Friday, April 23, 2021

The Long Covid

 Note: This piece was first posted exactly a year ago, and after stumbling over it while looking for something else on this blog, I thought, hell. If history is repeating itself, this piece bears repeating, too. The original title was "On False Patriotism" and I thought it was pretty clear at the time that, in the face of a bona fide global disaster, a large swath of our fellow travelers were ardently choosing to make things worse, not better and, in this country, doing so under the banner of a piece of cloth fluttering from the back of a few testosterone-propelled pickup trucks. A year later and we're still wearing masks largely because of their childish refusal to acknowledge such a simple survival concept as "the common good" and they're still the ones whining about how much they love their freedom, and how little they love yours. A lot of toxic water's been dumped under the bridge by the carriers of such insanity since April, 2020, and I suppose I should feel sorry for them by now. After all, they're obviously short a few bricks and it may not be their fault. But I don't. In fact, I think it's fair to say that, after a whole year of sustaining such unfathomable idiocy, I propose that anyone who's been doing their best to do their part all this time, worn their masks and got their shots so we can all emerge out of this Covid hell as soon as humanly possible and are still wearing their masks because of the utter ignorance and selfishness of those wrapping their bad behavior in a flag should be mightily-pissed-off by now. It's obvious, to me anyway, that that would be a very American response.


My ancestors have only been on this continent for a short time, since the 1600s. The same blood flowing in my veins has been in every major conflict that the colonists (later the Americans) have fought in since that time. I had ancestors who participated in the Revolutionary War battle where the American flag was invented, and if any hairsplitters out there want to argue the point with me then they can kiss my ass. I actually signed up for a war myself, and ended up serving four years in the Navy, but didn't go to Nam, not because I was some kind of smart, but because of the simple luck of the the other side of my family, the Irish. 

In other words, I feel I can say something about this flag thing, and here it is: I don't hate the American flag. In fact, I have every reason to love what it stands for in my own mind. But this child of pilgrims and pioneers hates what it has become in the hands of our seemingly-bottomless pit of psychopathic "leaders", and I offer up a new, colorful equation, a flaggy one (!) which is really an ancient formula reworked for us unfortunates who inhabit a more and more two-dimensional age, where colorful pictures apparently have more impact than actual thinking.

 ÷

+
=


Yes, Hitler certainly was an evil man, wasn't he? But he had lots of help. In high and low places. The equally-evil men in the high places had agendas, wanted power and knew the formula for getting what they wanted.


 





But the low ones, the enablers? They have no excuses anymore for falling for this bullshit, do they? And they will have much to answer for in the very near future. Won't they? 

How dare they wave American flags at us? How dare they?

Sunday, March 14, 2021

News Flash: Machine Guns are Pro-Life

 


Sen. Jason Ellsworth (R-Ravalli County) has a machine gun pointed out his business window (above).

 

There is no better picture to show how 'pro-life' and 'pro-freedom' Sen. Ellsworth is, so I’m sharing it with you. Like all Republicans in Helena this session (and the last and the last and the last....) he is adamantly in favor of telling young women what to do with their bodies and threatening fellow citizens with machine guns. Add to these stellar qualities a can-do willingness to expose vulnerable neighbors to a deadly virus and you have a profile of a certified, freedom-loving patriot who is so ‘pro-life’ he's willing to point a machine gun out the window of his business to prove it. This, by the way, makes Sen. Ellsworth’s machine gun ‘pro-life’ by definition. Isn't tortured English wonderful?

 

