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Rod Miller: Polaroids and Sour Grapes

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By Rod Miller, columnist

We all carry, within our minds, a picture of what we want the world to be like. This image forms throughout our lives, based upon what we are taught and what we believe. By adulthood, it is pretty much ossified into something indelible, permanent, not subject to change.

That picture becomes a touchstone of life and assumes within us a place on our mental mantel right alongside religion, family, work and everything that we believe to be the foundation of life.

In fact, in times of uncertainty, that mental picture we have of what we want the world to be becomes the most important thing to us. We identify so strongly with that image that we, from time to time, become it. It becomes us.

When that happens, and we become invested in our own worldview to that extent, then we defend it as if we are defending our own person. Any event or any information that contradicts what we believe becomes a personal attack on us.

Faced with the dilemma of altering our personal picture of the world based upon outside evidence, or protecting a cherished belief system, humans generally defend their internal photography.

Nowhere is this dichotomy more evident than in our individual relationship with our own government. Politics is often the catalyst that causes our inner view of the world to obviate or override our ability to see things clearly.

Politics reinforces our ego-driven model of the world that says, “my ideas are right, and everyone else is wrong”.

When this happens, and we deny what is occurring around us in favor of that faded Polaroid we carry in our pockets, we deny ourselves a chance to learn and grow as humans. After all, why learn something new when you know everything already?

My good friends, we are fortunate enough to be Americans at this moment and to be presented with a rare opportunity to contrast our beloved internal image of the way we think things should be with the painful truth of the way things really are.

If we can’t handle that uncomfortable contradiction, then we might as well join those misguided knuckleheads who are storming the U.S. Capitol because they can’t accept reality.

Make no mistake, ever since democracy was invented, there have been losers. I’m sure that, when the Athenians voted with either black or white stones to go to war with Sparta, there were a handful of citizens who got their togas in a wad over the outcome.

The probably muttered to themselves, “But I’m right! I KNOW I’m right! And, oh by the way, where did all those black stones come from?”

If you lose and you are wrong, it doesn’t matter how loudly you proclaim your beliefs on the capitol steps, or what kind of flag you wave or hat you wear…that simply doesn’t alter reality.

It might make you feel better, and probably bolsters your own view of the world, but you still lost. Objective truth with prevail.

And to demonize elected officials who disagree with you, and to disparage the institutions that have kept our republic alive for a couple of centuries simply because your candidate didn’t win is the height of folly, both political and personal.

When a political party behaves this way, they do damage not only to themselves but also to the country and its citizens.

Don’t misunderstand, every citizen should have a deeply-held conviction about how our country should work.

Without that, we truly would be a nation of sheep.

But citizenship requires that our mental Polaroid of America must be subordinate to that of the entire populace. Without that, we truly would be a nation of criminals.

Rod Miller: Suspending Disbelief in the Cowboy State

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By Rod Miller, columnist

How’s this for a movie plot? Its been a couple of months since the presidential election, the votes have been counted and recounted.

Fifty or so lawsuits have been brought, challenging the results and they have all been thrown out.

States have certified the results, and the Electoral College has cast their votes.

All that is left is for Congress to rubber stamp the results, making Joe Biden president.

Cut to an interior shot of a Waffle House somewhere in Alabama during the lunch rush.

Someone drops a bowl of grits on the floor, and in the mess is a likeness of Donald Trump with the word “winner”. The crowd rushes out of the diner shrieking, “We need to tell the people!”

Next scene, in a dark cabin in northern Idaho, skinhead kids gasp and stare at the ouija board bearing the message, “4 More Years”.

Mom and Dad rush to Parler and NewsMax to get the word out to the faithful that God wants Trump to stay in the White House.

Then, a flashback to the roof of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon in 1975, with the last of the American personnel boarding helicopters while the NVA occupies the city.

Over the roar of the chopper and the gunfire just outside the compound can be heard the lusty voices of the escaping yanquis singing, “We Are The Champions”.

This could be a political thriller of the first order, or it could be a Quixotic slapstick comedy about people who simply can’t get their minds wrapped around facts. I’m leaning toward the latter.

Suspending disbelief is a critical element of fiction.

A good story will lead the reader to ignore what he knows about the world, and will suck him into an alternate narrative.

That narrative, to be believed, must appeal to something other than the reader’s logic. Emotion has always been a good substitute.

