Local Syndrome: An Imminent Eruption

By on July 11, 2018

Exposing our frustrations can challenge Jackson’s status quo

(Ryan Stolp)

JACKSON HOLE, WY – There are weeks when I feel like I write this column for only myself. A journal of sorts where I can consolidate my thoughts for the week.

Perhaps that comes from people who say they’re not reading the paper, as if local journalism was a Yoplait flavor one grows weary of and writes off. I, of course, try to remind my friends, family and coworkers that each issue is different, but God forbid you ask Jackson locals to change their minds once they’ve been made. Recognizing that stubbornness, I can’t help but wonder if I throw these words down a well every week.

But recently I’ve received ample and unexpected feedback from one column in particular. In my May 16 article, “Parsing our Sensitivities,” I expressed my frustration with Jackson’s inability to champion honest opinions, especially when they are unpopular. I’ve probably had somewhere around 20 locals offer up a compliment (or, ironically, subtle, passive-aggressive critiques) about the column. Most thanked me for articulating a perspective that they too possess but have yet to publicly state.

That gratitude came in several forms: offerings of coffee and beer; a gift card to Persephone Bakery. Others sent me Facebook messages or whispered thanks in public, as if we were plotting revolution and could only criticize Jackson Hole in the shadows. (I’ve been obsessed with Robin Hood ever since I was a kid and appreciated the roguish romanticism in it all.)

Such secretive support only emphasized the point of my column further, and it made me wonder: What is Jackson’s collective voice? Understandably, we are a transient town comprised of seasonal workers, people coming in and out, yadda yadda yadda… we’ve heard the excuses. A lot of us do live here full-time, though, so surely the local perspective on political issues and community happenings is more cohesive than divisive. The response to that column is a clear example that most locals will have your back if you express your honest opinions.

Here’s an example of unsaid things you just might agree with:

The Snow King Ave. bike lane pylons were a poorly executed idea. Pastor Don Landis’s public comments against the non-discrimination ordinance are ungrounded. There’s something fishy about McPhail’s Burgers listed as the No. 2 Best Jackson Restaurant on TripAdvisor. Also, and akin to years past, there are too many white dudes running for local office. Oh, and how is Ocean City still a thing? Why does our Kmart suck so much?

See? Easy.

Are we just so numbed by our incessant joy of all things Jackson that we’re fine to ignore the ways it can improve? We’re so freakin’ hyped up on farmers’ markets and hiking and “We were on the river today!” and outdoor concerts and not picking up dog shit and everything else, that it’s a wonder we even have time to complain about anything.

My voice is indeed not an anomaly. We all have an opportunity to speak out and make Jackson the town we want it to be. I’m not saying that Jackson will be my home forever, but it is my home for now, and it will always be the place I grew up and came from. Despite Jackson stereotypes of homegrown locals, my circumstances are not that of excessive wealth or lofty privilege. Perhaps that’s where my open dissatisfaction comes from—a constant drive to prove myself in a town that values money and fame over ambition. And I think for us to stop being so complacent and, instead, adopt a healthy appetite for change, we should upend the table. That requires not only my loudmouth voice, but everyone’s.

In Howard Pyle’s The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, there’s a line I love about Robin Hood’s forest cohort, Little John. “Now there was no sign of any foul weather, but when one wishes to do a thing, as Little John did, one finds no lack of reasons for the doing.”

As it stands, Jackson finds no lack of reasons for the not doing. Much like the caldera that threatens to incinerate us at any minute, our frustrations boil like magma. Unless we start to relieve the pressure—whether in Town Council public comment or letters to the editor or public Facebook posts—it will only be a matter of time before our mountain paradise is stolen because someone else spoke up when we didn’t.

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