There’s one other thing about Sen. Jason Ellsworth you may not know about that puts him in even higher esteem with the life-loving, freedom-shooting gang he hangs out with. He was caught bilking unsuspecting people his telemarketing company called (unsolicitied) by selling them magazine subscriptions for $3.83/month for four years and then billing them almost $50/month for almost a year and a half and then (presumably) siccing a collection company on them when they didn’t pay up. Ellsworth bilks unwary costumers If Sen. Ellsworth hadn’t made $600,000 bilking unsolicited owners of telephones he wouldn’t have been able to buy an out-of-court settlement and he would have gone to prison with a felony conviction. But that’s the kind of guy Sen. Jason Ellsworth is, and why he is held in such high esteem with all the ‘freedom-loving’, ‘pro-life’ patriots currently legislating us back to the days of the Montana Copper Kings. He’s all about ‘personal responsibility’, and maybe that explains the machine gun pointed out the window of his business. Out of 35,000 magazine subscriptions ‘sold’ to unsolicited owners of telephones, over a thousand of them complained about his company’s fraudulent practices to the Federal Trade Commission. To anyone who's had to endure unregulated telemarketing calls that promise you the moon and then sell you a hat for the price of a car, that means that a lot more than 1000 were ripped off and knew it but didn’t complain because they figured if they did he’d probably rise to the level of a state senator or something. So maybe Sen. Ellsworth is justifiably worried that one of his bilked customers might take the ‘personal responsibility’ to come visit him to discuss their ‘buyer’s remorse’, which is Sen. Jason Ellsworth’s euphemism for explaining away the not-so-perfectly legal con of bilking unsuspecting owners of phones in the name of 'freedom' and 'life'.

 

While I’m on the subject of ‘pro-life assault weapons’, here’s a little déjà vu. a pop-up quiz. Can you name the machine gun pictured below?


Yep. that's right. It's a Bushmaster .223, the main weapon Adam Lanza pointed at little children--and fired into the faces of. The Ravalli County Republican Central Committee, the club to which Sen. Ellsworth belongs, has been auctioning off a machine gun looking very much like this one at the Ravalli County Fair ever since, where countless local children walk by it and are impressed by how much the Ravalli County Republicans, including Sen. Ellsworth, love 'freedom' and 'life'. 

Finally, here’s Bushmaster clinical description of such a ‘life-giving’ weapon, designed soley for combat, capable of firing up to six rounds a second into a crowded classroom of little children by literally anyone who can afford to buy one online:

“With a Bushmaster for security and home defense, you can sleep tight knowing that your loved ones are protected. Bushmaster offers everything you need to ensure the safety of you and your family. Our high-quality pistols, carbines, and rifles are extremely reliable, easy to shoot, and include lightweight carbon models that are perfect for women. And with their intimidating looks, all Bushmasters make a serious impression.


Are we there yet? Can we start evolving now, or at least start talking like grown-ups?


Bitterroot Gun Garage and Telemarketing Complex

Friday, March 5, 2021

Pilgrim's Progress Redux

 

Freezeout Lake, Teton County, Montana


The Dagwood Sandwich


Note: A little bird told me that if I want people to follow my blog I have to post more than one piece every few weeks. "Duh," I told this little bird, poor and blameless little thing that it is.The problem is that most writers would have to stretch the patience of their readers to act like they have anything useful to say more often than that which, of course, most writers do these days, and I'm competing with them for your justifiably-limited bandwidth! Grrr...I snarl in the general direction of these modern times, but that's all the disclaimer I have to show for reposting this piece originally posted August of last year while we were in the throes of so many converging disasters while being swallowed whole-hog by Covid Times (emphasis mine). I re-read it while thinking about how the Democrats, who were gifted control of the presidency and both houses of Congress by a desperate people (us), are blowing it again with the Covid Relief bill they're about to pass with no Death-Cult (oops...I meant "Republican") support and no $15/ hour minimum raise hike and, sadly, not even a blip of discussion about Single Payer/ Medicare for All. Bernie and progressive House Democrats bravely fight on for us, and it's my enduring hope, which may be labelled an Act of Faith at this point, that they become the new center of the party in the near future, but in the meantime, I think the words of a centrist-Democratic governor of Minnesota who misperceived the size of the sandwich he and his party are still trying to get their lips around are appropriate to repeat and examine. I don't have any other useful words to describe a Democratic political system whose elites respond to a pandemic that has ravaged a people and their economy and can only be addressed by providing immediate not-for-profit medical care to the least among us by tacking right and never mentioning Medicare for All as a serious possibility than to repeat the below. My apologies to the easily-bored.


When I was a kid I used to read “Blondie” in the rolled-up paper that'd get tossed on our porch every morning. Those were the days before virtual gizmos, when the comics were the only 'memes' we kids had other than the sports page which, like the comics, was meant to entertain. And we were.

