Sunday, October 09, 2016

Shades of Memorial

Shades of Memorial
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

            I’ve spent the week healing.
            It began with a planned 6:45 AM Monday arrival at Memorial Hospital. At issue was a genetic tendency made worse by trying to flank calves, hoisting concrete sacks, and acting the part of a younger man. An inguinal hernia had to be repaired and the worry was, and remains, how am I going to get all the fall work done?
            By 8:00, all immodesty had been left behind, preparatory steps had been concluded, and I signed the last of the consent forms. Together, Dr. Kamali and I inspected the point of incision once more, and he labeled it with his Sharpie.
            The last thing I remember was telling Dr. Samper she was five minutes late for the curtain call. It was 9:05.
            Sweet dreams …
            In his The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco introduced a word heretofore unknown to this old cowboy. Palimpsest is used to describe a manuscript in which one text has been written over another, but where traces of the original remain.
            Such a description fit this week’s visit at Memorial very well. I have had experiences there including horse related ones that either left me worried sick about a granddaughter who rode in the ambulance while wearing a smile and a cracked riding helmet, or another violent episode that offered a glimpse of the other side all the while feeling its warmth and sanctity, but never observing the light of other similar, near death experiences.
              Memorial remains an institution that has earned my respect. It was no different this time. It was just better. The work that hospital crew has done to make it more efficient and patient friendly is commendable. Pre-op now gets done in a hub that makes short work of unpleasant necessities, and does it with a staff that genuinely smiles.
            The same thing applies to the surgical staff and their facilities. Seldom do any procedures get done on time, but laying there at lights out with only a five minute delay was unexpected. The recovery room experience was a continuation of same. Seriousness was laced with humor and, when the last of the medical protocols was met, the announcement “You are good to go!” was worthy of a big “YeHaw”!
            Palimpsest was indeed the summary of the experience, and I appreciate every one of those people. In my opinion, they have remained on mission only to make their quest and their performance yet better.
            The Name of the Rose and its reference to the overlay of changing narrative has continuing implications in my world similarly, but that is no different for our nation and where we find ourselves today. I am worried about the rest of the fall with the cow work and the weaning of calves that has to be done. I can’t do it in the manner of the past because of the predicament I find myself. My ability to perform physically has me concerned and transition is at the heart of the matter. That is an uncertain proposition.
            Professor Frank Buckley of the Scalia School of Law at George Mason University has pointed out to us that our nation is in a similar fix. His measure is the Pew Economic Mobility Project and its measured values for societal mobility under various governments. America, once the model of classless society whose citizens could expect to rise from their conditions at birth if they had the pluck, industry, and talent to do so, no longer offers such freedom.
            America is now ruled by a new dominant class. The measure is an empirical correlation factor. The number for America is .47 and just under the .50 measurement for aristocratic England. This means that, in America and Great Britain, sons of fathers making $100,000 more than the median income can expect to make $47K to $50K, respectively, more than their average cohorts. That compares to Denmark and Canada where correlation scores of .15 and .19, respectively, suggest conditions of birth alone do not assure earning power and relative influence. Picking the right family doesn’t automatically bring fame and fortune. Self capability has more to do with ultimate success.
            Buckley’s argument is fascinating and his points are various, but it boils down to the fact that America is no longer a conservative nation. Societal mobility is a function of conservative values and those now absent values are a direct reflection of the educational system, the immigration laws, the regulatory burden, the rule of law, and the matter of corruption promulgated by a growing aristocratic and ruling class.
            America’s bifurcated educational system has become two tiered. The upper class is privy to a superb set of schools and colleges while the rest is dependent on a mediocre to poor set of counterparts.
            Regardless of political rhetoric, the US immigration system has long been broken. The waves of arriving illegals are less educated than natives and legal arrivals are fit into family preference categories rather than qualification preferences. Our federal government imports inequality and immobility.
            The cost of regulatory burdens on American business now outweighs the cost of direct legislation. American businesses are among the most taxed in the world.
            The rule of law in America has become akin to side shows in a weird carnival exposé. Obamacare, Fast and Furious, Benghazi, Iranian diplomacy, Email scandals, and registration of illegals to vote and voter fraud are mundane and continuous topics without recourse or consequence.
            Buckley’s corruption measure is also interesting. He suggests the best way to compare corruption over time is by measuring trust in government. In 1958, 73% of Americans trusted their government. Today, any measure of trust runs between six and 19%.
Further, the Transparency International index ranks America among the most corrupt governments in the First World. The K Street lobbyists and donor class in this country have spawned unprecedented corruption to the point of “the greatest concentration of money and influence ever”. How corrupt has this all become? Comparing the corruption models to the previous Canadian and Danish models, yearly earnings of $55K in America would become $60K and $68K, respectively if we lived in Canada and Denmark. Above all other taxes, families are effectively paying annual mordida (akin to graft and bribes) of $5K to $13K into the system!
            To add to such breathtaking corruption, the American legal system has displayed a distinct and stepwise preference towards a privileged class of insiders (notably environmental NGOs) who are better educated and wealthier than the average American. Simply, America has become an aristocracy ruled by elite lawyers, academics, paid antagonists, trust fund babies, and media hucksters.
We are … what we shed blood to escape.
            As it currently exists, my world has become a world not as suited to old men as it once was. It yearns for mobile sons and daughters of the American West with pluck, imagination, talent, and guts. It must not wholly disregard the standards that existed in colorful portrayals of our legends, but a new paradigm must be found. As such, a new palimpsest must also evolve. American ranchers, especially federal land ranchers, must seek to overcome the barriers of mobility erected by America’s aristocratic new class, particularly the destruction of private property rights, but it is time to question our principles. In a last reference to be made to Professor Buckley, what good are our principles if by following them we are led to this place and these circumstances? If our principles are simply symbols that are destroying our way of life, to Hell with them! Let’s shed them!
            America, too, needs healing.
            Despite the stupidity of Washington, our country has outwitted communism because the system prevailed. It wasn’t the leadership. As it changed and reinvented itself, class mobility precluded the Marxist march toward the inevitable. There was a streaming collage of palimpsests. Old was replaced by new and new reflected technologies of the day, but the theme remained recognizable. It was as familiar as it was comforting.
            I don’t feel good this morning, but I am not sure the pain in my belly is the result of the past week or the disgust I feel of the actions of my country’s leadership. What I do know is that there is anger. I work everyday trying to hold my world together. That is the theme and model of my neighbors and our colleagues.
            What we have is a vote. There is no longer assurance, though, that it will be cast for any establishment, because we can no longer discern any great difference in self appointed aristocracy.
It has become our nemesis, and … it has no place in our society.

                Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “Sincerely, thank you Drs. Garcia, Kamali, and Samper; the staff at Memorial Hospital; and family and friends including the ReMax Classic crew, who reminded me that my impetuous independence doesn’t necessarily exist in a vacuum. I was touched by your thoughtfulness.”

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