It snowed last night, so our first spring is over. Every year in Montana we have maybe 10-12 springs, each followed by winter except for the last one, which is followed by summer (or occasionally fall.)
For several glorious days, highs in Helena were in the 40s, so the knee-high snow in our back yard slumped down to just above ankle-high. Water ran in the streets over all the ice, which made it much more slippery than an ice rink. This isn’t Seattle, so a little snow and ice won’t cause any snow days for schools and people will still show up at work.
Woody Allen said “Eighty percent of life is showing up.” Montanans take that seriously.
Pat and I showed up with 500 or so friends at a rally to talk to our Republican US Senator, Steve Daines. He garnered national attention, and embarrassment for Montanans, by using a little-used Senate rule to prevent Sen. Elizabeth Warren from reading a letter from Coretta Scott King on the Senate floor. Imagine that — a millionaire Montanan so out touch with Montana values that he told a woman to shut up because she was reading a letter from Martin Luther King Jr.’s wife as part of the debate about whether a racist should be confirmed as attorney general. The next day, parts of the letter were read into the record on the floor of the Senate, but a male senator did it, so I guess it was acceptable to Republicans.
We showed up at a rally, because Sen. Daines has avoided holding town meetings or even meeting face to face with individual Montanans because of the large groups of people protesting his actions, including his voting for the unqualified Betsy De Vos for Secretary of Education after she donated $46,800 to his campaign (she would not have been confirmed without Daines’ vote) and other issues. The rally was scheduled because the senator was supposed to address the Montana legislature, but he didn’t show up, probably because he found out there would be lots of people outside wanting to talk to him.
Rally organizers did a great job. There were a few powerful speakers, and we did some fine chants like “You work for us” and “No hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here.” Most important, we were given the opportunity to hear about other coming actions and how to join with different groups that are being vigilant about what is happening in the country and our own legislature.
One key issue with Sen. Daines is his fear of meeting with constituents unless they agree with him. One of our friends, Al Beaver, who is part of Helena Rising, signed up for a “telephone town hall” held by Sen. Daines to prove that he is “listening.” The only access was by signing up on a list, and then waiting by your phone until you were called. Al signed up, and was patched into the call by the Daines people an hour and fifteen minutes after it started, and just in time to hear the senator closing the meeting. Other constituents were never called into the “town meeting.”
At our rally, one woman from Missoula talked about how the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) had saved her life when her cancer was discovered, because she would never have been able to afford the life-saving treatment without it. After emails and phone calls got no response, she traveled to DC to speak to our senator, since he has been avoiding Montanans here. She wanted to ask him what the Republican alternative to ACA would be, once they kill the hated Obamacare that has provided coverage for her and millions of other people. Sen. Daines not only wouldn’t meet with her, he had Capitol Security remove her from the office. Cowardice is not a Montana value either.
Our only Montana US Representative, Ryan Zinke, will soon be confirmed as the head of the Department of Interior. He is preparing for the confirmation by not showing up – he has missed over 80% of the votes in the House in 2017, according to a news article last week. Although neither he nor his office would respond to reporters’ questions, political analysts say it is surely to avoid any votes which might then come up in the confirmation debate.
The future of our democracy is more uncertain now than at any time since the Civil War. We ordinary people will have some say in whether we persist as a nation with good values. True, we don’t face the temptations of people in power. No one is going to offer us more than the average Montana family’s salary for a single confirmation vote, but we must do what we can.
We can show up to advocate for the good and oppose the evil. Over time, as happened with the protests against the war in Viet Nam, we can make a difference if we persist. Show up. That’s not all we need to do, but it is the foundation of making a difference together.
If you are in the Helena area, sign up with Helena Rising at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive notice of opportunities to show up, call, email, or write to Montana legislators or the President or Congress as issues come up. There are similar groups providing information in all the other Montana and American cities.
Don’t be a fair-weather citizen. Snow or no snow, it’s time to show up.