by Val Mohney, Huckleberry Press Editor
I spent much of my childhood exploring the woods, lakes, creeks and fields of Eastern Washington. The dirt, seasons and open horizons make sense to me. I feel at home here. This is my place. I care for the region and the people that live here.
My grandparents, Grandpa Tal and Grandma Inie, had a huge impact on me growing up. I spent large portions of the summers on their farm in Goldendale. Each winter saw our family’s version of “over the hills and through the woods” as to Grandmother’s house we went for Christmas. I was a lucky little kid.
My grandparents included me in their life when I visited. I got up early with Grandpa to feed the cattle later in the day, I “helped” Grandma slop the pigs down the road. I attended their church and social gatherings. They took me on their road trips to visit friends and family in Washington, Oregon and California.
My grandparents were dedicated Democrats. That detail meant little to me at the time, but now I see and appreciate the importance of how they held their politics and what it meant to them in real life. Their best friends were Jim and Lucille. While Grandpa and Grandma attended their Democratic conferences, Jim and Lucille were busy working with the GOP and attending their own Republican party convention.
Jim played Santa one year for us. He knocked on Grandma’s door with a big “HO HO HO” and my young eyes were driven wide by the appearance of SANTA at the door with a brand new bike for me! I was beyond excited.
Jim and my grandfather farmed together, belonged to different associations together and did a lot of community work together.
I’m guessing Tal and Jim had their political differences and talked about them. Or, perhaps they agreed to disagree and continue to work together, regardless.
Nonetheless, the impression I got was that Jim and Lucille were upstanding individuals worth listening to and spending time with. They were certainly kind to me and I never doubted them for a moment.
I learned a lot from watching my grandparents work. They were kind, considerate, curious, and open to conversation with whomever they happened to be with at the moment. Even though I was young, and they likely protected me from such conversations…I don’t remember them speaking ill of anybody who thought differently from them. I often wonder what they would think of today’s partisan, cut-throat environment.
As a youngster, I was taught the concept that America’s great strength was the result of our country being a giant “melting pot.” Different ethnicities, races and cultures coming together to make something much greater than the sum of its parts. That our differences is what made us strong as a nation. I don’t know what else was happening at the time, nor what the reality of the sentiment was. I have little idea what sectors of our community were being denied rights or opportunities…but the point is…the grand experiment and ideal of living in a giant “melting pot” celebrating our differences stuck with me.
It makes total sense to me. You bring what you have, I bring what I have and in the end, the synergy of our talent and sensibilities means that we get to enjoy results and outcomes that’d never have happened otherwise.
I saw this dynamic in action with my grandparents, why wouldn’t it work in the rest of life?
While I recognize some of this might be construed as naive and child-like, what we might call cross-culturalism and curiosity have been values I’ve carried throughout my life.
To hear television and certainly, social media tell the story…liberal Democrats hate conservative Republicans and vice versa. Depending on who you read or what news you watch, both factions are the root of all evil in our society. It feels good to many to engage vitriol and division on myriad so-called social media. Would people express the things in person they freely say on Facebook? One hopes not.
So, here we are. I own the Huckleberry Press, in Eastern Washington, during a time of unrest, uncertainty and seemingly massive political division in our country.
To the paper, I bring the value that all people have value. Be they white, black, brown, conservative or liberal. Whoever wants to contribute or work with the Huckleberry Press, is welcome to do so. Different perspectives bring different strengths, and we will capitalize on whatever we can, or must, to create a thriving, growing publication that serves the community and region. If you want divisive content there are many other channels to get your itch scratched. If you want content that is by and for the people of Eastern Washington, and for the positive future of Eastern Washington…the Huckleberry Press is the publication for you. We want to know about and highlight everything that is working about Eastern Washington. Through my work with the Huckleberry Press, I’ve discovered there are lots of things that are working, rich and enjoyable in Eastern Washington and we intend to keep focus on those things.
As for my life, I’d like to point out that on the court, in real life, people are getting along a lot more and a lot better than depicted in the media. I notice people of all different political leanings have worked together for different community-based projects. Our local fundraisers benefit from both Democrat and Republican dollars. We sit at the same long tables for pancake breakfasts and spaghetti dinners. We all enjoy the same county fairs. Personally, I’ve been helped many times by people who I know vote differently than me. It’s worth the extra work to be curious and engaged with people, especially if we find ourselves opposed to some of their ideas.
I’m not here to sugarcoat anything. The divisions and hurt in our society are real and need to be addressed.
Concurrently, I’m here to honor my grandparent’s legacy and to stand for what I was taught in school. I know we can do better, and perhaps in some meaningful ways, our community might already be doing better than we are led to believe. What we put our focus on expands. Focus on building a chicken coop and you get a chicken coop. Focus on learning how to repair cars and soon, you’ll be a mechanic. What I want to do, and want the Huckleberry Press to support, is to hold our focus on the blending of strengths in our community. I want to give people a clear and bright channel to share their ideas and possibilities for living a great life. In a sense, the division in our society will take care of itself and division doesn’t require any more focus from me or the Huckleberry. What I can do, with the help of Team Huckleberry is shine a light on all the beauty and richness Eastern Washington has to offer. The land is beautiful and our strong people make it divine.