Mike Liu was patient, calm and consistent as he explained, and then explained again, and then re-explained The Process — the tightly structured system by which the U.S. Forest Service will evaluate a proposal to do exploratory drilling for potential mining of copper deposits on Flagg Mountain (for full details, see the story on page A1).
At a public meeting in Winthrop on Monday night (May 19), Liu — who as the Methow Valley District ranger will ultimately make a decision about conditions under which the exploratory drilling will proceed, if at all — fielded question after question about the proposal. Many of them were inquiries that Liu couldn’t respond to — not because he was ducking them, but because they were questions only The Process can answer.
It was clearly frustrating for many in the audience who wanted a better sense of what’s happening or likely to happen on Flagg Mountain.
I know how many of you feel. You hate The Process. It sucks.
You hate the stilted bureaucratic language and the blunderbuss syntax and the dense, stuporous paragraphs. You hate the bulky forms and the tortuous procedures and the granular detail. You despair over the laborious sequence of input and output and more input and additional output without any sense of the likely outcome. You hate the unpronounceable acronyms and the bullet-points and the sub-sections and the footnotes and the indented sentences with those little brackets like (1) or (a) in front of them.
You feel paralyzed by the laws and regulations and rules and requirements, which all seem to work against you and in favor of whoever else is on the other side of The Process.
The Process leaves you delirious with frustration. You want to clutch its scrawny little neck and strangle the life out of it.
You can’t. There is no killing The Process. There is no silver stake to drive through its heart. Like a cross between a vampire and a zombie, it will rise up and eat your brains.
There is only one thing to do.
You have to love The Process. You have to make The Process your new BFF. You have to embrace The Process as though it were a beloved child who desires enlightenment.
Because love it or hate it, The Process will go forth. You might as well go arm-in-arm, because head-to-head will just give you a skull-crushing migraine.
You have to make The Process perform, force it to do everything expected of it. Take The Process to the max. And here’s the key point: You can. Ultimately, The Process has to listen.
You got a better idea?
Lawsuits? Too soon. There’s nothing to sue about until The Process has produced something to challenge in court.
Political pressure? The Process laughs at your naiveté. How do you think The Process evolved to its current form? It has friends.
Dignified, high-minded retreat from the squalid fray? You lose.
No, you have to look The Process squarely in the eye and stare it down. Make The Process deliver solid findings rather than squishy assurances. Don’t get in its way. Clear its path and guide it in the right direction. Overwhelm it with on-point facts and well-informed questions and irrefutable data. Make The Process sweat with all the heavy lifting you force on it. Put The Process on public display and constant notice so that it has to answer for its actions.
You can gripe and wail and rage against The Process. It is deaf to your umbrage, and you will only go hoarse. Instead, you must ply The Process with persuasive argument and flattering endearments: yes, Process, I’ll do whatever you need. And a whole lot more, because now that I have your attention, you can’t get rid of me.
The Process will creep, glacially but relentlessly, toward a resolution. Understand it, cozy up to it, make it your ally. Otherwise, it will move on without you, and there will be no catching up.