Provincial Matters, 11-10-2014

Provincial Matters, 11-10-2014

“Despair is No Good” But Let’s Raise Some Hell

In l971 when E.B. White was awarded the National Medal of Literature, he wrote a piece, delivered in absentia, which he concluded by saying “despair is no good – for the writer, for anyone. Only hope can carry us aloft, can keep us afloat. Only hope, and a certain faith that the incredible structure that has been fashioned by the most strange and ingenious of all mammals cannot end in ruin and disaster. “

It doesn’t matter that the U.S. Senate has been taken over by people who I consider to be sociopaths, psychotics and venal thieves, nor that the majority, though not all, of their opposition is as peppy and thoughtful as snoozing walruses.

What matters is that we promise to ourselves to raise more hell than ever. And keep the promise. If you’re not a comedian that’s all you can do. Be as thoughtful as possible and make as much trouble as you can. As someone wise once said “You’ll always know when you’re on the wrong path in life, because it is very, very crowded.

It takes a long time for some old goats to realize that their brains can’t handle the prepackaged talking points of political parties and pundits anymore, can’t really think straight when the standard, and now utterly decaying, political polarities in our country cast their snares, when the chattering classes and even the old goat’s own stifling partisanship compete for his attention.

Despair is no good. Neither is gibberish. Neither is the fog of war, nor the numbing anxiety of poverty, nor the arrogant certainties of the rich and their money megaphone screaming static as loud as thunder bolts all day and all night.

To keep on raising hell you have to keep your dukes up, you have to ignore the slick ideologies, the political mind-fxxking, the appeals to soggy minded comforts of magical delusions and egotistical high hopes of “some success,” and just resolve to serve what’s important to you with all you’ve got.

And that’s the point. You have to know where you stand. Not who you stand with. Politics is not a sport, though I use to think it was.

What’s important is the physical, psychological, and emotional well-being of individual people, their peace of mind, their opportunities to be productive; the health of the commons, our water, air, and land we all need to survive; our privacy and freedom from surveillance; our liberation from induced panic and the commercial seductions of impulsive greed; dismantling the soulless machinery of war with its fathomless façade of lies, and stopping the killing of innocent people as if offhand “collateral damage” was nothing to bother our silly little heads about; doing everything we can to promote the creativity, health and curiosity of children and people of all ages; and believing in and working for economic justice.

War, pollution, poverty, sexism, racism, the imperial demon of insatiable greed, spying, warrantless searches, and secret police, violence of all kinds, force of all kinds, ideas that are treated as more important than lives -- these are the scourges of our world. 

Despair is no good. Brush it aside. Toss out the old polarities.  Recommit yourself to what you believe in. And raise some hell with the sociopaths and the misers. And keep on until you can’t anymore.



I’m not of a mind to flog the skin off the party I have long belonged to. I’ve done that many times before. I’m more comfortable with Democrats than I am with the mad hatter alternative. New Mexico is blessed with some fine, dedicated, clear thinking people of the left who’ve thrown in with the Democrats because there’s no other place for them to go until we become a parliamentary democracy and have multiple parties -- perhaps when we’ve moved to Mars or set up shop on a couple of big asteroids.

Some of these people of the left even won office in this monstrosity of a mid-term election. We’ll all have plenty of time to see if they have what it takes to stand up and do something constructive for people who need government to do its job – keep our infrastructure safe, care for those who can’t care for themselves, protect us from the violent of all stripes and reasons, help children when they need it, and insist, through regulation and follow through, that corporate persons don’t make fortunes by ruining the environmental commons we all depend on. Government must move forcefully against those polluters who are contributing to climate change and find ways to deal with the crazy and potentially catastrophic weather it brings.

For all that, one has to ask: Does the far right have a monopoly on big money? Are they the only ones with competent political strategists? Is all the canny leadership in their back pocket?  Is the whacky right in sole possession of masterful and persuasive public relations? Are the crude, gun totting, hog castrating (like Joni Ernst of Iowa) far-right folks the only ones who can say what they think, even if what they think is numbingly senseless?

It seems like it’s so for now.

And then there’s grassroots fund raising. The Democratic pursuit of money was a flop, a bore and an insult this year. The Republicans get money the easy way. They fund themselves from the coffers of those they have made obscenely wealthy. The Democrats scrounge for bucks like noisy squirrels stashing away a couple of acorns.

I can’t remember ever having been so bothered and bombarded by political pleadings for money, shame blaming for money, badgering and whining for money, fear mongering for, even lying about, money, spreading rumors about how close so many elections “really are.”

It was enough to make one never give another dime to Democrats. I have, incidentally, never given a penny to any Republican in my life. One got emails like this: “The President has emailed you, the Vice President has emailed you, the Secretary of State has emailed you, Nancy Pelosi  has emailed you” and still, you little wretch, you haven’t given enough money, not anywhere near enough. And such things came often right after you did give them money. Month after month of this scrounging drove people wild, me included. And these pleas came from so many organizations that one just couldn’t keep up. It felt like a scam. 

