Comment: “Sounds like you live with a most motley crew.”
Old Jules | January 20, 2018 at 8:27 AM
I wouldn’t say that….. there are some lowlifes, as there are in every community in the world. And there are some good folks. We’re just a community of a few hundred men and women who span the extremes of human failures and flaws, and probably have as many virtues as you are likely to find in your own community. The main difference is that the people living here are on the absolute bottom of the socio-economic scale, and we are almost universally veterans. And the road to the bottom of the socio-economic scale naturally includes the spectrum of human behaviors that can carry a person there. Vehicles. Higher on the economic ladder people tend to hide their flaws and human failures better because they haven’t started the downward spiral yet. But here, alcoholics and druggies and thieves can all find their brothers in failure.
You have been following this blog a long time. You can easily go back on the pages, or your memory of my road getting here and see it was fairly innocent, probably also inevitable. I was a man who wasn’t doing what everyone else does to avoid getting where I am now. And when the heart attacks hit, I was either going to die on the street, or move closer to where I am now by accepting Jeanne’s offer to die on her couch.
And when I didn’t die I became officially, a ‘homeless vet’. Here I am surrounded by other ‘homeless veterans’. They’ve all got their own stories. And I’m going to tell some of them. But don’t get the idea they are all as you probably categorize people because they aren’t.
The guy across the hall from me has two bronze stars from Vietnam, 75 percent service connected disability, and spent 13 years in prison for drugs before he got out on appeal. And he’s a good man, a worthy person, and someone I’m glad I have for a neighbor. Guy upstairs has been to prison too, white collar crime, and is struggling to stay alive and pay the rent. Good neighbor, too. Life isn’t as simple as we tend to wish it were.
We’re just you, here, and everyone you know in your secret selves, or some other time of your lives.
Because our flaws, weaknesses and lousy choices are the only things we humans share voluntarily. They’re the magnets, the star around which every ‘brotherhood’ of humans circle.
What can a person say about Spiro Agnew? Most of you readers are too young to remember the most well-known, most popular Vice President in US history. He served at a time when the US was torn apart by civil strife, an undeclared, unpopular foreign war, and a level of corruption in the Executive Branch few citizens allowed themselves to suspect.
Agnew. Forced from office for accepting bribes before, “Everyone does it,” became a defense.
But, of course, that was long before Iran-Contra, Bush 1&2, Billary Clinton, Blackwater, and the current king. Nowadays Spiro would seem clean, honest and soft-spoken. A pristine choice for wannabe king for either of the parties:
In April 1973, when revelations about Watergate began to surface, Agnew was the choice of 35 percent of Republican voters to be the next Republican nominee for President, while then-California Governor Ronald Reagan was second on the Gallup Poll. 
During his fifth year as Vice President, in the late summer of 1973, Agnew was under investigation by the United States Attorney‘s office in Baltimore, Maryland, on charges of extortion, tax fraud, bribery and conspiracy. In October, he was formally charged with having accepted bribes totaling more than $100,000 while holding office as Baltimore County Executive, Governor of Maryland, and Vice President of the United States. On October 10, 1973, Agnew was allowed to plead no contest to a single charge that he had failed to report $29,500 of income received in 1967, with the condition that he resign the office of Vice President. Nixon replaced him by appointing by then House Minority LeaderGerald R. Ford to the office of Vice President.
Agnew is the only Vice President in United States history to resign because of criminal charges. Ten years after leaving office, in January 1983, Agnew paid the state of Maryland nearly $270,000 as a result of a civil suit that stemmed from the bribery allegations.
Agnew soon found his role as the voice of the so-called “silent majority“, and by late 1969 he was ranking high on national “Most Admired Men” polls. He also inspired a fashion craze when one entrepreneur introduced Spiro Agnew watches (a take off on the popular Mickey Mouse watch); conservatives wore them to show their support for Agnew, while many liberals wore them to signify their contempt.
Agnew was known for his scathing criticisms of political opponents, especially journalists and anti-war activists. He attacked his adversaries with relish, hurling unusual, oftenalliterative epithets—some of which were coined by White House speechwritersWilliam Safire and Pat Buchanan—including “pusillanimous pussyfooters”, “nattering nabobs of negativism” (written by Safire), and “hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history”. He once described a group of opponents as “an effete corps of impudent snobs who characterize themselves as intellectuals.”
