Tuesday, January 15, 2019


Since the election of Trump, along with millions of others, I've listened carefully to every Rachel Maddow Show that was hosted by Maddow herself.  In the process I've learned a lot of troubling things, some about Maddow and some about myself, but mostly about the country and its pretence of the Rule of Law as though it had no limits.

This has cost me some relationships with friends and family, mostly because they date back to a time in the Fifties when the idea of how to succeed -- or at least be safe -- was a matter of being agreeable and never exposing or knowing anything dismaying.  It was a Disney way of life and IMHO can only be sustained in a cartoon.  They've had very mixed results since a lot in life depends upon awareness and timeliness of reaction.  The same applies to being in the clergy.

On the other hand I've consciously become minimalist in most aspects of life with only a few inconveniences and regrets.  The main one is that the idea of bringing very little money in has worked, but it has also limited my ability to help other people.  If I were gifted a million dollars, I would spend it down to nothing within months.  (Let me remark here that for years I returned Publisher's Clearing House come-ons and carefully leafed through the overpriced junk without buying anything.  All this got me was more pestering from PCH, who clearly had no intention of bringing balloons, flowers, and a check during a Montana winter.)

The idea of becoming a better writer by self-imposing the discipline of writing a thousand words a day has been a success.  I already knew that good writing is not a meritocracy-favored idea.  Money for writing is a matter of connections, luck, and conformity.  It's marketing, just like any other kind of selling.  Lately there have been articles about what to do if you can't think of anything to blog about though you're being paid to do it.  IMHO that's the day you should not write.  Why would you?  Go write the stuff they put on packaged food.

What hurt me most -- and should not have -- was that my childhood playmate will not read what I write (though she thinks I "have talent" at eighty), does not think that a blog is anything but children's messages on a play telephone, and advises me, "You might take a look at James Michener."  "James Albert Michener was an American author of more than 40 books, most of which were fictional, lengthy family sagas covering the lives of many generations in particular geographic locales and incorporating solid history."  Best sellers, lots of money in a time of "Book of the Month."  She's Catholic, which means generations of babies are the key to life, and she's old-fashioned, so she thinks "Centennial" is the archetype for books about the West.

Once, she showed up at my apartment in Portland weeping because her progressive son (who married a Japanese woman and lives in Japan) said she didn't know anything.  She wanted reassurance that she was "smart."  When I tried to tell about my adventures in academia, her proof of philosophical sophistication was that in the Sixties she wore a black turtleneck sweater and sat in a coffeehouse arguing.  (Ever since I've wished I had a black turtleneck sweater.)  If I wrote something brilliant (in my own opinion), she would not be able to see what was good about it.  Since one reason for writing is revenge, it is badly undercut by those who can't know they are being punished.

Getting back to Maddow, I've learned a lot.  For instance, I learned this morning that Nixon's pardon could have been overthrown if it were proven that it was in return for him escaping the consequences of his crimes, as contrasted with being unjustly treated.  He WAS unjustly treated but not more harshly than he deserved, rather far more leniently.

I've also had the near-daily example of someone who is female, lesbian, long and lean as any basketball player, well-loved but not dependent on anyone else, indifferent to wardrobe fashion, and so on.  She uses big words, has man-friends, makes money, and so on.  I'm not her -- I don't even fish.  (I'd like to.)  I'm not absorbed by motherhood, spending money on appearances, or obsessed with sex, so plainly I'm not "feminine," but I'm no bull-dyke either.

It wouldn't matter, except that in a world shaped by gender roles as presented in movies, my job record was affected.  People sometimes assume I'm no-frills lesbian, which was most awkward when I was working in a Portland bureau that was managed and occupied by lesbians and brainy male Jewish non-academics, both hoping to "pass".  I mean, we just had a hard time understanding each other and I was assumed to be sympathetic to big-city behavior though I had most recently lived on a rez.  I wore jeans and plaid shirts because that's what everyone wore there, not because it was a signal.

Appearances count too much and too little.  I mean, if people can't grasp that a Manhattan wannabe who wears fake tan on his face and drapes a tinted pony tail over his head, who wears identical baggy suits with a knee-length red tie, and who makes ladylike little gestures with his short fingers while wiggling his bottom, and has ideas worthy of a third-grader in the Fifties, is a front for someone else because he has lived his life in billions of dollars of debt to the mysterious source -- the guy's a fake.  I did not know in the beginning that his idea of sexual provocation and foreplay is sharks dismembering seals.  No writer would invent such a character except in a horror plot.

I had thought that if I came back, not to the rez but next door to it, lived in a ramshackle house and wrote about abstract issues, that I could escape such atrocities.  Instead, we've had a 3-week mayor who quit in a tantrum to cover up the fact that he didn't even know how to lead the Pledge of Allegiance, locally considered important at council meetings.  And we've just begun life with a newly elected sheriff after lawsuits finally pried our previous embarrassment out of office.  (Among other things, he was accused of family assault.)  Both were elected by spreading gossip about danger and incompetence of others.

So here I am, confronting all this again.  At least I can follow Maddow and her guests.  At least the sun rises and sets on the prairie and the earth bends to the seasons.  One must keep a sense of proportion.

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