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Occasionally, I experience an incident that is a perfect encapsulation of a larger trend. As with all anecdotes, whether it is a microcosm of larger social trends or just a funny story is up for the reader to determine.

About two weeks ago, I was waiting for a bus in Whitefish, Montana, to go from the Amtrak depot there to Missoula, Montana. Whitefish is in general a nice place, if a little touristy, and I had been whiling away the hours between 7 AM, when the train gets to town, and 4 PM, when the bus leaves.

When I had walked around Depot Park, I noticed that a small duck pond that had been there the last time I was there, in 2014, had disappeared. When I went to the library, I had confirmed this fact, that there had once been a duck pond in the park. And so, later, as I was waiting for my bus, I mentioned that to another man who was waiting for a different bus. He groused that he missed it, and that they must have done it "just so they could get the money from a few more stalls in the farmers' market". I didn't exactly enjoin him in fullscale debate, but I did perhaps demur on the causes, saying perhaps it was leaking, or took too much money to clean up.

There are many reasons why a duck pond in a city park might get filled in. The first one that would occur to me is the fact that waterfowl can often contaminate water, causing a health problem. Maybe there was safety concerns, as even a small duck pond could be a hazard for small children playing in the park. Maybe the pond was leaking. Maybe it was too expensive to clean. (And indeed, just today, I found that in a document explaining the renovation of the park, the pond was described as "dilapidated".) In any case, rather than looking at any obvious reasons why a change would have been made, my bus stop companion seemed to jump right to shady backroom deals where small town city council members rolled around in the dough they could make by packing in more booths at a once-a-week farmers' market in a city park.

It is probably unfair to make too much of a strawman out of a single conversation at a bus stop, but for me, it is a not infrequent type of discourse lately: any decision, no matter how small, is explained as an obvious movement by some big power block, working through compliant, if not corrupt, public officials. The complexities of society can be simplified down in the most cynical way possible, even when the cynicism makes no fucking sense. It has been nine years since Occupy Wall Street, ten years since The Tea Party, and the end result seems to have been to explain every single fact of life as the work of mysterious and malevolent "elites". So congratulations, consciousness-raisers, people have now realized that everything is made of conspiracies, including the fate of poor, downtrodden duck ponds, crushed under the heel of the international Farmers' Markets and the greedy machinations of Big Vegetable Stall.