Kick Back Until 2022

It’s that time of year — much like the “dog days of summer” — when people really would rather be thinking about something besides the ever-snarling pit of political strife. And why not? Our citizens are exhausted from dealing with the very real issues facing them on a daily basis in their personal lives and, quite frankly, they’re getting more than a little worn out by politicians bent on stoking civil strife for their own murky, often unfounded and inexplicable reasons.

But for normal people living normal lives, it’s a time to reflect not so much on what we lack or who to hate or blame for real or imagined transgressions, but to appreciate what we’ve had and have — our families and friends, having love in our lives, and the incredible beauty of Montana that greets us every day.

While that might sound corny to those caught in the churning maelstrom of the 24-7 news cycle, the fact is you’d probably be a lot happier if you turned it off for a few days. In reality, Congress is out, the White House is in “holiday” mode, Montana’s governor remains primarily invisible and, who knows, maybe even our attorney general has decided to go back up to his hometown of Culbertson to take a break from worrying about the Texas border for awhile.

The simple truth is that there’s still a tremendous amount of good will among Montanans — and we remain a place where no one asks you what political party you identify with or belong to before helping each other out of a snowbank. It is, in part, because of the sheer physicality of where we live. Here, Mother Nature still calls the shots in our big and largely empty spaces and we still rely on each other far more often than city dwellers to deal with whatever Nature throws our way.

We do not live in the urban canyons where the sky is some patch of gray stuffed between the peaks of skyscrapers. There’s still real ground beneath our feet — the kind that actually grows life — instead of cement and asphalt covering every inch. Our night sky still reminds us in all its horizon-to-horizon glory that we are, after all, just one tiny blue dot in the vast expanse of the universe. Thankfully, we can still see the stars, a forgotten spectacle now mostly lost in the glaring lights of our cities — a loss not really experienced by humans in most of our existence and one that may have ramifications far beyond what we now know or expect.

Within a few minutes of any Montana city we can be in forest-clad mountains or vast rolling prairies, sharing the beauty with almost all the species that were here when Lewis and Clark passed through more than 200 years ago. That, in and of itself, is somewhat of a miracle in our modern world where “progress” has brutally pushed non-human species aside — a terrible error we can still strive to avoid.

So you know, don’t hesitate to just kick it back until 2022 gets here. Turn off the news and turn up the tunes. Bust out the good stuff and share a cup of kindness with friends without worrying about who voted for whom, what the latest political scandal exposes, or the constant drumbeat to stir up civil contention. You won’t miss a thing. It’ll all be here next year, as will the pandemic, the politicians, and their endless, and often pointless, debates over public policy. For now, we can all just be Montanans — and be grateful for that.

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