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Thu Nov 8, 2018, 08:45 PM

An Olive Branch in Montana

'I am not naïve about race hatred in our country. But I have also found reason for hope.

My hope for release from the waking nightmare of our political world was waning as I went to bed on Tuesday night. Although I live in Massachusetts (which re-elected its intrepid Democratic senator) by way of Michigan (which elected a Democratic governor), I was keeping an anxious watch on the tight race in Montana, where it looked as though the incumbent Democratic senator Jon Tester might lose.

Yes, Montana. It is hard for most people on the eastern side of the Mississippi to believe that I have ties to the place. . . I told him the package was for my sister-in-law, and that I did, in fact, know her. “Well, you’ve never been there,” he teased.

I have been there. I have lived in, visited and driven through Montana’s cities, towns and reservations for more than 25 years. I have researched and published on African-American history in the state. My husband is a Montana native, in both meanings of the phrase, and I have Native American as well as white relatives there. We all love Senator Tester, who is from a ranching family in Big Sandy (down the highway from my husband’s home reservation), because he is an old-school, boots on the dusty ground Democrat; because he wanted to hire my sister-in-law (a different one) as his liaison to Native communities; because he castigated Donald Trump’s policy of separating immigrant families; and because he was willing to vote his conscience against Brett Kavanaugh. And Mr. Tester was under attack. . .

In Bozeman, where my daughter was enrolled in an intensive dance workshop that culminates in a performance at the annual Sweet Pea Festival, I worried about leaving her alone with strangers. An African-American and Gros Ventre/Assiniboine teenager, she wins no “identity politics” points in a state where bloody battles were fought by the United States military to drive American Indians onto reservations, where racial divides between whites and Native Americans are still keenly felt through geography and inequality, and where the black population is minuscule.

When my daughter and I arrived at the dance studio set against the backdrop of rugged peaks, we were not surprised to find that she was the only black girl and one of two visibly identifiable girls of color. We were huddled together, taking stock, when a neatly styled middle-aged white woman started toward us in a determined gait. A man dressed in jeans, a western belt, a plaid shirt, and a cowboy hat accompanied her. I steeled myself, planning how I would defend my daughter against an anticipated racial slight. . .

But the Glendive couple was working from a different cultural script, not written by the alt-right but perhaps instead by Toni Morrison. In her recent collection of lectures, “The Origin of Others,” Ms. Morrison emphasizes the existential challenge and moral call to sympathize with the stranger. She herself often takes inspiration from a text that used to be heralded in the Republican Party: the Bible.

I will never know if that couple voted for Mr. Trump in 2016, and I’m not sure that it matters anymore. I would like to think people like them who seek connection and reject division put Jon Tester over the line. Even in an unlikely place like Montana, Americans from diverse backgrounds can be compatriots. We still have a country, imperfect as it always was, but capable of holding back a force that would make strangers of us all.'


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Reply An Olive Branch in Montana (Original post)
elleng Nov 8 OP
3Hotdogs Nov 8 #1
strategery blunder Nov 9 #2
3Hotdogs Nov 9 #3

Response to elleng (Original post)

Thu Nov 8, 2018, 09:09 PM

1. Going back about 7 years, wasn't it John Tester who put the kabash on Obama's plan for public option

I'm glad he won over a Republican but I refused requests to contribute to his campaign.

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Response to 3Hotdogs (Reply #1)

Fri Nov 9, 2018, 08:06 AM

2. Nope, that was Max Baucus

subsequently lost his seat IIRC, though I don't remember the year (2014?)

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Response to strategery blunder (Reply #2)

Fri Nov 9, 2018, 10:36 AM

3. Thanx.

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