I’ve been struggling, recently, to wring some cardinal direction out of the wildly spinning compass that has become our nation. That’s true across a broad spectrum—from politics to sporting events, and includes even today’s most recent acid controversy, which is concerned with how children are meant to sing the “ABC Song”. Apparently the challenging “LMNOP” sequence has been deemed insensitive to some children who identify as rabbits. Not kidding.
All of that struggling for purchase has led to an acute bout of disdain for the people and processes of our government. I’m trying, desperately, to hold fast to some manner of positive thinking, to remember the oaths that I swore, and took seriously, twice in this life, but the virus of disdain is now so severe that I have been forced to stop listening to media inputs. I’m running through each day stiff-arming the news with a Heisman pose. Some of that is just a practical means of survival — the convolutions of our federal government have become so byzantine that anyone hanging on through the curves is on a path to carnival insanity.
I don’t know who, in what party, from where, has done what — I just assume they’ve all done something either intentionally or accidentally criminal — which should probably relieve some of the anxiety I feel about our national condition — but strangely doesn’t.
It’s interesting that so many politicians and bureaucrats, apparently lacking the strength of their convictions, are assuming noms de plume and making their little pithy appearances in the digital realm. Romney’s “Pierre Delecto” is a particularly daft touch, joining some other recent classics such as James Comey’s “Reinhold Niebuhr” and Anthony Weiner’s “Carlos Danger” as instant evidence of cowardice and active mushbrain.
But it’s much worse than these silly proceedings. The entire spectacle of impeachment, for instance, which includes the unsavory aspect of secret hearings. Secret courts and secret hearings are a dangerous trend in our government, suggesting there is much to hide, and we probably shouldn’t abide them. But we do, like sheep, and may be powerless to do anything about them in any case.
One might be safe to just assume that the Bidens are crooks, and that Trump is also a crook, and that Hillary and Bill are crooks, and that the Obamas and the Bushs are also crooks, and that virtually everyone serving in Congress is at the very least a slimebag, if not an outright criminal of some kind. It bears wondering, again and out loud, how so many who enter politics penniless manage to emerge exorbitantly wealthy. Perhaps they just become too big to fail.
There has also been a tidal wave of angst and hand-wringing over Trump’s decisions regarding US forces in Syria. Camps that once vehemently opposed involvement in Syria are now screaming for engagement, and vice-versa, and movements of political anxiety seem perplexed that the US has abandoned an ally. Which strikes me as odd given that the US routinely abandons its allies—and previously abandoned the Kurds for a few rounds of gassing back when old Uncle Saddam was still alive and firing a Mannlicher one-handed off the presidential balcony. Remember those halcyon days?
The real takeaway from all of this, even if we stipulate that abandoning the Kurds is difficult to stomach — particularly given the misleading and enduring image of ourselves as the aw-shucks victors of WW2 — is that we are now arguing over fruits from a highly poisonous tree. Perhaps there was a more graceful way to pull out of Syria, but the real problem is how we allowed ourselves to get so deeply entangled there to begin with. One might safely wonder why we belong in a five-sided shooting war where we don’t have a single clearly articulated national interest.
Just a thought.
We can’t say we weren’t warned against this sort of folly by our nation’s founders, and we should also immediately stop pretending that any relationship to the US government, for citizens and allies alike, is anything other than purely transactional. As the old joke goes: if you want to know who owns your house, stop paying your mortgage. If you really want to know who owns your house, stop paying your taxes.
Somehow, Americans have forgotten that government is always a hungry wolf, and the constitution is meant to be its cage.
I try very hard to come at these Running Iron pieces from some position of confidence. But I admit here that I am perplexed, on my back foot, and perhaps more than a little bit concerned that the locomotive of our nation actually HAS jumped the tracks and is now grinding up a dirt road. I’m not sure it matters anymore who is President, or who controls Congress. I think the institution smells like rotting flesh.
There is evidence elsewhere to support the idea. The state of California has now become, for all practical purposes, the first third-world entity in our republic, and the conditions there are primed only to get worse. The mismanagement of that once promised-land is so egregiously terrible that rolling blackouts effecting millions of people are not just temporary, they are the new normal—just as they are in Baghdad and Bangladesh. They aren’t magically going away – this is a severe and almost unbelievable infrastructure fail, and power outages lasting several days ARE THE NEW REALITY. Fires, land subsidence, the emergence of medieval diseases such as plague and leprosy on city streets oozing with human waste and needles and rodents, rampant lawlessness, an enormous tax-burden on the shrinking middle class to fund entitlement programs for non-citizen residents, air and water pollution, millions upon million of dollars in unfunded pension liabilities, and on and on ad infinitum. California IS the cautionary tale of the 21stcentury, though at least here in Oregon nobody seems curious enough to absorb the lessons it offers.
So, to work through these angst ridden days, I threw a gasoline on the fire by simultaneously deciding to quit my Copenhagen habit, and to wade knee-deep into a regenerative ranching business opportunity. These were positive steps, one for my long-term health, the other for food security in an age when almost everything meant to feed us – both mentally and physically — seems to contain massive doses of carcinogens. Perhaps you share some of my concerns. Perhaps you don’t. But I long ago learned, and was reminded recently, that a better part of leadership is to admit what we don’t know when we don’t know it.
And right now, I just don’t know. About any of it.