Good morning readers. Thanks for coming by for a read this morning.
I’ve been pondering this strange dearth of political bumper-stickers, which seems to me to be unprecedented for a year of national elections. Particularly contests over who’s to be king. Maybe it’s just the fact it doesn’t matter anymore. The scrapings of US production so far gone what’s left isn’t worth stealing.
But maybe there’s another factor at work.
One of the big let-downs of the post WWII era for kings, king-makers, wannabe kings and king-makers, war profiteers, and economic shell-game artists, was the citizenry. They were stupid, but not as stupid as they needed to be to satisfy the hopes and expectations of those who needed their [preferably active, but at leat tacit] consent to be gang raped.
By the end of the Vietnam War it became obvious that, aside from a few mindless flag-wavers and a re-definition of the word ‘patriot’, most of the citizenry wouldn’t support long-duration undeclared wars, for instance. Even when the body-bags only contained volunteers. Even when the sacrifices were disguised in exponential growth of national debt.
Frustrating, tricky business. Constantly having to dream up Wars on Poverty, Wars on Drugs, Wars on Terrorism to keep them from noticing their pocketbooks and jobs were going away. Convincing them the reason was undocumented workers, non-Christian religious fanatics, and the folks who couldn’t find jobs.
Maybe there’s just a growing realization within the population that it’s already been robbed of everything of value, that it allowed itself to be surrounded with cops, mercenaries, a huge prison system, sophisticated weaponry, and personal debt it can never repay.
And not a single name they could put on a bumper sticker who isn’t a part of what did it, will continue doing it.
Maybe they’re finally just saying, “To hell with it. They can kill me, but they can’t eat me.” At least not until someone discovers a way for politicians, bankers, multi-national chief executives, and dynastic wealthy to live longer by ‘donated’ body parts of the citizenry as a means of collecting personal debts or paying off national ones.
The man in this picture is my old friend Richard Sturm.
[Note: I’m going to edit this a bit before I post it to the So Far From Heaven blog, add and subtract a few hindsights and afterthoughts. Jules]
Richard died in December, 2004, in Port Lavaca, Texas.
Richard was a 100% disabled veteran of the United States Army. From 1964, until his death he spent his entire adult life in and out of Veterans hospitals. When he wasn’t in a hospital he was usually in a café somewhere drinking coffee and being friendly with anyone who’d give him the time of day.
Or he was with me, camping, fishing, seeing the sights, singing, passing the time. That happened less than he’d have liked, probably more than I’d have preferred in a lot of instances. Richard wasn’t an easy man to be around.
A while back  his brother and I were discussing Richard, and Vic remarked, “You never really saw Richard when he was at his worst.” I didn’t say so at the time, but I think I spent a lot more time with Richard over the years than Vic did, or than Vic was ever aware I did.
Aside from Richard, all those Sturms were super-achievers, and although I spent a lot of years from 1965 onward considering Vic among my best friends, he was a busy man. People sought him out. If I wanted to talk to him, I called him. Over all those decades I could count on one hand the times he initiated a contact between the two of us. “People call me. I don’t call them,” he explained to me once when I mentioned it to him. I’d guess that applied to Richard, same as it did to me.
But that’s digression, edited in this May, 2012, with a lot of hindsight.
Before Richard volunteered for the Army he was a patriotic youth, intelligent, dynamic, from a family of super-achievers. He graduated from high school with honors, well liked and respected by his teachers and classmates. A young man with a future. Then he joined the US Army.
In 1964, he was stationed in Massachusetts with the Army Security Agency. Without his knowledge or consent, he was selected for an experiment by the career military men who were his superiors. He was given a massive dose of LSD. He sustained permanent brain damage as a result.
Richard spent several months in a mental ward of an Army hospital, presumably under observation by the powers-that-be, to see what they’d wrought. Then they gave him is medical discharge, released him from service and from the hospital, and sent him home without confiding to anyone what the problem was and why it happened.
