Montana Politics

If It’s Close-Minded Bigotry, It’s Probably Ravalli County

Remember that scene in Field of Dreams when the locals gather to discuss banning the work of author Terrence Mann? A little known fact about the scene is that it wasn’t filmed using Hollywood actors, but a gathering of people from Ravalli County. Here’s a refresher if you don’t remember the great film:

Well, a similar scene is likely to play out in Ravalli County on Monday, when the Darby School Board will hold a special meeting to discuss the dangers of teaching their kids. Not satisfied with a hate-filled gathering at a school to stop the fearsome specter of imaginary Muslim refugees coming to their valley, some good conservatives are outraged that the local library and school in Darby plan to host talks from a UM professor about the heritage and history of Islam.

According to the Ravalli Republic, the professor, Samir Bitar, has not only taught at UM for over fifteen years, but has trained members of the Montana National Guard. They write:

Bitar is a professor of Arabic languages and cultures at the University of Montana. A native Palestinian, Bitar moved to Montana when he was 16. He has been teaching at UM since 1999. He has a master’s degree in linguistics, teaching methods and cultural geography. Bitar has trained members of the Montana National Guard in essential Arabic language and culture.

The idea that a professor would teach young people about one of the world’s largest religions is apparently so threatening to the people of Darby that the local school superintendent is going to provide a forum for community members to spew more ill-informed, vile hatred before the event, even though parents will need to sign a permission slip for students to attend the class.

Confronted with a genuine opportunity to learn about Islam from someone who came to the United States as a teenager and who plans give back to the place he calls home with accurate information, the “patriots” in the Montana & Conservative Values Facebook group responded with the reason and Christian decency that so often characterizes their discourse. A sampling of the comments on their page includes the following:

  • Everything I know about I learned on 9/11.
  • Why? Why do people keep shoving Islam in our face? Islam is not a religion. It is a form of government . America already has a government. They lie and cheat and steal from us….will Islam do that better?
  • Whatf?? They trying to indoctrinate kids?? I hope Darby shuts that down before they start doing homework on their book or where black clothing with the hole for the face.
  • Sad is that so many mis guided Women think that refugee coming here is human, wait till they are looked upon as nothing more than a invitation to sexual assault…then what?

One can only assume that these fine men and women, whose anonymity I am respecting, will not be teaching any English or Civics classes themselves any time soon, but it is almost certain that they will be making a mockery of the religious values they preach and the rights they pretend to uphold when they speak this Monday in an effort to silence the professor.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.


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  • There are pockets of progressive, intelligent, tolerant Bitterrooters. I have a Yale-educated cousin living between Hamilton and Darby. Her politics are to the left of mine. Unfortunately, “Where ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise.”

    • I thought about adding this line to the piece: “It’s not that all the people who live in Ravalli County are bigots, but if you happen to be a bigot, …”

    • Pete, to quote this movie piece, if you had experienced even a tiny bit of the sixties, you too would stop needlessly censoring posters with which you disagree!, es PECIALLY those of us who paid a price for this country ‘Nam! Hey, we earned at least a turn or two at the blogs! Did you have two fifties and a seventy? Jus’ wonderin’.

      • You say, LK, that I am “needlessly censoring posters with which (I) disagree.” The only other ban I’ve enacted was against Tokarski for reasons you may even understand.

        My concern about your comments, LK, has rarely been about content, as I’ve consistently said. Swede comments often and we’re diametrically opposed in our opinions. But Swede usually writes short comments and not six or seven in a row. He does not dominate a thread so much that others won’t even enter the conversation and he keeps things relatively civil. What I fear is that someone comes to this site to comment, sees a thousand words from you, and doesn’t dare enter the fray.

        All I’ve asked is that you rein it in a bit. Of course, equating me with some sort of latte sipping, out-of-touch Missoula yuppie doesn’t advance your cause but I’ve been called much worse, so that’s not really the issue.

        And I did, by the way, “experience even a tiny bit of the sixties.” I did not serve in Vietnam. I got a high lottery number as the war was winding down. For that, I am eternally grateful.

        • Well, only a fool doesn’t realize that Missoula is an artificial existence in Montana. When I used to study such things
          (Yes, I have a degree in sociology among others), I learned that the average stay in Missoula was FIVE years. Yes, only five years. Outta state folks liked the idea of living in Missoula. They would come, and they would leave……after on the average of five years! That’s it. Missoula seems to lose it’s appeal after awhile I guess.

          Now, maybe things have changed, but I haven’t checked for some years now. Couple that with a large student population, and well, you get the picture. Whether you like it or not, Missoula is NOT like the rest of Montana. (Butte for instance, or GF.) Hey, I don’t make the rules, I just report them. That’s why I occasionally tease Missoula. It’s more of a state of mind than an actual place of residence, a state of mind that lots of folks like to experience and then move on. Hell, the Mizzoey Independent is designed for these folks! How many writers on that paper are even from Montana?

          And Missoula can be quite liberal, and I would argue, not realistic some times. I mean, what do refugees mean to folks who are only passing through? Easy to accept them if you’re gonna be gone soon anyway.

