On the Rez

Many moons ago when I lived on the reservation my Legal Service buddies John and Mark and I used to sit around Mark’s woodstove and make up episodes of an imaginary TV show called “On the Rez.” The story was that the Russians had conquered the United States — and finally got to the rez.

The cruel Russians had subjected the country to a military dictatorship. Americanskis lived under the whip, lashed by vindictive overlords. And when the colonels and generals occupied the rez and issued their harsh orders — nothing happened.

No one did anything they said.

The people didn’t actively resist — no clandestine meetings of armed revolutionary cadres. Nothing like that. The people just nodded, exchanged apparently blank looks, then ignored the New Bosses in Town. And life went on. And the New Bosses got furiouser and furiouser.

Perhaps late at night, sitting under the stars, a normal guy might make an offhand comment, in which no Anglo or Roosky would see any humor. No one sitting under the huato would laugh, or even smile, except with his eyes.

In many ways, I am living that show today, in Vermont.

True, the fifth-smallest state in the union is about as far as you can get from the nation’s second-largest Indian reservation, on the Mexican border, except that both are poor, economically, and beautiful, geographically, and rather isolated. But that’s what makes them similar. We have problems other than those of the cruel overlords.

The United States is being ravaged by insanity. Ignorant apparatchiks issue merciless orders and toadies across the nation crouch and say: “Yes, Sir. May I have some more?”

A few bold servants, perhaps a Democrat or three, might utter under their breath: “Please don’t kick me again.”

Except in Vermont. And, I wager, on the rez.

Insanity need not be contagious, if you can keep a decent distance from your neighbors. If you can be polite to them, no matter what their political persuasion, and even — and this is important — if you do not inquire about their political persuasion.

This is what used to be called common courtesy.

This courtesy used to be: In polite company, never discuss politics, sex or religion.

In most major U.S. cities today, so far as I can tell, it’s pretty much impossible to keep a conversation going without politics, sex or religion.

Not in Vermont, though. Vermonters are polite. A bit reserved, perhaps. Literate, of course. Whether they go to college or not, most Vermonters do their homework, respect their parents, and have the common sense to understand that insane people have problems too, and should be treated with respect — and left alone, until they become dangerous, and it is impossible to ignore them, and it’s apparent that they need help. Then someone, a family member, should get them help.

This is why the Trump insanity, so far as I can see, has not arrived to Vermont, anymore than the Russians ever arrived to the rez.

Because people who are literate, and polite, and who keep a decent distance from their neighbors — and know that they depend upon their neighbors — are not likely to fall victim to a galloping case of national rabies.

Vermonters know that it does no one any good to insult people — serially, randomly, for light and transient reasons, or for no reason at all — not if you hope to live with them in peace. Or to live with them at all.

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