Several years later after he’d been examined, had his thyroid removed, given electric shock treatments, everything the puzzled medicos could think of to try and improve this mysterious condition, his brother, an attorney, came to suspect something of what had happened. The stories of events of this sort had begun to creep out of hiding and into the press.
A formal demand was made for release of his records, and finally the story came out.
Richard wasn’t injured defending his country. He didn’t get his skull fractured on some battlefield by enemies. He was betrayed by the career military men of his own country, officers and enlisted men, whom he’d given an oath to obey and defend. He served in good faith, and he was betrayed by his country.
Some have noted on the threads that I don’t have an automatic high regard for career military men. They’re correct. Richard’s just an extreme example of thousands of men who’ve been killed, injured, disabled by irresponsible, insane, and idiotic decisions by men who make a career of blindly following orders without thinking, weighing consequences, not feeling any remorse so long as they were ordered to do it.
Like good little NAZIs, Japanese, Soviets, Israelies, Americans, Cambodians, British, Africans, Chinese, Cubans, Argentinans and military men everywhere. Just following orders.
Support our troops.
2012 note: During a conversation with Vic in 2011, I mentioned the LSD experiment and Vic replied, “It’s a shame I could never prove it. Richards records were all destroyed in a fire at the Army Records Holding Center in the late 1960s.” Live and learn. Somewhere back there, I must have heard it from Richard, I came to think the records had been uncovered and it was established, official fact.
The hoopla about the dead cop in Tijeras got me thinking about my old friend, Mel King, and another dead cop just down the road from this one in Mountainair, New Mexico, in 1987.
That one changed Mel’s life in a multitude of ways, for all the remainder of it. I posted this on another blog December 21, 2005, the anniversary of his death:
If I ever write another book, Mel King will have to occupy a few chapters of it. I’ve mentioned him a few times on this blog, but mostly, I’ve not been able to write much about him at all. I’m still digesting what happened to him.
On one of the threads recently the discussion drifted to the War on Drugs. I suppose if I’d never met Mel I probably wouldn’t have thought much about that issue, would never have bothered to form an opinion about it.
But in many ways, Mel was a product of that war, from the time it began during the Reagan Administration, he was one of the adversaries. It changed him from a small-time marijuana growing woods-vet to a wealthy man. When the ‘war’ drove the price of jade sky-high he was approached by a number of ranchers in the area, asked to teach them how to grow weed in quantity. He became their broker, as well as a grower.
The War on Drugs involved Mel in a major felony arrest, confiscation of much of his property, caused the mysterious death of a police officer, got Mel targeted repeatedly on America’s Most Wanted television series, and constant harassment by the FBI, State Police and local police for the remainder of his life.
They wanted to believe he killed a Mountainair, NM, police officer because it was the only construction of the facts that didn’t expose the rotten core of the War on Drugs. If Mel didn’t kill that cop, another cop, or cops, almost certainly did.
Shortly before he was murdered in December, 2004, he showed me an anonymous, hand-written letter accusing him of killing the policeman and threatening to come balance it all. The undertone and nuances of the letter suggested it was written by another member of the ‘policeman brotherhood’ who wanted to even things out, not because he knew the dead cop, but because a person doesn’t get suspected of killing a cop and get by with it.
It’s time I began writing down a few things about Mel King anyway.
Mel King was a major, financially successful marijuana grower and large-scale broker in New Mexico for many years. During that time he was also a long-term heroin addict. (He first became addicted to morphine while in the hospital recovering from wounds he got in the Marine Corps in Vietnam).
The only way Mel got away with what he was doing for so many years was by being considered a complete maniac, and by making certain the authorities got their fair share of the proceeds. He drove around in a VW van with bullet-holes in the windshield from the inside.
When he got busted in 1987, with 150 pounds in his house it was because he made himself too big a nuisance to be allowed to go on. He was attracting too much attention.
But even so, he never came to trial. That 150 pounds of high-grade vanished from the evidence lockers. The empty bags with his evidence numbers on them were found in the home of the policeman who made the initial stop during his arrest. But someone murdered that policeman, probably for the marijuana, which is how they happened to find the empty evidence bags.
