By on November 3, 2015

American Identity

As a 27-year-old resident of Jackson, I found the torrent of hateful words directed at Jackson Hole High School administrators and Latino students in the wake of the “America Day” drama to be deeply disturbing. In my opinion, much of this anger was wildly misdirected. Whether or not the administration of Jackson Hole High School made a mistake when it decided to remove “America Day” from the homecoming celebrations, this maelstrom of opinions has brought a larger issue to light: Racism and discrimination in this community.

The extremely hostile exposition erupting in the local and national news reveals that we are fighting the wrong battles. Arguments waged on either end of the spectrum (from unadulterated bigotry to extreme political correctness) are equally dangerous to the health of our community. Instead of directing anger toward the school administrators and Latinos, we must begin a mature and well-informed conversation about the real issue at hand: accomplishing integration through genuine acceptance.

There is a clear distinction between acceptance and tolerance. I worry that many in Jackson only tolerate our burgeoning Latino community. In order to accomplish true integration, we must genuinely accept our neighbors’ customs, beliefs and values as valid and true. We must recognize that diversity enriches a community. While many of our Latino neighbors are already deeply entrenched in community, the majority continues to exist on the fringes. Only when we welcome this growing population with open arms will they be compelled to pledge allegiance to our great nation. We cannot accomplish unity without participation from the community as a whole. Not just Anglos. Not just Latinos. Everybody. And what could be more American than that?

If we continue to sweep this issue under the rug, there will be dangerous consequences. The thin veneer of our “ideal community” bubble is growing thinner. We must act before the bubble pops, revealing a deeply divided community. How do we prevent this? It begins with a conversation. Ask yourself: what is the true meaning of America? Of freedom? Who gets to define the meaning of true American identity? It is not enough to show our patriotism by waving flags and yelling “America.” Instead, we should be celebrating the great accomplishments of our democratic republic – the freedom to pursue our individual dreams, the principle that we are all created equal, no matter what race or creed or religion.

It takes more than donning red, white and blue T-shirts to be an “American.” Put down your flags for a moment and extend your hand and your heart.

We’re all in this together.

–Zach Montes
Orijin Media

Growth, spending overload

Many of us have seen major adverse growth impacts in Jackson Hole this year, fueled by spending of the public’s money for aggressive global promotion of our valley, for pathway pavement, for subsidized housing, in addition to commercial growth and global workforce pressures. Some politicos, developers, special interest groups and others do not seem to mind the resulting traffic disruption, loss of community character, loss of our small town values, etc.  It’s just a trade-off to them, while they spend the public’s money and clamor for more.

Paved pathways alone – complete with bridges, underpasses, etc. – have very costly “pavement per capita” impacts. Sure, some paved pathways make sense, but it has been taken to extremes, fueled by public tax money. Not so long ago, a typical Wyoming pathway was for unobtrusive, inexpensive and non-disruptive hiking, horses and bikes without pavement and aggressive promoters.  I have been as guilty as anyone as an enabler of sorts – as a citizen I voted for virtually all SPET tax funding projects in the past. I was wrong to do so.  And the worst additional tax/spend/promotion deal of all is the lodging tax, which will be coming up for renewal.

It is time for far more fiscal discipline.  Most importantly, it is time to keep our bearings true as a great community where our character, our wildlife and our values do not just get urbanized and paved over.

–Peter F. Moyer

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