And the THANKS? They hardly ever came.

We do know this: The amount of money wasted in New Mexico on this election, the millions and millions of dollars (a real and full accounting is not yet possible) would probably feed, clothe, educate and even bring some peace of mind for a while to much of our impoverished population. And we also know that the rich who made political investment after political investment in Republicans will hardly ever help anyone but themselves.

When you see a homeless person or a panhandler in Albuquerque, let your thoughts turn to those who have all the money in the world, and who hold on to every nickel of it.

America’s culture of greed – a vice that can never be satisfied, that demands literally endless growth and acquisition – is counteracted, to some degree, by America’s culture of generosity – a virtue with self-imposed limits that is outward looking and not self-serving.  And it is the poor, themselves, and the struggling classes, that help the unfortunate and the disadvantaged most often.

We know that the rich tend to be stingier than the poor and middle class when it comes to helping those in need. The greedy can’t give up what they’ve gotten, even at the expense of double-crossing their own consciences.

That’s one of the lessons of this mid-term election. The other one is all about foolishness, about a political party that ignores and minimizes the domestic accomplishments of its own president, a political party that really isn’t a political party anymore but a collection of some very nice people, particularly in New Mexico, and some of them even good politicians, a political entity that apparently couldn’t organize an Easter egg hunt or a good game of Frisbee. 

Let’s allow our indignation to rise, even to gorge us for a moment, and then let’s get to the work reserved for citizenship – giving our all to what’s important to us as humane and responsible human beings cutting through the disgusting wiggling and soggy tangles of the flypaper of politics and see who is actually, practically and realistically on the side of what we hold dear and know is right.  The number might be very small, and it will take hard analysis of their policies and histories to find them out. But at least it’s a start.


Why We Love New Mexico – Water Leaves and Cranes Arrive

Sometimes everything turns out right. It’s that way in November on the ditches in the Valley. The water is shut off November 1st. It won’t appear again until March or sometimes April. But at the same time the water goes, we become hyper aware of the music of the cranes. It starts in October as a faint, gentle promise of glorious winter sights of gliding and swooping and the feathered hushing of wings as they land.  And all winter we’ll hear the stratospheric chorus of the wild world coming from Vs of cranes high in the sky.

Sandhill Cranes are elegant, majestic creatures. The average crane stands three and a half feet tall, weighing in at roughly 10 to 15 pounds, with a wingspan of some six  to seven feet. Their beautiful gray bodies and long necks are topped by a head with a bright red crown above its eyes and a sword-like bill. Their gait on the ground is hesitant and exacting.

Some folks like to hunt Sandhills, which is something beyond my comprehension. But they have to get a New Mexico Small Game license and a Sandhill Crane permit to do so. New Mexico Game and Fish recommends that hunters use “nontoxic shot” and shoot for the head and neck, but from a distance of no more than 40 feet. “This will reduce crippling loss and increase chances for a successful harvest.” I’ll always side with the cranes, unless the shooter is really hungry.

As the winter moves along, we can sometimes find ourselves with a gathering of cranes and geese drawn to the tossing out of a small offering of chicken scratch and oatmeal. As we stand there, the honkers and the stately far fliers approach with caution, and then the geese rush forward with noisy abandon and the cranes, like tall warriors of the veld, move in undisturbed. Just feeling their presence close by liberates a sense of trust in the world, that its wonders and mysteries are beyond us, but somehow, too, if we are kind, not in opposition to us.

Experts on Sandhill Cranes advise people not to feed them regularly, drawing them to a single spot. Habituating them to one place can make them more vulnerable to predators like coyotes who are smart enough to pay attention and seek them out as prey when people have left.

The cranes of winter just about make up for the loss of the gurgling sound of water as it makes its way through the checks on the ditches. And when the cranes leave in the spring and water returns, we will miss them with the same intensity that we greet the first green signs of the season of renewal.


(Photos: Raised fist by Pabak Sarkar; Donkey by Gideon; Close up of Sandhill Crane by Chris; Pair of Sandhill Cranes by Nazhiyath Vijayan / CC)


This piece was written by:

V.B. Price's photo

V.B. Price

V.B. Price is editor and co-founder of New Mexico Mercury. He is the former editor of Century Magazine and New Mexico Magazine, former city editor of the New Mexico Independent, and long-time columnist for the late Albuquerque Tribune. His latest book is The Orphaned Land: New Mexico’s Environment Since the Manhattan Project. He retired as the editor of the Mary Burritt Christiansen Poetry Series at UNM Press in 2010. He has taught in the UNM Honors Program since l986.

Contact V.B. Price

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