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By Pam Burke 

From the North 40: Conundrum: Both to object and serve


August 25, 2017

I suppose it’s a form of oppositional defiance disorder, a compulsion to both stick it to The Man and not become a The Establishment that makes me shy away from things labeled as “your duty” and “your responsibility.”

I see it in statements that include word combinations like “have to” and “need to.” Many times my mouth says “yes,” while my brain is saying “nope.” I’ll do what I agreed to do, while my brain is still at it with “Nopity. No.”

It’s a backward and unhealthy way of living. I really, really need to stop this way of thinking. (Nope. Not happening.)

I used to tell myself something like, “You have to clean the house today.” (No. Nuh-uh.) And after two days of putting it off for things like riding horses, watching TV, fixing fences, making lists, cleaning my tack shed and barn, staring at the sky, going for a walk, raking rocks into a pile — and usually getting embarrassed by the arrival of unexpected company at least once, but still — but basically doing anything other than cleaning house, then I would finally make myself do it.

While part of me would be caving to the demands of the dark side, becoming The Man, El Hefe, the other part of me would be writhing and whining like a 5-year-old with “Noo-oh-oh. Nooo! Don’t make me. I can’t. I Hate You! Please, no!”

Over the years and decades, I’ve developed a sort of visceral shorthand. I think about the thing I should do and I feel my spine twist with agony in that way lithe young children do before the collapse on the floor with pitifully lame fake crying, “eh-heh-heh.” Then I’m, like, whatever, just shut up. Go play on the internet. Get run over on the digital highway. See if I care.

And then I put off ’til tomorrow.

“Have to” can’t even be disguised as “should” or “I would like you to.” I’m all, like, “I know what you’re doing there. You forget who you’re talking to. I’m St. Pam, patron saint of ‘That ’sain’t happenin’.’”

The Establishment side of me is pretty well brought down to the level of just eye-rolling and complaining that “I never should’ve had an inner child. They’re selfish, directionless little @#%@’s.”

So with all my resistance to “have tos” and my innate flim-flam detector you’d think that I wouldn’t fall for any “that’s not work, that’s an opportunity” nonsense.

A few years back, though, I was called to Great Falls to serve on federal court jury duty and a miracle happened.

For days ahead of time and the whole drive down there, I was just one big, feet-dragging, whiny mess of a big baby, and all “Stupid criminals. I hate you. Do your own civic stupid duty and obey the law so I don’t have to.”

But then the courts people showed the assembled jury prospects a video about how serving on a jury is a privilege and a right — rare to civilians in the whole world. Really smart Supreme Court people thanked us for being there. Even though I knew I was being blatantly manipulated by a clever government PR ploy, all of a sudden I didn’t “have to” appear for jury duty, I “wanted to” serve. (Yes!)

Sadly, they didn’t pick me and my eager inner child of justice. But I’m now on the list for District Court jury duty and I am eager to do my duty to see justice served, however the hammer falls.


I still feel duped by The System, but I’m somehow at peace with that at pam@viewfromthenorth40.com.


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