Mary Strachan Scriver
5 min readJan 14, 2021


So I finally wangled my best reading chair over into the geranium window niche where the light is good. I threw out the resident tomcat and settled to see how it felt between two floor-to-ceiling bookcases. Lots of handy ledges for my coffee mug, deep enough to stack sideways books I meant to read. “The View over Fly Over Country.” What? I bought it for the title years ago.

Today I’m halfway through and see that it is a data-packed indictment of the disintegration and corruption of what is supposed to be the greatest nation in the world, but isn’t. I had missed a lot of this because much of it happened after 1999 when I moved here to escape the disintegration and corruption of Portland, Oregon, where I grew up. I was looking at it from inside the Bureau of Buildings which was plenty scary.

When I got here, I threw out my TV set and antenna. When 9/11 happened, an ancient family member was here and he went outside to desperately try to put the TV antenna back up. I had to teach him enough computer skill to watch the airplanes fly into the Twin Towers over and over. He was a veteran who wanted to re-enlist. I had always thought those towers were hubris, Babel, just like the Sears building in Chicago.

Most of my attention has gone to the shift in employment for men with no education — from dependable brute force work which persisted here until the oil began to run out so less need for roughnecks — and to the fate of boys who are no longer military cannon fodder, not just rejected from the draft for physical reasons but also never allowed to join because of bad educations and attitudes. Both of these forces have seriously damaged families, though women keep having babies. I also thought a lot about the culture leaving an agricultural thought base, which still exists here. So I missed a lot.

I didn’t understand how bad it is. Not just the evils of capitalism, that is, defining everything in terms of money, but the derivatives: credit, gambling disguised as the stock market, usurious interest, wealth inequity, lack of safety nets, lack of enforcement of rules and skewing of other rules to favor the rich, and money laundering. Plus a bit of mafia stuff like extortion and blackmail. Being next to the rez adds a bit of flavor ot all that stuff, as the People begin to wake up and get emotional about it.

At least the academic outlook here is at the grassroots. Tribal colleges have been potent ladders and the casinos — while still gambling-based — are more like church bingo welfare chances than Las Vegas. They have self-consciously created money pots for good purposes, like health or housing, that are owned by tribes. The dummies and crooks exist, but we know who they are.

Gianforte has just become governor and has grabbed us by the throat and thrown us to the floor by removing the restrictions on bars and restaurants. Our Covid numbers had just begun to go down a bit. In a week they will be soaring. In two weeks there will be new deaths, not all of them from the virus. Fewer people in this state, which will be, in Kendzior’s phrase, “parted out for profit.”

As I say, I by-passed much of this argument and damage by scorning money until I was perilously close to not eating, which paradoxically made me fat. Novels from the Edwardian era just before WWI turned out to be very relevant. Iron-clad rules were illustrated by stories. “Don’t depend on anyone else. Don’t get above yourself. Try to own your own shelter and food.” Retirement is a fiction. I never was retired. But people think that a single woman who writes daily is not doing anything, not fulfilling her destiny of taking care of others.

It’s hard for me to listen to Kendzior in person because she speaks very quickly and — let’s be honest — with a shrill voice sharpened by the disaster. But luckily there are transcripts and this is a good example.

I was struck by one of her phrases, about how those invading the Capitol felt: permission to abuse and access to exaltation. She talks about neoliberalism a lot, but I can’t really figure out what that is, except laissez faire in English instead of French — or to be more crude and speciesist, dog-eat-dog. She doesn’t like it. Her values are truth and solidarity rather than fantasy and saviors.

For decades I’ve talked about how love and hate are not opposites, but simply different versions of the same thing. The true opposite is just not caring, which is one of the factors in getting us to this point. Love and hate are forms of arousal which is the true opposite of not caring, of apathy. These invaders of the Capitol were seeking arousal, seizing permission to abuse and the exaltation of extreme arousal. At least now we’re awake.

The motley masses have learned that even if they can’t participate in the money games, they can have the carnival. (Root is “carne” or meat.) The Ferris wheel of public exposure, taking pics to show on social media as brags. Never thinking that the ride ends and they’re under arrest.

I was lucky, in that my Sixties on the rez were protected and deepened into a sensory experience that is now embedded/embodied in me. The big stuff was pouring molten bronze and rounding up bison. The little stuff was the susurration of grass, walking through snow four feet deep but light as soapsuds, leaning against high wind, riding a horse with no skill at all — just the consciousness that this big animal was carrying me along. The goofiness and viciousness of teens caught in impossible lives that would kill some of them and yet let others become leaders of their People. Commodity chili and cheese for lunch again.

What is Trump and his golden toilets of fame compared to this reality of life quite apart from anything one could buy?

Now — after a day or so of high wind, I must go walk around the outside of the house to see what damage there is this time. I could hear windfall branches hitting my roof, some of them pretty big. The house is mine to fix or neglect and I’m lucky to know that. Many citizens have not realized that about the nation.



Mary Strachan Scriver

Born in Portland when all was calm just before WWII. Educated formally at NU and U of Chicago Div School. Clergy for ten years. Always happy on high prairie.