 

In those good old comics, Blondie’s husband, Dagwood, would rise from his napping couch about once a week, sleepwalk to the refrigerator and pull out a dozen rich ingredients that every good old suburbanite was supposed to have in their refrigerator, too. He'd slather two slices of white bread with mustard and mayonnaise, layer cold-cuts, lettuce, pickles, tomatoes and olives until the sandwich was a foot-thick and absolutely inedible. Then he'd crack a joke. 


Dagwood was a nice, white guy. He wore a tie to work, and he wanted us kids to know that this was what America looked like. Everyone should have a foot-thick Dagwood Sandwich that you couldn't possibly eat but that you should have nonetheless. Everything was as it should be, this cartoon-husband wanted us to know, and we believed him.


That Dagwood Sandwich should have hit us white folks like a ton of bricks when the Black Lives Matter protests took off a few month ago. It did me when the Mayor of Minnesota was quoted saying that his city was between "two crises that are sandwiched on top of one other.” The George Floyd uprisings occurring within the COVID pandemic. An edible sandwich with only two different coldcuts, in other words, squished in with lettuce, sliced tomatoes and tasty pickles. Something you can wrap your mouth around enough to take a bite out of, have an effect on.


Well, I've had some time to think about it, and I think Mayor Frey's two-ingredient metaphor is the classic kind of understatement that comes from politicians who don't take cartoons seriously enough. I understand the rock and the hard place he's in between. George Floyd was lynched in Minneapolis, and Mayor Frey is a Democrat. Being a Democrat in Minnesota means he is actually a member of the Minnesota Democrat-Farm-Labor Party, which means he is the beneficiary of a legacy bequeathed him by 150 years of socialist uprising and organizing from the co-op infested plains of the 19th Century Dakota lands that, thanks to Hubert Humphrey in the 1940s, morphed into the Minnesota Democrat-Farm-Labor Party. It follows, then, that if you belong to a formally-socialist party that allowed a guy like Hubert Humphrey to crash it, then you have a serious case of political cognitive dissonance. In other words, Mayor Frey was wrong about the size of this sandwich he's trying to eat.


There are multiple crises “sandwiched” together into a epic, impossible sandwich. There's institutionalized bigotry and the COVID crises, of course. But the rise of fascism also comes to my mind, coupled by murderous COVID outcomes in countries run by them (Brazil, the U.S., Russia, Britain). Economic depression caused by the same scoundrels for the same reasons also shows up, worldwide environmental collapse and, (spoiler alert for us American humans) a D.O.A. healthcare system. That’s not just two ingredients in a crisis sandwich that can be dealt with by taking it one bite at a time. That’s a Dagwood Sandwich, multi-layered, all the ingredients part of the whole while being nothing without all the ingredients, and completely inedible unless you're a white cartoon husband about to crack a joke. 

 

The problem with us white people is that we think we’re white, which isn't the case. The COVID bombshell should have taught us that, but I guess learning comes hard which, by definition, means slow. COVID should have been an existential lesson in equality for all of us. Yes, we honkies opine from our comfortable Northern Rockies’ zones, it is hitting poor communities worse than ours, but it’s hitting ours, too. And, given how much time and energy we’ve put into isolating ourselves from the outside-world uglies, it’s hitting us very hard indeed. Furthermore, we honkies in the Northern Rockies may feel smug about getting “far from the madding crowd” and there’s a certain amount of self-satisfaction in accomplishing that. But then we insist on thinking there’s nothing we can really do, and that blows our cover.   

 

I recall a conversation I had with a “fun-hog” friend of mine at a brewery after returning from Standing Rock in early-2017 (full disclosure: I'm a part-time fun-hog myself). He had been out skiing while I had chosen to face off against a militarized police force in a blizzard. During the debacle that took place on those same co-op infested plains from which the Minnesota Democrat-Farm-Labor Party sprang I thought about all my hedonistic Montana friends playing expensive, consumptive outdoor games in the face of an environmental/social collapse that would take down those very ecosystems we claim to cherish so. I think it was in the middle of helping to butcher a cow in sub-freezing weather at the Veteran's Camp that I worked up something in my head to say to them when I got home, which, unfortunately for this truly-good-hearted friend of mine who was the first one to ask, I did. 


