Bigoted postcards arrived in Coeur d’Alene mailboxes Thursday, prompting outrage and solidarity from community leaders and candidates.
“I don’t mind saying, I was very disturbed seeing that in my mailbox,” said Dan English, longtime resident and candidate for City Council. “It certainly doesn’t represent Coeur d’Alene and what everyone here believes in and stands for.”
The postcard, postmarked with Tuesday’s date and location of the U.S. Postal Service sorting center in Spokane, delivers an animated rendering of a Sept. 17 photograph taken at the Coeur d’Alene City Council meeting, where president of the Kootenai County Human Rights Task Force and fellow council candidate Christie Wood posed with Mayor Steve Widmyer and Love Lives Here CDA founder Laura Tenneson.
The photograph, which ran in The Press and has been posted on social media platforms, accompanied Widmyer’s proclamation affirming Coeur d’Alene’s dedication to an inclusive community.
In the postcard, that photograph was altered through a digital lens to depict Wood, Widmyer and Tenneson as cartoonish clowns. Beneath the altered image, a line of smaller figures depicted a drug addict, a gang member, a member of the trans community, a homeless man, a suicide bomber, a racist depiction of an African-American with the face of a primate, and a woman wearing a burka. The postcard is titled “Clown World” beneath the image in cartoonish balloon lettering.
On the back of the postcard, a diatribe calls the Sept. 17 declaration a “freak show,” labeling it a “Perversity Proclamation.”
“CdA Mayor Steve Widmyer, Christie Wood and Laura Tenneson determined you will be entertained with community perversity,” the postcard reads.
The literature then foretells the future will bring diversity crime, diversity homelessness, diversity taxes, diversity voters, diversity street feces and, once again, diversity perversity.
“Why go to Spokane, LA or San Francisco when we can have our very own Freak Show CdA?” the postcard ends.
Wood said she received the communication in her mailbox, as well.
“It was very disappointing,” she said. “The mayor gave a proclamation that day that said we’d protect the Constitution. We were happy to be there. We’re disappointed there’s this kind of underbelly that exists out there.”
Speaking as president of the task force, she said her work and the work of the community won’t be deterred.
“This task force is in its 39th year,” she said. “We have had so much support from the community … Over the years, people have come out in droves to celebrate human rights here, so I’m not concerned if this represents the flavor of Coeur d’Alene. It doesn’t.”
When asked if she believes the Nov. 5 election may have motivated the mass-mailings, she said she didn’t know for certain, but she has her suspicions.
“The timing’s pretty close,” she said, “so yeah, I think this probably has to do with the election coming up.”
Wood’s opponent, Elaine Price, rebuked the postcards as the worst of North Idaho’s stigma left from its past.
“I am not for any of that stuff,” she said. “I am not for people putting other people down for those reasons. It’s uncalled for. I don’t think it’s called for at all.”
After learning of the postcards, Widmyer denounced the mailers, as well.
“You know, it’s just sleazy politics,” he said. “It’s unfortunate we have individuals in our community that would put something out like this.”
He added that he thinks the postcards were meant to poison the rhetoric in the upcoming election.
“I think it’s motivated by the election,” Widmyer insisted. “One hundred percent.”
Tenneson, who emphasized she’s only speaking for herself and not as a representative for Western States Center (a left-leaning advocacy organization for which she serves as a senior fellow), or the Love Lives Here CDA group she founded, said the postcards only embolden her and her community.
“These actions are uncalled for and inappropriate,” she said, “but they will in no way deter me from my work. I will continue to push on to fight discrimination in any form in this community. It’s concerning, for sure, but I’m not scared. I have a huge support system behind me.”
English said residents should dismiss the postcards as cries from bigots longing for a past that has no place in Coeur d’Alene.
“I’m sorry that anybody would receive [the postcards],” he said, “and I hope they would ignore it.”