If you were to judge the small, northwestern Montana town of Whitefish solely on the national media frenzy that has descended upon it in recent weeks, like a blizzard that blots out everything else, then you’d probably write it off as a frightening place — an intolerant place, an unwelcoming place, a place where the worst of the United States has taken hold.
But what if the opposite were true? What if, at a moment of mounting political anxiety and creeping Internet thuggery, of fear and loathing and all the rest of it, Whitefish has, in fact, been demonstrating how America, at its best, can defeat such ugliness in the months and years ahead?
Because that’s what I found when I actually bothered to spend some time there. In the first weeks of January, I made two extended trips to Whitefish. I got to know dozens of locals — activists and actors, skiers and shopkeepers, loggers and L.A. transplants. What I found was a story that was a lot more interesting — and inspiring — than the one I had been reading about on the Internet.
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