I told him, listen, man. This kind of activism is right down your alley. You’re going down these wild rivers and skiing these insanely chilly mountaintops for the sake of excitement and the love of the outdoors when you could be having the exact same kind of excitement and outdoor experience in a North Dakota blizzard with armed soldiers to bump up your adrenaline rush even more. You want brave? Do it with a purpose. You got the chops, and you don’t have to sacrifice your outdoor time. Not anymore. Maybe not ever again. 


Those of us in the Northern Rockies who care talk about "minority" communities and how “they” need more justice so the sandwich shrinks and becomes edible for us. Those of us who don’t care just talk about “those people”. But the end result is the same. We don’t acknowledge the giant-ness of the Big Problem, nor how much we, no matter how good our intentions, are part of it. This goes for people of all shades, by the way, because the sandwich is epic. But us pilgrims have had such a long run these last three or four hundred years, I think it's only fair to say, "listen, man." 


So, for what it's worth, here's the punchline to the joke I'm trying to tell you while staring at this cartoon sandwich. The damning finger of "white privilege" is now pointing straight at a fixable target, the predatory for-profit healthcare systems currently crumbling against the rocks of the Pandemic Age. How can anyone deny the urgency or the opportunity. You can bet this won't be the last bug to come after us, and after the next couple-three hits, a 'white', privileged class will not exist as a functional fantasy, false identity or false flag for less-thoughtful folks to rally around when times get tough. There's only one race of humans, multi-shaded (duh), and to deny some of those shades adequate access to medical attention as a basic human right, everyone runs the risk of dying horrible deaths while the rich, who do so love to keep us divided, will just get richer. 


Tax the bastards and tax 'em hard, in favor of Medicare For All and a $15/hour minimum-wage or it's bye-bye to our cherished Democracy. 


Simple. Why's it taken so long?

            

Monday, November 2, 2020

Is That The Smell of Freedom On Your Breath?




Wreck on the Highway

A Musing


At a recent Ravalli Co. Commissioners’ meeting to ‘develop a message about COVID-19’, one man stood up to proclaim that he was an ‘Americanist’, which meant (to him) that he wasn’t responsible for his neighbors’ wellbeing. The commissioners, who apparently are also ‘Americanists’ , agreed, declaring quite adamantly to the mostly-unmasked people in attendance that they weren’t interested in infringing on peoples’ ‘liberty’ by being the ‘mask police’, that they would settle for ‘encouraging’ people to act responsibly while letting their fellow ‘Americanists’ decide how much harm or benevolence they choose to visit on their neighbors. 

Well, I’m only someone who’s lived in Montana for the last 4 decades and whose ancestors have only been on this continent for the last four centuries. I do have a keen interest in U.S. history and have never come across this new breed of impervious citizen before, but I’ll admit that more than a few bold movements have been woefully unreported on these last few hundred years, including this ‘Americanist’ thing. Maybe I just read too much and am therefore ignorant, but this child of pilgrims still feels entitled to share a few facts and ask a couple questions of our commissioners who are getting a good salary on my dime in order to speak for me.

It doesn’t seem like much of a stretch to observe that both traffic laws and Covid 19 mandates are enforced on behalf of public safety and welfare. This is easily demonstrated by simple math. Since January there have been 167 traffic fatalities in Montana. In that same timeframe Montana has seen 365 Covid 19 deaths. Four of those Covid deaths and two traffic deaths (that I’m aware of) have been in Ravalli Co. In other words, there are at least twice as many Covid deaths in our state and county than fiery scenes on the highway, yet traffic laws clearly meant to oppress citizens’ freedom to drive recklessly are still enforced while mask ordinances that would muzzle an ‘Americanist’s right to whine but would potentially save twice as many lives are not? I’d agree with any freedom-loving ‘patriot’ that not all traffic deaths would be avoided if everybody drove as if somebody else’s life depended on it, but some would be. So why does a mask ordinance that would save twice as many of those random lives get a pass while the city of Hamilton is still writing $100 tickets for going 29 MPH in a 25 MPH speed zone? If the commmissioners’ logic of not being the ‘mask police’ is followed to its natural angle of repose, should we expect the police to ‘encourage’ citizens not to drive drunk while acknowledging that it’s every citizen’s constitutional right to drive drunk if she wants to? 

