Monday, May 08, 2017


A few little things I’m beginning to figure out in this crazy, rocking, wreckage of a time.  They come from talking to real people, but more importantly from trying to listen to them.

Today I was in Cut Bank doing the wash and visited briefly with the wife-half of the ownership.  I’ve talked earlier about her husband, who is over ninety. a veteran of WWII who guarded the Nuremberg Trials and therefore has thought deeply about morality.  His wife is more practical, an order-keeper.  Obviously, she was able to see the erratic, foolish behavior of Trump and she said, “Why would they put someone like that in the presidency?”  It slipped her attention that the voters elected him, with a little help from the Russians.  

(The senators asked Yates and Clapper today whether the Russians actually made the difference in the election, and both agreed that there was impact, but no one could tell whether it actually changed the outcome.  Other stories have suggested that the crucial difference was that voters who would have favored any Democrat, regardless of who it was, were suppressed — which was easy because they were already stigmatized by color, illiteracy, poverty, etc.  In short, they "wouldn't know how to vote properly anyway.")  

Then she said,  “Oh, politics!  It’s just impossible  — it’s all fighting over nothing.”  But I’d been listening all morning to testimony making it very clear that there is a BIG difference between politics and government.  Politics is for elections and uproar may help get someone elected.  Government is about making the daily life of the country go forward smoothly and safely.  There was talk about dedicated career individuals. The senators today were sometimes playing politics and sometimes being concerned with governing honestly, legally.  (Some were chasing squrrels:  “I want to know who told the Washington Post these secret things?”)

I daresay that most people would not really be able to tell the difference.  But that’s been the biggest complaint about Trump, that he plays politics but knows nothing about governing.  His corporate management skill is said to be constantly pitting people against each other and his famous bargains are really bullying.  The point of government is to heal the whole.

It also occurred to me that we are used to central casting of media stories hinging on the appearance of the characters.  “Good” people are good-looking, like Sally Yates, and side-kicks are humorous, like Clapper, who's a bit froggy.  And the “bad” people look like Kruz: big ears, eyes close together, crooked nose — how did he get elected ?

The “politics” remark made me think of a conversation with someone about global warming.  They agreed that there was global warming, that the consequences were going to be bad, but insisted that it was part of the natural result of the enormous planetary glaciation cycle and therefore out of our hands.  It was Nature or God or some force that could not be opposed.

So I asked about responsibility for mitigation.  What about the villages along the edge of Alaska where the permafrost was melting so people were losing their homes and livelihood.  Should we just tell them this is natural and they’ll just have to suck it up?  They can die like all the other doomed species?

So the idea of the Anthropocene — the industrial revolution based on fossil fuel having changed the atmosphere for the whole planet — is thrown into a category like Evolution or Quantum Mechanics or Rocket Science or Brain Surgery or AIDS:  “I don’t get it, there’s nothing I can do about it, therefore I’ll try not to know anything or do anything about it.”  It’s a kind of fatalism based on felt helplessness.

It made me think about Loren Eiseley’s famous story about walking on the beach after a terrible storm that left a lot of starfish washed up and dying in the sand.  He began to throw them as far back out into the breakers as he could.  His companion said,  “Why do that?  You’ll never be able to throw all these starfish back in.”

“Maybe so,” said Eiseley,  “but for this starfish, it makes a big difference.”

When I came back with the clean laundry and a bit of shopping, I watched the Senate hearings, and then it was time for the Town Council Meeting, our local government.  We’ve had trouble with politics in previous years when individuals spread rumours and blame in order to get elected.  In fact, there is always an undercurrent rumbling of criticism about whoever is elected, whoever is hired, the way anyone is doing anything — that whole thing about being hooked on opposition.  Not just militant ignorance, but malignant militance. It encourages secrecy just to avoid them.

I think it also comes from a need to be important and to feel they “know better” than anyone else, which comes from feelings of being in a small rural town that even FedEx has trouble finding sometimes.  

But I was sitting there looking at the usual suspects and thinking about lying.  No one was under oath but several of these folks have lied to me at one time or another.  Why?  A little list of reasons:

1.  The way adults don’t think children should be exposed to bad things too early, they felt I was an over-educated city person who would be shocked if I knew the inside stories of struggling with a small town.

2.  If I knew certain things, I might interfere at the least and even call some kind of authority to report them.  They couldn’t imagine who that would be: feds, or nonprofits, or some media whistleblower.  The example was the knothead who ran his ATV over all the nests on the ground on the island in Lake Francis, which caused a bird lover to call the Federal Wildlife people.  There was a fuss over the heron rookery there until the old bare tree either fell down or was cut down.

3.  They really didn’t know, so they made up an answer.

4.  They don’t like me so wouldn’t give me the time of day, even if I’d lost my wristwatch and was late for my funeral.

5.  They were taught to keep the peace, so tell lies to avoid quarrelling and more questions.

6.  Since I was married to a famous man, I should have everything I need including information.

7.  Since I’m a writer, if they told me anything, I would exploit it and make them look bad.  (I DID, too.  Remember the water tower construction kafuffle?)

8.  I’m an outsider and, worse, lived in Browning and therefore should not be taken into any of the trusted circles.

9.  I’m a white woman and did an obscenely wicked thing by participating in Blackfeet ceremonials and they don’t believe I was ever a properly ordained white-type minister.  (This was in a comment last week that I censored so you didn't see it.)

10.  Anti-intellectuals hoard their secrets.  “Father Brown” would understand and forgive them.

PS:  The new campground tender is already on the job and living there in his trailer.  This morning there were grizzly tracks in the mud of his camp.  Two of the building permits the Town Council approved were for fences around yards at that end of town.

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