So, for this movie to work, millions of folks must be convinced to accept an illogical hysteria over what their own eyes and ears are telling them.

They must be convinced that, despite all the functions of our political and legal institutions, they are right and the rest of the country is wrong simply because it feels that way.

Ordinarily, there would be some wise old father-figure of a county sheriff who would aw shucks the townspeople, and comfort them with “Y’all just go on about your business and don’t freak out, we got this handled.”

But in this case, we have the Wyoming Republican Party inciting the townsfolk to buy into the conspiracy theory, and telling everyone “Its time to FIGHT!”

The Wyoming GOP is like that wild-eyed town drunk who always moans about alien invaders and commies, wanting everyone to buy into his psychosis.

Frank Eathorne and the Wyoming GOP Central Committee are telling us to forget about what the facts say, and are trying to convince our congressional delegation to monkeywrench the election results simply because things didn’t turn out Frank’s way, and because someone’s spinster aunt in North Dakota had a dream about voting machines.

It will be instructive to see which way our delegations bends, either toward our Constitution or toward Aunt Fanny in Bismark.

If Frank and his pals in the Central Committee believe, in spite of all the investigations and court decisions to the contrary, that Trump actually won the election, then I have a good saddle horse that never bucks, a pen of primo calves, a pickup that’s never been stuck and the best cowdog in the world to sell them.

Gullibility this profound only comes around once in a blue moon and I want to get in on the gravy train.

I’ll use the money to buy a front row seat at the Academy Awards when the Wyoming Republican Party wins the Oscar for comedy in political theater.

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Rod Miller is a Republican, rancher, a former congressional candidate, and longtime political operative in the state of Wyoming.

Rod Miller: Blazing Saddles (or How Wyoming Deals With Racism in the 21st Century)

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By Rod Miller, Cowboy State Daily columnist

Wyoming has a racist past, there’s just no way around it. Historical examples are rife…don’t make me repeat them here. And, because Wyoming fetishizes its past (the good parts and the bad parts), its no wonder that systemic racism is an unresolved social issue in the Equality State.

You’ve all heard about Representative Cyrus Western’s response to the first black Sheriff in Albany County taking office. I won’t repeat that here, either.

What I’d like you to think about is the reaction statewide to this event. Social media is all a-tremble with folks calling for Western to resign, to be forced from office, to be tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail or otherwise removed from public life. This vigilante mentality is also a relic from the part of Wyoming’s past that is unfortunate, to put if kindly.

There is simply no way to sugar-coat Western’s tweet, and paint it as humorous, satirical, misunderstood or anything other than what it was… the most boneheaded kind of move that a politician could make.

Regardless of what was in his heart or mind when he made the post – and only Western himself can know that – he screwed up bigtime. Lets get that said right up front, there is no way that anyone can defend his post as anything else.

From what we hear, Western has called Sheriff Appelhans to apologize personally, and we are given to believe that the two of them had a constructive conversation. That was an incredibly necessary first step, but should by no means be considered an end to the issue. Had there not been that reaching out,though, there would not be the opportunity that now presents itself.

Likewise, if Western’s detractors, whatever their motivations, are successful in driving him from office, then an important opportunity is also lost. Put another way, if political bloodlust wins, then Wyoming is denied a chance to grow.

What kind of legislature do you want? Do you want a body that universally accepts your world view and lives up to your personal standards? I don’t want to burst your bubble, but good luck with that.

Or do you want a legislature that reflects your own human frailties, but despite them, works hard on your behalf? Do you want a representative body of perfect human beings (and again, good luck) or would you accept a legislature composed of flawed humans who make mistakes, but ultimately learn and grow from those mistakes?

Are we, as citizens of Wyoming, so brittle in our thinking that, when an elected official (regardless of party) disappoints us, we haul out the guillotine? Do we have such low esteem for our democracy that we don’t trust elections to purge out the unworthy?

Western has apologized to the person he should have. But he has other work to do, and we should let him do it, subject to the will of voters in his district. And that work, because of his action, will be done under a statewide microscope, and rightly so.

At least two good outcomes present themselves, thanks to Sheriff Aaron Appelhans and Representative Cyrus Western. The first would be an honest, statewide conversation about racism in Wyoming, led by these two elected officials.

