“You see this? That’s what all those Republicans are afraid of,” the Otoe tribesman said as he handed me his healthcare card.

“All those zeroes, that way they can’t put money into their friends’ pockets.”

Sure enough. $0 premiums, $0 deductibles. $0 prescription costs; $0 for doctors and hospitals at in-network healthcare facilities.

My problem with the Affordable Care Act has never been its root in ideology — Human Empathy — but that it wasn’t crafted completely. I don’t agree with policy or action done half-way; if it we had gone to a single payer system, perhaps the turnaround would be more clear.

But it isn’t what separates us that interests me so much as what connects us. I had just given my Indian uncle a bag of beans, beans that had grown from the Texas Mountain Laurel on the good earth of the tree farm I had worked on a year prior, out in Tea Party territory.

In the hours before we got to talking about Healthcare and the destructive Keystone XL Pipeline, we had been at the Otoe-Missouri Sweat Lodge. Out of respect for the Natives, I won’t go into detail about the ritual itself. It is a wholly sacred experience, and you will find yourself at one if and when you are sober and ready.

However, I will note some differences here from my past experiences.

A Lakota man ran it, a very holy man I hadn’t met before but whose hands I would now trust my life in, if I had to. There were 17 Indians this time, far more than I had Sweat with in years prior. A buffalo skull with horns wrapped in sweetgrass was used as an altar, and there were at least two bird bone whistles being played and even bigger feathers hanging from the willow rafters. Four women attended this time, so the sacred songs were more harmonious with a male/female balance. Some big, big grandfathers glowed in the fire pit. Bigger than I’d seen before. There wasn’t a halfway break for fresh air, and instead of smoking out of a cornhusk we used a chanunpa. It had a huge wooden stem of twisted wood from mouth to bowl, which was made of red pipestone.

The strong Indian tobacco helped produce a range of thoughts and visions alongside the high temperatures, and when we got out I could see things more clearly.

This was a far cry from the experiences I shared with the modern day Cowboy for whom I had worked down at Hope Valley there in Central Texas where I picked the beans from.

The Indians’ political leanings are refreshingly opposite. But at the end of the day the Working Man in either territory wants the same thing for himself — a good wife, a home to call his, God’s gift of land and like-minded gentlemen to banter with.

Sounds simple, yet unattainable amidst a shifting landscape gone Digital. And I find it unfortunate that we, the Millennials, have arrived in a bi-polar nation with an oligarchical governance that has hugely different ideas on how to please its populace, and seemingly no goodwill to Negotiate.

For myself, I knew around Christmas it was time to leave Machine, a long past due departure from DFW that I have hoped would bring me closer to divinity in nature; Nature, not just a place to secede from the Fossil Fuel Politics that grind our Middle Class into depravity and longing, but Nature — something to always live amongst, for the spirit depends upon it, and urbanity of the Yankee sort leaves it always yearning. 

The prevailing mindset I left behind there is of a typical philistine:

“Gotta make dat money.”
“Real estate.”
“Have you heard what Kim was wearing in that video with Kanye?”

No. I have never been one for the gossip columns or the society pages. In them I always find the worst in people. My heart remains in the News industry, print or online, from the paper mills to Silicon Valley, I believe in it. I believe people must be more informed now than at any point in American history, and this information mustn’t be diluted or superfluous. And I intend to keep Heading West in order to find out how the freeflow of information can continue.