 

I don’t know if any of my ancestors were actively-involved in the Salem Witch Trials, if they were passive bystanders or if they actively spoke out in resistance against tyranny. I do know some of them were involved in some pretty sad wars against the indigenous people they sought to displace and that history is a lesson we either learn or don’t. I also know that everyone barring one individual who attended that commissioners’ meeting failed to wear a mask. That meant that folks like myself who take personal responsibility in respect to my neighbors seriously as well as my own health can’t attend public meetings convened to discuss the public’s business in a public building because the commissioners have decided to opt-out of enforcing ordinances that reflect nothing but basic human decency. This is undemocratic by definition, which begs the real question here. With such doings afoot right under our (masked or unmasked) noses, I think We the Taxpayers who foot the bill for these public officials’ gold star health plans but who don’t share their peculiar political ideology should hear from them on where they stand on this thorny issue of Democracy? It’s a pretty simple question. Do they believe in it or not? Can we participate in our democracy while protecting our loved ones and ourselves or do the commissioners really believe some of us deserve less freedom than others? 

 

Democracy, then, commissioners. It’s such an old fashioned word, but a simple yes or no will tell us all we need to know.


 

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Bitterroot Redux

 

Historical Monument along Highway 93 just south of Hamilton, Montana


No explanation necessary, really. Just a question. Are we there yet?

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

A Pilgrim's Progress



Last weekend, in a sleepy tourist town nestled on the western shoulder of the Idaho’s Northern Rockies, lynch mobs (or “2ndAmendment vigilantes” in the current euphemistic vernacular) openly roamed the streets, carrying assault weapons and looking for fictitious “antifa” (read: non-white) troublemakers rumored to be coming down from Spokane, the only sizeable city in our inland region with an inner-city (read: non-white) population. (Lynch mobs in Coeur d'AleneFour days later and 200 miles to the east, I attended the ongoing Black Lives Matter actions at the Missoula County Courthouse where assault weapons were openly displayed nominally in support of the protesters (!) and, for what it’s worth, I came away with a few thoughts.

Here in Montana and Idaho, the pining for the "Wild West" is still visceral. It's an aspirational ideal for many locals as well as those who have moved up since the Rodney King protests in 1992. If you lived here then you remember them, the ones arriving with a pocketful of down-payment from a house they sold in a city they deemed "too colored", plopping their money down with few questions asked on ranchettes to re-invent themselves as "cowboys". They doubled, quadrupled then exponentially drove housing prices far and away from what our mere Montana wages could possibly justify. Then they'd don the pointy boots, the cowboy hats, dub themselves “constitutionalists”, saunter down to the nearest Walmart (or wherever) and start loading up on assault weapons singly-designed to spray multiple, flesh-destroying bullets in a matter of seconds. The local Ravalli County Republican Central Committee has gone so far down this "white-homeland" road that they’ve been auctioning off an assault rifle every year for about the past decade, displaying the murderous tool at their booth for grade school children with innocent, cotton-candy-sticky faces to walk by, to touch, to be amazed. 

Firepower. It’s all the rage now, isn’t it? The uninfringeable right to openly-threaten those with whom you disagree with death and destruction (or to aid and abet the mass-murder of schoolchildren) while not wearing a facemask during a pandemic is being exercised everywhere these days, but maybe nowhere more visible than in the Rocky Mountain West. There are so many stores and billboards here now openly declaring this most-curious love-fetish that if I went around trying to “capture the moment” by taking pictures all of them I’d probably crash my camera. There’s no denying, it’s a thing.

So where did this infatuation with firepower come from, really, and how did it end up at a nominal "Black Lives Matter" protest in Missoula, where two white people brandishing weapons of war were tolerated by the organizers in the name of  "protecting" our right to peacefully-protest? 

