Despite working at Fort Irwin 41 months for a Ginormous Government Contractor, I still live in the high Mojave Desert, and the support installation for retirees and vets is Fort Irwin, the National Training Center. It’s actually turned into kind of a showplace installation — big town center, most of the quarters are new and even the older ones have been seriously remodeled. One thing that amazed me when it opened in mid-2017 is the new Weed Army Medical Center. It’s a beautiful campus with a modern, state of the art hospital, pharmacy, and so on, lots of parking and a surprisingly beautiful bit oasis style desert landscaping that probably cost a few million bucks in itself. However, people going to the hospital are generally pretty depressed to begin with, and a slum-like hospital just makes it all worse.
Old folks like me will remember Madigan at Fort Lewis; the old Madigan was a single story thing with no parking to speak of and the potential to walk for miles to get from one place, say patient records, to another like where your appointment was. We left for Europe, and came back to a marvelous, state of the art creation that over 20 years after it opened still is a showcase.
Now Irwin is still isolated, still hotter than hell most of the year, and still in a lot of ways a dump. But, as the facility improves over time, there seems to be less attrition. I remember doctors resigning as soon as they could because they couldn’t stand to be there for another minute and if the Army wouldn’t move them, then they’d ETS. Lots of other people did the same thing. My current doctor responded when I asked how long she was going to be there said, “I want to be here for a while.”
OK, great. Except they now have something that is kind of scenic infestation that while not terribly problematic in some ways, might be if you’re not paying close attention. The cantonment area is now overrun by wandering bands of wild donkeys. Big suckers, that initially confused me because they appeared to be pretty well groomed. If you know they’re there, it’s kind of a neat, western thing but the first encounter is kind of odd.
Actually, they’re wild burros. They’ve been running loose in the Mojave since the Spanish stopped doing supply trains up the Camino Real when Mexico established itself as an independent Republic. I guess the Kings government didn’t have a retirement plan back in the 1820s. Fortunately for Burro kind, the high desert of California is pretty good burro country. Until you get killer weather, continuous drought years and problems with the water supply above surface. The burros in those years tend to wander down from the mountains and hit places where there’s food and there’s water. For a burro explorer, finding its way to a military installation’s cantonment area is about as good as it gets.
Kit Carson says in his biography that he much preferred mules and burros to horses. The horses weren’t as resilient and the burros, and weren’t as likely to go crazy when a bird flew up in front of them. And, he claimed that they tasted better, and cited various Apache and Navajo as agreeing with him. Carson remains an interesting figure in the American west, but he had an odd relationship with Native Americans. He remains probably the name most likely to be used to scare children in traditional Navajo homes; Carson as a Brevet Lieutenant General with a small force of Cavalry, Infantry, Indian Scouts and a couple of Mountain Artillery starved them out of the Arizona mountains they have called for centuries home and forced marched them to Fort Pecos, Texas, where they remained until they were eventually allowed to return to the mountains of Arizona. He killed many Indians in combat, and was considered a great warrior.
Carson was a pragmatist and wasn’t all that happy with the legend that built up around him. He also felt strongly that the tribes needed to be on reservations far from the white man, because he felt that the majority of Indian uprisings and attacks on settler came as a result of desperation and fear of dispossession and extinction.
Kind of what seems to drive the supporters of our only, such as he is, President. Speaking of whom, well, it’s complicated.
Tonight’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donohue led with current polling that shows that the recent statesman like behavior of the Orangutan-Mantee Cross has inspired 64% of Americans to say that they are ashamed to have Donald Trump as president. More to the point, the proud category is 32%. I find this confusing, and I’m guessing the others are kind of ashamed or kind of proud or don’t know who Donald Trump is.
I haven’t read the latest books, although I did just order the Woodward book, Fear-Trump in the White House, from Amazon for Kindle. Rick Wilson’s Everything Trump Touches Dies – A Republican Strategist Gets Real About the Worst President Ever -is already on the Kindle, waiting to be read. There’s just so much.
