To the Editor:
Dear Grant County: It’s true, I’m not from here. This fact has been pointed out a number of times as though the truth of it should eliminate my voice entirely or make my opinion invalid.
I grew up in rural, small-town Montana. I raised a pig for 4-H, trained a llama to tackle an obstacle course and spent much of my childhood picking wildflowers and exploring old mine shafts. As an adult, I worked to expand health care, including women’s reproductive rights, in conservative, sparsely-populated, Eastern Montana.
I’m writing today to offer a possibility. You can be both. You can eat meat, own guns, drink whiskey and believe in empathy, equity and goodness. You could even vote for a Democrat. This is a both/and situation; the presence of one does not dismiss the other.
I know many who are from Grant County and many who choose Grant County. Those I hold close believe in community, inclusivity and taking care of our neighbors. These are the same values our ancestors likely wouldn’t have survived without. And, as contentious as politics can be, these themes are interwoven in our humanity regardless of political affiliation. Democrats and Republicans came out for our peaceful protest in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, and ours had a bigger turnout per capita than New York City. People show up for each other, and our community cares about the well-being of others. These are the prominent themes in the small town I’m from and the even smaller town I chose.
There will always be loud outliers who claim this as false — those who thrive on hate, fail to meet the call of anti-racism work and live for inserting divisiveness into our lives or possibly just the comment section on Facebook. They are loud, but they are few.
It doesn’t matter where you’re from. It matters how you treat people. I belong here regardless of my rural roots. And you can vote for a Democrat even if it’s your first time and not lose your place.