Let’s acknowledge the obvious right now. First, a group of “2ndAmendment vigilantes (read: a lynch mob) showed up at the Missoula Courthouse before our local "boogaloo bois" did, with assault rifles and handguns on full display. One got pointed directly at the crowd (mostly young adults in shorts and t-shirts, a very threatening spectacle indeed if you’re an Uninfringable) who scattered in understandable fear of the unknown states of mind of these heavily-armed “patriots” (yes, there were flags). What should have been obvious to the Missoula police, but apparently wasn’t, was that pointing a loaded assault weapon at a group of bystanders during a tense situation is the definition of assault. But no, the guy apparently walked because, like the white guy and gal who showed up with similar weapons the following days to “protect” the protesters, he was…duh…white. To be fair to the police, the uninfringable rights of lynch mobs needs to be assiduously-defended if we’re going to have anything left of our Constitution. Right? But still, imagine just for a second if the brandisher of that weapon hadn’t been the approved color? Now imagine for another second if a non-approved-color person had shown up at a Black Lives Matter protest with an assault rifle. Are we on the same page now? Okay, so back to my main issues of concern: Gun Love and WTF. 

As a genetic pilgrim, when confronted with blithe displays of violent minds I can’t otherwise explain, I always fall back on what I can glean from the narratives white folks have written down about the doings on this continent for the last few hundred years. It's sometimes called "history" and it’s a habit of mine. It's actually escapism in a way which, like other naughty, very-human things everybody does, is not easily explained no matter what your political persuasion is. 

I do it, though, because, notwithstanding it’s a bit obsessive-compulsive with a Lutheran tint, I'm looking for those pilgrims, that genetic stock of my maternal grandfather, and, of course, my mother. There’s nowhere else to go for this than books, and so I’ve stacked up quite an impressive pile of primary-source narratives written by literate people who experienced those 19th-Century times. 

Certain things stick and others don’t. It’s a pretty sordid tale, all-told, and a pilgrim can only take so much guilt even if he was raised Lutheran, which I was. One thing that stuck, though, was the Texas Rangers, who are said to have been the first state-sponsored, standing police force in this country. They were organized almost exclusively to terrorize and kill Mexicans and indigenous people occupying lands the "Texians" desired for their cotton plantations and, later, their cattle and their settlements. It was, if I read it right, the Rangers’ interactions with the Comanche and Kiowa that inspired the first generations of “automatic” weapons on the planet, the revolving-cylinder pistol. Previous to the development of Samuel Colt’s 5-and-6 shooters, warriors had the firepower advantage over the Rangers in close-range combat, as it almost always was then. Their single-shot pistols couldn’t keep up with the rapid-fire arrows the average warrior (if there was such a thing) could carry in their fist and cut loose with with alacrity. When Colt’s 5-round pistol became available, the Rangers took it up with their own alacrity and improved their chances in a close fight. But the first ones were unreliable to downright dangerous to the user. Metallurgy being what it was at the time, the chamber exploded more times than was desireable, so Colt soon teamed up with a Texas Ranger named Samuel Walker and they collaborated to create the Walker-Colt six-shooter to more perfectly fit the Rangers’ 'policing' needs. The Rangers soon took to carrying three, four, five heavy, pre-loaded pistols into battle with them and so at last they could massively-trump the natives' firepower, for a minute or two or five, and then retreat. Guerrilla warfare, in other words, the same technique that was used a few years later by Confederate bushwhackers like the James brothers who rode with Quantrill's raiders in Missouri and Kansas. After the Civil War, when enough of these guns were circulating amongst a war-traumatized population that had long-since confused violence with freedom-of-expression, they became commercially-available to the masses, the cowboys, the Wild West and Viola! Gun Love.

 The native folks, of course, were ducks on a fence to this “Code of the West” unless they could purchase or capture enough of this new and improved firepower to make a difference. They could no longer get close enough to overwhelm their foes without it, and, notwithstanding the Battle of the Little Bighorn, having a six-shooter and having enough lead and powder to keep it sufficiently-loaded were two different things, and so things went as we’ve read. Custer’s Last Stand was the exception that proved the rule. For the most part, multiple-round firearms were the domain of the whites and, therefore, the new normal. 