          Here, have a dose of reality.
          My sister taught school for thirty-two years in Troutdale, Oregon. She retired a few years back. For the last number of years she taught there, she had to have NINE interpreters for her parent/teacher conferences. Pencil that out for a moment. In a class of thirty elementary kids, at least a THIRD did not speak English as their first language, if at all! THAT is reality, Pete. Not feely feel good stuff because of a picture you saw of a supposedly dead child. We CAN NOT have a country made up of mostly immigrants! Especially immigrants who do not in any way share our values! And that is what we’re becoming!

          We’re full up. That’s all. Only a fool doesn’t realize that population itself is one of our biggest problems today. And to bring in all these immigrants from God knows where just exacerbates the problem. It is NOT racist to just say enough is enough. We already HAVE enough immigrants for a good long time. It’s time to close the doors for awhile and hope that those who are here somehow assimilate. But I doubt that they will successfully. Check back with me in a couple of generations.

          Also, if you study such things, most of these people have NO background in democracy. In fact, they can’t even grasp the concept. How is that good for our country? It isn’t.

          Now Pete, I know you don’t like me, but my point is that I truly have some experiences that other folks do not have, and that gives me sometimes a wee bit more perspective and insight on these issues. For me, they’re not theory but fact. That’s all. And that’s why I shouldn’t be banned.

          • LK:
            First, I agree that overpopulation is one of the biggest problems facing us today. But the refugees are not going to disappear and reduce the world’s population.
            Second, I’ve spent three-quarters of my life in Missoula and I’m 62-years-old. I lived in Billings before that. And you’re right, Missoula is not Montana. Does that make Missoula wrong?
            Third, did I ever say I didn’t like you?

  • “The school district plans to have Bitar speak to high school social studies classes earlier in the day…

    …Students are already required to have a permission slip signed by their parents or guardians to attend the class.”

    LOL. HS students need parental permission to attend class. I wonder if this is how the school district treats visits from non-Muslim UM professors?

    Still– badass of Darby’s library to host this and 10000x more badass of Prof. Bitar to be willing to attend. I hope he gets private security.

  • Jungle Love.

    “Doctors and medical staff have confirmed that at least seven boys, aged between 14 and 16, have been raped inside the so-called ‘Jungle’ migrant camp in Calais.

    In four of the cases the boys had been abused so brutally they required surgery. Three of them declined treatment, however, because of fear repercussions and losing their honour.”-Deacon.

  • Related.

    “The end is what you want, the means is how you get it. Whenever we think about social change, the question of means and ends arises. The man of action views the issue of means and ends in pragmatic and strategic terms. He has no other problem; he thinks only of his actual resources and the possibilities of various choices of action. He asks of ends only whether they are achievable and worth the cost; of means, only whether they will work. … The real arena is corrupt and bloody.”
    – Saul Alynski

  • I think we’ve done our part in accepting immigrants.

    More than 61 million immigrants and their U.S.-born children under the age of 18 now reside in the United States, according to a new Center for Immigration Studies analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.

    The CIS report estimates that of the 61 million total, three-fourths or 45.3 million, are legal immigrants and their children. The remaining 15.7 million are illegal immigrants and their children.

    According to CIS, the current ratio of nearly one in five U.S. residents either immigrants or the children of immigrants is “a complete break with the recent history of the United States”-Caroline May.

    • Touche! But wait, how ’bout all that public land, sWeed?! Let’s give Malhuer to the Syrians! And Nevada to the Iraquis! Plenty of room for more TaliBundies!

      But seriously, sWeed, how did so many immigrants get here legally? I don’t get it. We’re kinda outta the loop here in Montana. Was it the Dims or the Pubes that allowed this? And why? Simply to buy more crap from Walmart????

  • What happened was successful political activism plus reality TV in Ravalli. The Commissioners could/should have taken public discussion, but were taken in by an organized political-religious demonstration.
    So taken in, that they seek Legal and Legislative action to prevent Missoula County from bringing in 100 refugee victims of warfare. Maybe 10 from Syria.

    Heh, the Gulf was saturated with war victims by the neo-con war against some of the people of Iraq. Europe is saturated.
    Heh, the recent “regime change” strategy in Syria, probably added to the number of war victims who do not have a homeland.
    The people of Missoula County have a right to proceed with a plan, to re-settle
    Through political activism, our very conservative people in Ravalli have leveraged their way to seek Legislative action to limit the right of the people of Missoula County.

    Time to get beyond the hate of the hate speech themes,
    and read the whole story in the Ravalli Republic,
    and the Bitterroot Star.

  • Anybody know this person? She was appointed by Judy Mars. Welllll, that otter tell us all we need to know! Christofundiwackmentalist maybe? Kinda like Wendy Wharpedburpin? Just my guess, until I can contact my friends in Malta! And verify.

    But HEY, she did head up the Montana Stockgrower’s Ass.! Hence, head up ass! Purrrrfect for Gigi! He can relate!

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Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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