Oregon Magazine

The Polar Bear Reverie ...

January, 2012 -- I am a writer.  It is a profession that can take you to distant places.  In this case, I  was on a summer beach at Prudhoe Bay.  There is no sand.  At these latitudes, this means weak tides and no storm waves, just ice sheets and for a while, ripples.  Nothing to bang the rocks together to make the sand.  The nearby pebble beach "grass" is called tundra.  If you stick your face down close, you can see Douglas Fir trees two inches tall.  Plants there grow close to the ground -- the only source of warmth for at least seven months of the year.

I had been looking at the arctic sun on those ripples and parsing the silence into its component whispers, then came awake to my surroundings because of the shadows moving around me in the magical glistening electric fog.   I couldn't tell what they were, but they were large, and moved without sound.   Back at the oil drillers motel the desk clerk told me that they were polar bears, heading for a spot where the killer whales drove seals onto the shore. I have no idea if that was an Alaskan tall tale. The only killer whales I saw in Alaska was a pod in the Inside Passage.  He also said it was odd that I hadn't been eaten.

So, what is happening around us in America?

Well, some of you read my January editorial.  You know that I believe that something approaching a majority of the voters in any large scale election do not actually know why they vote the way they vote.  Local is one thing, but large scale elections are not what they seem to be.  Not surface, things.  And, you know that I think that the 2012 decision has already been made.  Fred Delkin of this magazine was my boss at the old (Portland, Oregon) DT&J ad shop.  He worked on a lot of campaign stuff in his day.  I thought at the time that "his" advertising was instinctive, not analytical beyond the most blaring strictures, like age, gender and some sort of economic-class structure.  If I was correct, then he thinks my January editorial is so much crap.

Perhaps it is, and perhaps it isn't.

What I see going on around us is ghostly quiet panic.  It is hidden beneath the electronic fog of noise. The Left noticed 2010, after all, it seems, and is terrified to the marrow of their bones.  I have seen brief, quickly suppressed, terror in Obama, in Axelrod, even in the MSM.  The Right, such as it is in these parts, knows it has little chance, but hopes to pick up a legislative seat, a mayor, here and there.  From my view of things, they fail to see below the skin of politics.  When the local Right looks at the national scene, they see the forces of evil, a giant vulture rising up and glaring down on the nation, coaiescing its reserves, preparing for the Great Battle to achieve final victory over the founding dream of limited government, and the return to historic socialist  premises -- the rebuilding of monarchical controls over the irritating redneck farmers and their muskets.

Is it true that all is illusion? 

What isn't true is that this political illusion is opaque.  Practice, reason and the gift of interpreting the shadows in the fog provide suggestions from which guesses may be constructed.  The actions of the crowd at the recent FOX Republican debate gave us the latest insight into the species of the hunters in the fog.  They cheered in the dark: faceless, ageless, classless.  They confirmed the fears of the Left, which never speaks but knows the truth about Iowa and New Hampshire, and whose last hunt was a disaster.  Romney is their Manchurian Candidate.  South Carolina would be a good place to build airplanes.  That crowd was bad news.  The liberals are very hungry, and in doubt.  They are covering their fear with false bravado, and ready to drop into Darwinian theology, killing to survive, cheating to survive, to keep that 2010 disaster from happening again.  Before them, they fear, may be the lines of the patriots.  Farmers bearing old guns, untrained in war, without even uniforms, facing the greatest military on the planet.  People wearing coonskin caps can defeat the sophisticated army and navy that faced down the Spanish Armada and Bonaparte?

A local political tavern brawl starring John Wayne?

I see the Tea Parties.  An invisible army, walking the Main Street of Dublin, Ohio.  You cant tell them from a local insurance agent, because they are local insurance agents.  Nothing of a serious nature can come from such people in such unimportant places, right?  Their largest local college teaches the business of farming, yet they supply most of the soldiers in our various armies.  They couldn't find their way from the Upper West Side to the Bronx.  They love NASCAR and high school football, if you can believe it.  Some of them wear t-shirts with images of T-bow instead of Che Guevera on them.  Godawful hick people in godawful hick small towns next to coal mines, grain elevators and oil derricks.

You can tell they're not important because you never see them on television, except after disasters.


They believe what America used to believe.  You didn't see a single one of them in an "occupy" demonstration.  They were enlisting in the Air Force or the Marines, trying to keep their business afloat, aware of where their kids were -- at the time.  Their own parents grew barley, or worked at the local tractor repair shop and then farmed on the wekends.  They love fishing, Fourth of July parades, golf, football and/or go bowling most Saturday nights.

You can barely see their shadows in the national political electronic fog.  What difference could they possibly make in 2012?  They are ghosts of the past, and their voices are made of whispers about freedom and tomorrow.   They admire old white guys who wore wigs, and know their neighbors by name.  Who knows their neighbors by name in New York City?  What use could that be, knowing your neighbor's names?


2012 Oregon Magazine