The problem that we have is not the President; the problem is the Republican majority in the Congress and frankly, I’m stunned by that. Of course, these are not the same Republicans that I grew up listening to me preach about the grasshopper and the ants, or that George McGovern was a Communist, or that you couldn’t trust anybody who went bankrupt unless there was a depression. This is a new breed of cat, a rather stinky cat that lashes out at it’s normal friends and prefers to hang out with it’s natural enemies. I remember a young woman who used to work for me back in Indian Country came into work with a great story about why she’d just gotten a rabies shot. She’d been planning on spending the night with her Mom, and her contacts were bugging her so when she parked the car in the driveway, she took out. She then walked up to the porch and say her mothers very sweet and loving cat sitting on the rail and went over and hugged the…Possum. Who reacted as most wild animals who are not really people friendly, and bit her then scampering off to bother some other human. Well, we did hope she got better, but then laughed our asses off. (No burro pun intended.)
The problem that I see is that we have a really corrupt system that was foreseen by the Founders, which has developed only as a result of the dangers of Factions. Hamilton in The Federalist No.9 was almost poetic about the dangers of Factions; Madison in No. 10 was concerned with how to mitigate the problem.
Madison defined a faction as “A number of citizens, whether amounting to a minority or majority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion or interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.” (Madison p. 1) Factions can be compared to the modern day lobby group; or as groups of people with a common self-interest.
I find the Bartleby citation interesting because I have never heard the idea of faction as being the equivalent to the Chamber of Commerce or the Heritage Society or the American Legion. Rather, from the beginning of the practical issues surrounding this in our government, factions have represented in most minds the problems of Political Parties. We see really brought to the fore by the Republicans who have embraced Kim Jon Un and Vladamir Putin and have not condemned the President’s approach to, oh, France — anyone remember Freedom Fries? — or Great Britain, or NATO. Or, for that matter, morality, security, Gold Star Families or the National Anthem and God Bless America…because he doesn’t understand what the words mean, because Donald Trump is the world’s most successful solipsist. He has become the head of the world’s oldest and greatest Republic by ignoring or insulting all those things. He is the ultimate Heather from Heathers.
Why did this happen? Well, like Carson’s vision of the tribes rebelling and attacking settlers because they became convinced that the local white communities were a dire threat, Trump’s voters bought his idea that they were losers not because of things beyond control like the laws of physics, of climatology, of economics but because some identifiable person was out to screw them. It’s a really tempting way to avoid responsibility, but it doesn’t really work; if there’s a problem, you really need to do something about the root causes of the problem. Trump just points at something obvious, bright and shiny and yells, and these folks agree.
What’s dumbfounding is that the Republicans keep generally marching in step with him. However, after the end of the Soviet Union and the Obama victory — seismic shocks seperated by about fifteen years — the Republican party had lost a lot of the reason for it’s existence. Communism wasn’t a threat anymore; Russia was trying to be a capitalist country…if a Kleptocratic failure is an example of a Capitalist country. John McCain said at various times and was quoted more often than he said it the “Russia is a gas station with nuclear weapons.” At the top, Russia is a great economic success; at the middle, it sucks. At the bottom, it’s hell.
Many of us at Vets have Russian friends and acquaintances. I hear frequently from a surgeon who graduated at the top of her class and is now the deputy in a area medical center. She makes $528 a month. What the hell…that’s success. Pensioners are looking at, if they are lucky and get anything, about 10% of that.
So, we’ll see. But, let’s just say that we need to do some re-thinking to understand the mess we’re in, and as Obama points out, Trump is not a cause, he’s a symptom. So, what kind of situation results in the avowed party of the responsible adults in the room to lose all connection to the world in general? What leads the avowed party of idealists and world changers to avoid doing anything that even looks like trying? Ben Sasse said it pretty well this past weekend.
Let’s look at that, shall we? — To be continued