Monday, May 29, 2017


In 1971 after Bob Scriver divorced me, he was sued by a customer.  Bob’s business practice was to send an ordered and finished bronze to the customer for the remaining balance-due COD.  It could take a couple of years for us to cast and send a sculpture.  This customer, an art dealer, had arranged a long chain of transactions — resale of the bronze to HIS customer who was paying with an equal value of something not cash, like maybe land, which was a deal contingent on something else, and so on.  

In short, the dealer didn’t have enough cash or credit to redeem his order.  So Bob pulled back the bronze and sold it to the next customer in line.  The dealer was enraged.  The court finally agreed with Bob, but I was needed to testify because I had taken the original order.  It was a “hot” trial but nothing dangerous.  All very reasonable from our point of view.

I had been working in Portland.  I was standing on a corner in Great Falls, wearing my mother’s best coat so I’d look prosperous, and carrying a small backpack while waiting for the pedestrian light to change.  A man’s voice began berating me from behind.  I turned.  He was a stranger, a respectable-looking middle-aged man in a suit, pouring out accusations of how people like me were invading, ruining the state, displacing the deserving, running down institutions and destroying the culture.  I didn’t say anything — just walked off, more puzzled than insulted.  He didn’t follow.  Was the backpack the trigger?

The Gianforte blow-up brought back the memory, because it appears to be the same mind-ferment that led to violence with no warning, though the ranting man on the street didn’t touch me.  I was struck by the synchronicity of this with the insane man in Portland who was berating two Muslim women and who murdered two men who intervened — trying but failing to kill a third.  In his mug shot the killer looks monstrous.  Gianforte does not — to most of us.

I need much more info.  I googled “dealing with dangerous people” and was startled that one of the first entries was how to deal with out-of-control people in churches!  Not just shooters, but people who leap up yelling or even shoving people or throwing the hymnals.  The suggestions in the whole list seemed practical, but inadequate.  Googling got me a slew of “push ads” for weapons and concealed carry permits.  For persons on a campus or in church.  Not saloons and prisons.

Jeremy Joseph Christian (what a name!) has a distorted visage because he was shot in the face by Portland Police while robbing a convenience store.  This implies brain damage.  He has a long history of violent acts and talks all kinds of far-right extremism in social media though he has no coherent position.  He had enough followers for twenty of them to quickly “unfollow” after the publicity about murder came up.  (Knowing that means the social media reported it.)  Other charm school tips are described at this link:

It’s too soon for accounts specific enough to get a sense of how unpredictable this man’s violence was.  The older intervenor was a veteran and a City of Portland employee, which suggests that he knew how to handle himself but was conscious of an obligation not to offend people.  The younger victim had just graduated from Reed, one of those atypical gentle brilliant souls who think everyone should be loved.  The third man was Micah Fletcher, 21, a poet.  He once won a 2013 poetry competition with a poem against anti-Muslim prejudice, the newspaper said..

Immediately after the incident a video shows Jeremy Joseph Christian walking down the sidewalk ahead of the cops, shouting, “So shoot me!”  Neither running away nor attacking, a man in the jug of his own self, roiling with emotion.

For ten years in the liberal ministry I was with people who preached “love” and mostly practiced tolerance.  With exceptions.  One small fellowship, mostly tech people, was belligerent to the point of getting in my face and threatening me for trying to tell them what to do.  This same group had intense power struggles among themselves.  No body slams that I know of.  Googling brings up many examples of opposition to violence as a defining characteristic of liberals.  They do shout their “rationality.”

One begins to wonder why so much formal opposition to violence is necessary.  Some of it comes from Vietnam War politics and some goes back much earlier to when religious dissension was suppressed militarily and Unitarian churches had crooked walled alleys as approaches to the entrance, so a man with a sword could block invaders while the congregation escaped out the back.  

It also comes from the Enlightenment conviction (an origin of the Left Wing) that humans are rational and that the highest form of culture is the humanist tradition of math and science that has convinced us all that they are the source of technical industrial knowledge that has made modern society possible.  We have come to believe that this kind of thought should be the goal and control of everything, as expressed in laws and logical decisions.  Emotion is considered a sign of being animalistic, so feelings must be disciplined, even denied.

For the last few years I’ve tried to restore the importance of feelings, emotion, and George Lakoff metaphorical thought content.  I still think ignoring them is not controlling them and that they can burst up through logic like an Alien “child” exploding through the chest of a space traveler.  I’ve been thinking about the pre-literate oral culture and how Neanderthal brain-and-viscera wiring still exist under our fancy pre-frontal cortex mechanisms.

We explore that sub-conscious powerful driving force in thriller movies, athletic competitions, and experiments on male undergrad psych students.  But when we’re on a public train with an example of unconstrained volcanic emotion, our impulse is to be rational in dealing with him.  I expect these three men tried to reason with Jeremy Joseph Christian.  “Hey, man, these women are harmless.  Tone it down!  Get control!”  Even “be reasonable”!  

It’s an interesting paradox that a Reedie and a poet,  both far-out masters of emotion, would join a former military man in stepping up like gentlemen.  They’d have done better to smack him with a 2X4.  If they could have managed it, a body-slam would have been a good response.  Of course, they would have been in trouble with the police.

The media is noting that Jeremy Joseph Christian had no coherent political platform.  As though carrying a knife and stabbing people to death would be excused by such a platform, because  it would make violence reasonable, the way we pretend a war agenda authorizes killing.  Or that the police officer who shot Jeremy Joseph Christian in the face was behaving according to rules.  (He was.)  

I had not seen Trump’s campaign rants until they began to turn up on the Media lately.  He is a living embodiment of these issues.  No one has shot him in the head.  That’s what they did to JFK.  We don’t really know whether that was because of emotion or reason.  Or one disguised as the other.   

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