Getting Jabbed In The County Seat

Among Thoughts Of Confederacy

THE VACCINES are federal but the vaccinations are local. I was wondering how the two levels of government were meshing as I began to roll across the San Luis Valley to the community center in Saguache to get the first of my covid jabs, as the Brits call them. (We call them shots, but that word has to be shared with bartenders, photographers and gun-owners.) In Colorado half the jabs are being done by hospitals, but Saguache County has no hospitals, or for that matter, no Walgreens.

It was the day after the assault on Congress, so it seemed significant that the graffiti “1776” sprayed on the backside of the white monolithic Crestone-Baca subdivision entry monument had been painted over. The code was obvious. The American Revolution.  Sen. Ted Cruz in his mob-rallying cry had evoked Valley Forge, where Gen. George Washington trained and motivated the Continental Army. An irony of that false equivalence was that the Father of Our Country, by all accounts, was so much a hero that he could have been president for life, but for the good of the young democracy he demurred after one term and rode home to Mount Vernon in a snow storm. (What a loser, Huh, Donald?) Another fallacy of the new call to arms is that the 1776 Declaration of Independence was factual in its list of complaints against King George. The Trumpist complaint that the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent is a mass delusion.

As I turned left at the monolith I was thinking that a more appropriate year for a number code might be 1861, when the Southern secessionists fired the first shots of the Civil War at Ft. Sumter. Some of the participants in our Trumpist insurrection 159 years later wore shirts that said “Civil War,” and a Confederate flag was paraded through Statuary Hall, where each state gets to place two statues. Ordinary visitors pass through it on their guided way to the new video theatre where they are (or were) shown a film about the highly secured Capitol in lieu of further touring. When Patricia and I visited five years ago I almost got arrested for my attitude toward a plainclothes screener at the visitor entrance to the domed Capitol. I asked if I could keep my small nail-clipper knife, and he said no. I asked what he expected me to do with it, and he pointed to the trash can. Instead I gave it to a woman waiting on a bench who said she’d hold it till we returned. The detective reported this to a collection of uniformed Capitol Police officers at the inspection gate, but they just shrugged.

I accelerated for the 30-mile dog-legged two-lane drive to Saguache, the county seat, recollecting the ironies of security enforcement. The first few miles of Saguache County Road T go along the fenced northern boundary of the 80,000-acre Baca National Wildlife Refuge, and I always wonder here if Cliven Bundy and his arms bearing friends could occupy it.  They got away with their 41-day occupation of the Malhuer Wildlife Refuge in Oregon after federal officers stood down in the earlier confrontation at Bunkerville, Nevada. A High Country News writer argues the Jan. 6 Capitol assault was in this Old West-Sagebrush Rebellion tradition:  lawless appropriation of federal property by anti-federal opportunists. Federal government is not Confederate government.

The 14th Amendment, barring from office anyone who once swore to uphold the Constitution of the United States and then “engaged in insurrection or rebellion,” was pointed at the defeated exponents of the Confederate States of America. And now the Democrats and a few Republicans were trying to point it at Trump, the last of their strategies to bar him from running for president in four years. Dispensations were available to esteemed Confederates by two-thirds votes of Congress, and some put the certificates on their mansion walls. Others who could not tolerate Reconstruction went West. In Montana they joined the vigilantes who had already hanged a sheriff and his gang to establish political dominance. Among America’s new vigilantes on Jan. 6 were those who waved nooses and talked of hanging federal traitors. Nancy Pelosi and Mike Pence were the first officials to be escorted to a secure room. One factor in the lack of vigilante restraint under the national Dome was that the vastly outnumbered Capitol Police saved lives first and let the property go. Another was Trump’s guarantee that the police were “on our side.” 

That night, Nora O’Donnell of CBS reported “an assault on the beating heart of our democracy.” Jonathan Karl of ABC reported  “chaos and lawlessness striking at the heart of American Democracy.” (Their writers must have lunch together.) In an original commentary next day, Lester Holt of NBC expressed his shock and outrage when he awoke the morning after, but he concluded that because the Capitol was cleared and the business of certifying electoral college votes was completed before dawn “democracy prevailed.” I thought:  Not so fast there, Democracy.

Timothy Snyder, author of “On Tyranny,” told Rachel Maddow of MSNBC that the storming of the capitol was a success because hundreds of participants would get away with it and  it would become what Trump called, in the last of his Twitter tweets, “a GIANT VOICE long into the future.” (I am here to testify that a similar event, the assault by armed men on a court house in rural northern New Mexico in which I was held hostage, still lives in the beating hearts of native-born Hispanics 54 years later.)

Save yer Confederate money, boys. The South is gonna rise again.

Sen. Cruz was among the first to backtrack. He issued a Twitter consolation to “the family of the U. S. Capitol Police officer” (What’s his name? Brian Sicknick ) who was fatally injured in a clash with the violent intruders. Cruz did not console the family of Ashli Babbitt, shot fatally by another Capitol cop.

