I got into a spirited debate the other day with a co-worker over the "Old Montana" vs the "New Montana."

Neither of us were born in Montana, and both of us have lived here for several years. My co-worker was born and raised on the east coast, I was born and raised in the southern midwest.

When my co-worker moved to Montana a few decades ago, they were absolutely taken aback by the incredible kindness they found here. When I moved here, I was impressed with the fact that you had all of these different ideas, lifestyles, and personalities, but everyone somehow got along. Yet a recent article stated that Montana ranks 39th when it comes to friendliness.

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So what happened? What changed? Well, that is where the debate began.

Several different ideas, theories, and opinions were passed around as the conversation went back and forth. Who's to blame? Is it the Californians? All the other people moving here? Is it the Montanans themselves? In the end, we found common ground, heard each other, got some new perspectives, and went on with our day.

That's when it hit me. It isn't just Montana that isn't as friendly as it used to be—it's the whole world.

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It's easy to look at someone else and say it's their fault. It's even easier to block out any other voice or idea that doesn't sound like our own. It seems to me that's the real problem. We refuse to hear any idea that doesn't go along with whatever we've convinced ourselves is right.

We've allowed other people's opinions to become our own instead of thinking for ourselves.  In return, we've lost a little bit of our identity and a whole lot of our humanity. As I said above, it's not a Montana issue, it's a world issue. This is happening everywhere, and in my humble opinion, it's not a good thing. In fact, it's terrible.

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For years, Montana has been known as the Last Best Place, because it was and for the most part, still is. I love the fact that most Montanans aren't ok with being labeled. I mean, where else do you have someone that loves to hunt and also donates to PBS?

For generations, Montanans have gone about their business, allowing other folks to do the same. It's only been in the last decade or so that we have allowed this "you're either with me or against me" attitude to creep into our daily lives. We need to stop it while we still can and get back to being who we are and have always been.

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