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While filming the Len Babb Movie Project – we are eight months into this endeavor and making tremendous progress – cinematographer Sam Pyke and I have covered thousands of miles, visited six states, and interviewed some truly incredible Americans.
Perhaps none more so than Victoria Jackson and her family. Victoria is a Two-Time Ranch Rodeo World Champion, an accomplished photographer, author of two books, and an enrolled member of the Ft. McDermitt Paiute-Shoshone tribe.
Victoria lives in Elko, but wanted to meet us at her uncle’s ranch in McDermitt, Nevada, where we could film the family working together as they roped and doctored calves, and to conduct interviews in the comfort of the family home.
And so it was that, while we were out in the spitting snow filming Victoria’s uncles and her eighty year-old father, Al Jackson, roping calves in any icy pen – and almost never missing a heel shot – 3000 miles east of us a wild collection of yahoos were storming the walls and hallways of the US Capitol.
Out in McDermitt we were blissfully unaware of all that and our collective response upon learning of the mess was in full contrast to the high-pitched squealing, frothing outrage, and eyebrow shaving that has become the national response to virtually every new “crisis” fed to us via the 24 hour news loop.
I can assure you that all of that behavior in Washington DC – whatever piqued position you may hold on the subject –- looks very different from the middle of an Indian Reservation in the sagebrush reaches of the Great Basin.
That’s probably because the first victims of North American-style cancel culture – an abominable tendency that bubbles and seethes just under the surface of both major American political parties – maybe every political party everywhere — were the Native Americans.
People throughout our history have been so upset with the Native point of view, and their chosen manners of living, that native people have been starved, shot for sport, compelled to surrender their means of self-defense, force marched or entrained thousands of miles from their homes, stripped of their languages and religions by brute force, robbed or cheated out of their material possessions, and ultimately herded into government reeducation camps where many of their descendants remain today.
The reasons given then were essentially the same as they are given now to justify outright power grabs – the only thing that changes is which group of people is threatened with cancellation. And that way of thinking almost always begins with breathless references to the “public safety” trope. It’s alarming – at least it should be — to see some of those same ideas have actually been dusted off and publicly uttered by various power brokers, celebrities, otherwise rational people with a platform, and elected representatives — who see in the capitol riots not an on-going failure in their collective governance, but an opportunity to silence and destroy the opposition.
The response in McDermitt was no response at all. To get worked up over the events in DC requires at least some remaining belief that the American government is an effective and honest representative entity that works exclusively in the best interests of its people. Almost nobody in McDermitt believes that.
It isn’t hopeless in McDermitt, though it may feel that way sometimes. The suicide rate on reservations all over America is appalling, and folks in McDermitt – considered second only to Pine Ridge in South Dakota in terms of reservation poverty — somehow survive while earning far less than half the average national income. They don’t have a casino, can’t get one, have no water rights, can’t get them, and are so far away from anywhere the people living there are essentially an afterthought to an afterthought.
After several hundred years of ceaseless “cancelling” by the dominant culture, they have been locked into a cycle of poverty and despair with almost zero way to escape – which of course is the desired end-state of cancel-culture thinking.
Still, when we arrived at Arlo Crutcher’s place the family welcomed us with incredible hospitality, outdoing themselves with huge meals and a warm embrace of the Movie Project. Victoria, her father Al Jackson, and the Crutcher brothers: Rick, Arlo, and Brad, have spent the bulk of their lives riding for horseback outfits across the west – from the Big Boquillas in Arizona to the 3‑Dot in California, the ZX in Paisley, and of course the Nevada legends: The Spanish, the IL, and the YP.
Cowboying, and the Pow-Wow trail, they will tell you, have enabled their family to earn a living, to remain close to the land, and closer to their own traditions, which every American administration in history has attempted to erase in one form or another.
Often, in our interviews, folks will talk about how long their family has been on the land. That’s generally in the neighborhood of 100 years. Victoria noted without bitterness that her family has been on the land for nearly 14,000 years. And maybe because the tribe nurtures that longer view of things as a means of survival, we were able to let the outside world’s newest crisis go entirely to waste. Instead, we enjoyed two wonderful days of storytelling, feasting, laughing, and filming incredible scenes for a movie about shared values.
And sometimes we didn’t say anything at all. Sometimes we just stood together at the corral, with hot coffee and slow burning cigarettes, looking out over the horses and the desert and the unsettled sky. Sometimes we just let the wind do all of the talking and stood looking at the ancient mountains in the distance.
Modern “cancel culture” is to a certain degree is a product of people living too comfortable lives. They are so used to comfort physical and otherwise that they actually think that comfort is all that’s important. Thing is it is discomfort that allows you to grow as a person. This is a truth that major religions and philosophies have known whether it be Christianity or Roman Stoicism. I think there are elements in Buddhism as well.
I have a job that requires me to do a lot of physical lifting. I am a stronger person, both physically and mentally, because of that. (Though I am probably not as tough as any cowboy.) I also found that confronting ideas that make me uncomfortable has also made me a better person.
