I’m not positive the origin of the expression, but for some this is a time of mourning in true sack cloth, ashes fashion. (I think the ancient Romans dumped ash on themselves as a symbolic gesture. I doubt doing so was symbolic of good times and merriment.) For some, and there is no small number in my area, the morbid gloom set in right after the election when the impossible, unthinkable turned into possible and done. For them it was a pre-Mayan end of the world. The world was unaware of this and can be forgiven for going on as usual. Three months during which to recover was barely enough to lift an eyelid when the afflicted were forced to face the recent weekend of inaugural celebration. Bad enough their “men,” “man” didn’t win. Worse yet to suffer others being whoop-dee-doo happy about it.

We’ve all been there. There were some presidents I had moments thinking “Oh my, glad I live near the border.” Eventually I slew the dragon and made peace with the reality. Others have more of a struggle with it. Is there such a thing as political necrophilia, wallowing in a slurry of partisan corpses? We could get Medicare to treat it, not that those needing the treatment most want much to do with the bad M-word. They’re dead against it, unless a profit can be made. They’re opposed, until they need it and run nose-first into the wonders of take-out-a-mortgage health care initiatives, where they bundle with a wild will of sell-sell-sell up to the moment we learn the cupboard they were selling was bare as old bones in a dog yard.

It’s sad to see long faces. Sadder yet are the dire predictions and warnings the down side grows and spreads like spores from a puff ball fungus. “Oh we’ll be sorry.” My immediate sorrow is not being far enough away when that line started. A few more steps and I’d have made it to my car. Bad luck. It’s often so that the more serious the person’s politics, the more ominous their prophecies. If you’re going into the prophet line, for gosh sakes come up with something good.
“The Lord is coming!” That’s OK, not gloomy unless the Lord is Voldemort. If I want a bag of glum prophecies, I can ask a political expert. If you ask me, a bona fide prophet has to tow the line on value. What are you selling there, o prophetic one? You got something good for us to grow and go with, or is it more sack cloth and ash?

I read an interesting thing last week that one of this weekend’s mourners took his grief to the serious side by firing some employees who (a danger of putting things on internet sites or in print) expressed support for Obama. That did it. His heartache could not stand the strain. “You’re fired!” That happened in Texas last week. Saying it was Texas says a whole lot, indeed. Texas is a “right to work” state, which is an interesting way to say “right to fire.” To work you need to file an application. Firing is easier. Just tell them, “Get out.” That keeps things simple, for the employer. You or I might call it petty to fire an employee for the way they voted. “You voted that way, here’s your reward. You’re fired.” The fired folk often thought they were voting for their own futures when they supported right to work. They were—it’s just not the future they had in mind. Don’t complain. Anyway, it’s a state’s right thing, too. It’s awful complicated and difficult to explain and easy to lie about, too. On the plain and simple side, it means “No one can make you join a socialist union and no one has a thing to say if we kick your sorry butt out the door, either.” That’s freedom, which if you notice works a little freer one way than the other, but don’t be fussy.

Back when I lobbied in favor of the 78 wilderness legislation (one of many black marks held against me, of which I’m glad) affecting the Boundary Waters, I saw more than my share of serious lobbyists from the other side. My gosh all Friday, they were serious. One look at three or four of them stomping into an office to argue lake by lake (into the thousands) would make any reasonable person wish he were doing something else. “If you’ll excuse me, I have a report to write.” “Root canal.” “Emergency at home.” We should take our political sentiments and responsibilities seriously. It is important business. But you don’t have to take the seriousness out on others. Why would anyone expect to gain understanding by fuming and angry demands? Act that way and the understanding we might get is “You’re a pain in the rear.” That’s easy to understand.

But back to the lobby days that earned me no credit in some parts. After the legalisation went the way those in the Alliance didn’t want, one of its disappointed Iron Range supporters took out his frustration on the walls of his house. He used a crowbar. That is a more emphatic political statement than my usual. Two rooms of busted plaster and sheetrock is politicking beyond the average. If the guy was handy, he’d have some hours of entertainment fixing up his political sentiments. Politics like those are good for business, especially for those in the sheet rock and spackle fields.

It’s a good thing the inauguration wasn’t being held here. The death toll from exposure would have been extreme. Carhart doesn’t make a tuxedo. “Something in a bib, please, with a pair of dress Sorel boots to match.” Being warm in winter doesn’t bring out the fashionable side. Move Pierre Cardin from the Riviera to Swamp River and he’s got nothing, whether in the stay warm or ward off the bugs line. He’s got nothing. On a day this cold, sitting inside writing is a lot nicer than the metallic clink of shuffling frozen firewood.