Steve Daines is a Coward

Yesterday I attended a rally in Helena, the Montana state capital, to protest the failures of our junior senator, Steve Daines, to adequately represent the people of Montana. The shutting down of Elizabeth Warren is probably his most infamous recent example. He also supported Betsy DeVos (of course he did — she contributed $46,800.00 to his campaign) for Unites States Secretary of Education. Ugh, I want to hurl for having just written that. Haines has voted in favor of everything Trump has done. Essentially, he’s the worst.

Daines was scheduled to address the Montana legislature yesterday, but he pushed it back to today because he didn’t want to face the protests. From what I hear the good people of Helena and surrounding areas will be waiting for him today as well. I have mixed feelings about these rallies, but still, I wish I could join them. Here are some shots from the afternoon.

Bazaar of the Bizarre

Saturday I stopped at the Albertsons to pick up a few groceries. As I was standing in the aisle, puzzled, trying to make the correct choice from the various brands of organic quinoa on offer (who am I kidding, I was in the candy aisle trying to find the best price-per-pound available on dark chocolate), I became aware of a conversation happening just a couple strides to my left. An Albertsons employee — a young woman, maybe late-20’s/early-30s — had a table set up where she was giving samples out. She was engaged in excited discussion with a man who looked old as dirt, but in reality was probably my age, if not a little younger.

They were discussing our 44th and current President of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama II.

I don’t like to talk too much politics or religion around here, but I can’t not talk about these two. I couldn’t hear the woman so well, as she had her back to me, but the man was reasonably audible as he was facing me. I couldn’t pick up every word, but the gist of his points were this:

  • Obama is a proven, and self-admitted, Muslim
  • “What are people going to do when he ‘dies’,” the man said, making air quotes with his fingers, “and rises again as the anti-Christ?”
  • A minute or so of explanation about all the events detailed in the Quran that line up with things Obama has done that prove he is, indeed, the anti-Christ, and will, indeed, rise from the dead
  • A moving statement about how much he feels sorry for people who can’t see this truth, particularly because they aren’t acting with their own minds and are essentially zombies
  • “They’re brainwashed!” I clearly heard the woman offer with particular enthusiasm, like the child who suddenly finds that, against all odds, she has the answer to the question the teacher throws out to the room

There was more, but I didn’t stick around to listen; I’d found the chocolate I was looking for. I considered politely interrupting and asking, “Excuse me, but you people don’t actually believe this horseshit, do you?” But I didn’t, I just went on about my business of driving home, followed by cruising the park with my hot undead wife looking for brains of the living to dine upon.

Look, you ask me, and I’m going to cop to believing in some crazy stuff. Aliens? Who doesn’t? Bigfoot? Are you kidding me, of course! But I’ll say so with a twinkle in my eye, parrying a “But science has never proven they exist!” with “AHA! But it hasn’t proven they DON’T either, so FACE!” There are things I believe in because I want to. It makes life more interesting. More fun!

You can say the same thing about religion. If faith brings you comfort, if you can be peaceful about it and not try and force your ideas on me, I’m totally cool with whatever gets you through your day. Truly. There are plenty of solid teachings there that, if more people followed them, the world would probably be a better place, and I think some people find a much needed community in faith. Peace and love; do unto others; and it harm none, do what you will shall be the whole of the law.

To me, believing in the existence of some large, hairy, unseen denizen of the Pacific Northwest isn’t so different from believing in, I mean literally believing in, the majority of the characters in the Bible, right up to Jesus himself. There’s more valid scholarship questioning his actual existence in fact than there is proving Sasquatch doesn’t exist, for that matter. But hey, whatever floats your ark. Like I said, it doesn’t matter to me one way or the other, as long as you don’t try pushing others around with your beliefs. It would help if you stay away from all the stoning and murder and all that other creepy shit those old bastards snuck into the holy text too.

Still, when faced with zealotry and ignorance like I overheard in Albertsons the other day, it blows my mind and is a little frightening. To think there are people that actually believe that stuff, in the USA, in 2014, is amazing. I don’t know how they manage it. Look at the statistics for the USA these days for how many people believe in some of these wackier ideas, or don’t believe in others — particularly as it relates to little things like evolution and/or climate change, “theories” that are as close to scientific fact as little theories like, I don’t know, GRAVITY — and then you will know why I feel like we are pretty much doomed.

As for Obama, well. I see my share of stupid bumperstickers, email jokes, whatever. The racist ones in particular make me shake my head. When you play that stuff you’re poking fun at a guy while displaying your own vastly underdeveloped intellect. I’m no fan, didn’t vote for him (I haven’t voted either R or D in the presidential election since 1996, but this being Montana, with all of two electoral votes, my vote in that particular race means do-dah anyway), but I wouldn’t say for all of his disappointments it’s not like he’s failed in everything. He’s about what I expected, which is why I never got on his bandwagon.

The political discourse toward the man has been enlightening as to how screwed the USA is these days. I don’t see it changing. I just hope we don’t run out of brains to feed on before Obama comes back from the other side with hellfire in one hand and shark mouths for fingers on the other. Politics in general, for crissakes. Is there a larger group of mostly old, mostly white men who are more out of touch with the rest of us than those we elect? We pretty much have the country and government we deserve. Kudos to those people who still have the energy to try and change some things here and there.

 

A Conversation About Freedom

This conversation from a book I was fortunate enough to receive an advanced reading copy of, Cry Father, by my friend Benjamin Whitmer (due in September, so pre-order now!), was on my mind this past Friday. The 4th, of course, being one of those holidays with an overwhelming “You’re either with us or against us!” tone as it relates to the qualities of our beloved United States of America. Lest I be accused of being less than grateful for the cosmic good fortune of being born within these borders, I will say I love a hot dog, a cold beer, and a pretty, well-endowed girl in a stars-and-stripes bikini top as much as the next guy. But, you know, I’m not on board with a lot of that other stuff people seem to feel obligated to say about how “free” we are in this country.

