Letters published on October 4, 2017

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Special session needed to fix GOP mistakes

Montana is broke, and it’s the majority party’s fault. The governor proposed a balanced two-year budget, knowing that oil and coal revenues would be down. The majority party in the Legislature, many of whom are supposed to be fiscal conservatives and experienced business people, rejected that budget and voted to increase it by $21 million, saying the money would somehow be there. But the money didn’t come and the state is burned up by wildfires. Now the governor is bound by their laws to slash programs for Montana families when they need them most.

On Sept. 6 the Daily Inter Lake reported that Montana Health and Human Services will have to cut its budget by $105 million. Then on Sept. 12 the Inter Lake reported that HHS will cut $8.6 million for services to the elderly, such as long-term care. That will cause Montana to lose an additional $17 million in matching funds. The total loss of matching funds across all HHS programs is $56 million.

Losing all that money will inflict tremendous suffering on people who worked hard all their lives to raise families, didn’t become rich and now are too old to defend themselves. Do you want to see your friend at work have to quit her job and stay home to care for her mother because the majority party won’t listen to the people? Is that the Montana we want?

The legislators who did this now say they see no need for a special session. Tell that to an elderly person living alone who is losing assisted living care. I’ve told my legislators to go back to Helena and fix the mess they made. I hope you’ll demand the same. —Michael Merchant, Kalispell

‘Life After Hate’ offers new hope

Last week I was feeling very low. Hurricanes and politics were dragging me down. All of sudden I perked up, saw real hope, and it changed my day and still has me feeling more free and hopeful. Here’s what happened: While surfing the channels, I hit on “Democracy Now” with Amy Goodman. She was interviewing a man telling a detailed and inspiring story. He is part of a movement called “Life After Hate.” This is a 501 (C) (3) U.S. nonprofit created in 2011. Members are all former white supremacists, racists, skin heads and purveyors of hate, bigotry, violence and all manner of far-right extremist activities.

This man’s story was compelling, true, powerful and filled with many other examples, besides his own, of personal awakenings and transformation. Their “Life After Hate” movement has designed an “exit program aimed at disillusioned white supremacist radicals in the U.S. and is picking up steam.”

This program involves meaningful interactions which heal hate and misunderstandings. Their subjects are people with low self-esteem, self doubts, and very unstable lives. They listen with compassion and “look for the pot-holes that are pointed out and addressed.”

They say this: “Disenfranchised, lonely, self-loathing people join these extremist groups doing horrible things. There is something missing from their lives, something they did not get, whether it was as a child or maybe they were abused or maybe they came from a broken home. Something was missing. And even if they came from a relatively normal household, something still was missing.”

“Life After Hate” is a powerful movement, aimed at a particular group, helping to provide the “something that was missing,” and it is working.

Does this speak something to each of us about discovering our own “missing links”? Mine, last week, was allowing outer turmoil to turn on my inner turmoil. This is not wise nor necessary, for sure. —Bob McClellan, Polson

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