And so went the news.  I was now on the streets of the shaded little town of Saguache (pop. 455) approaching the community center where I had attended a couple of bilingual pot-luck (red chili, beans, posole, fried chicken, pies) political dinners. As I pulled into a muddy parking place a nice local lady came off the screened porch with a clipboard. I slipped on my counterfeit N-95 mask and lowered the window. She asked when my appointment was and told me to fill out the consent form on the clipboard and stay put until I was called inside. 

The operation went well. I did not even feel the nurse’s jab. She told me to go sit for 20 minutes on one of the scattered metal folding chairs in the center of the large room. Three other masked old men, also serving their 20-minute sentences, sat nearby talking about everything except the news. I stared at the worn wood floor for a while before looking up to the only colorful thing in the drab environment: an American flag high on the wall. 

What a strange flag. An exceptional flag. There are no others like it, and it does not appear in a corner of the flag of any former colony because, I supposed as I sat in the community center, the U.S. colonization was internal. I counted seven red and six white broad stripes and reconsidered the star spangled blue box. I realized I had not given the flag attention since I was a Boy Scout, when the stars were 48 in equal rows.  Now they were 50, arranged in rows of six, five, six, five, six, five, six, five, six.

Each star is a state! How exceptional, I thought. There it was: federalism flagged. But what did it mean? The constitution says the powers not granted in it to Congress are reserved “to the states, or to the people.” So with their residual powers the states are variable. They can leave their citizens alone or not. The states are experiments in government, little laboratories of democracy. The most Republican argument against Congress changing the votes of state-appointed electors was that this would be an infringement of states’ rights. But that also is an old argument for various local forms of racism. A dangerous lab project. Do not try this at home.

I calculated that, alphabetically, Colorado was the last star on the top row (AL, AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO). I like my home star. Somehow in the trickle down of vaccines Colorado had given me a jab. It was the result of intelligent cooperation involving federal and local government, cooperation uninterrupted by the screaming factions that . . . . 

A nice lady tapped me on the shoulder. Twenty minutes gone.  “You’re free,” she said.

I drove home toward the high gleaming wall of the of the Sangre de Cristo mountains, without the radio on. 

No ResponsesOne Response% Responsesso far.

  1. Barbara Spilchuk says:

    Absolutely fabulous article that presents, in very dry terms, the danger of the times juxtaposed against the history of the United States in the middle of the COVID pandemic. Thank you for your humour, insight and honesty in this article.

  2. Pat says:

    The underlying issue here is continued lying about the election being “stolen”. To me this is a fundamental “crying fire in the hall” issue. Those perpetrating this lie need to
    be held accountable. The media also has a role in this having given Trump the platform to perpetuate this lie. The mainstream media kept giving Trump a platform by reporting “news” which is not “news”. It is purely laziness on the part of the media. It does not help for some platforms to merely state this is a “lie”. if people hear this over and over again they begin to believe that there must be some truth to this. This was aided and abetted (legal terms) by Republicans who did not have the courage to call this a “great lie”.

  3. Matt says:

    Glad you got ‘jabbed’, Larry.

    My issue with Trump’s incitement rhetoric that led up to the destructive occupation of the Capitol should be blindingly obvious but – at least to some of his followers – is not. A sitting President encouraged supporters to be ‘strong’ and march on the very government he is the head of. It’s crazy. Can you imagine Putin telling supporters to march on the Kremlin, or Netanyahu telling supporters to be tough as they march on the Knesset or Boris Johnson telling supporters to go march and protest Parliament?

    One of the strangest things Trump has done over the last four years is pretend he is an outsider and somehow not really part of government while being the leader of it. And then getting his fervent supporters to go along with the hoax by pushing loaded terms like the ‘deep state’. For those not paying attention the ‘deep state’ is really just government employees with more experience in government that Trump. How that has turned into a conspiracy against all things American is quite bizarre. In every professional organization or business across the globe having experience is a preferred requirement to getting things done more efficiently. Sure, there is waste and fraud and government officials who are lazy. I get it. But that’s a human trait more than it is an experienced, long-term employee trait.

    Trump’s desire to rid the ‘swamp’ in Washington only lead to more inefficiency and the creation of another swamp that was expected to be more loyal to one man than to the country or to the ideas of American Democracy. Let’s hope the Biden years are better.

  4. Linda Jo says:

    Thank you so much for cloaking this terrible insurrection in the Capitol in understandable terms. Thank you for reminding us that we live in independent states, each following its own star. I’m so glad you got jabbed. Even in New York I was able to make an appointment, although they seem to only have the vaccine in the Bronx for some indecipherable reason. Well, maybe before January 16, my appointment date, more locations will open. It’s a grand thing to have a vaccine and have a place to get vaccinated at all. Nevertheless, the most dangerous situation I will probably encounter in the next few months is going to the Bronx to get a vaccination. Keep up the wonderful work. It’s very difficult for some of us, me, to find overarching themes and perspectives, though it’s easy to find some sort of Immediate trigger that satisfies emotionally. Sadly, emotionalism does not rely on emotional intelligence. Thank you thank you thank you.

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About ljcalloway

I am a writer. I love the Rocky Mountain West. For more than 50 years my primary residence has been in the upper basin of the Rio Grande.