While he was in jail awaiting bail, Mel resolved to turn his life around. He freed himself from heroin and when he was released he started a successful furniture business, did his best to stay clean for the remainder of his life. Succeeded in being a trustworthy, successful man and one of the best friends I’ve ever had.
During the years I knew him, Mel was a deeply spiritual man. He was honest, guileless, hard-working, sincere, courageous, and in many ways, wise. We prospected a lot of canyons together, talked of many things over campfires listening to the wind in the pines. He was also my partner during Y2K.
Mel and I disagreed on many things, but he believed, as I do, that he knew what happens to a man when he dies. He never feared death and he never believed he’d done anything in this life to give him any reason to fear it.
Okay. What’s been on your mind this morning, the readership asks, me adroitly putting the words into the communal mouth.
In between working on other internet projects, I’ve been thinking about Discussion Boards and Chat Rooms. What is it about those things? What’s the appeal to us? Why do they so frequently erode into acid exchanges between the users? How do complete strangers come to have such a rancor for one another? And how to otherwise, probably nice enough people (they have to be… someone would have taught them manners if they behaved that way offline) come to have such nasty streaks when they wear a mask of anonymity?
I’ve seen discussion boards and participated in a few previously. In those days, a few people were still doing non-spectator things outdoors. Enough were, at least, to keep sites of that sort in business selling metal detectors, gold pans, books, sluiceboxes, dry-washers and whatnot. That’s when I first noticed this discussion board spinoff phenomenon I eventually came to think of as the snake pit.
People would come to the boards to learn about prospecting, about a particular lost mine, about some piece of equipment or other. But on any site there’d come a time when a specific group of individuals would just sort of hang out there. They weren’t there to learn, and they obviously weren’t there to share information. Mostly, they were just wasting time, disparaging people who asked questions, disparaging the attempts others made to answer. The snake pit.
These weren’t just trolls. They were men who knew the subjects the board was created to discuss. But treasure hunters and prospectors have never been long on the information-sharing business. So instead, these guys hung around blustering at one another, arguing which had the most skill with a metal detector, which detector brand was best. Online acquaintances who frequently hated one another and everyone else, but still hung around.
Mid-1998, I became convinced Y2K was an actual threat. That belief led me to another type of chat room. A place where people who believed similarly hung around to talk about TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it) and exchange information about Y2K preparedness. At least, that’s how it began.
Before too long we all discovered that, while we each believed Y2K was going to happen, to one degree or another, we had some serious rifts in the other aspects of our lives. Some were born again Christians who wanted to ask one another and answer one another whether this was going to be the Rapture, and if so, when it would begin, and what it would be like, both for themselves, and for the non-believers who’d be left behind to suffer it out on the ground.
That sort of thing. That, and just how bad would things get, post-Y2K. And how much a person should bet that it would happen at all. Attempts at risk analysis, though most of us didn’t know a lot about computers.
From mid-’98 until I departed for my woods-retreat mid-’99, I watched the Y2K chat room with a measure of awe, disgust, concern and wonderment. I watched those people who came to the chat room to learn become experts after a few visits (the fundamentals of preparedness were, after all, relatively simple). I watched the competition among the new survival experts when `newbies’ came to the chat room. People who’d just heard about Y2K and wanted to know more. The poor old newbies found themselves swarmed by all the old-timers who were, themselves, newbies a couple of weeks earlier. Everyone wanted to demonstrate his knowledge by telling some newbie about it all.
Meanwhile, the rancor, the snapping and snarling, the pro-gun/anti-gun, born-again/non-religious wars raged among those folks who came there first to just learn, who all had the same reason for their original visits. And, of course, the romances.
The snake pit.
So. How do strangers who have no reason to give a hoot in hell what one another think come to such a pass? What is it about discussion boards and chat rooms that draws people so closely into one another that they wish to apply pain, sarcasm, poison? That they actually allow the poison being spewed by the malignant random stranger to pierce their feelings?
Good morning readers. Thanks for coming by for a read this morning.
Old Sol and I continued our conversation from the previous morning yesterday.
“So. You’re saying you think I need more diversity in my art?”
“I’m sure as hell not saying you need more ego. You’ve got more than enough of that, what with your astrophysicists, Hopi Witch Doctors and Mayan-bean-counter buddies.”
