On the Big Rez

     When I lived on an Indian reservation, the reprobate lawyers I hung out with and I tried to dream up episodes of a TV show we invented called “On the Rez.”
     The plot of the show was that the Russians had invaded, and conquered America, and enslaved us, of course – and finally got around to the rez.
     But every time the Russians issued an order on the rez, nothing happened.
     No one paid any attention to them. Life went on as it always had.
     That was as far as we ever got, as I recall. The show was pretty much the same every week.
     It may not seem funny to you – in fact, I agree, there ain’t much to it – but it knocked us out every time.
     There was nothing malicious about the benign dysfunction of government on the rez – it was rather pleasant.
     That may be the main difference between life on the rez and life for anyone who pays any attention today to our dysfunctional government in Washington, and the Republican Party Gauleiters who run it.
     It may be true, as Thoreau wrote in “Civil Disobedience,” that “that government is best which governs least.”
     But why must it be so unpleasant?
     Why, particularly in a government whose noisiest members are so ostentatiously Christian, must the process of governing so poorly be characterized by such relentless malice, such venom, so many castings of so many bogus stones?
     The Knight of the Sorrowful Countenance, the immortal Don Quixote, observed that “everyone hath sins of his own to answer for.”
     That sounds like a Christian sentiment to me; why do hear none of it from Washington?
     The sound of that sentiment, by the way, would be silence.
     The man from La Mancha also said that “it is not seemly that honest men should be the executioners of their fellow creatures on account of matters with which they have no concern.” Another bit of sound good sense, from a fictional character.
     One old fellow on the reservation compared the tribal government to a wounded duck. He said he was out hunting one day in a windstorm and he winged a duck, and the duck didn’t fall down; it just hung in the air, flapping its wounded wings, heading into the wind.
     “I think that duck is still up there in the same place,” he said, “just flapping its wings.”
     That’s a funny story on the rez. It’s not funny, though, that the people in charge in Washington today seem to believe – in fact, they say right out loud – that that’s what they think the federal government should do. Flap like a wounded duck.
     The people in charge in Washington are Republicans. True, the Democrats hold the White House and the Senate, but the Democrats are incompetent. They couldn’t even wing the duck. A modern Democrat would ask a Republican to load the shotgun for him, and he would hand the Republican the gun, and the ammunition, and steady the gun by jamming the barrel into his own gut while the Republican loads it, and primes it, and pulls back the triggers. And tries it out.
     That’s called bipartisanship.
     The rez I lived on is in southern Arizona. You don’t need much help from government there. You need to keep out of the sun in the summer, and you need a fire once in a while in the winter, and you need a ride to town sometimes, but that’s about it.
     But now I live in Vermont. It’s 9 below outside, and the wind is blowing, and there’s snow and sleet, and heating oil is expensive.
     And there are plenty of worse problems than the weather today, in this country and around the world. We don’t need a wounded duck for a government. A government like that would die, and it would deserve to.

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