Excerpt from the wonderful feature profile “Peter Matthiessen’s Homecoming” in New York Times Magazine, April 3, 2014, by Jeff Himmelman, published just days before Matthiessen passed away.
I wish I could say I’m surprised this morning, but I’m not. Really not at all. Disappointed, yes. But certainly not surprised. Here is the late Joe Bageant talking about his book Deer Hunting with Jesus. I wish everyone would read it. He nailed it years ago, and it’s still true today.
Most of us live in these little bubbles of our own making, where we insulate ourselves with people who think like we do. Particularly in Missoula, which is a tiny Blue oasis in a seething desert of angry Red, it can seem like everyone is suitably progressive. We laugh and drink our fancy beer and enjoy our hip clothes and our coffee and our farmers’ markets, until it comes time to leave those comfortable environs. Because out of town it’s a different story, and we all tend to roll up the windows of our Subarus, crank up the AC, and just get from point A to point B as quickly as possible.
In the nine mile drive I make between my house and town every day, I don’t recall a single Hillary sign. Or a pro-Democratic candidate sign, period. It’s all Republican. Take any of the blue highways and frontage roads around the interstate and it’s the same thing. That’s the reality of Montana, and it’s a kind of little microcosm for the country as a whole. None of these folks care about endorsements from the likes of the New Yorker or the New York Times, or any of those sources that made so many seem to feel Clinton’s victory was guaranteed. Rural folk feel abandoned, and they are likely to vote for the candidate who seems most interested in smashing the status quo.
Trump didn’t win, he merely received what was handed to him. The Democrats lost this election long ago. They have become every bit as much a part of the moneyed elite as the Republicans, they just go about it differently. We have accomplished some great things socially under Obama, some truly necessary things. But I wonder how much of that is a calculated smokescreen to keep us on the Left appeased? Meanwhile the gulf widens between the haves and the have nots. My health insurance – even with its sky high deductible – literally became unaffordable overnight last week and I don’t know what I’m going to do. Probably die young(ish), heh. Climate change continues to be something we don’t discuss at the highest levels of political discourse, and I blame Obama largely for that for not steering the conversation vigorously the past eight years. Where has he been on Standing Rock? Where was Hillary? What about public land being turned over to private interests? Continued war? Obama has been no dove, and Hillary certainly isn’t. All of these concerns, the ones I hold most dear, were things I was going to have to be angry about and fight for even in a Clinton presidency. For me, not a lot has changed all that much. It all just has an uglier face on it.
It doesn’t mean I’m not sad, though. Sad for my women friends, sad for my friends of other races and cultures. Sad for how this country looks to the rest of the world today. But it’s where we are. It’s like checking my bank balance. I don’t like looking at it. But I have to now and then to be reminded I need to fucking work harder.
Today is my friend Jenny Montgomery’s birthday. It also happens I have a Q&A in this week’s Independent in support of her pop-up poetry/art installation at Radius Gallery called “Hatch.” You can check out the interview HERE. Meanwhile, an excerpt:
Jenny Montgomery’s Radius Gallery pop-up show, titled Hatch, explores the parenting of her son, who was born seven years ago with no signs of life. Nurses at the remote, rural hospital revived him and he was immediately whisked away from Montgomery and her husband, Ryan, to a large urban facility where modern technology enabled his survival. Hatch documents Montgomery’s experience, substituting the medical jargon and technology with images and poetry. It’s an exhibit that touches on ancient ritual traditions surrounding death and the afterlife, the romantic idealization of childhood and the near-fetishization of medical “cures” and pharmaceuticals. We spoke with Jenny—you may also know her as co-owner of Montgomery Distillery—about this intensely personal exhibit and her uncommon son, Heath.
I’ve gotten to know Jenny fairly well over the past couple years. She appeared in the DonkeyGirl fashion extravaganza “Two-Wheel Nation,” she modeled for me at last spring’s fashion shoot for the Indy’s “Spring Fashion” insert, and she also modeled at the Betty’s Divine “Dysfunctional Family” shoot we did a few weeks ago. She plied me with alcohol at the Beargrass Writing thing last month, and just last night hung out with me at Chris Dombrowski’s book release party held at Montgomery Distillery. Jenny is one of my favorites. Everyone should be lucky enough to know her.
Ken Burns did his film series on America’s National Parks, and he did a very fine job; he calls it ‘America’s Best Idea.’ Even on the back of my book it says ‘America’s Best Idea.’ But I quarrel with that phrase. I don’t think it was ‘America’s Best Idea,’ there were some other very, very good ideas that America had like constitutional democracy; like government of the people, by the people, for the people. What Yellowstone is, is a good idea that has gotten much better and a big idea that has gotten much bigger. But it didn’t start as a great idea.
The following are some shots from Quammen’s event at Fact & Fiction last Friday night. The man is an excellent presenter, even with a technical glitch here and there. The discussion was entirely about Yellowstone, and I found it fascinating. If you ever get a chance to attend one of Quammen’s events, I urge you to do so.