There was an old Scrooge McDuck (world’s richest duck!) comic book story called “Christmas in Shacktown,” which opened with McDuck’s three grand-nephews, Huey, Dewey and Louie taking a shortcut home from school just before Christmas by going through Shacktown.
The people and kids of Shacktown are dressed in patched rags, the children tote firewood in washtubs, and kids play with toys made of boards and tin cans. It is snowy and cold, and one of the nephews says, “I wish we hadn’t come this way. It makes me feel like a fat pig.” Which is how I feel after looking at videos of the devastation and death in Ukraine. It makes me very thankful that I live in America and that I want for nothing.
Sure, there are some things I would like to have, but I can live without them. What the people of Ukraine are living without is everything that almost all of us take for granted; heat, water, food, and safety. I see a lot of anger in America, and honestly, I don’t understand why. I see people driving through town in brand new trucks, towing brand new motor homes or boats or snowmobiles and I wonder what they are angry about?
They seem to be doing OK, but they are angry and their anger seems directed at other Americans and at government in general. I know many of us feel our freedoms are being threatened, but I don’t see many physical signs of that. Montanans, myself included, are still free to carry sidearms either visible or concealed. I don’t see great numbers of people being jailed for expressing their opinions, as in Russia right now. I don’t see anyone being jailed for their religious beliefs, in short, I don’t see the signs of oppression that should rightfully result in anger.
I know that some will point to the criminal charges against those who stormed the Capitol a little over a year ago as oppression and censorship of expression, but I do not feel that beating up police officers, breaking windows, and disrupting a government meeting is anything that should be tolerated in a sane and civil society anymore than it was in the turbulent late 1960s and early 1970s.
So, what I think that people are angry about is the hypothetical possibility of oppression which is being promoted by a few people who get paid good—real good—money to stir things up.
Last week, I was involved in a vehicle accident. Thankfully, no one was hurt, but even more thankfully no one was angry. The other driver and I exchanged information and as it turned out, although we had never met, we knew who each other were. We were both in politics, but on opposite sides. It was cold, and since the other driver could not get in and out of his rig easily, I invited him to keep warm in my truck while we waited for the highway patrol which took about an hour.
So, we sat and talked and enjoyed listening to what the other had to say about politics in Montana. We parted friends, and I hope to see him again.
The tenor of America today is that if you are not with me, you are against me, that whatever you want deprives me of what I want. Listen, we learned as little kids that we couldn’t have it all our own way, that we had to share. It’s no different as adults. President Franklin Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” The bloviating loudmouths of the left and right are making sure that fear is worth fearing; that’s how they get their fame, that’s how they get their power, that’s how they make their money.
All I want is what the people of Ukraine don’t have, and I want you to have it, too; warmth, food, shelter, safety and freedom from fear.
Jim Elliott served sixteen years in the Montana Legislature as a state representative and state senator. He lives on his ranch in Trout Creek.