Missoula is not my hometown, as it is for you. But I have a ten year history with it. I spent good times there, and bad. I made friends and got hurt. There were a lot of growing pains but I think my time there yielded fruit.
My lense for viewing Missoula is smudged. I look back on my time there and I remember so much frustration with the University. I did not enjoy my time battling within that system. I was poorly advised and of little concern to the administration who only seemed to care about one thing: football.
Even before the reputation as the rape capital of America was bestowed, I had a deep seeded resentment for Grizzley Athletics. The frenzy the games brought on in the town and the deification of the team never made any sense to me. If you want to have pride in your town, why a football team that is 95% out of towners? Most of them aren’t even from Montana. They stick around for four years, or until someone else offers them a better scholarship at a bigger school, and then they leave. Why pin hometown pride on something so clearly manufactured to make a public university money which primarily went back into football?
But in the wake of crimes that were committed, my feelings about the university and it’s for profit sports division were validated, and I was sad.
I first came to Missoula when I was fifteen for the performance of a show. I was in Missoula Children’s Theater’s performing arts camp and we had returned from Flathead lake to perform for our family and friends. It was a very happy time for me. I was young and finally thought I knew what life was about.
My time with MCT extended beyond four summers at camp, and if I am honest, it was the promise of more time with the organization that was my primary reason for attending the University of Montana. And it was through my seven shows in their community theater, I began to see that Missoula was much more than the university.
I made friends in the community. Real Missoulians. Townies or lifers, if you will, and I hated that the town these people called home and the rape and sexual assaults perpetrated there were now the same thing.
The way U of M acted during the course of the rape case events reinforces my disdain for the administration. But I am also sad for my friends. The people who live in a town they love. A town that is now blighted by the mistakes of a college, a judge, and the monsters who rape. And as terrible as that is, it saddens me that seventy thousand people are now branded because of the failings of these few.
I am a mix of emotions. I am glad that this is being discussed and I hope for justice for any victim of sexual assault. And I am sad for a town that holds good memories. I met my wife there. I met you there. And I hope, that in time, wounds will heal and justice will be served. And someday, Missoula will be know for good people, not the crimes of a few.