Sunday, December 11, 2016

the chiseler’s art / the recount

the chiseler’s art
The Chiseler has been hard at work.

Photo by D. Gordon E. Robertson (Own work)
[CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDLvia Wikimedia Commons

One day I joined in.

Down the path along the river the smallest of a quartet of dead tree trunks had been chiseled near through. But it had not fallen. For a few days I let it be. Wondering. Would The Chiseler return? Continue to chisel? Give this trunk a push? Would the wind play a hand? Sway things one way? Sway things another? Or, would a matter of time take its toll.

Nothing happened.

So one day I put up a hand and pushed. The chiseled trunk did not budge. With two hands I pulled. But this would not be a snap. I stepped back, surveyed the scene, determined where the tree should fall, and by continued pushing and pulling made it fall and by making it fall the cedar it had been pressing upon sprang back straight and tall. The dead trunk lay on the bank, heading toward the river, upper branches trailing like fingers in water.

The next day it was gone.

The Chiseler, I presumed, had returned.

Where the trunk had been, a scarred dirt path. At the river’s edge, three small chiseled sticks. The trunk, or most of it, anyway, was in the river, close to shore, about ten feet east.

I brought home the chiseled sticks.

the recount
Dang. I was all set to be an observer—a volunteer position—for the presidential election recount in Houghton and Baraga counties. Was looking forward to going to the courthouse and sitting there, observing, watching quietly, witnessing this crazy thing that has happened. Yes, I still think it is madness that we have elected Donald Trump president. I think we are all living in River City and we’ve got Trouble with a capital “T’ and that rhymes with “T” and that stands for “Trump.” But the Michigan recount has been stopped.

I keep wondering: What can I do? When encumbered with strong feelings, one feels one should do something. But I think: Nothing. For what’s to be done? It is done. Who Trump is is obvious, and who he is, it seems, appeals to many. Maybe even you. So, just gotta let it go, let it play out.

But, damn. What if your team lost the game—The Big Game—despite getting the most runs? Put an asterisk in that record book and remember how it came about. And the numbers of the 2016 election are interesting because out of the whole population of the United States only nineteen percent showed up for Trump. Twenty percent showed up for Clinton. Maybe it is helpful to remember that our president-elect was not the popular choice and that, after all, not a whole heck of a lot of people voted for him.

And yet, he is our president-elect. The numbers in Michigan and the partial Michigan recount are also interesting. Trump won Michigan by a margin of 10,704 votes—less than one percent of the total vote. And when the recount began last week in counties downstate many precincts could not be recounted because of things like the number of voters listed as having voted in a precinct not matching the number of ballots in the box. It’s kind of a mess to decipher, but, in all counties that were recounted in part or in total, new totals differed from official totals by a single digit up to triple digits. Both major candidates got more votes than the official tally reflects. And when the recount stopped, 102 votes was Clinton’s net gain over Trump.

Makes no difference? Perhaps. But this is either a game of numbers or it is not.

In baseball, if somebody says hey and twirls an index finger in the air the game stops. Eagle eyes in New York then scrutinize the last play by reviewing video of the play frame by frame. They call it the replay review. When they first started doing this I thought it was a waste of time. I thought close calls, bad calls, were part of the game. And, anyway, if it were a really close call, we might get to see a good fight. Out! Safe! Out! Safe! And dirt would be kicked and bellies would butt. Now I appreciate the replay review. It means we get it right without all the fuss.

Imagine a reverse situation. Imagine Clinton winning the presidency without winning the popular vote. Imagine election results in Michigan showing Clinton winning by less than one percent of the vote. Then imagine Trump’s reaction: his words, his tirade, his wild accusations and his rallying cries to—Jesus, what would Trump be calling for? Something as passive as a vote recount? And if there were a recount and a judge stopped it, well, what ethnic or gender quality of that judge would Trump be tweeting about in his typical, moronic, self-aggrandizing lather?

Or is that blather?

But, of course, not the way it is. Fact is Baby has his bottle so all is right with the world. Tantrums—Who? Me? Only if there’s something I want—a tantrum helps to get it. Only if there’s something I want—and I don’t get it. And only if I feel threatened—What? Take my bottle away?!?

And we all gave him the bottle called us and he is going to suck us dry.

Damn. I was really looking forward to observing a piece of the Michigan recount. I was looking forward to sitting there quietly, following instructions, observing and bearing witness as it was affirmed that one of the richest and therefore most powerful men in the world was being handed this great political power. A man with vast, private business holdings all over the globe, businesses that are nothing more than gaudy palaces erected in his own self-perception, a man with limited experience in everything else, a myopic man who I think closely resembles a misbegotten fool. A buffoon. A man—I know—a man I am supposed to respect but simply cannot.

As if watching paper ballots being counted one by one in a small courthouse in a far away place might help me to come to terms, might help me to believe: I am doing something.

But, as they say, every closed door is an opportunity. To be more creative. To reflect. To learn. To be braver. To be stronger. To be patient. To listen closely for a knock, that knock of opportunity. Or, maybe, heck, to construct a new door, your very own door, to open it, to move through.


  1. Cool about the Chiseler! They are amazing architects...

    I don't understand the whole Michigan recount issue. Seems like refusal to recount makes it even shadier. It's all such a nightmare!

  2. Thanks for this....echoing my thoughts I haven't written down (or come to terms with yet).