Craig Rullman says
Perhaps. There is a laziness and dishonesty that comes from toying with philosophies and policies that only disrupt other people’s lives. Cancelling a pipeline project, for instance, is a no-brainer when you have found your God in the new religion of climate science — yet another angry God that brooks no competing Gods — or have your head in the public trough, and will suffer no actual consequences from a lost career, displaced family, wrecked dreams, and so on. And it’s followed by the kind of hubris demonstrated by deep state ghouls like John Kerry who — resurrected from whatever graveyard he’s been sleeping in — flippantly suggests people thrown out of work should just learn to code while winging off in his G5. But the propensity to destroy, and by that I mean incarcerate, murder, “deprogram”, deplatform, and eliminate forever the opposition, is really a byproduct of intellectual and political fanaticism. Note that among the first bills introduced in this new era of fear-leveraging (now we should wear two masks, white supremacists lurk in every shadow) is a national gun registry bill, with a confiscation, taxation, restriction and licensing scheme so rigorous it can have but only one aim: the systematic disarming of a free people. These aren’t accidents of timing, they are a deliberate strategy whose only end result will be intellectual and physical enslavement to government. And it’s driven by a deep-seated arrogance and fear of freedom and ACTUAL diversity. We know what that ultimately looks like — from Auschwitz to the Gulag Archipelago, from Pine Ridge and Ft. McDermitt to Cuban prisons and the Uigher Internment Camps. It CAN happen here, and if many now in power — and the millions of “feel good leftists” who support them — finally achieve their aims, it just might.
Yeah, it’s a scary time we live in.
Craig Rullman says
It’s challenging, without a doubt. But one of the principles here is not to live out of a place of fear. Note the solemnity of the fellows in the water hole in the Remington masterpiece “Fight for the Water Hole” that we chose quite deliberately for this website. I recognize what I see to be extreme dangers to freedom — not mine so much because I’m a short-timer on earth and will happily fight and die for my beliefs, but my grandchildren who will probably not enjoy the freedoms I enjoyed in a country far less conflicted by extreme agendas — now mostly centered around tropes of “public safety”, “identity” and variously packaged marketing schemes they claim will “save the planet” from “crisis”. They are all demonstrably fraudulent, but provide reasonable cover for the puffy-jacket and mountain bike crowd so that they may feel less conflicted about their own confused principles. At any rate, freedom stocks don’t look like a must-buy ticket in the present market, which will continue to tank while the new regime attempts to achieve utopian ideals at the expense of actual dinner on the table. Alas, if anything, my daily struggle is to identify and track which new ivy league jackass is deciding which freedom they want to deprive me of, or take from me by force, or which wall they want to stand me up against during the big inquisition and “final solution” they are now openly writing about. I don’t fear them. I merely despise them, in the same way Sitting Bull despised the system that eventually murdered him. It is my life’s work to pass on to my child and grandchildren a respectable record of reasonable, functional answers to complex questions, and perhaps provide a legacy to my lineage so that they will know how and when to fight like a badger when finally pushed to that point. In the peaceful meantime I hope they will like chess, books, and fine wine, that they will appreciate Lincoln and the framers of the constitution, the constitution itself. I hope they can tie a few knots, enjoy fishing and hunting, change a tire, take a road trip without identity papers or a need to prove their “essentialness”. I hope they will want to open doors for ladies, give up their seats and their ears to elders, and eat last. I hope they can enjoy taking a horse from the halter into the bridle, and know how to execute failure drills with deliberate precision using whatever capacity magazine they want in whatever firearm best suits them. Oh, and hope also to endow them with a healthy sense of disrespect for political parties, the caterpillars of those filthy ranks, the entrenched assholery of government bureaucracies and its army of arrogant retirees and surrogates, and the institutions and mechanisms of raw power. They used to call that classical liberalism. Today it is apparently “right wing extremism.”
“I fight for my corner and I leave when the pub closes.” — Churchill, 1945
Craig Rullman says
I like that quite a bit. 🙂
David C Wrolson says
The thing that pisses me off the most about the religion of climate science is that “they” refuse to recognize that there are environmental costs to their choices as well. Now, maybe those costs are worth paying, maybe not-but it is not a fair fight when consideration of those costs are essentially off the table.
In my most cynical (and darkest) moments, I view it as an attempt to separate humanity from nature. If you are in favor of stopping climate change, you don’t have to actually think about nature. So what, if the California deserts are scraped clean of life to install a large solar facility?
Michael Shellenberger, author of Apocalypse Never, tells an anecdote of scientists, in tears, removing desert tortoises from the site of a huge solar farm. They basically said, are we actually doing the right thing?
One saying he said encapsulated my thinking on this: “Are we going to destroy the environment in order to save the climate?” Leaving aside the whole argument, whether or not it saves the climate.
Great points, David.
These issues are always very complex. Personally, I wonder how much natural resources will be used to provide power for electric cars.
Craig Rullman says
They will never, of course, admit to those costs because it doesn’t fit the business model. Which is a fundamental point. Green energy is a both a religion and a business model with some very powerful priests and bettors pushing for its success. Big oil will be replaced by big solar, or big electric, or big wind or, now that they are looking at trading water on the equities markets — and this is probably much more likely — the future will be dominated by Big Water. That will be particularly true here in the west, where vast portions of the Pacific Flyway have already been drained into desert (Olancha, California) the Central Valley has dropped 30 feet due to relentless pumping from the aquifer, and similar schemes to the nightmare of LA Water and Power are being implemented to keep the dishwashers running in Las Vegas. There is a middle road to all of this, but we don’t live in middle-road times. We are too busy hopping from one “crisis” to another, and being stuffed full of fear by those who stand most to profit from it.
David C Wrolson says
Craig, I am reading a book that I have mentioned in a couple of comments on FP. It is a perfect fit here at RIR. For some reason, I think of it more as a “Craig” book than a “Jim” book-LOL.
Anyway, one more for the stack “Why We Drive: Towards a Philosophy of the Open Road.”
Basically, about we are giving up in the push for driverless cars and related stuff on the philosophy of progress and nostalgia and so forth.
It is the only book that I have read with a pen in hand to mark the good stuff.
Craig Rullman says
Sounds terrific. I’ll check it out. Thank you.
FRANK JENSEN says
Another good story Craig .
Craig Rullman says
Thanks Frank, much appreciated.