A Merry Montana Christmas

It’s times like these that make one realize just how lucky we are to be living in Montana — and not in Washington, D.C. As utter chaos engulfs the White House and Congress, Montanans can look out their winter windows at dark green forests, snow-capped mountains, ribbons of clean rivers winding through broad valleys and endless rolling plains. And we can enjoy what is supposed to be the season of peace and good cheer toward all with our fellow Montanans far from the madding crowd and the dark black cloud hanging over our nation’s capital.

The last week has seen an almost unbelievable breakdown in what should be a joyful time for the nation’s citizens. The stock market, that overblown indicator of economic health, came crashing down in a stunning death spiral that not only erased any gains for the past year, but plummeted with huge losses not seen since the Great Depression. Given that much of Donald Trump’s chest-pounding has been in direct relation to the “great economy” for which he claims credit, it’s safe to say we’re likely to get a break from that particular braggadocio for a while — perhaps a long while.

Nor will Montanans lose much sleep over whether or not a wall gets built on the border with Mexico. The caravan of Central American migrants fleeing extremely dangerous and precarious living conditions won’t find a manger this Christmas Eve, where the current Trump border policies would toss Joseph in jail and Mary in detention after pulling her baby from her arms. Surely those who profess their Christianity so long and loud cannot and should not tolerate such treatment of fellow humans in distress, let alone at Christmas.

For Montanans, it’s quite the opposite on our northern border where, despite the best efforts by some to drum up paranoia and militarize it, our great Canadian friends continue to come have fun here and we do the same there. If one needed a good example of excellent cross-border relationships, you couldn’t find a much better and long-standing one than between Montanans and our Canadian neighbors.

Many Montanans will also have reason to be joyful this season with the departure of Ryan Zinke from his post as secretary of the Interior. It was embarrassing to see time and again the references to Zinke as “a Montanan” while the list of ethics investigations and violations and environmentally destructive policies spewed from his office. Most Montanans are not scammers, are not ethically challenged, and do not find destruction of the environment, historic sites and artifacts on public lands acceptable. It will be good to see the dumb flag that Zinke commanded to be flown over Interior’s headquarters whenever “the commander” was in the building come down for the last time as he heads out of Washington.

It will also be good to see Montana’s congressional Trump puppets, U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte and U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, reassess the changing situation as the indictments, arrests and incarceration of Trump’s business and campaign associates increases in the coming months. Perhaps they can give thinking for themselves a try — and putting the real interests of Montanans ahead of the destructive hyper-partisan “loyalty tests” required by Trump’s arcane presidency.

The times they are a-changing — and despite the current political chaos at the highest levels, there’s a brighter day ahead when, once again, the checks and balances upon which our government relies will be restored to functionality. It’s a great reason to be thankful this Christmas — and to celebrate our good lives here with our fellow Montanans.

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George Ochenski is a columnist for the Missoulian, where this essay originally appeared.

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January 18, 2019
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