Which brings me to pilgrims, and my grandfather. I knew him pretty well when I was growing up. He was born in 1882, ran a streetcar with his brother in San Francisco until the route was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake, sailed up to Nome, Alaska to build steamboats that ferried miners up the Yukon during the Gold Rush there, then sailed back down to the Central Valley in California to buy a ranch and raise a family. His dad, Silas Halsey Cooper, had been in the 9th Kansas Volunteer Calvary (Company B) during the Civil War and participated in firefights with the Ute people in Wyoming over Ben Holliday's intruding on their lands with his Overland Trail. In one fight, in the Medicine Bow Mountains near the current town of Ryan Park, the Utes had a few guns and occupied the high ground, but they ended up mostly firing over the troopers’ heads because they didn’t compensate their aim correctly for downhill shooting. I’m guessing that’s because they were in the habit of calculating for lesser charges due to lack of gunpowder and were aiming high on principle, but one of the bullets did hit Company B’s sergeant, who died, and Silas was promoted. He was 31 at the time, significantly older than the average trooper, and for awhile after I learned all this I thought maybe I could simply trace my lineage to something two-dimensional and without context. Firepower.

Silas and his wife, Anna, who settled in Hanford, California before 1900, had both died long before my time (we're late breeders in case you were wondering how old I am which is none of your business!), but he was near enough that he and Anna still remained a part of the family narrative I grew up with, which included how much my Grampa resembled him in looks and temperament. Grampa Cooper was 80-something and had long been hard of hearing when I knew him. He was taciturn and kind, and his lasting legacy was his honesty and his habitually-giving refuge to people who were down on their luck, including tramps, his wife’s Okie cousins and a Japanese family who were interned and had to leave their property in his care, which he returned to them fully-intact when that craziness was over. This was when “Okie” was a bigoted epithet thrown at vulnerable folks by equally vulnerable folks who were afraid of these newcomers taking away their wallpapered shacks. This was while my uncle, who had joined the Marines during the Depression and had just bought the family a new five-dollar refrigerator with his wages, was serving in the Pacific theatre. This was while tramps…well, tramps have always been tramps, haven’t they? But there was always someone living out on the ranch in one of the “shacks”, and there was drama, of course. How could there not be in such times? But his kindness was what my imagination always wanted to thread through our family’s Puritan line, and so as I stumbled into adulthood and, almost by accident, into Montana, I started wanting to know what the hell a piece of that kindness (and, by extension, me!) was doing up here shooting up the People and why these demonstrably-racist Wild West fantasies were rattling around in my own head?! Jeez, for a “liberal” you’d think I’d get a clue, right?

Well, I did try, but as my mom (his daughter) always said: “People are people are people,” which is still the only excuse I can come up with, along with the following explanation resulting from those deep-dives into the aforementioned historical accounts:

What the hell difference does it all make? The Rangers, the Civil War, the roots of violence? The point is, here we are, and we pilgrims have choices to make. 

Martin Luther King and Ghandi showed us what non-violent action was, and the concept is simple in words. You put your ass on the line nonviolently for something you think is more important than your personal safety, and hope for the best. A little harder to put into action, to be sure, and nobody knows what they’re going to do when the time comes. But those are the essentials, and tolerating guns into a movement that has to remain nonviolent to have any hope of success is antithetical to what most people are willing to show up for. Remember: the American Revolution was supported by only a minority of the colonies’ citizens and was decided in the “Bostons’” favor by support from Marie Antionette’s France. It was essentially a civil war played by foreign powers which, like the later one, was a bloody mess perpetrating lasting traumas. More important to remember might be that the 2ndAmendment was written decades before the six-shooter was invented, and a century and a half before nuclear weapons were. We’re talking about existential firepower now, a different beast. Pointy boots and cowboy hats look downright silly at this dance.

So I’ll offer up this pilgrim’s perspective to all you other pilgrims out there. You know who you are. How about starting with kindness, which is a simple function of empathy, not condescension, or even sympathy. It’s putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, like that guy, Jesus, used to preach, and it’s guaranteed to require more time than our nano-second patience can endure. Get over it. It takes generations, even if everybody made the effort, which you know they won’t. But we, the privileged ones, have this choice here in this time, and it’s a very simple one. Violence begets violence, and violence indisputably gets passed down generation to generation. But the same thing goes for kindness, and so by simple definition we can choose to set the seventh generation up for the next round of bigotry and war or for the long chance of healing. 

Finally, being a pilgrim and a Lutheran to boot means I probably have a hopeless case of OCD. So, in the spirit of not denying who I am I’ll state the obvious one more time. The kind of activism, the long kind that actually works, doesn’t come from the end of a gun.

Duh.