Emily Articulated: We are not your refuge

An open letter to hate groups looking to resettle in Idaho

By Emily Erickson
Reader Columnist

Emily Erickson.

We are a little town with a big lake and rolling mountains. Our downtown streets have funny one-ways, but not as funny as the one-ways of years ago, I am told. Along those streets are rectangular shops with stickers that say, “Small Business Alliance” and “Love Lives Here,” with their window displays lit up by rope lights and masking tape. 

Walking between the stores and on the newly widened sidewalks are the people; the humans who sit in coffee shop chairs and say, “How was the snow on the mountain today?” and “How’s your dad doing these days?” These people are Sandpoint, leaning against bar tops holding bottles and fresh brews, listening to the four-piece string band with the shoeless bassist and banjo player.

Our houses are in neat rows and also sprawled in the mountains, like the kid playing with our LEGO homes got tired and threw the rest of the pieces in a tantrum across the carpet, across the hills. The neat rows have front porches, which fill with life on a sunny day, and the scattered ones are built by those who “just needed more space to breathe.”

Moose with long legs walk in mother-daughter pairs alongside our cars, like it was “take your calf to work day,” and we all missed the memo. The big ears of deer twitch and turn from the ditches, deciding whether to leap toward or away from the gravel of the road or the trails on which we walk and play.

We ride bikes with helmets in the daytime and transform under the full moon into glowing, hooting and hollering pedalers enjoying each other’s company; our rowdiness amplified by moonlight and whiskey.

We climb mountains for fun, filling our lungs with crisp, clean air, off trails that we talk about as numbers, not names. Our words are shaped by experiences that are hard to articulate, like,  “Did you see the snow ghosts at the top of Trail 444?” or, “Watch out for the family of goats when you get to the Scotchmans scree field.”

We hold rallies for women, which men and boys are welcome to attend, and start movements from big green vans that turn into positive changes for the whole state. Our newspapers are printed with stories about the fight against smelters and opinions on whether another train bridge is a good or bad idea.

Our old theater shows mountain films, where concession stands are run by our friends, and hosts The Follies, an event filled with laughter and city leaders wearing lingerie. The magenta-cushioned seats support our bodies and also the performances that can’t be described as anything other than “culture.”

But, there’s another part of our town. A small part with a screaming voice, like someone on the playground gave the bully a trumpet. Its loud horn bellows overtop our harmonies, saying “Come one, come all! But only if you look and think just like me.” 

We all reply, “Stop playing so loud,” and “You’re the only one in that sandbox,” but our words get lost in the out-of-tune blasts.

The bully and his friends are only a few, but think they are kings and queens, marking up our pretty beach signs with swastikas like we all feel the same. They make videos and organize robocalls saying, “Come to this place,” and, “You’re not alone.”

But, you are alone. And we don’t feel the same. We are shouting, “We aren’t a safe haven for your hatred and bigotry!” 

We are photographers and writers, roasters and painters, builders and farmers, doctors and brewers, musicians and entrepreneurs, and we are not your refuge.

Our politics are red and blue and purple and green. Yet, we all still say “hello” at the grocery store, no matter how anyone voted. And we are not your refuge.

We are small, and northern, and have a history that’s being written and rewritten. And we are not your refuge.

Because like the signs in the rectangular shop windows explain, “Love Lives Here.” So “Come one, come all,” only if you think the same.

Emily Erickson is a freelance writer and amateur doodler, with a love of coffee and all things mountains.

While we have you ...

... if you appreciate that access to the news, opinion, humor, entertainment and cultural reporting in the Sandpoint Reader is freely available in our print newspaper as well as here on our website, we have a favor to ask. The Reader is locally owned and free of the large corporate, big-money influence that affects so much of the media today. We're supported entirely by our valued advertisers and readers. We're committed to continued free access to our paper and our website here with NO PAYWALL - period. But of course, it does cost money to produce the Reader. If you're a reader who appreciates the value of an independent, local news source, we hope you'll consider a voluntary contribution. You can help support the Reader for as little as $1.

You can contribute at either Paypal or Patreon.

Contribute at Patreon Contribute at Paypal

You may also like...

Close [x]

Want to support independent local journalism?

The Sandpoint Reader is our town's local, independent weekly newspaper. "Independent" means that the Reader is locally owned, in a partnership between Publisher Ben Olson and Keokee Co. Publishing, the media company owned by Chris Bessler that also publishes Sandpoint Magazine and Sandpoint Online. Sandpoint Reader LLC is a completely independent business unit; no big newspaper group or corporate conglomerate or billionaire owner dictates our editorial policy. And we want the news, opinion and lifestyle stories we report to be freely available to all interested readers - so unlike many other newspapers and media websites, we have NO PAYWALL on our website. The Reader relies wholly on the support of our valued advertisers, as well as readers who voluntarily contribute. Want to ensure that local, independent journalism survives in our town? You can help support the Reader for as little as $1.