I know you’re busy there in Washington D.C., but I’d like to offer this little anecdote. It’s true it comes from Montana, with only four electoral votes, but still, it’s an anecdote about acting on principles and the positive, unexpected results thereof. It might prove useful to you in the next election.
I live in Helena, the capital of Montana. It’s a small town in big, empty state. I live a few blocks from the Capitol Building. My mother-in-law lives next door to the Governor’s parents. And just the other day my wife bumped into the Lieutenant Governor while standing in line at Safeway and had a chat about the symphony they’d both attended. The point is, everybody pretty much knows everybody. Events occur, and everyone can see for themselves what’s what. The media and polls and such don’t have much room to filter or reinterpret our reality.
The other morning I took my 13-year-old daughter and a few of her pals to the Helena Civic Center for the “Official Launch” of the new Montana quarter. The place was packed with thousands of schoolchildren and a dozen or so dignitaries. Luckily, we found a few empty seats up in the balcony, in between a few hundred fourth graders.
Though it interrupted their never-ending discussion of boys and clothes, I was glad I brought them to a happy, apolitical civil event. They listened to the high school bands and a Blackfeet folk musician play some music, none of which, thankfully, was hip-hip.
We heard Gary Marks of the Montana’s Quarter Commission make a funny little speech about coin collectors buying money with money and thereby never running out of money. Edmund Moy, Director of the U.S. Mint, spoke of his first trip to Montana as a youth, and his awe at seeing the sky filled with stars from horizon to horizon, and how it was a memory he had never forgotten. I swear the tears were ready to flow from his eyes. I know I got a little misty-eyed. Our charismatic Governor Schweitzer, wearing clean cowboy boots, gave a snappy, happy little speech to the kids about saving their Montana quarter (every child received one), so that when someday when they become grandparents they can show it to their ten year old grandchildren and share their memories of Montana. Schweitzer may be a true-blue Democrat in his day job, but darnit, you gotta love a guy who can speak heartfelt Montana-ese and get into the hearts and souls of a couple thousand school kids. Good for him.
But even in lonely, forgotten, four-electoral-votes Montana, the cancer exists.
In the midst of the speeches and non-partisan, communal coming-togetherness, a ragtag half-dozen protesters quietly walked across the balcony holding posters. Something about Big Skull Country (get it? Not Big Sky, but Big Skull?), murder, genocide, slaughter. They walked across and out.
A few state troopers appeared. The protesters appeared again and walked across. The troopers watched passively.
By the way, my thanks to the Supreme Court for allowing six people’s right to freedom of expression to trump the right of two thousand kids to peacefully and joyfully come together and …
Wait a ding-donged, dang-blatted Montana minute! The protesters weren’t obstructing two thousand kids. No! They were obstructing the views of a few hundred fourth graders in the balcony! And my view! And my daughter’s view!
Meanwhile, every adult pretended the protesters didn’t exist, that everything was really just fine, that there was no problem, no need to do anything. Much like you guys do in Washington, D.C. whenever Pelosi, Kennedy, Rangel, et al. get blathering. Something you learned from Bob Michel, no doubt.