The Nevada Independent

Your state. Your news. Your voice.

The Nevada Independent

Rural county has a choice to make

David Colborne
David Colborne

Douglas County is arguably the most classically beautiful county in Nevada. 

Much of Nevada’s beauty is an acquired taste. Places like the Black Rock Desert are beautiful once you wrap your mind around the size and scope of what you’re looking at, but, at first glance, it’s easy to look at the seemingly flat, featureless and dry plain and despair at all you see. Other, more intuitively picturesque places in Nevada, like the Ruby Mountains or Kingston Canyon, require hours of travel through seemingly repetitive brown passes and beige valleys to get to. 

Douglas County’s beauty is considerably more approachable.

The Sierras rise just a bit more suddenly and strikingly from the Carson Valley than they do from the foothills of Carson City and Reno. The fields of the Carson Valley are vividly and consistently green in a way that even the irrigated fields surrounding Fallon or Yerington just don’t quite match. On the other side of Kingsbury Grade lies Lake Tahoe, arguably one of the most beautiful places on Earth. To the east of the Carson Valley lie the Pine Nut Mountains, nearly as tall as the Sierras, with beautiful, four-wheel-drive accessible mountains to explore. To the south of Minden and Gardnerville, two charming old Nevada towns, lies Topaz Lake, arguably the prettiest of the Walker River’s reservoirs. 

All of this can be seen inside a glider launched from the Minden-Tahoe Airport, located conveniently in the middle of the county, or merely by driving U.S. 395 through the heart of the county, as I did to and from work for several years.

I start with this because, generally speaking, when Douglas County makes the news — and it’s been making the news a lot lately — it’s almost always for the wrongest of wrong reasons. 

Like, for example, someone saying that Hitler was a great Christian man on video at a local Black Lives Matter rally. That made its way into the New York Post.

Last week’s Black Lives Matter protest was arguably the lowest of a series of self-inflicted low points to plague Douglas County over the past few years, which is, in a sad and dark sort of way, rather impressive as the previous low point was the local sheriff’s temper tantrum the preceding week. Sheriff Daniel Coverley decided to do what all bad cops do: shot first (thankfully only his mouth) and then asked questions after the county library asked aloud why tit was no longer entitled to taxpayer-funded police protection. It turned out that someone in the county library system made vaguely sympathetic noises in the general direction of people of color, which the local sheriff reflexively interpreted as open hostility to local law enforcement. 

The sheriff isn’t the first elected official to behave badly, however — he’s just the most recent. Before him was the inexplicable fistfight between septuagenarian county commissioners, which prompted my last missive in Douglas County’s general direction. Before that was the Douglas County Republican Party’s invitation of Sheriff Joe Arpaio as their keynote speaker. And let us never, ever, ever forget Assemblyman Wheeler’s “joke” that he’d vote in favor of slavery if his constituents wanted him to. 

That one also made the national news — in 2013. He’s been reelected three times since then.

The frustrating part about all of this is that I know people in Douglas County. I worked there for years. I can’t imagine any of them doing anything that would prompt a local Black Lives Matter activist to issue an urgent safety notice before the protest that, briefly summarized, boiled down to, “Don’t march if you want to live.” I can’t imagine any of my former coworkers or current friends proving that notice prophetic by doing any of the things described by Kelsey Penrose’s two eyewitness accounts, or the eyewitness account put together by Christopher Torres and JJ Mazzucotelli, or the accounts assembled by ThisIsReno and the Reno Gazette-Journal

I can’t imagine them driving a truck into a pair of protestors, sucker punching a protestor, shoving journalists, blaring megaphones at full blast into people’s ears, or claiming that Hitler was a great Christian man. 

Now, I’m not naive — okay, I’m not that naive. I’m a straight white male and none of my former coworkers were, shall we say, “woke.” It’s entirely possible that they held some opinions that I either missed or didn’t feel compelled to remember because they didn’t directly affect me. I’m not going to pretend otherwise. 

Even taking that into account, however, there is a chasm of difference between being a bit ignorant and being nakedly malicious. 

Most of the counter-protestors at last week’s Black Lives Matter protest weren’t ignorant. They were malicious. Dangerous. Looking for a fight. They nearly got their wish, in no small part because the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office decided they’d rather stay home and wait for Carson City’s police force to show up before they started protecting anyone. 

Douglas County’s elected officials also aren’t ignorant. They’re malicious. Sheriffs are supposed to serve the public. That means all of the public, not just the ones with Blue Lives Matter bumper stickers that help Douglas County’s finest feel like heroes after pulling passing tourists over for minor speeding tickets all day. County commissioners aren’t supposed to get into fistfights during public meetings. County parties aren’t supposed to invite convicted felons with a history of intimidating judges and torturing prisoners as guest speakers. Assemblymen aren’t supposed to joke about how their constituents don’t allow them to have a conscience.

And they certainly aren’t supposed to get rewarded for such maliciousness by being reelected, over and over again. 

When they do — heck, when the only people that get elected in Douglas County are malicious misanthropes — I have to assume one of two things. Either my friends and former coworkers aren’t showing up to vote, which is entirely possible. Or, when they enjoy the anonymity of the ballot box, they vote for the most malicious, misanthropic person they can find.

Which is also entirely possible. 

Truthfully, it doesn’t matter either way. At some point, silence is consent. These people wouldn’t get elected if people weren’t supporting and voting for them. 

As William Gillis pointed out for the Center for a Stateless Society, there is a rapidly tightening noose around the necks of both violence-cheering reactionaries and their moderately apathetic enablers that refuse to put anything at risk to keep them from power. It’s not made of rope. Instead, it’s made of free speech, voluntary action, and merciless boycotts, all coordinated on the biggest and fastest communications network ever created, and it doesn’t just target bad actors. It targets those that give bad actors the space they need to do their dirty work. 

Both this November and two Novembers from now, the majority of Douglas County’s voters will make a choice. 

Are they on the side of free speech and freedom of assembly? 

Or are they on the side of the guy that thinks Hitler is a good Christian man, the guy that ran free speech and free assembly over with a truck, the sheriff that refused to protect their library, the county commissioners that solved their differences with their fists, and the assemblyman that laughed about bringing back chattel slavery if his voters demand to own a Black person loudly enough? 

As for the rest of us, never forget they had to make this choice in the first place — and never, ever let them live it down. 

David Colborne has been active in the Libertarian Party for two decades. During that time, he has blogged intermittently on his personal blog, as well as the Libertarian Party of Nevada blog, and ran for office twice as a Libertarian candidate. He serves on the Executive Committee for both his state and county Libertarian Party chapters. He is the father of two sons and an IT professional. You can follow him on Twitter @DavidColborne or email him at [email protected].


Featured Videos

7455 Arroyo Crossing Pkwy Suite 220 Las Vegas, NV 89113
Privacy PolicyRSSContactNewslettersSupport our Work
The Nevada Independent is a project of: Nevada News Bureau, Inc. | Federal Tax ID 27-3192716