RESIST, PERSIST, EXIST

by Matt Thuney

We human beings are a cooperative species by nature. We have to be in order to survive. We come together for protection. We come together for growth. We come together to make our lives better. If we don’t come together, we fall apart. When human beings fall apart, civilization fails.

There is a myth that has gained increasing popularity here in America: it’s the myth of the “rugged individualist.” According to this myth, rugged individualists built this country. Lone entrepreneurs moved it forward. Only strong, independent leaders can keep us on the path to…to what? Going it alone as a nation? Ignoring or subduing the rest of the world?

It’s all a lie. “Rugged individualists” did not build this country; refugees and dreamers did that. They did it together, by working together to build towns, villages, cities, states, and finally an entire nation created from a vast patchwork quilt of heritages, beliefs, and visions for the future.

Yes, individuals can imagine and create amazing things. But it takes more than a single person to translate those amazing things into reality. And imaginative individuals do not arise mysteriously out of the ether and develop their capabilities single-handedly. They come from families, grow up in neighborhoods, learn from those around them. Whether they battle their environment or are nourished by it, they are the product of human interaction. And these individuals always receive help somewhere along the way. A piece of advice, a life lesson, someone’s garage to work in. There is no such thing as a self-made man. Man, woman, or child, we are all in this together. Together we achieve; apart we abate.

But it’s a jungle out there, right? An every-man-for-himself, dog-eat-dog world?

Another lie. Exactly how long do you think a rugged individualist would survive alone in the jungle? What kind of life would that be? No man, woman, or child can stand alone for long. And what do you get with a dog-eat-dog world? A bunch of half-eaten dogs. Animals run in packs for a reason. Humans do, too. For one thing, it makes life easier. For another, if you have a big enough pack working together toward a common goal, you can make life better, both for you and your pups.

Individuality is indeed one of the great beauties of being human. Here in America, we especially prize it, and rightly so. By celebrating individuality, we celebrate diversity; and diversity is the key to our survival. Monocultures don’t tend to last long. Being so uniform, they lack adaptability and do not hold up well against changes and challenges. When it comes to survival, conformity is not a good thing.

That is the conundrum our nation has always faced: Celebrating the individual while working together. That’s what truly makes America great: Our ability to hold that paradox in our hearts and minds and to move forward toward a better tomorrow for ourselves and our children and all the generations to come.

But there are boogeymen out there! People who don’t look like me, people who don’t think like me, people who want to control me…The Government!

A big lie, and one that now threatens to tear our country apart. Oh yes, Americans are most definitely diverse in appearance and thought. That is our strength. That is what propels us forward and brings out our unique creativity as a culture. And The Government? We are The Government! It’s not some monolithic, menacing monster that’s out to get us. We elect our representatives. If they fail to do their job, that’s our responsibility.

Responsibility. There’s a word that’s lost its way. Yes, we the people are the government. We can provide for the common good if we truly want it. If our elected representatives are acting irresponsibly, then that’s on us. We can change that. We can make it so that governmental officials respond to our wants and needs, not those of their wealthy donors. Right now, it sure seems like many of our representatives are bought and paid for by individuals who want only what’s best for them. We can change that, too. The Government is not the boogeyman. We, through inattention and falling for those lies, have become our own monsters.

We must resist the lies that lead us to believe we can only trust ourselves, that our self-interests are paramount, that we know what’s best and the rest of the community be damned. Paradoxically, this often-heard complaint is the most self-destructive command in the English language: “Just leave me alone.” You are not alone. You may try to be a “loner,” but you are never alone. Alone is a place where souls go to die.

Resist the lie that someone’s out to get us. Let’s not blame our neighbors, the terrorists, the government. Fear is the enemy. Division is the enemy. Exclusion is the enemy.

We came from all over the world (yes, even the “indigenous” peoples), willingly or not, to create this nation together and to live our diverse lives in harmony and with dignity and imagination.

We must not let this dream that is America die.

Resist the lies. Persist in the truth. Exist together.

Author’s bio: 

For the past 30 years Matthew has been scribbling humor and human-interest pieces and crafting political blogs for consumption in the Pacific Northwest.
Matthew has always been a student and seeker. Early on, it looked as though his path would lead to the Episcopal ministry. Luckily for the Episcopal Church, that path turned into a 40-year detour.

