My Name is Edgar J. Steele and I'm a
June 15, 2001
that come in my email lately concern just how safe Idaho is and whether it is a
good place to live or travel and whether everybody here is as big a dope as the
players in the McGuckin drama appear to be.
think North Idaho is just great, frankly. It would be a lot
better if the leftists weren't firmly in control of the establishment (all the
Democrats run as Republicans here, so don't be misled by the high percentage of
Republican officeholders). On the other hand, perhaps because I am neither
a Republican nor a Democrat, I don't see much difference between the two.
Myself, I'm kind of a cross between a Libertarian and a Populist, I guess, with
a little Christianity and Buddhism thrown in for good measure. The
old timers hereabouts are spread all across the political spectrum,
too, but they all share the same fundamental outlook and social
characteristics. There is a fundamental code of honor, essentially, that
sets us apart. We are hicks.
Let's talk about
race first, and get that out of the way, since it has already crossed your
mind since you started this article (come on, admit it) and since that
is one thing that so many seem to think about in conjunction with Idaho,
but about which it is all but forbidden to talk. JJ Johnson, the
editor/publisher of The Sierra Times, a fellow I have described as "a
big, strapping black guy with a wall-to-wall smile," recounted personally
and in print how comfortable he felt when he came to town last weekend (and he
was in the company of us alleged "right-wing extremists," too). JJ is
no token anything and is, more than anything else, his own person.
Contrast his comfort level with that of several other blacks who have visited
and lived here and then whined about being dissed and mistreated (of course,
they weren't hanging out with us "right wingers," like JJ did). I suspect
they were hanging with the leftists, who all
but worship "diversity" in Sandpoint. Frankly, this would be the
last place in the world I would want to live if I were black, for that very
reason; never have been able to tolerate pandering. Ugh. I have
a hunch that JJ might be something of a hick.
These are my
people. I grew up in a much smaller eastern Washington town just due west
of here, you see. I understand them. I am them. We
are independent to the point of being iconoclastic. We will wait to see
what you are made of, then treat you accordingly, regardless of your apparent
wealth or ethnic background. We are slow to trust, but that is true of all
rural folk. We keep our word; we don't even need to shake on it.
Break your word with us, though, and you will be a long time re-earning our
trust. Lie to us and you will never be trusted. Act slick and we
will be suspicious, because so many "city slickers" acting like that have proven
their lack of character to us in the past. We are hicks.
I come from a long
line of hicks. Before you think less of me for that description,
however, consider my definition of hick: open, without pretention to the of
point of guilelessness, willing to trust. Some might call that a lack
of sophistication, but it isn't, really. I consider it more akin to the
vulnerability that is required to fall in love. So many in the Big City
operate at Warp Speed, with shields on full power, and therefore never risk
themselves enough to be hurt in love, thus they never really
experience being in love. You know who you are and you know
what I'm talking about. Being a hick is kind of like that - being
We almost revel in
the appearance of a lack of sophistication, but, believe me, it is just
appearance. In reality, we are on a whole different level of
sophistication that is easily mistaken for dullness and simplicity. We are
easily duped, lied to and taken advantage of....once. You will always
underestimate us if you intend to take advantage of us, thus you will gain only
a temporary advantage; in the long run, you will always walk away the loser if
you continue with trickery on our turf. We are every bit your equal, just
different. We are hicks.
successfully transition from the city to the country are incapable of returning
to the pretention of the city. Those who expect the city to exist out here
with them are invariably disappointed and pack it in after two or three
I understand the
newcomers, too, since they come mainly from the Oregon, Washington and
California coastal cities, where I spent so much of my adult life. I still
commute almost weekly to San Francisco. I much prefer the country for its
simple honesty. I'm a hick.
Most of those in
positions of power in local government are California transplants. Some
seem to think this is New California, to tell the truth. Many of the
newcomers are ashamed of their wealth, their education, their...well...their
whiteness. This, I submit, is the source of the difficulty with
Idaho's current image. The hicks just kind of step back as the newcombers
bluster in, saying, "We know how. We'll show you how it is done."
All the people doing all the talking lately are the newcomers. We hicks
get kind of frozen out, partly because so many of us are uncomfortable with the
spotlight and partly because our outlooks, the personification of tolerance and
understanding, are misinterpreted for politically-incorrect behavior and
attitudes. We don't march, lockstep, with the leftist agenda, you see,
even though many of us are liberals (the real kind). We are hicks.
The rumblings are
out there, and growing louder, about our dissatisfaction with the
newcomers' agenda and the apparent laughingstock they have made of this
wonderful backwoods area. Remember what I said about being duped, lied to
and taken advantage of....once?
skinheads? I see lots more of them every time I go to San Francisco than I
have around here. In fact, the only places I have ever seen them is in the
Kootenai County Courthouse (during the Aryan Nations trial last year) and at
Richard Butler's place (when I visited to consult regarding the trial coming up
in August of last year). And I haven't seen Butler or any of his
adherents since the last day of the trial last year, either.
Interestingly, I found them to be decent, honorable people when they weren't
carrying on about "mud people." They are mostly hicks, you see. I
know that won't go down well with some people, but that was my experience and I
refuse to take the politically-correct and easy route of blanket
condemnation. Unlike most people, I am capable of traveling in disparate
circles without problem, so long as I am not under attack. I'm a
Fact is, I have
found throughout my life that most people are decent, honorable people,
regardless of social status, ethnic origin, religious belief or political
persuasion. Liberals...er..leftists (there's nothing very liberal about
liberals these days) have more problems with me than any other group, I have
noticed, but only because they seem to want everyone to think just like they do,
unlike most everybody else. That is the real reason I seem so often to be
at odds with leftists and why it is that the leftists are the ones pushing the
"hate speech" laws, to which I am absolutely opposed. That's the way most
of the oldtimers hereabouts seem to feel, too. We are hicks, don't
So. Is it
safe here in North Idaho? That depends. I'm not sure how much
longer it is going to be comfortable to be politically correct in these
parts. But, if you yearn to put aside pretention and duplicity, you might
just fit in. If you yearn to be accepted for who you really are,
rather than what you say, you might like it here. Don't forget. We are
"I didn't say it would be easy. I just said it
would be the truth."
Copyright © Edgar J. Steele,
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