“That was a hurtful thing to say. What are you so irritated about this morning?”
“I’m not irritated. Sometimes your bluster’s a bit tedious though. You’re forever trying to take credit for everything that happens, whether you had anything to do with it or not. But the most cataclysmic event, for instance, that’s happened since man has been around, you had nothing to do with.”
“Um. You’re referring to the megafauna?”
“Yeah. Millions of rhino, mammoth, hippos, sabre-tooth tigers all killed in the space of a few days. Lots of them frozen fast enough to keep them from decaying much. Carcasses stacked up like cord wood over half the planet. If you’re able to do that, big fella, I say go for it.”
“I never said I did. That wasn’t me. We stars are mostly uniformists, gradualists, except for a few rare renegade exceptions. We don’t go in for drama.”
“Okay. I’ll buy that. I envy you, though, getting to see all those giant beasties wiped out.”
“Yeah. It was a sight to behold. Just out of curiosity, what do you think happened?”
“It’s obvious what happened. All a person has to do is discount everything he believes he knows already that would keep it from happening. Then allow himself to look at whatever options are left on the plate. There aren’t many.”
“I’m about out of time. But you’re admitting the reason nobody looks at the obvious isn’t my fault?”
“No. I guess it isn’t. They’re all lap-dancing to their own agendas. Sometimes you end up as part of the agenda, is all. I reckons.”
Even the dispicable can’t always dodge the steamroller. Kaufman was rewarded, Greenglass spent a few years in prison, punctuated by testimonies before Congressional Committees to help forge a US package of ideas about a war on International Communism. Appropriate enough, liar lying to other liars to create a consistent set of lies. Not to suggest C0mmunists weren’t also lying. They mostly just weren’t elected and appointed officials sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States.
Federal Judge Irving Kaufman, who subverted the legal processes in his own courtroom to predjudice the jury in favor of conviction of both Rosenbergs, then sentence them to death in the electric chair:
In 1953, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were sent to the electric chair for stealing the secret of the atom bomb for the Soviet Union.
They were called the “Atom Spies,” and 50 years ago this summer, they were executed for giving the secret of the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union. They are the only Americans ever executed for espionage in peacetime. Greenglass was the star witness for the prosecution against the Rosenbergs – and he also happened to be Ethel Rosenberg’s brother. He served 10 years in prison for his actions as a traitor, and then changed his name and dropped out of sight. As he neared 80, Greenglass decided to break his silence. He talked only after 60 Minutes II agreed to disguise his face and voice.
His story begins in the summer of 1950 when the FBI took Greenglass in for questioning. He confessed almost immediately for spying, and quickly implicated Julius, Ethel and his own wife, Ruth. David and the Rosenbergs were arrested. Ruth Greenglass never was charged.
“That’s what I told the FBI,” says Greenglass. “I said, ‘If you indict my wife, you can forget it. I’ll never say a word about anybody.'”
It was quite simply his choice, he says today. So Greenglass says he turned on his sister to save his wife. “I would not sacrifice my wife and my children for my sister. How do you like that?”
Greenglass made his choice when America was at war with communists in Korea, and in fear of the Soviet Union, which had recently tested its own atomic bomb.
The four spies were unlikely actors in a Cold War drama: Julius was an unsuccessful engineer; Ethel spent most of her time raising their two young sons; Greenglass was a draftsman and a tinkerer; and his wife Ruth was a wife and mother. All had been ardent communists.
During World War II, Greenglass, then a sergeant, was posted to Los Alamos, the secret army base in New Mexico, where thousands of scientists and soldiers were building the atom bomb. Although he had a low-level job, Greenglass says he knew what was going on.
He says Julius Rosenberg recruited him to spy with a simple sales pitch: “He said, ‘We have to help our ally.'” By ally, he meant Russia. “Russia was an ally at the time, and that we have to help them with all the information we get.”
Greenglass told the FBI that he gave the Russians sketches and details on the device used to trigger a nuclear blast. But he says he didn’t enjoy being a spy.
“I was continually conscious of what’s behind me. I didn’t enjoy it. I just did it because I said I would,” says Greenglass.
