I’m thinking of joining a monastery and spending the rest of my days praying for atonement of past sins (please don’t alert my wife). Having spent my adult life trying to avoid people by working mostly with wildlife or the printed word, I now seem caught up in the shocking current events of the day.
While watching in real time as the mob sent by President Trump to the Capitol Building to “fight”, “fight”, “fight harder” for his lies and conspiracy theories and try to accomplish a banana republic coup against our government, one image immediately caught and held my attention.
A man who couldn’t afford a shirt because he had spent his money on body tattoos was sporting a coyote fur headdress with two coyote tails hanging down either side of his face and Viking-style cow (or fake) horns sprouting from his head. His face was grotesquely covered with warpaint supposed to represent the red, white, and blue of the American flag, one of which he had attached to a spear with a sharp steel head that he brandished in one hand.
The idea that a man with a deadly weapon had, along with many like-minded folks, broken into the hallowed halls of government to disrupt a procedure that is at the heart of our republic was repugnant. The fact that he was wearing coyote fur made me wonder if it was partly my fault that he was there at all.
As human beings get farther and farther divorced from the natural world, we often reference wild animals with a sense of nostalgia and attempt to enhance our mundane lives by naming objects, and even ourselves, after them. This somehow grants us a wild and dangerous persona, no matter how false it may be. Give a person a car named Jaguar or Cougar and you will probably see them pulled over by the Highway Patrol signing a speeding ticket. Give a man a coyote fur head cover and there apparently is no limit to what his ego might allow him to do.
Since I have spent decades hunting and trapping Southwest furbearers such as coyotes, I knew that there was a remote chance that my pelts had somehow ended up on the head of an insurrectionist. When I learned that the man, Jacob Anthony Chansley, a.k.a. Jake Angeli, was from Arizona, the possibility of my involvement grew. Then I remembered that thousands of coyote skins were collected, tanned, and shuffled around the world to be used to keep people warm as winter coats or as trim for ski slope parkas so the odds of these being from me were slim indeed. On the other hand, coyote is well known as a trickster and the idea that one could make a person feel guilty wasn’t all that far-fetched.
Many news media outlets, unfortunately, got the origin of the fur headdress completely wrong, once again showing our collective distance from the world of nature we all evolved from. They claimed it was bear fur, maybe somehow being influenced by the Queen’s Guards outside of Buckingham Palace although there are no similarities that I can see. But, interestingly enough, the tall, black bear hats that have been a mainstay in British military history since the Battle of Waterloo were used to make themselves look taller and more imposing. This is the same sort of theory that applies to the deluded insurrectionist from Arizona.
While watching the video clips of the rabble breaching the shamefully lacking security of the Capitol Building it became apparent that the majority of the participants were enjoying taking selfies and showing their smiling faces to the lens of any camera pointed at them. This makes the FBI’s job of finding and arresting them much easier of course but it also reminded me of the late poet and novelist, James Dickey, who so perfectly portrayed the inbred Appalachian hill people in his book and movie, “Deliverance”. The same vacant faces were prevalent Jan. 6, 2021 roaming the halls of Congress with Confederate flags and zip-tie handcuffs for whatever hostages they had in mind.
Instead of beating myself up with the Latin phrase, mea culpa, “through my fault”, I think I’ll let Jacob Chansley and his cohorts take all the blame that is rightfully theirs and not mine, coyote fur notwithstanding. Ivanka Trump called them all patriots and her pater familias, almost ex-President Trump, stated that he loved them. Who am I to argue with that? Of course, her Big Daddy, the “law and order leader”, then refused to lower the flag at the White House to honor the capitol policeman killed by a rioter wielding a fire extinguisher. But it is often noted that honor left Washington, D.C. a long time ago.
Mark Twain once stated, “Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.”
Dexter K. Oliver lives in Duncan, AZ.