A new year is upon us and do we really expect better than last? Did changes take place on New Years Eve, or New Years Day, that would lead us to believe there is a marked reason for hope? After all, the Band U2 told us that “nothing changes on New Years Day” some time ago, and aside from the size of their bank accounts rising dramatically they have been mostly correct. But alas, why be so glum, sure nothing changes, but that also means nothing gets terribly worse also, one would think. Sure we have to live a while longer without world peace and a cure for cancer but we also seem to get to live a while longer without a new black plague or apocalyptic war. This is the silver lining in the meaningless cloud is it not?
Already we are steps closer to the end of president Obama’s reign or terror, or time of light and hope, or, more accurately, term of ambivalence and apathy. Alas though, it is almost at an end, regardless of your feelings. This means another election period will draw to a close. Endless debates and commercials and commentary on which of the flock is capable of running the nation into another term of ambivalence and apathy, or reign of terror, or light and hope, shall, briefly, draw to a close.
We still have the endless debates on myriad other subjects to keep us warm at night. Abortion, gun control, the 2nd amendment, marriage equality, the ACA, the social safety net, and the need for new wars to replace the old wars. We can all carve out our particular little clever niche in each of these questions that we believe shape our society and our very souls.
After all we are all special little snowflakes with unique and wondrous lives and minds that, when bent to our will, are capable of soaring to glorious heights and sinking to deplorable depths. Yes we are, aren’t we. Special little snowflakes. Snowflakes each as unique and glorious as those falling on any windswept mountainside. Snowflakes capable of turning a mountainside into a sparkling wonder to behold amidst the drifts while backlit by a stunning and full moon as viewed from the safety of a warm fire in the pleasant sleepy village below. Special little snowflakes on a mountainside that, when jostled, become a roaring, falling, aimless, thoughtless, mass. Special little snowflakes transformed into an avalanche of hate and fear aimed directly at the sleeping village below because the special little snowflakes in that village were not deemed the right kind of special.
The tides of war, the whims of Gods and generals, the aspirations of politicians and priests, are among those that have jostled the snowflakes of the past. The aspirations of one, or the currents of many, it matters little to the sleepy village when it wakes to find itself in the path of the avalanche. The only real question is how does one decide if you are the innocent village or the onrushing avalanche?
In our new year we currently have a group of angry white farmers in Oregon that feel they are the sleepy village, while to many other people they are seen as the jostled avalanche. Which side is right we all wonder? Well it depends on your point of view really. Are you prone to believe government is an evil entity bent on control and destruction or are you more inclined toward thinking there are right ways and wrong ways of protesting government actions and taking over federal buildings ranks as wrong?
The real issue stems from America’s original expansion westward. Often the government bought lands as we moved west. Often those lands were turned over to farmers and cattlemen and people making claim as the system was set up to do this. West of the Mississippi however, some of those lands were not valuable to farmers and such, so many were retained by the government. The government leases portions of these lands to farmers for grazing of cattle and livestock. The government, as any landlords would, expects these leased lands to be treated in certain ways and subject to their wishes. The farmers see these desires as interference and, being prone to anti-government ideas already, they respond with rhetoric and waving guns.
The land grabbing government conspiracy the farmers are on about though, never happened. The same exact process took place in the Midwest and went swimmingly as the lands were more desirable and farmers took the land grants as was intended. The real issue in the west is that the farmers didn’t want the lands in question. The farmers stance is that they do not want to pay upkeep or maintain the land but want full and unfettered use. Anyone paying attention should realize this is not a tenable position.
The farmers often claim the federal government should turn these lands over to the states, who the farmers feel would make better landlords I assume. The states cannot afford the upkeep and management of the lands however, and, in the end, it would merely give the farmers a new government entity to whine about. So to protest they turn into terrorists and take over a federal building on government land. They make public calls to militia across the nation to join them and make this a starting point for a stand against government things that upset them. They tell these people to come armed and ready. But the group yet to show up at this function is law enforcement.
I assume in an effort to avoid the disasters of the past like Waco and Ruby Ridge, the federal and local law enforcement agencies have sent no one. There is no stand off. There is at best a muted outcry from the public. In part though this has made the story a little more interesting. The government may actually be learning from its mistakes. But it raises new issues entirely.
Does this mean if you want attention you merely need to be white and armed and take over unoccupied buildings and it is OK? Are we so afraid of making martyrs that we have decided not to play? Does the level of public and law enforcement reaction work on a color scale like the terrorist alert level? Where once orange and red were the colors to fear it is now black and brown while the safe color is white angry redneck?
Before I go too far down that path though I will say that it serves the government not in any way to have a shootout with these people. It serves the government very little to explain reality to these people. These are people that decry the false figures that welfare of 47% of the population is a sucking hole on the economy, and yet yell at the government for not letting them have free and unfettered access to government land to supplement their income. Irony is lost on people of this type. I suppose I wouldn’t mind the opposing notions if they merely acknowledged they were idiotic.
In the end though who is the snowflake and who is the avalanche remains the question. There is no real answer. A glance through the wall of facebook on any given day tells you how each and every person with a comment feels themselves the unique and special little snowflake oppressed and discarded and mistreated by the larger entity of humanity itself. It is natural, I suppose, to feel we are special, and deserving of attention. Hell, I just wrote this so I must think I have something useful to say.
Nothing changes on New Years Day though. Nothing more than changes on any other day. What changes on a day though may not be perceptible as it is not the avalanche itself. The avalanche is mindless. The avalanche is a conglomeration of snowflakes that have abandoned their uniqueness for the comfort of conformity. What changes is the snowflake. The small special unique little snowflake can leave the avalanche. This lessens the avalanche, weakens it, imperceptibly at first. But as more unique snowflakes find themselves and leave the avalanche it becomes smaller and smaller till it is merely a snowball. The little sleepy village can survive the snowball.
So this New Year, when we look for, and ask for, change once again, maybe we need to look for that change within ourselves and not out in the world. If we can each change then slowly, imperceptibly, the world will follow. U2 may have had it wrong, each of us can change on New Years Day.