Did he realize how dangerous it was? “I didn’t really think it was, because I didn’t think the Russians were an enemy,” he says.
His career in espionage came to an end soon after the war ended. Back in civilian life, Greenglass and Julius opened a machine shop together. They argued over the business, and over Greenglass’ growing disenchantment with Communism.
Four years later, Julius warned Greenglass that the FBI was on to them, and urged him to flee the country. Greenglass had a family passport picture taken, but he had no intention of using it.
“I didn’t want to leave the United States to go to some hellhole like Russia or China, or wherever the hell he wanted to send me,” says Greenglass. Instead, he took a bus to the Catskill Mountains. “I figured I’d find an obscure place. And I see that the FBI is following me. And they lose me.”
But he never made it to the Catskills. He went into custody instead. And within hours, he began cooperating with the FBI, sealing the Rosenberg’s fate.
He was the star witness for the prosecution at their trial, and he told the jury about his espionage, and described the activities of Julius, Ethel and his wife, Ruth.
He testified that one evening, he and Ruth brought sketches and handwritten notes about the atom bomb to the Rosenberg’s New York apartment. After dinner, Greenglass said they set up a typewriter on a folding bridge table in the living room, and turned his hand-written notes into a neatly-typed document for the Soviets.
Prosecutors asked Greenglass who did the typing. He said under oath that Ethel did the typing. His wife, who also took the stand, told virtually the same story.
That story was virtually the only evidence the government had against Ethel Rosenberg. But prosecutors argued that Ethel’s typing proved she was an active participant in the spy ring. After the trial, they admitted that without the typing testimony, they could never have convinced the jury that Ethel was anything more than the wife of a spy – and that’s not a crime.
Why did Greenglass lie on the stand? He now says Roy Cohn, an assistant prosecutor in the Rosenberg case, made him do it. Cohn went on to become Joseph McCarthy’s right-hand man.
Greenglass says that Cohn encouraged him to testify that he saw Ethel type up the notes. And he says he didn’t realize at the time the importance of that testimony.
But the jury knew how important it was, and found both Julius and Ethel Rosenberg guilty of conspiring to commit espionage. Judge Irving Kaufman imposed the death penalty.
Fifty years later, we know a lot more than anyone could have known in 1951. For example, we know that much of what David Greenglass said about Julius Rosenberg is true. It has been verified by other, independent, sources, all of which confirm that Julius Rosenberg was a Soviet spy. We also know that there is very little, if any, evidence that implicates his wife, Ethel, in any illegal activity.
But in the days before the execution, there were protests and vigils in New York, Washington and Europe. The Rosenbergs both claimed they were innocent, and many believed in them. There were a flurry of last-minute attempts to get a stay of execution. And there was no shortage of Americans who felt that justice was being done.
Up until the last minute, the authorities were willing to commute the death sentences if the Rosenbergs cooperated and named names. But they refused and were executed on June 19, 1953 – without ever breaking their silence.
Why did Greenglass think Julius and Ethel maintained their silence to the end? “One word: stupidity,” says Greenglass, who holds his own sister responsible for her own death.
But I promised a Denouement:
Of course, it makes no difference now. Any more than it matters who killed JFK, Robert Kennedy, MLK, and President Diem of Vietnam.
Doesn’t matter, really, any more than it matters that the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, the incident used to justify the US involvement Vietnam War, was a manufactured incident. A cynical lie to dupe the US public and arouse patriotic fervor. Same as the Rosenberg trial.
A pyramid of lies, once the foundation’s in place, builds on itself. Only the names of the liars and the names of the victims change. It’s only incidental that sometimes the victims are also liars.
If any lessons can be learned from it all it’s probably only that the romantic patriots can always be trusted. Trusted to believe the lies. The liars can’t trust one another, but they know they can always trust the romantic patriots.
The liars couldn’t succeed without them.
Today on Ask Old Jules on Facebook:
Old Jules, what’s your definition of an idealist?
An idealist is a person who locks his teeth into the ankle of an abstraction and doesn’t let go, doesn’t look for another ankle, doesn’t look closely at whatever’s above and below the ankle.
Hydrox jumped off my lap and stalked over to the bed.
