Sunday, August 09, 2020

Now is the time to come together

by Gil Jordan
| June 14, 2020 1:00 AM

Kalispell and citizens of the Flathead can be proud of what happened Saturday afternoon and evening in and around Depot Park. Somewhere around 1,000 people with disparate views gathered together, shared the same space, and other than a few heated discussions, and some discomfort by some over the close proximity of humans and high powered weapons, the event came off with something approximating peace and harmony.

Those from both sides who ventured to engage in civil conversation with one another were reminded outward appearances often do not reflect inner feelings or motivations. There is more to the folks on both sides than meets the eye.

The fact that there were no serious incidents was not an accident. The two high school girls who initiated the idea for the event, along with others from both sides, interacted with each other and with local authorities in the days leading up to the gathering, to facilitate understanding and allay fears.

Isn’t it interesting how a little pre-planning and communication short circuits potential problems? Thus well-informed local law enforcement kept a visible, but low profile presence, avoiding potential escalation. Organizers on both sides knew what to expect and that appeared to ease tensions.

Some demonstrators not privy to these pre-event discussions, on arriving expressed some anxiety and alarm by the presence of so many heavily armed citizens. But as the evening wore on it became more clear there was no ill intent, and even some respect from each side for the other.

It all begins with communication, and in this case, face-to-face discussion. I engaged in such an exchange with two gentlemen who self-identified as part of the “group”, though neither displayed visible weaponry. It was a mostly respectful and thoughtful conversation. We didn’t sway each others’ positions, but perhaps we gained some understanding. We need more of that in these polarized times.

Some from both sides may take issue with my opening suggestion that we be proud of this gathering. One side will not be proud that several hundred heavily armed citizens showed up in a public park to express themselves. Some on the other side are not pleased that nearly a thousand came to draw attention to our country’s racism and police brutality. I believe they both miss the point that we came together without incident, had some conversations, and perhaps gained some understanding. In my mind, if we don’t talk to one another, the outlook is not good. Hope lies in breaking the downward spiral of us against them. As the Beatles noted, “Come together, right now, over me.” I think that implies “us” is more important than “me.”

—Gil Jordan lives in Coram