Wednesday, March 22, 2017


Watching the morning blab shows this morning while sipping my first cup of coffee and waiting for the rest of my brain to wake up, a panel member commenting on the Russia/Trump conspiracy hearings (a Republican) said with great fury that he resented Comey failing to answer so many questions.  This commenter felt that the American public (whatever that is) should demand answers to everything right away.  Of course, he was just sending out a Trump-style “squirrel” to distract everyone by hitting their parent buttons.  (“You come in here right now, young man, and tell me everything.)  Comey and his peers knew exactly what was going on and the reason for it.  Their JOBS are the handling of secrets.  But the American public cannot handle the truth.  They're like kids who want to know everything about sex but are grossed out and shocked if they find out, esp. if it's about their parents. 

In the first place they can’t recognize truth or Trump could not have been elected.  In fact, the FBI and NSA knew before the election that there had been Russian hacking, but kept the information secret — I presume in order to follow more leads deeper without sending the culprits scattering like squirrels.  In fact, investigators are still slipping along like shadows, but had gotten higher permission to at least let people know that the catastrophic consequences of such intimate breaches are not being ignored.  

The revelations come so close together that people like Rachel Maddow are getting the first news of them on their “earwigs” on the air while they are interviewing the people who presumably have the secrets.  But then they have to wait for the commercial break to ask their bigshot about it, in order to keep the secrecy.  Of course, everyone in the studio (cameramen, assistants) would hear.

And this is part of the problem.  Senators and Representatives can only operate if they have staffs.  As Comey said, “We find that information often comes from unsuspected sources.”  Those “little people” who are the mice in the walls.  (I’m really into biology.)  They often become rats, maybe out of a sense of justice, maybe to enlarge their own importance in the world, maybe out of revenge.  

Our stubborn gender assignments have a lot to do with it, since women — like Blacks — are not quite considered human and men will often say things in front of them as though they couldn’t hear.  And women — like Blacks and gays — are often part of a world quite separate from the context of powerful males who like to transact business while peeing or golfing.  Women — like Blacks and gays — are often drawn into relationships that are abusive, using and abandoning people as though they were pets.

Context has so much to do with information.  Changing cultural bias can flip bad to good, good to bad.  Materialism, commerce, property, is the unifying force of all political secrets because they are about the “Polis” (people grouped) and the “Demos” (people of the state) whose economic situations set the terms of their survival.  Our prevailing ethos is “Winner take all.”  (I blame sports.)  But the counter force to that is the protection of the vulnerable because otherwise they will fume and plot until they start a revolution.  No energy goes into finding new options or reaching compromise.

This morning’s grilling is that of Gorsuch for the Supreme Court.  It pits one system against another:  the legal context versus the historic British/Christian social virtue context.  Or if you want to look at it a different way, the US Constitution in the terms of its original composition versus the Constitution as it is applied today.  The keystone dilemma for some people is that Jefferson, who helped write the document, kept a slave wife and made children with her — but the slave wife was the half-sister of his deceased wife (same white father) and very much like her.  He was prevented by law from marrying a black woman.  Biology created children.

The opposite kind of dilemma is about those trying to use a 1776 document to guide responses to things that simply didn’t exist then, like modern weapons or wire-tapping via hacking or mitochondria transplants in ova.  Of course, if one goes to the basic primary level, it becomes useful to recognize that slavery always exists, but it has different names.  It becomes secret in plain sight, semantically cloaked.  Reveal it and the consequences are emotional: trafficking, sexual use of children. 

In the testimony of the Russia/Trump hearings, it was often remarked that the goals of legislators and the goals of legal investigators are quite different.  (Trust and respect came up.)  The Republican inquirers were trying to show they were virtuous, using the weak defenses of children:  “Those guys were doing it first” and “I knew Joey was a rat — we should get him!”  They were living in the moment, seeing squirrels.  The FBI and NCI men, as well as the two convenors, were looking at long-term, deep-structure, quite technical factors.  One might describe them as more mature, once they see the elephant in the room.

These federal governing inquiries and dilemmas remind us that there are different “silos” or “streams” or “disciplines” in modern life.  What is done in the name of government is quite different from what is done in the name of some corporation interested only in profit.  The skills of making a deal are not those of passing legislation.  Simply being aware that there are different rules in the kitchen than in the auto repair shop than in the parlor is a basic life skill that public schools don’t teach. Beyond basic public school context, academia is obsessed with keeping disciplines separate, but then someone always invents “physics for poets” or what I think they mean by “metrics” — facts and figures without words, transmitted in images.  Interdisciplinary, but that only has meaning if the discipline boundaries are recognized.

For half a century I’ve been watching and reflecting on the political “surf” on the Blackfeet reservation.  (I’m not alone and I have no special privilege.)  Three systems of governing are colliding.  The first is one we thought time would erase, but it persists in a kind of social pentimento.  It is a system that developed among “clans” or bands of about a hundred people with a genetic core, usually a powerful man and his wife/wives.  Everyone knows everyone, it’s very hard to keep a secret, there are no written laws and the basic law is survival.  Harmony balanced with disruption provide survival.  

The second one is the system of the United States with all its documents and precedents.  By now there are Blackfeet lawyers and even white lawyers located near enough to have ground-level understanding of how US law intersects with the original indigenous system.  This is complicated because treaty law is basically international law and gives the Blackfeet sovereignty over their lands.  But they have been "supervised" by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, beginning as the supervision of war survivors.  It was like my birth family where my father would say, “We’ll take a family vote and then I’ll decide.”  I think those who resent the Supreme Court are seeing this system in their governing.  They often do think that a big male figure should decide.

The third one is the mercantile system, which is now markedly international and addresses all cultural differences through their economics, reducing them all to profit/loss statements.  Some see this as a source of peace and order.  As it happens, some reservations have natural resources beyond anyone’s expectations.  But they don’t have the structure and practices to manage them, which means the buttinsky BIA wrestles with the international corporations and the indigenous mice get no cheese.  Unless a Big Woman steps in and applies virtue to the law.  (Thank you, Eloise.)

What I’m saying is that the Trump/Russia hearings are an excellent case study for a lot of human situations that need to be addressed.  It has become obvious that Trump is operating in his primitive oral culture of real estate deals.  It is a challenge for us to loosen our hold on what we think will lead to profit and try to understand the dynamics of being human mammals on a mineral planet.  What we see right away is the corruption introduced by oligarchies, semi-closed groups, which often seem as cold, dry, and inflexible as if they were mineral, stone-hearted, growth-dead.  

Russia, which is a vast windy territory not unlike Montana, once had an indigenous people.  They are still there.  After all the bombs are dropped, they will still be there.  So will some of us.  Wall Street will no longer exist and neither will Chinese loans.  If some of us glow in the dark, we'll adapt.  Or not.  But listening to this hearing the threat to bomb everything back to the Stone Age begins to seem feasible, almost attractive.

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