“Sometimes you human beings disgust me with your pretense.”
Him being second-in-command around here, I try to keep him up-to-date on my thinkings and directions. Seems prudent to me because he’ll have to take over if I kick. I’d just been asking him if he thought we could get along okay living in a travel trailer.
“Just what ‘we’ are we talking about here? You and me? You and all the cats?” He glared at me. “You, the cats and the chickens?”
I shrugged, wondering where he was going with this. I felt a tirade in the making. “Just you cats and me. The chickens can’t be part of it.”
“Well, that’s a relief, anyway. But I think you need to think through this second-in-command crap and all the what-if-you-ain’t-around side of it.” He gestured with his nose toward the porch. “The only ‘we’ worth talking about involves mutual resolve. Creatures willing to allow the well-being of others within the ‘we’ to influence what they do. No creature unconcerned for the well-being of the others, no creature the others don’t have a commitment to, can be part of a meaningful ‘we’.”
I thought about it a moment. “That makes sense. It’s why I was trying to keep you up-to-snuff on things.”
His frustration was obvious. “Yeah, and that’s where you’re proving how stupid you are. For me,” He tweaked a claw under his chin, “the only ‘we’ around here is you and me. And maybe Niaid, just a whisker.”
This rattled me, but he went on before I could say anything. “When that coon on the porch ran at you and I jumped in, that’s ‘we’. When you go to town and buy food for us, that’s ‘we’. But do you see Tabby or Shiva the Cow Cat lifting a paw for me if I was starving? Do you see either of them jumping in if a coon attacked me?”
He waited while I considered it. “I suppose I don’t.”
“Then they’re not a part of any ‘we’ I belong to.”
The more I pondered it the more it seemed to me he’d come upon an important thread in the fabric of reality I’d been overlooking. Not just with cats and chickens, but with every piece of human intercourse around me most of my life.
When a person goes down to City Hall, or the County Courthouse to perform some necessary business, for instance, and the clerk begins the ritual of obstruction, a ‘we’ is in the process of being defined. The clerk is the spear-point for a huge ‘we’ of contradictory demands on the ‘we’ you occupy.
“Do you have proof of residence?”
“There’s my driver’s license.”
“That’s not enough. I need a utility bill or tax return.”
“I didn’t bring that.”
“Then I can’t help you.”
The ‘we’ that clerk represents just defined a boundary excluding you from that ‘we’ and placing you inside another ‘we’ it considers an enemy. And in a real world, that definition would be mutually recognized, rather than singularly by the human spear-point drawing the boundary.
Which is probably why representative democracy was doomed to eventual failure. In a fantasy of wishful thinking a population created ‘we’ with a set of unrealistic boundaries. When new ‘we’ entities developed around government centers those included in the ‘we’ tribes were those they associated with, lived near, shared a commonality with. In Washington, D.C. In Austin, Texas.
And inevitably those outside that ‘we’ became an obstruction, a product, an enemy to their ‘we’.
“The only ‘we’ worth talking about involves mutual resolve. Creatures willing to allow the well-being of others within the ‘we’ to influence what they do. No creature unconcerned for the well-being of the others within the ‘we’, no creature the others don’t have a commitment to, can be part of a meaningful ‘we’.”
Sometimes it takes an outsider to the human ‘we’ constructions, a feline with a firm hold on reality, to recognize the obvious.
“Electing pet skunks to guard the henhouse might work for a while. But the skunk-instincts and chickens behind the walls they’re guarding metamorphoses the ‘we’ they live in. The skunks become a we with a priority of digging under chicken-house walls and the we of being pet skunks fades until it no longer can call itself a we.” Josephus Minimus
74 years old, a resident of Leavenworth, KS, in an apartment located on the VA campus. Partnered with a black shorthaired cat named Mister Midnight. (1943-2020)
Since April, 2020, this blog is maintained by Jeanne Kasten (See "About" page for further information).
I’m sharing it with you because there’s almost no likelihood you’ll believe it. This lunatic asylum I call my life has so many unexpected twists and turns I won’t even try to guess where it’s going. I’d suggest you try to find some laughs here. You won’t find wisdom. Good luck.