Tuesday, March 06, 2018


Staples talking to a citizen and her dog.

A compelling metaphor for the world’s situation lasted just over the weekend.  Benjamin Tucker Staples is a guy who will not obey boundaries, so has a long record of behavior that are petty criminal, things like squatting, stalking, invading, trespassing.  He made a camp on the bank of the Missouri River that crosses through Great Falls.  Someone — maybe the land-owner — tore it down and burned it, including the flags.  So Staples took his gear and went out on the shelf ice of the river.  No man’s land.

We’re coming out of winter — more or less — and melt water will soon make the river swift enough to suddenly break up the ice.  Careless dogs who play out there on the flat space have been swept away.  Sometimes children do the same, so there is an elaborate rescue process activating a team in special gear.  

Staples said that if he were approached, he would throw himself into the open part of the river.  There is an Arkansas warrant out for his arrest but the Cascade County sheriff says he’ll ignore it.  Staples said he would come in if he could talk to his former girl friend, but she said nothing good would come of it and refused the request.

Finally Staples in under observation in the hospital.  http://www.ktvh.com/2018/03/great-falls-man-taken-into-custody-after-weekend-on-ice

In roughly the same time period one of the people of interest who has just been subpoened by Meuller’s investigation has been equally defiant, going from one talk show to another all day.  Sam Nunberg had cracked.  Babbling, smack-talking, sounding like a kid just dragged into the principal’s office, he has no grasp that government is a mighty river and he is on thin ice.  His friends were saying he was “a danger to himself and others,” which is the justification for the law to take him into custody.  

In England, illustrating the power of the underworld, Sergei Skripal and his daughter, are near death from an “unidentified substance.”  Skripal is an experienced spy and counterspy whose early career was in Russia which he escaped in a spy-swap.  He knows there are forces who simply kill him, not waiting for law.

Gates, indicted and anxious to be relieved of house arrest for a little while so he could spend time with his family, has decided to go back into protection because of death threats.  Trump has given up his cheeseburgers because not even McDonald’s is safe enough.  He’s cracking like Nunberg, whom he repeatedly fired from his early presidential campaign, then rehired, then fired again.

All we have to worry about here is the weather, knee deep snow and wind that can suddenly stack it up higher than a house.  When it is clear at night, the snow radiates all the day’s heat back out into the black and merciless star-strewn night.  But this is Montana.  Probably next week it will be warm enough for the Russell Auction in Great Falls. 

Because I’m “retired” and don’t watch broadcasting or cable but rather pick and choose via the computer, and because I stick with Rachel Maddow and her careful but complex explanations — repeated again and again with many complex sentences, historical references, and legal interviews — I see the news — both political and scientific — as thin ice over a rushing river, but most of the people around me are paying no attention.  They are busy making a living, raising kids, following sports.  

In fact, I’m finding that my life has separated me from most of my friends and relatives because, they say, all that stuff is soooo depressing and they’re all just as bad as each other, so why even think about it?  Urgency is just not there.  They seem to me autistically disconnected.  Denying, ignoring, pretending.  They think I'm deranged.

It’s not that they don’t have the same basic facts, but that their context is different.  I gave a copy of “Twelve Blackfeet Stories” to my laundromat friends and their reaction was typical.  It is a “print-on-demand” book that alternates a history time-line of the Blackfeet with short story illustrations.  They were fine with both aspects, liked the stories, but were startled by the time-line, which included the day-by-day events of one culture being overrun by another.  

“How did you find out all this?” they asked.  None of the history books they knew included the events.  The new histories of the People DO deliberately note more than massacres and treaties.  “What stores in town sell this book?” they asked.  But none do.  You have to go to mail order like Amazon, that mighty river.  And you have to know what to look for.

Most of what I know, at least the outlines, is not just from books but comes from conversations with white men who loved tribal people in modern times, married into the tribes, lived their way, and talked about it when they came through Browning.  John Hellson, Adolf Hungry Wolf, Hugh Dempsey, Paul Dyck.  On our shelves were James Willard Schultz and Walter McClintock, both of whom Bob Scriver was old enough to remember when they were around Browning.  

Then the early “educated” (college-attending) people took up the tales:  Darrell Kipp, Shirley Still Smoking, Curley Bear Wagner, Jack Gladstone, Rosalyn LaPier, John and Carol Murray, Marvin Weatherwax, Narcisse Blood and others.  They were in the high school English classes I taught.  Now they begin to die of old age, because lives are shorter if you don’t have money.  But they had needed the money as pre-schoolers, not now.  They know that, which is why they push hard to get Headstart and family support funded.

Serving a congregation in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, seemed like a by-way while I was there and for a while afterwards.  The western and northern tribes of Canada, the people once living in “Rupert’s Land,” aren’t anymore because who the hell was “Rupert” anyway?  Nor are they to be merchandized a la Hudson’s Bay.  Now Saskatoon is relevant.  When I was there, the “settlers” wanted to exclude “Indians.”  Now the militant “Indians” (who object to being called that) want to eliminate me and all the other white people who wrote about them, because they “own” the information.  They do.  But I know it, too.

The Canadian feds up there are trying to re-align land ownership, the same as the politicians down here.  First they redefine the reserves/reservations.  Then they de-regulate the resource development rules, partly by pushing them down to the province/state level.  Then funding is mysteriously missing.  It’s happening in Montana.  

And now it’s happening to the rich people on the coasts.  They can finally feel the ice buckle and heave, finally hear the water roaring upstream. 

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