Some Monday mornings ago, I saw Robert Mueller's photo. He had a determined good guy face. He seemed headed somewhere big. Surely to do some justice. I felt a fist pump welling up. You know, small and silent, Tiger Woods-style. But didn't do it.
Mr. Mueller's heroic look was in The New York Times. "Page one, top of the fold," as journalists say. "Big face" in a "big paper," as our elders say, both back in many Oregonians' sending-countries and right here in our generous Willamette Valley.
The Times are stacked up front at downtown's Starbucks, so I took one, then joined our snaking coffee line. As we inched ahead, I read about how much congressional Democrats want the former U.S. Department of Justice special prosecutor to say more about any wrongs committed by candidate and President Donald Trump's organizations during these troubling times.
Actually, I don't know the meaning of Robert Mueller's facial expressions. I don't know him. Moreover, no one I know has ever worked or played with either Mr. Mueller or Mr. Trump. In fact, I cannot know what those furrowed brows or pressed lips mean. So I guess. I scan that pic, then sort through inferences filed from direct rubs with people I experienced as powerful, and as late for someone more important than me. "I gotta go" — I imagine Mr. Mueller, dismissing me, in that photo.
I feel good when my inferences are supported by societally sanctioned "big faces" — either a traditional elder or a downtown official. I feel affirmed when "above the fold" news agrees.
My dependency on American-meaning-makers borders on addiction.
I worm into these minutiae, because I'm born into an epistemologically (Classical Hellenic accounting of how on Earth I "know" what I claim to know) modest community. We avoid saying we know anything. We've done it for a long-long time. Our folk have shared, willingly and not, our 3,000-mile Indonesian archipelago with Chinese and Muslim merchant sailors; with Hindu and Buddha dharma builders; with Dutch, French, British, Portuguese and Japanese invaders — to name a few.
Today on both sides of our deep Pacific, we urge kids to step back from every loaded moment with a modest, "Hmm, I don't know. How can I know?" It's a slower way of working with ever-evolving sociopolitical realities. Pause buttons allow our big faces (tried and true elders) to observe what official big faces want anxious intersections to mean. Guessing wrong hurts us.
So okay, here's my slow-simmered finalé, inferenced from Robert Mueller's determined look — surely adapted from all our archetypical Vedic, Hellenic and Abrahamic heroes. Terrible swift swords in hand. Rolling thunder above.
Mr. Mueller cannot fix us. His big date with Congress cannot settle us. Better we mute that moment, including our right's disruptiveness and our left's convenient inclusiveness. Competing elites thrive in chaos. We don't.
Best is us knowing what's up. Our indigenous, Hellenic and Abrahamic wellsprings are swollen with knowing how to share this grand continent. Especially our blessed northwest corner.
We know what to do. Native America has lived and loved here for 130 centuries. Official Oregon is only 170 years' worth. Three o'clock daily, a robust majority of our metro area's school kids return to families of traditional elders, teaching community building and powerful people ducking. Like American dreamers have, since King George.
Ronault Catalani is a Southwest Portland resident.
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