to being the mentoring organization they were when a certain antique got us from a certain antiquated person on tapes to hit targets, under the direction of the responsible NRA, at summer camps. (Like the current cowardly Republican Party, the NRA was something completely different back in the day.)
Too old for the National Guard or being a policeman? You went there and did it? Well, enroll in nearby North Idaho College and study civics, history, or literature. Turn off the propaganda channel Fox News and read a book. Don’t deal with James Joyce or the Russian classics. Nothing great, only good American authors. Ask anyone in the library to set you up with Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, Harper Lee, Hemingway, Faulkner, Alice Walker (“Purple”), Fitzgerald, Sinclair Lewis, Steinbeck, Joan Didion, Eudora Welty, AB Guthrie, or Betty Smith (“A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”). Memorizing the Book of Mormon or the Qur’an or the Talmud or the Qur’an or the Bible and then calling it a day. If this is what you say, there is nothing wrong with that; But education is not.
Instead of erecting barricades against your neighbors, try plowing their snow-covered lanes. Send your kids to our great public schools, then immerse yourself in PTAs and work with other parents and teachers. Volunteer at a local non-profit organization: Animal Shelter, Panhandle Special Needs, Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness, Cottage Shop, Community Help League, their quirky weird bazaar, Food Bank, Friends Library, Angels Over Sandpoint, Panida Theater or Habitat For Humanity, Pend Orielle Arts Council, or revived music festival. Join the church. Build and cycle on local trails with Ponderay Pedalers. Help maintain and elevate the bay pass. Join in with elk, lions or Rotary. Nobody is here to take you, so leave your weapons at the door.
If you try, you will find Sandpoint’s life full of promise, friendships, joy, and success. To cite some happy lyrics from an earlier and simpler era pop song: “Leave your worries on the doorstep…just point your feet…to the sunny side of the street.” You will be warmly welcomed here. If you are kind, we need you.