But everything started falling into place when Matthew and his wife moved to the hinterlands of northwest Washington. Lo and behold, he rediscovered his journalistic muse, reporting on his bumbling attempts to adapt to country living; He rediscovered his radio voice when a small band of crazed volunteers fired up a community radio station; and he rediscovered his spiritual roots as new friends and neighbors approached Matthew to give eulogies and even preside over the marriages of loved ones.
Who’da thunk it?

Certainly not his long-suffering spouse Donna, who thankfully remains at his side. Nor their puzzled families, who long ago gave up trying to figure Matthew out. Nor their two-and-a-half cats, who are always giving him quizzical looks.

 

Writer, Announcer, Instructor, Officiant, Community Coordinator

Bucolia: Hijinx in the Hinterlands is now available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Bucolia-Hijinx-Hinterlands-Matthew-Thuney/dp/1519400225/

And on Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B018HMANRW

Writer: https://www.facebook.com/Bucolia/

Community Coordinator: https://www.facebook.com/southforkvalley/

Announcer/Station Manager: https://www.facebook.com/KAVZradio/

Wedding Officiant: https://www.facebook.com/weddingswithspiritandwit/

How Do You Spell “No”?

by Cile Stanbrough

I am an American and I’m not thrilled about protest marching. I’ve done it a few times in my life and I’m not keen on it. Each time I marched, I did it in response to feeling impotent and thinking of myself as not doing enough to resist oppression. So, like so many armchair activists motivated by this politically challenging administration, I stood up to march for science when the opportunity presented itself.

In an attempt to light a fire with damp kindling regarding participating, I decided I would make a sign to carry. I threw myself into this project… colored pens…rolls of tape…a big ass dowel to strap the thing to. I had recently, in support of a cause in New York, purchased a tee shirt that stated simply, “I AM NOT AFRAID” in bold black letters on white. It made reference to a Joan of Arc production David Byrne was producing in NY. I was all about lighting up my inner Joan of Arc – with the shirt, it was personal – and I was going to MARCH! FOR! SCIENCE! So I designed my signs to coordinate with my shirt. I thought myself quite clever as I plotted out this creative endeavor.

A friend agreed to go with me to the march and we met downtown. We listened to some rather impressive speeches and I was struck by all the laughter around me thinking that some people really do enjoy these gatherings. There was the obligatory dissenting protestor for the other side – someone representing the persecuted, ill-informed, suppressed, climate change denying, white majority. One could spot a sort of jousting of signs between the warring factions above the crowd during the inspirational talks. No one made eye contact with me, or made mention of my sign but I didn’t think anything of it. I’m not a usual suspect on this kind of beat. Still, I felt relief when we finally got moving. ‘The Scene’ was wearing on me. The right wing science resister marched as well (this still being a free country). I received a lot of side eye en route. Shy, I thought. It wasn’t until the next day when I was sitting with my feet up drinking my coffee in the morning and idly looking at my sign when I spotted a spelling error. I sat bolt upright as the color flushed my face. Fuck. Me. Running…I had spelled afraid as “AFFRAID” on my sign!  The blood surrendered to gravity. I paled as I realized that I had spent HOURS parading in a crowd of people in the town where I live boldly proclaiming my ignorance! Horrified and too old to be embarrassed, I was shuttled directly to shame without paying any toll.

There is a standard prejudice among liberals that the conservative right are ignorant and illiterate. I can only imagine what was going through people’s predominantly liberal minds as they read my sign. Suddenly I reflected on all the laughter I had heard around and me and wondered how much was about my sign? Perhaps they thought I was an infiltrator from the right covertly trying to subvert their support for space exploration and environmental protection? Perhaps I was perceived as someone so far to the right she could no longer spell her name! Typical hysteria ensued as my personal fraud police – those keystone cops of cruelty – where in full whistle-blowing overdrive in my mind gleefully wedging blasting caps in my self esteem.

There is nothing that quite compares to the feeling that you are not doing what you are supposed to be doing no matter how righteous the intent. Nothing spells this out quite as clearly as personal sabotage and the subsequent stench of ego death. So how should this frustrated American resist? This first generation born American should be defining who she is and honing her imported super powers in this restless and ever changing country; she should be defying orders if needed and acting in accordance to honoring her democratic principles. Clearly this American should resist imitating the resistance of others and not be afraid to listen and march to her own drum.

