It’s mid-May, close enough to Spring to have provided a few warm bright days we could call Spring. The lawn mowers of Valier have been out doing their stuff and the trees finally have leaves, revealing which branches died when it was so cold last winter. But we expect this. It was hardest in 1971 when I had returned to teaching and had moved into a big two-story house in East Glacier that had been empty for years and had no heat. I spent cold days up at the Big Hotel, sitting at the little desks set up with a supply of stationary for guests to write home. That was before smart phones. I'm just now realizing that was when Nixon was doing what Trump is doing now.
And that was before there were so many grizzlies who woke up early and went prowling for winter kill all along the rivers and irrigation canals. It was certainly before Washington, D.C., was revealed as a bear pit where people ate each other, the prey being the ones slow to realize and run for it. We’ve all learned a new word, “precarity,” for people who have struggled to qualify for professional academic degrees and now discover that their degrees don’t give them safety.
“Precarity (also precariousness) is a precarious existence, lacking in predictability, job security, material or psychological welfare. The social class defined by this condition has been termed the precariat.” (Wikipedia)
Struggling to give their children safe futures, parents sent their progeny to the “best” schools possible, only to see them easily fired when the rules of the nation changed. They should have learned to code or do plumbing, which hasn’t changed as much as electricity and — if neglected — can have very immediate and drastic results. The best and brightest of the Native Americans got to college and some succeeded but others — impossible to fire — were put out of their sinecures by universities that simply dropped whole departments.
But we sort of expected all that. We expected nuclear war — we began to “duck and cover” in the Fifties. Then we thought the cities would be reduced to rubble. It never occurred to us that streets would extend until they occupied miles and miles and miles of coast land, more than there was potable water for. It would be impossible for even a nuclear bomb to eliminate those people. Famine would work. Or the trace toxicity persisting in food that would end fertility.
“Precarity is an emerging abandonment that pushes us away from a livable life. In a growing body of scholarship centered on social marginalization, the concept of precarity has come to name “the politically induced condition in which certain populations suffer from failing social and economic networks.” (Culanth)
We did not know that a major cause of failing social and economic networks would be our government officials. They talked idealism so convincingly that we never suspected they would turn criminal. Many of us blame Trump because he is so personally repulsive and stupid. But he and his slack-mouthed, shifty-eyed children and personal fixers break the laws meant to keep them out — perform outrageous war-starting maneuvers — and our government representatives mostly stand staring. Or quickly find a reason to gettoutathere. They look drugged, stunned, non-comprehending — all except the mavericks and the women of color. A few are so old that they pitch over asleep with their faces on the notes they didn’t read.
What sticks in my head is the first hearing with Comey when the committee asked again and again questions that he would answer by saying, “I know the answer to that, but I can’t tell you because it would interfere with an issue that’s even bigger.” At least that’s what I heard. I thought it might be about Clinton — you know, that thing when Bill and an official met on the tarmac of an airport they thought no one knew about. Comey kept hinting that to tell officials what the FBI and CIA were really up to would blow something more important.
Now we know what that was and it appears to me that Comey did the right thing. It even turned out well personally by setting him free. It hasn’t been connected to 9/11 yet but I will not be surprised when it is, because what is developing is what the reporters described immediately after the catastrophe: that the planet had been infiltrated by a criminal biofilm with webs of communication and subversion that extended everywhere. They had no care for idealists.
Back in the Sixties Bob and I used to shake our heads and gnash our teeth over the art “wheeler-dealers” in the top of the Flathead Valley like the Outlaw Inn in Kalispell who enjoyed mocking people opposing the real trade in drugs and bribes around them. They went from shady little galleries trying to force up the value of Ace Powell sketches to Gianforte, Daines, and Zinke, selling out whole landscapes. Even Zuckerberg gave the place a fly-by last summer.
Our once heroic journalists devote themselves to celebrating holidays by getting drunk in Butte. We’ve learned that our little kids can be shot at school and that our co-eds are not safe in their dorm beds. We are so poorly able to think through the dangers that every isolated case seems to us like an epidemic, and maybe each one is for those shot.
So will we be saved only by a porn star and her handsome bold lawyer? Stranger things have happened. Supposedly taboo communities — beyond the “pale” which was once a real fence of palings that separated respectable saloon keepings and churches from those who were liable to do anything — often see what others cannot. Pillow talk becomes diary records. They go beyond “Lordy” and “I hope there are tapes.” Comey is a bit of an anachronism and we should be grateful.
At the moment the temp is just above forty and it's raining. I’ve unblocked the cat flap and they’re bringing the rain indoors. Tomorrow will be better and then the next day will be even better and soon it will be the 4th of July. Over summer we’ll try not to think about the precarity of our schools, our climate, our populations on the edge of survival, our mega-cities . . . who are the fools who visit cities in the summer? Here, just after seeding and fertilizing, we keep an eye on the Rainbirds throwing huge arcs of ground water across the hot and ticking land while the emerald spears of what will be wheat thrust up through the land. They are genomically altered. Precarious. Roundup Ready.