A couple weeks ago, I saw a local news headline and sighed. "I've got to move," I thought to myself.
This happens every six months or so. As much as I love Spokane, and this region, something flies up and hits me in the face and just says, "you don't fit here."
The most recent "thing" was a headline out of Sandpoint - a North Idaho town 90 miles northeast from Spokane - that the Republicans there were protesting the county's fair theme, "Fiesta at the Fair," because they are English-only folk and felt the fair should reflect that. I swear I am not making this up. The Republicans were going to decorate their booth with the word "celebration" - which they said meant the same thing as "fiesta" - and they had written the governor of Arizona asking for Arizona license plates that they could use to help decorate the booth, to show solidarity with Arizona and its recent passage of draconian laws (aimed at illegal immigrants but likely to snag a lot of U.S. citizens instead).
So I saw this headline and story, and I sighed, and I marveled at these Republicans' total miscomprehension of the Spanish language ("fiesta" means "celebration"?) and I thought, I gotta move.
See, here's the issue. It isn't that there aren't people everywhere who are intolerant. Of course there are. But here, intolerance is - well, celebrated. When an official component of society in this region can feel as though its preference for intolerance and spitefulness would be widely supported - that a "protest" at the word "fiesta" would be not only accepted but applauded - then I have to face facts: I am not meant for the Inland Northwest.
Luckily the "protest" has been largely rejected. News articles have poked fun (I loved the headline, "what's English for 'burrito'?), and informal surveys have shown that the bulk of the public agrees with me, and not the Republicans up north. So my need to move immediately has passed.
But still - every six months or so, something like this happens, and I think, I gotta move.
And then other things happen and I think, I love Spokane. Just two days ago, I was at a busy intersection on the south side of Spokane (called South Hill) and I saw an older man crossing the street who didn't look well. He was stumbling and looked disoriented - like he had Alzheimer's, actually. I made my turn and then pulled over into a grocery store parking lot and called Crime Check, our local non-911 police dispatch number. I described what I had seen. The man on the phone said they would send someone right away to check into the situation. And I knew they would. I knew that, if that older man was in any danger, he would be out of that danger within a couple minutes.
There is something heartwarming about living in a place where people can be made safe so quickly. Which is, I guess, why I'm so likely to get upset when an official component of society is bent on making people feel rejected and targeted. Do these people not understand that this is a place of hospitality and compassion?
... maybe it is ... and maybe it isn't. I can't seem to figure it out.