By Ben Olson
Part of my weekly duties as publisher of the Reader is skimming through old newspaper archives for interesting news stories of the past for the column at left, “Old School Bonner County News.” Some headlines depict horrendous murders and inglorious deaths, while others plainly explain that Mr. and Mrs. So-and-So “traveled to Spokane to visit relatives and will return from their respite before the next Kiwanis meeting.”
I often think about those ink-stained drudges of the early 1900s, documenting this rough-and-ready logging and mining town through its early days of homesteading and prostitution. They walked these same streets, probably with a notepad in their breast pocket, staring up at the same brick facades and wondering what the future might hold for this magical place we call Sandpoint.
Perhaps it’s just vanity, but I wonder if there will be another journalist 100 years from now, combing through their holographic archives of our dumb era, accessing the documents with direct-to-brain laser transmission. These future Sandpointians will set aside their lotus blossoms and chuckle over our quaint ways and meaningless squabbles, wondering what life was really like back in 2023.
Well, this column’s for you, Sandpointians of the future. Here is the state of affairs in Sandpoint and the world at large, from this wretch’s perspective, in 2023.
The air is hazy from wildfires burning around the West, but it’s a “good” summer because only about half the days have been hazy, and only a few “hazardous to breathe.” It’s not like a few years ago, when we had the worst air quality in the nation and you were lucky if you could see the car in front of you while driving down the highway.
The city of Sandpoint staff recently set up displays in Farmin Park filled with artistic renderings to show off the new city they intend to build. The residents eyed the displays with a mixture of reactions: some nodding slowly, some excitedly and others struggling to hold the screams from their gaped mouths.
A couple months ago, almost 200 Canada geese were rounded up and executed, because they had the audacity to defecate on the City Beach, where tourists take selfies by the tiny, fake Statue of Liberty that someone donated from their garden to the city.
The Bonner County commissioners and sheriff continue to hen peck one another, bickering about everything from ice skating rinks to Robert’s Rules of Order, and providing an endless supply of quips and quotes that haunt the pages of this newspaper like a ghost banging its head against a wall. Perhaps in 100 years, your own county electeds are still squabbling about ARPA funds and RV parks.
Mass shootings are a regular occurrence in America, which makes sense, because there are more guns than people in this country, and any attempt at regulating gun ownership is met with figurative (and sometimes literal) saber rattling and indignation.
Artificial intelligence is slowly taking the world by storm, putting artists of all stripes on notice that their creative work is no longer needed.
Overall, our country has begun a troubling turn towards moral fascism; but, like passengers on the Titanic, we play on — except, instead of suited violinists playing, “Songe d’Automne,” we have tank-top wearing Trump-hatted blowhards blasting country songs that celebrate small-town lynchings.
Yes, I think I have to explain Donald Trump. It is my sincere hope that you Sandpointians of the future read this and say, “Donald who?” That means we’ve finally pinched off this dangling turd of a man who has so damaged our national psyche that we currently live in a “Post-Truth” world, in which facts don’t matter, up is down, and accountability doesn’t exist if you wear the right kind of propaganda and have the right kind of friends.
As of now, Trump has been impeached twice, found liable for sexual assault and is under four separate criminal indictments for a whopping 91 felony charges. Yet, incredibly, Trump remains the leader of the field of Republican candidates and could even win the election, serving his term in office behind bars.
The climate continues to warm, but you can’t talk about that in certain circles because they don’t “believe” in science. As I write this, there are millions of people out there who believe the Earth is flat, that we didn’t land on the moon, that chemtrails spray nanodust robots that we breathe in and that control our bodies, and there’s a cabal of Hollywood actors who eat babies.
Most of us don’t believe this garbage; but, sadly, many of us do and a whole lot of us vote for people who do. That has sent us all into a weird dark age in which those who use logic and reason are shunted aside by the glad-handlers, bullshitters and bullies who continue to use their anger and outrage to gin up support for the next grift.
It’s a mad, dumb world right now, but we’re whistling past the graveyard here in 2023. I’m not sure if someone has invented a time machine in your time period, but if so, please send help. We could use it.
While we have you ...
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