The second would be a bit more long-term. In the fullness of time, Wyoming needs an anti-hate crime bill that codifies the first couple of sections in Article 1 of the Wyoming Constitution. That legislation will be fought hammer and tong by anyone who resists the egalitarian political dream of Wyoming.

I can think of no better elected officials to work on this legislation than the first black sheriff in Wyoming, and Representative Cyrus Western. And, for personal reasons, I’d like to see that legislation titled “The James Isaac Bill”.

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Rod Miller: I Don’t Need Anyone To Tell Me How To Be A Republican

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By Rod Miller, guest columnist
Rod Miller is a lifelong Republican who was a Republican candidate for U.S. House in 2018
and was the Rawlins Outlaws Outstanding Wrestler in 1968

I don’t need anyone to tell me how to be a Republican, I’ve been SHOWN how to be a good Republican by many great members of the party throughout my life.  

The list of names is too long to put down here, but it includes Milward Simpson, Al Simpson, Pete Simpson, Della and Vern Vivion, Charlotte and Bob Vivion, Elmer Peterson, Cliff Hansen, Stan and Bobbie Hathaway, Harold Johnson, Doc Jeffrey, Bob Adams, and a whole bunch of Millers. 

These and so many more were good examples to me of the Republican ethic … honest, fair, tight with a buck, and with the best interests of the State of Wyoming always uppermost in mind.

The name Frank Eathorne is nowhere in the list.

I’m a Republican because I choose to be, not because anyone tells me what I should be.  I like to think that my membership in the GOP makes the party better, and not the other way around.

The verbose screed by the current chair of the party represents the Wyoming GOP resorting to threats, cajoling, intimidation, blackmail and whiny wheedling directed at its members in order to foster party purity. 

What a sad state of affairs my party has gotten itself into!

Taken in an historical context, Eathorne and the GOP leadership’s dictum isn’t far off from the Chinese Cultural Revolution under Mao, when dissidents were purged to promote loyalty within the party.

When an organization’s leadership loses the ability to lead based upon strength and wisdom, it can only lead through coercion, the last resort of tyranny.

Nobody should be shamed into being a Republican.  That is not how Blair, Lincoln and Stevens formed the Republican Party.  The GOP was formed to be an incubator of new ideas, compassion, tolerance and a better way of solving the nation’s problems.  The only “purity” test was patriotism.

I don’t need anyone telling me how to ride or brand.  Trust me on that one.  That would be like some drugstore cowboy telling me how to wear my hat. 

A lifetime of being a Republican in Wyoming has taught me all I need to know.  And, for Frank’s information, the brand that I ride for is the same one we should all ride for – not a D or an R, but a great, big Brown & Gold W!

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Rod Miller: Guns and Law in Wyoming

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By Rod Miller, Cowboy State Daily columnist

Thirty years or more ago, I had a beer with a friend who had been dean of the UW College of Law. One beer, and it took about three hours. While my beer went flat, I got a senior seminar on the Constitution of the State of Wyoming and my mind blown. What a magnificent document our Constitution is!

In our republic, states are often called “the laboratories of democracy” and each state’s constitution is the Petri dish where new variants of the U.S. Constitution are tested. Here’s an example: Everyone knows that our federal Bill of Rights is the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution, and enumerates the inviolable rights of citizens, 10 of ‘em. But the 45 framers of our Wyoming Constitution went a bit further.

Article 1 of our state Constitution is our “Declaration of Rights,” right there up front, and not appended as amendments. Rights, in Wyoming, are not an afterthought. And there are 37 of them! Those 45 old, white guys who framed our Constitution, I believe, wanted to make it abundantly clear that civil rights come first in Wyoming.

And I also believe that they listed these rights in a sort of ordinal hierarchy, the most important being first. The first three sections of Article 1 are some of the most inspiring political writing I have ever come across – “All power is inherent in the people,” and “all members of the human race are equal.” The framers took great care to address how political power would be wielded here, and how it should be equally distributed among all citizens. Powerful stuff, my friends!

Article 1 proceeds to define how these rights will be protected through the processes of law, habeas corpus, open courts, religious liberty, separation of church and state, the freedoms of speech and assembly, protection of labor and education. The logic is easy to follow, and its a roadmap for a free, civil society.

The framers enumerated 23 citizens’ rights before there is any mention of guns. You heard me correctly, guns come in 24th. Section 24 reads, “The right of citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and of the state shall not be denied.” This, to me, is much clearer language than the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but guns are still way down the list.

