Melinda Garcia of Albuquerque has been a clinical and community psychologist for 25 years. She has led three day-long sessions in Catron County for Forest Service employees and their families: one on the high cost of stress, another on how to survive and thrive in an unhealthy environment and a third on advanced mediation. She also challenged the mayor of Reserve, two clergymen and a doctor to take the lead in quieting the animosities that troubled the town.
"I usually work
in urban communities - east L.A, south-central L.A., Roxbury in
Boston. War zones. This was a war zone, but in an idyllic setting.
(District Ranger) Mike Gardner had people from the militia having
meetings in their trucks right outside his home with loaded guns.
It's not happening any more, but when they called me it was
"There's not a big market for this
kind of work. I was surprised to get the referral, frankly. Mike
Gardner's idea was to get counselling for the agency people and
their spouses. But that's not what I did. It's a really small town;
no one was going to come in for individual counselling because
everyone would know. So I said, "Let's go for community
intervention," so nobody would get scared off for being seen as
weak and unmanly.
"I think an important
contributor to the contention was self-righteousness. I think
particularly the ranching and logging interests and the
environmentalists are extremely self-righteous. And when you're
self-righteous you have to deny the rights of others. I tell them
that you can be self-righteous or you can be at peace, but you
can't be both at the same time. Being at peace doesn't mean being a