Author’s Bio: Cile Stanbrough began writing as a coping mechanism. She had been coping for so long that when blogging technology appeared she wrote out her demons by over-sharing there and began to thrive. Cile found solace in end of life care and started a private business, Your Amicus Mortis, where she proposes to help people and families better understand mortality in the modern world.  She designed a website for her business which is primarily a place holder for her blog entries on and about death related subjects. There is also an Amicus Mortis Facebook page that has small essays regarding end of life. Cile can be found writing with her coffee and her thriving mechanism fully engaged everyday at 4am.

www.youramicusmortis.com    www.cilesfineline.blogspot.com

Labels

by Judith Shantz

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”. That was the childhood response to playground bullies, but it was never true. Words do hurt, far more than sticks or stones. Mindless cruelties. Retard and queer. We never outgrew it, the words just changed – redneck, welfare queen – nasty labels of otherness. Where did we learn these words?

Surely deplorables and bad hombres have always been with us.  Somewhere in our evolution we crossed a line, from the simple needs of the clan, “Og kills antelope” to the despicable rejection of otherness, “Og hates fags”.

The Ogs have become more sophisticated over the millennia but their type is universal. In America they now have perfectly ordinary, European names. They wear business suits. Some even have titles – doctor, congressman, pastor, president. Their message is often more nuanced but it is still the same brand of hate.

I belonged to a generation of believers. We were the granolas and the tree-huggers, the marchers and the protesters. It was a heady time with great music as its backdrop – music that gave us our anthems and promised “Times, they are a-changing”. We were, perhaps, naïve but our tents were big – Civil Rights, Human Rights, Women’s Rights – and our hearts were expansive.

But it wasn’t quite enough. We grew up and had babies and needed jobs. We cut our hair and put on work clothes and took out mortgages. The fierce momentum lagged and those big tents shriveled, became more exclusive, leaving the most vulnerable behind. Now, in some quarters, ‘colorism’ embraces only lighter-skinned African Americans and Feminism has been reduced to a fight for reproductive rights – certainly a critical issue but not the only one.

In greater and greater numbers, the disenfranchised have turned to the politics of identity, rising up to claim their own labels and narratives. This wasn’t caused by any single event – it cannot be laid at the feet of September 11 or Trayvon Martin or even FOX News – those were simply catalysts. “I will no longer permit you to define me; I will name my own identity.”

This has been empowering for some.  We can see that in the happy proliferation of rainbow flags. But it has also left so many others in little bubbles of aloneness, struggling to reimagine their own unique identities, standing rigid and apart, each with his or her own label. “This adjective, this pronoun, this acronym, this is my unique identity. You are Other.  You cannot know my pain.” We tiptoe through these minefields, afraid that our words will, in the parlance of the day, ‘disrespect’ those Others. And now, in these politically charged times, ‘PC’ itself has become a pejorative.

Am I an innocent in all this?  Alas, no. I am a world class ranter and have been known to broad-brush, at least privately, entire populations as anti-intellectual and bigoted. I have also indulged in creating my own identity, my label. I have let the few really nasty, anti-immigrant tirades hurled at me get under my skin and stick there, like a tick bite, festering. I have sometimes worn my alien status as a badge of honor.

Yet my particular identity is mostly invisible. I am only really affronted by the attacks on the millions of other immigrants who stand out because their skin color or language marks them as alien. I can really only imagine what the reality is for poor people standing in long lines outside the food banks, the disabled children, the men of color or the women in hijab; people who wear their ‘otherness’, their ‘lesserness’ in public every day.  We cannot fail to see and understand this pain. All those individual identities, celebrating their otherness because they have so little else – no hope of prosperity in a fabulously wealthy land, no hope for respect or admiration, no anticipation of acceptance or justice in the only home they know.

While immigrant may be part of my life experience, it doesn’t define me any more than gay or black or atheist defines anyone else. I don’t want to think of people as adjectives or acronyms. Those words do not portray any of us in our wholeness.

Ultimately, my resistance is to labels of all kinds, whether the undeserved ones or the self-selected ones.  I do not want to sanctify otherness.  Some of us are saintly, others not so admirable. But our simple humanity still makes us all eminently knowable. While it is impossible not to notice basic physical differences, I want to look you full in the face and see simply another human being. I want to listen to your story and see in you the whole person that you are.

I would return to my 1967 self and feel the upwelling energy of the fight for justice, and all those other fights, against poverty and homelessness, against corruption and greed – but never, ever against one another.

