“The world is full of bastards, the number increasing rapidly the further one gets from Missoula, Montana.”
― Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It
I will always be a Big Sky girl at heart; I’m a Montanan down to my marrow. Unfortunately the events over the last several years in my hometown have left me bewildered and often frustrated. Choices were made and it is my opinion that they were bad ones. Those at fault need to acknowledge their part and take responsibility for their heinous actions, but the city itself was not to blame for the suffering that occurred within it’s borders.
It’s a positive step that published pieces on rape and sexual abuse are becoming part of a national discussion and I’m thankful that it’s been further put in the public eye. This being said, I couldn’t help but cringe when I saw the cover for Jon Krakauer’s new book a few months back. At first glance I saw the lights of the historical University Hall at the base of Mount Sentinel and it filled me with nostalgia. Then I saw the title, ‘Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a Small Town’ and I was filled with a sickening weight of sadness.
This is not me trying to say that these stories, and those like them seen throughout the nation, don’t need to be told. Hopefully no one is silenced when it comes to this topic and it leads to further discussion in communities. But I won’t deny my dislike for this title. It is a fact that horrible things happened in my hometown as have happened in many people’s hometowns and at many universities which is inexcusable. Yet Missoula will be shouldering this title alone. And I won’t deny it is hard to hear the town I have loved my whole life referred to as “the so-called rape capital of America.” When all is said and done what people will see is Missoula and rape in the same sentence, they are now synonymous with each other.
That is not my Missoula. My hometown is a place protected by mountains and wilderness with the Clark Fork River cutting it in half. As an adolescent, I used to hike to the top of Mount Sentinel and watch the river flow through the city as I looked for the markers of where Glacial Lake Missoula had once covered this bowl of land in cool water.
This was the only home I knew until I was twenty-three. Missoula was my third parent, protecting me and preparing me for what lied beyond the mountains. My mother and father were avid members of the community, setting up public art, raising children, running local businesses and supplying the city with solid music for a few hours on Fridays so it was a community that I embraced. It’s a place where I thrived and became strong willed and obstinate.
It is a place that Krakauer referred to in interviews as a “football worshipping town” but it is so much more than that. I am glad his book has been written, I am glad that injustices have been brought to the attention of so many. I just wish that my home could be seen by those who don’t know it as more than this title.
Thinking of the mountains,