Everyone seems to be discussing our better and worst natures that cause great deeds and awful tragedies.

Last week there was news that a legislative consultant is doing a survey of the public much the same as the one conducted in the 1960s when people in cities and rural areas were asked what they wanted schools to be. In addition, the Casper Star-Tribune, in cooperation with the Huffington Post, recently conducted a survey of issues and beliefs of Wyoming people who consider themselves conservative.

I am not the least surprised about what they are found out about “red” Wyoming.

What does surprise me is this flash of insight: the very qualities that make us strong individually, make us weak collectively. It isn’t that I hadn’t noticed that Wyomingites are the kindest, most charitable, helpful, respectful people in the world but that those qualities don’t often transfer to our habits collectively, ie., politically.

What has perplexed me is why? Other than the fact that we are bundles of contradictions individually, why do the politics in Wyoming seem to contradict the character of Wyoming?

Is it possible that my observations about that character are at all inaccurate? Is it true that we are people who prize our independence? Are we inclined to live and let live? Are we generous to all those who need help? Are we accepting of people from elsewhere who are different?

Are we generally polite? Are we usually civil on a one-to- one basis? Do we ridicule pomposity and elitism? Do we act as though we are all equal and no one is more equal? Do we admire those who worked to get rich? I think so.

Though I’ve only been here in Wyoming for 56 years, I can be objective: this is not only the most beautiful state in the union, but it has the very nicest people in the U.S. but….

It seems like the very qualities that made Wyomingites the cream of the crop also made them the poison to digest.

Our strong feelings of independence have made us suspect government as something that intrudes rather than enhances our lives.

Our generosity is directed personally to individuals who need our help; we are always charitable to those who are worse off than we are, but we are not charitable to those who exceed our own performance, unless they are athletes.

We want to live our own lives without interference and let others do the same, but we can be apathetic about what others do until they challenge our freedom and our opinions.

We respect the land, not only as a recreational haven but as a tough opponent. It was not easy for our ancestors to settle in a hostile environment, and we’re ambivalent about preserving, yet using the land to our advantage.

We are inclined to want a “bang for the buck” even in education and other endeavors that cannot be measured in fiscal terms.

We value income and wealth, sometimes to the detriment of our aesthetic needs and values.

We often look at freedom as the ability to do what we want, when we want, how we want.

We confuse equality with equity, and therefore, we don’t accept “expert” opinion or admire academics.

We love our university, but are critical of our public schools.

I guess collectively we are what we are individually, a bundle of contradictions. Our strengths can be our weaknesses and vice versa. Life seems to be a continuous process of balancing our saintly selves with our iniquitous selves. The founding fathers knew it when they created a government of, for and by the people.

Audrey Cotherman lives in Casper.

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