One by one, I am trying to lay down all the stick and stones.

Author’s Bio:  Judy Shantz grew up on the freezing/scorching Canadian prairie but always longed for a more gentle clime; preferably one with the scent of roses and salt sea in the air. Her first full-length novel, The Case of the Flickering Flashlight, was written at the age of nine and accepted by her loving parents with amazement and scarcely-disguised laughter. Her adult writings fill notebooks, spill out of files, cover cocktail napkins and the backs of grocery lists and her association with Red Wheelbarrow Writers is providing the inspiration to add flesh and feathers and fancy pants to all those characters waiting to be heard.

Burn ~ Part 2 (cont. from last week’s part 1): Refusal

by Nancy Grayum

I see withholding as a practice, a way of living lightly, spending small, taking time to think and feel, pacing ourselves. Progressive refusal, increasingly tweaking our resistance to the culture of waste and greed, can create meaningful outcomes.

Divestment from funds that support environmental or social abuse is easy to accomplish, but it can be difficult for people to let go of potential financial gain.  If investing in mutual funds, then we select “socially responsible” and read the fine print.

No banks or investment corporations use my money now. I’ve used only our local credit union, not the for-profit banks, for 50 years. A credit union is a cooperative non-profit, with an elected board that exists to benefit local community members. Bank-initiated legislation constantly threatens the non-profit status of credit unions. Even with strong resistance from members, the banks creep in: WECU sold our mortgage. Their Visa is actually Citibank. I pay the charges quite immediately so Citibank gets zero interest, but the usurers get a take from my vendors, who in turn charge me.

It’s this type of close examination of my own assumptions and habits that leads me to seek and share more ways to resist dependence on an abusive system.

I won’t vote for a candidate who accepts corporate contributions. Thousands of alliances have formed since Senator Bernie Sanders set the example and proved the power of common people during his presidential campaign. As these groups coalesce I will support them in the interest of social justice, education and a compassionate society.

Since the 1970’s everyone in our family has attended to efforts to decrease personal use of fossil fuels. These days I walk and use public transit to schools, markets, libraries and offices, but we also use a gas-powered car.

We support local farms and economies by purchasing locally-sourced fresh food. We avoid buying things that had to be transported by ship, plane, or trucks. But we can’t grow lemons or avocados here; there is still privilege in our purchasing habits.

We recycle and re-use. We also agonize over the omnipresent plastic that is woven through our personal culture like the DNA of living organisms. We could do better.

I resist by protecting my mind. I refuse to watch or listen to propaganda aka advertising aka network programming, so I don’t feed the gaping maw of corporate athletic, retail, political, or pharmaceutical America. There’s been no TV at home since I dialed up the internet in the 20th Century, but still the headlines from around the world swim in our ether whether we want to know about them or not. I’ve always been disinterested in “the news” in a rather snooty way, and continue my lifelong quest for meaningful journalism, verified sources with integrity, and without snarly hi-amp attitude. I wi-fi-couch surf national and international headlines but find other ways to read those topics in depth for free. Breitbart is free. (Opposition research.)

Oh yes, Yes!  magazine makes my list, along with other ad-free print and online sources of news and people in our multiple cultures that interest and inspire me: The Sun, Orion, Crosscut and Northwest Citizen, ACLU, Sierra Club, Northwest Treaty Tribes, Jay Taber’s Salish Sea Maritime blog and Jen Briney’s Congressional Dish podcast. Then I try to budget my stress hormones and let my thoughts compost sans odeur.

While I aim to stay healthy and fully available to family and friends, I now take the time to write postcards to our members of Congress every week–one topic per missive. I sign petitions, forward the urgent emails, then unsubscribe from the flood of solicitous promotions that result from my clicks. I make protest signs, and after years away, show up at protests. I pray that all people and all creatures may experience kindness and compassion.

Quiet time, retreat, solitude are like the exhale after a frightened gasp. Post-traumatic stress after November 2016 made me sick for three months. I seek renewal. Wendell Berry, in the last line of his poem The Peace of Wild Things, says it for me:

For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

We were burned this past winter and the flames are intensifying. But we are still breathing. The deliciously saturated clouds are still floating above, the rhodies are blooming at our front door, and we didn’t use the gas fireplace today. We can’t change our cultural entrapment with the flick of a switch, but we can keep the wicked wizards’ feet to the fire while we continue our own slow burn.