Rather than rant I’ll leave it to fiction. This excerpt is a conversation in a bar between a crooked border patrol agent (Carmichael) and the book’s primary character (Patterson), in a bar. Technically I’m not even supposed to excerpt this book because it isn’t the “finished” copy, but fuck it. This is good stuff.

9781476734354_b0410“You really Border Patrol?” Patterson asks. He knows he probably shouldn’t be asking questions, but he can’t help it.

“Remember the Alamo!” Carmichael yells. Every head in the bar snaps around. He flashes his badge and they all return to what it is they were doing. “I’m fucking with them. I wouldn’t bust them on a bet.” He sighs happily.

“Isn’t that your job?” Patterson asks.

“On the clock.” Carmichael shrugs. “These’re the only things keeping us free, these places.”

“How do you figure?” Patterson asks.

“Think about it,” Carmichael says. “You’re out on the street, you’re on somebody’s radar all the time. And you’re always breaking the law. You know why?”

“Why?”

“Because there’s too many of ’em to count. There’s laws about everything. Smoking. Eating. Mattresses. Even crossing the street. You know how many laws apply to you in Mexico when you need to cross the street?”

“No idea,” Patterson says. “I’ve never been to Mexico.”

“None, that’s how many. In Mexico, if you need to cross the street, you cross the street. They figure if you’re a fully functioning adult you can probably make it across a street without state intervention. That’s freedom, son. And it ain’t here. Here they’ve got things like jaywalking ordinances. If you can think of anything more insulting to your freedom I’d like to hear it.”

“I’ve thought about it.”

“Think you could name all the laws you’re subject to? Right now at this very moment?”

“No,” Patterson says. “No idea.”

“Fuck no, you can’t. Nobody can. You couldn’t follow all the laws if you tried. You can take it from me. I can’t even name all of them. If somebody wants to put you away, they don’t have to invent a reason. They can just scan through the law books, find one or two you’re breaking, and there you are, you sorry son of a bitch, you’re in jail. Because they’re always watching you. You can take that from me.”

“They hate us for our freedom. That’s what I heard.”

“Horseshit,” Carmichael says. “That’s one thing about Mexicans, we hate them for their freedom. That’s what all those peckerwoods down on the border with their rifles and their lawn chairs are protesting. That somebody has the right to just act like they’re free. To go wherever they want, freely. Drives them bugshit. I know, I have to deal with them.”

“So why is here free?” Patterson asks. “Why this bar? It’s in this country, subject to the same laws as everybody else.”

“No it ain’t.” Carmichael shakes his head. “Nobody’s watching here. You’re invisible. None of these fuckers even exist. They can come and go and nobody even notices. Nobody wants to notice. This country hums along on the simple fact of them not being noticed.”

“They’re free because they don’t exist?”

“Exactly. There’s nobody watching them, and when you’re in one of their shitholes, there’s nobody watching you. With them it’s almost like you’re living in America.”

“You really do love your job.” Patterson’s a little impressed.

“Fuck yes. I love every one of these little son of a bitches. Those who think they’re protecting America by keeping these people out, they’re full of shit. There ain’t no America left in the places they’re protecting. Their fucking malls and their fucking crosswalks and their fucking subdivisions. Freedom’s something that’s been designed out of those places.”

 

Shut ‘er Down, We’re Outta Here

You know, every day since this whole stupid government shutdown thing, one or two new items pop up that aren’t functioning because of it, the latest being the non-payment of death benefits to the survivors of fallen military members. It’s illegal, apparently. Yet shutting the government down isn’t. Hmm. Seems like their should be a few heads on pikes out front of Congress, if you ask me.

Plus we can’t go to any of our National Parks, which means all the businesses that rely on that tourist traffic are suffering for it. The bullshit list is extensive, and it pisses me off. What is particularly ridiculous to me is the shock that so many folks display when they hear about something no longer functioning because of the shutdown, which leads to this amazing revelation:

The Government Actually Does Stuff

I would expect that the majority of the assholes who drove this bus into the ditch don’t even fully understand what the shutdown means, because their lives, so divorced from the reality that the rest of us live in, remain pretty much unaffected. It makes me angry, but I’m always angry when it comes to politicians — both Democrat and Republican (though in this particular example I hold the Republicans 100% to blame). It’s led to another pretty amazing revelation, at least among people with brains:

It’s a Bad Idea to Shut the Government Down

Though I would add this addendum to the previous:

Unless it’s with Pitchforks, Torches, and Guns

Finally, spend a little time online in social media, or reading comment threads on any of these issues (or on anything, really), and people with brains will also (hopefully, but not often enough, unfortunately) be reminded that:

Arguing on the Internet Makes Everyone Look Like An Idiot, Especially YOU

Yes, it does. Always. Without fail. There is nothing to be gained from it. But some people really seem to get off on it, because they do it. A lot. I can only shake my head. This whole episode has not only made me think less of the people in government, but also for a lot of other plebes like me. It’s depressing if you think about it enough.

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Literally One of My Favorite Local News Stories of the Year

This is the headline over at local political blog 4&20 blackbirds:

School Board Member Nancy Pickhardt Resigns, Blames Missoulian Reporter

You must realize any story that’s got an elected official leaving a “You can go fuck yourselves!” voice mail on the home telephone of a citizen is going to be right in my wheelhouse, don’t you? Go check the story out for yourself!

Ah, school board members. Delusions of grandeur a little bit now and then? This stuff just kills me.