I don’t believe that firearm ownership was an afterthought to our framers. Instead, I believe they wanted to take care of first things first. They, very wisely, defined citizens’ rights first and then defined the means to protect those rights on a personal level.

This brings us to a moment of cognitive dissonance in this year’s election. Why are a handful of gun zealots campaigning from a position of firearms being the most important thing in life? The implication is that if you have a gun, all of the other stuff in life is somehow taken care of. Like the first 23 sections in our “Declaration of Rights” don’t matter.

Guns have become powerful political symbols, and these candidates and the organizations that fund and encourage them are masters at manipulating that symbology. They appeal to raw emotions and fear, trying to supplant our entire body of law with a man-made tool. It’s almost as if nothing else matters to them.

That brings us back to Article 1, Section 1, “All power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority…” So, the people of Wyoming, through their sacred right of voting, can reject this single-issue idiocy if they so choose. They can vote for candidates who embrace the entire Constitution, not just one sentence in it.

I hope your beer didn’t go flat while you were reading this, and perhaps I’ve prompted you to go dust off your copy of the Wyoming Constitution to see exactly where gun rights fall in the thinking of its framers. Twenty-fourth. So let it be written, so let it be done.

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Rod Miller: Anonymous Political Organization WyoRINO is a Coward That Acts Like Antifa

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By Rod Miller. Guest columnist, Cowboy State Daily

Acting as a self-appointed arbiter of conservative political correctness, WyoRINO is riding herd over Wyoming’s elected leadership, making sure everyone toes their line.

WyoRINO is an anonymous political organization registered with the Wyoming Secretary of State through a P.O. box in a little town in western Wyoming. He/she/they publish scorecards of legislative voting based upon a narrow slice of our collective political life. Those that don’t meet their muster, they term RINOs…Republicans in Name Only.

But there are no names of actual human beings associated with WyoRINO. None. Let me repeat that: they will not tell us who they are, but they want us to listen to them.

WyoRINO is an exercise in political cowardice. To hide behind the mother’s apron of anonymity when discussing politics in Wyoming requires only an opinion and a forum, but is lacking the most important ingredient of politics….courage. Until WyoRINO emerges into the bright sunlight of Wyoming and lays personal claim to his/her/their rhetoric, they remain political cowards.

You might be able to get away with that childish behavior on either coast, but here in the Cowboy State, we aren’t afraid to show our faces when we talk. WyoRINO is behaving like some self-appointed star chamber or political inquisitor, blathering about political purity without any basis for accountability. They are acting like Antifa.

Debates over doctrine and platforms within a political party are very healthy and necessary. WyoRINO seems to disagree. They would rather that our entire legislature be composed solely of politicians for whom the future of mankind is decided by the question of guns, abortion and taxes. Nothing else seems important to them.

And they are certainly welcome to that position. There is a narrow wedge of voters in Wyoming who respond to that argument and agree. But for an anonymous organization to try to force-feed that dogma to an entire state is laughable. And to do so from behind mom’s apron is cowardly.

Both our western myth and our reality require that we show our faces when calling someone out. The gunfights in all those old western movies occurred at high noon for a reason. I can’t remember a single western that featured a sheriff or a cowboy hero hiding in some dark corner and sending snarky notes to the bad buy without signing his name. WyoRINO is trying to write a new script, and this cowboy ain’t buyin’ it.

I’ve already had Alexander Hamilton thrown in my face, so don’t try it here. Hamilton used the nom de plume “Publius” in his commentaries in “The Federalist Papers”, and someone recently told me that his example justifies political anonymity. Horseshit!! Hamilton was no cowboy, but rather an east coast elite. He would have been tarred, feathered and run out of any Wyoming town on rails because he lacked the courage to stand on his own two feet and show his face.

If the Wyoming GOP leadership permits WyoRINO to speak for them, then they are complicit in cowardice. If they do not strongly condemn political anonymity, then they have relinquished their right to call themselves “cowboy”.

My name is Rod Miller. I live at 2803 Central Ave. in Cheyenne. My phone number is 307-343-5527, and my email is rodsmillerwyo@yahoo.com. I wrote the above, and if you, WyoRINO, disagree with it, tell me to my face and give me your name. That’s how we do things in Wyoming.

Rod Miller is an author, poet, and longtime Wyoming political operative.

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