Author’s Bio: Nancy Grayum grew up in the rain-blessed forests and on the salty shores of Washington State, usually seeking the right path, or some divergence. She taught in public schools during the 1970’s, did a stint as a self-employed copy editor, then had a long career in classroom technology support at WWU. As a recovering technical writer she enjoys writing poetry and creative non-fiction, and is a volunteer with Whatcom Land Trust. She lives in Bellingham with her husband Gene Riddell  and their dog, Mr. Black.

Burn ~ Part 1 Investigation

by Nancy Grayum

We got burned. But as I simmer over the dismantling of the EPA, the outrageous bloating of a so-called “Defense” budget, the construction of pipelines, rolling of coal and oil trains and the fracking for natural gas, I also initiate an investigation of the contradictions in today’s energy culture and in my own way of living. I can resist more effectively if I am mindful.

Natural gas for our home averages a very reasonable $30 a month for on-demand hot water and the gas fireplace that, with the flick of a switch, heats most of our small house. The gas main runs under our street about 30 feet from the front door, where, gazing at snowfall last winter, I became wide-eyed-curious for the first time about where the gas in that pipe was extracted or how, and what route it followed as it moved to our home.

A geologist friend says our gas most likely comes from fracking the tar sands in western Alberta, British Columbia and Montana. With the methane leaks in drilling for it, the power needed to liquefy it and the carbon emissions from burning it, natural gas is a disaster for the climate. Fracking damages and pollutes water tables and causes earthquakes. Puget Sound Energy derives 24% of our electrical supply from natural gas generating plants and they plan to build more on the tideflats in Tacoma. Are there other energy sources we blindly enjoy without scrutinizing the actual cost?

Coal-fired electrical generation is being phased out in Washington since we passed a law in 2011 that will eliminate it by 2025. However, 35% of Puget Sound Energy electricity is generated at a coal plant in eastern Montana. Ironically, our bounty of coastal ports attracts fossil fuel companies’ desire for shipping facilities in order to reap profit from overseas markets. Lummi Nation provides a superb example of protection and resistance by holding fast to their 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott rights.

Hydroelectric power is the highest ranking source of electricity in the state, at 36%. As a young girl I rowed a little boat on the reservoir behind Merwin dam on the Lewis River, heartbroken to see the black ghosts of huge trees rooted and motionless beneath the deep, clear water. With construction of our 47 hydroelectric dams across nearly 20 of our major rivers, the new reservoirs permanently destroyed habitats for thousands of species, and the salmon journey through fish-ladders became a lame excuse for the vibrant rapids and life cycles of their past.

Oil is not extracted in Washington State, but refineries have a huge footprint along our coastlines, no matter how they try to hide behind tree buffers, wage statistics or best practices. Trains with hundreds of oil cars pass through every community with a track. Tank ships, with their engines idling in port 24/7, fill up with refined product and chug away, risking our fragile and beloved Salish Sea.

Electricity derived from wind, solar or bio-gas is minimal–just four percent–in our green state. We support it by paying higher fees to PSE. This doesn’t mean our homes are singled out to use only green energy, but we become sponsors for the addition of green power to the grid. I just barely believe this; after all, PSE, while once a public utility, is now held by foreign private investors and stockholders.

We’ve never trusted nuclear power plants because we’ve seen the damage. As a result of Japan’s tsunami catastrophe, we fret about our wild Alaska salmon. Instead of asking a chef, “Is it farmed or is it wild?” we now grimly joke, “Is it farmed or Fukishima?” We’ve very effectively resisted nuclear power plants: just 1% of PSE power is generated at Hanford.

Most Washingtonians who are fortunate and comfortable are agitated about forthcoming disaster, if not from spills or explosions then from the sense of walking over hot coals to stay economically safe. Messaging by fossil fuel corporations imprints and drives our culture, keeping people confused, polarized and in the dark. Ads, fake news, blatant lies and distraction succeed in the election of greedy con-artists and financiers to the seats of power. It’s not new. Our comfort has a high price, it’s just more obvious now than in recent years.

For me, resistance takes the form of paying attention to these greedy ones and trying not to get hooked into their game. Call me passive-aggressive: I withhold.

 

In this two-part post, Nancy withholds, so check back in a week to read about resistance by progressive refusal.