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What's Going On?

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It's the culture of a community that brings us here. Photo by Misty Grage It's the culture of a community that brings us here. Photo by Misty Grage

Making sense of politics, in Say What?

When I first took up residence in Bonner County I noticed that any gathering of folks that involved comments usually began with something about when they first came here. The ultimate old timer remark mentioned the name of the great grandfather or other earlier resident.  That served to rearrange the pecking order. Having lived in a number of other larger communities I didn’t get it; at least, not right away.

As the years have progressed and I find myself having never lived anywhere longer than here I think I understand what the older residents were trying to say. One opinion might be that they liked things the way they were. They liked what their grandfather liked and they appreciated what he had done to make their place a bit nicer. The pioneer spirit gene was in their DNA. So today when I meet someone for the first time I am inclined to do what the old timers did to me and that is find out where THEY came from and WHEN. That usually results in WHY.  The WHEN really isn’t too important but the WHY is. 

Of course, the view to the east while crossing the long highway bridge can be impressive. The other morning, above the clouds were the snow covered mountains in the far distance. One of those times you wished you had a camera. That is one reason. Getting to ski and enjoy the winter sports obviously appeals to many but there are those who prefer to flee before the first hint of cold. That is another group. 

And then there are those who bring their baggage with them. And I don’t mean carry-on luggage.

Perhaps subconsciously they really liked living where they did and want to hang on to that aspect of their lives and yet live somewhere else. My old neighbor John Fox told me one time that he guessed I had to live somewhere! He realized each newcomer represented change. 

In my opinion change should be evolutionary not revolutionary.  In any given society a leader will be in front leading and not behind pushing. A true leader inspires his followers by always being one of them, not an outsider. Foremost, he knows his constituents. As I wrote recently, in order to be a great manager of a hamburger stand you first need to be a great hamburger flipper. I really don’t have much use for a faux leader.

A phony leader is one who loves the sound of his own voice. Who overwhelms himself with his version of logic. And worse yet, comes onto the scene with an agenda. The agenda is the unseen and unspoken. The things the leader really believes but never will articulate because he would lose his followers. The term Great Pretender comes to mind. 

A case in point is this matter of arbitration between county commissioners. Would anyone have voted for any commissioner who would stand on a platform and say that is what he would do if he couldn’t get along? Of course not. Would you vote for anyone who wants to gut funding for the Fair? Of course not. In this county, 4-H is a big thing, not to mention a good thing. Would you have voted for anyone who thought it should be gutted? Of course not.

I would like to note that everyone elected to any office invariably inherits the actions or inactions of his/her predecessor. With any luck it is all good so you continue to look like a savior of some sort. On the other hand if (a) you think your predecessor was dumber than a box of rocks and (b) you are full of yourself you can look like a savior that humanity has been waiting for all these years. It’s sort of like “heads I win, tails you lose” and good luck to the rest of us. In either event, it is incumbent on the newcomer to accept some, if not all, responsibility for what has gone on before and live with it. Being a radical of either wing isn’t cool. 

It is amazing how many people want to sell out government. People on the far edges of our political system seem to have the longest lists. On the left it is the Socialists and on the right it is the Libertarians. The sad part is the lists are unknown before the election. Most folks can live with change that conforms to the wishes of the many, not the few

So that brings us back to the beginning. What has attracted many people to this far end of the Idaho Panhandle is the culture of the community. Sunset magazine wasn’t attracted by the soon-to-be-completed bypass. The many people who saved the Panida didn’t do it to compete with a 6-screen cinema. There are countless other things that are meaningful in different ways to the souls who find this a decent place to live.

Of course, there really is no paradise here or anywhere. But there is a place where each of us is comfortable, reasonably happy and with like-minded neighbors. Change should come at a pace those people can handle. Government is for all the people. As someone said, the best government is the least government, but let that government be what the people want, not what some temporary resident of the court house thinks they should have.  

Bonner County culture is worth saving. Voters of either party around here are, for the most part, conservative. They are down to earth, except for wine tastings and not too sophisticated. They pick huckleberries, cut firewood and would like to stick to the basics. 

Most of us don’t believe that good government is scary so let us strive for more common sense. We deserve no less.

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Author info

Paul Rechnitzer Paul Rechnitzer Transplanted 30 years ago, Paul is a retiree from the oil business who knows no other place he would rather live and breathe local history.

Tagged as:

Politics, Bonner County, Bonner County Fair, newcomers, Bonner County Commissioners, Say What?, Paul Rechnitzer, leadership, pioneer spirit, baggage, arbitration, 4-H program

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