A political discussion bound to get me unfriended

I try not to be too political here, since I feel like politics are divisive at their core and throughout the centuries, political affiliation has broken families apart, created wars, and put some awful people into positions of power. However, this year, Colorado has a proposition on the ballot which is very controversial. It pertains to the re-introduction of wolves to our eighth largest state.

Never mind that wolves are already here.

I grew up in a rural community, which was heavility supported by ranching, hunting, and other activities which automatically set the default at Extremely Red State when it comes to how people vote. I remember nights when people had dumped dead coyotes on the center line of Main St. of my hometown, or how the creedo of “shoot, shovel, and shut the fuck up” is common.

The resounding NOPE of my community is loud and clear. Never mind that a community of God-fearing, right wing, 2nd Amendment loving, domestic beer drinking folks also has some of the highest abortion rates per capita. One might think that it was being used as birth control it is so common. Yes. That was a cheap shot for the hypocrisy of people.

Here’s another cheap shot. Or several. Buckle up.

One of the arguments against reintroducing wolves to an area which spans thousands of square miles of public land, private land, and several different biomes is the destruction that wolves impose on the cattle industry, hunting, and the general safety of people in the area.

Let us consider for a moment, those poor ungulates who roam the wilds of North Park. The gentle and majestic Moose. This animal is like a draft horse with all the lethal hardware of a deer. Because it is a deer. And anybody who knows about moose, knows that they get cranky because those antlers are the fastest growing living tissue outside of bamboo. The process is so painful that moose probably co-adapted eating willow bark because of its analgesic properties. Yes, moose are self-medicating aspirin. Moose get cranky and trample, gore, and fuck up the days of a lot of people every year. My hometown prides itself on being the moose viewing capitol of Colorado, with…damn, like a bazillion moose living up there. Seriously, they are like rats. 1200lb rats with a migraine and a rack of antlers that can flip a Hyundai.

So far, nobody has been gored.

Why am I picking on moose? Well, I’m going to pick on other animals too. Next will be ranchers. The erridication of wolves was a gradual process, popular with Manifest Destiny. Right around the same time buffalo proved a threat to Westward Expansion–likely because they were the main food supply of an entire civilization of human beings that the Federal Government wanted…um, sent to extinction?–the buffalo were hunted out. They were also big animals who could barrel through a fence, which was what cattle and sheep farmers really disliked about the bastards. The Feds didn’t like that the Indians could build an entire town out of one and survive the harsh winters of the American West, so they had to go. Since then, pretty much what ranchers have been saying has been fine for everyone. In World War Two when the Federal Government, who hadn’t successfully starved out the noble creature known as the American Rancher with a thing called the Great Depression suddenly needed food for its troops who were being used to kill other people all over the planet (not picking on WW2, or the validity of what it accomplished–if any war was justified in American History, it was that one. You know, once we decided to actually join in the fight. Four years after Manchuria and Poland were invaded).

Wolves, like the Native Americans before them, were an apex predator in competition for resources. Mainly cattle, who were needed to make C-Rations. I guess somehow they comprised the edible part of these tins of food soldiers relied on in the field. So in order to boil down massive amounts of cattle into nearly inedible canned stew, more cattle needed to be grazed. Colorado was a good place for this, since short growing seasons meant hardly anything grew here. Plus leather was needed for A-2 Flight Jackets, which were pretty damned sweet for pilots looking to plow English girls.

Since bullets were needed to shoot Germans and Japanese, they poisoned the wolves. And the raptors. Because an eagle will eat a sheep or a calf too, apparently. Then they blamed the death of the majestic bald eagle on DDT, which was killing mosquitoes. But yeah. The slow moving rancher could not prevent the loss of livestock, and so baited meat and traps were used to kill the living fuck out of the competition…the wolves this time, not the Native Americans.

Since then, cattle ranching has become a lucrative business. In my hometown, mostly for millionaires who want to dress up and play cowboy for a couple weekends a year. You see, cattle ranches often take a huge loss, and if you own one, you can write it off on your taxes. It’s what every good millionaire does!

A lot of ranchers I have known (and I’m not saying all by any means) generally just kinda let the cattle do their thing. They move them around sometimes, brand them, artificially inseminate them, help them deliver delicious offspring, but most of the time the cattle are self-employed, roaming around public grazing lands (yes, public lands), becoming ribeyes. And dog food. And fertilizer for vegans to put on soy fields.

The argument is that a wolf will kill a cow for fun, just shredding it until it bleeds out, painfully. However, I’ve seen bone piles where cattle carcasses are dragged, each having one thing in common. Baling twine. You see, when a rancher can’t be bothered to take the fucking twine off a hay bale, the idiot cows will eat the twine, and it will eventually kill them. Painfully. Binding up their digestive tracts which are full of hay, which I guess the baling twine is just really dedicated to its job. Then they pile up the dead cattle in an undisclosed location, where the coyotes pick at the bones until all that is left is tiny little balls of red baling twine and bones. And the lonely howl of the wind in the sage.

This bill includes compensation for cattle and livestock killed by wolves too. Sorta like the compensation ranchers got for killing entire herds at the beginning of COVID because people weren’t buying enough and it was killing futures in the stock market. Don’t feel too bad for the ranchers, they are still being paid.

Hunters complain that wolves kill deer and elk in this way too. You know what else kills them? Prion disease. You know what else prion disease kills? People. You know what prion disease doesn’t kill? Wolves. So, a wolf pack kills some diseased animals and eats them before you can eat these diseased animals and be killed by prion disease.

And hey, since wolf populations will now be “managed” you can try to shoot one for a trophy instead of that deer nobody wants to eat because venison is disgusting. Elk sucks too. Unless you mix it with beef. Then, just eat beef.

I got to hear super hunter and Oregonian, Cam Hanes on Joe Rogan the other day voicing his opposition to wolves in Colorado. The most invasive species in Colorado are the Californian, Texan, and Oregonian. Don’t let this fucker fool you. No wolf ever drove up the cost of my property! If anything they keep property values low, because nobody wants their grandmother to be eaten by a wolf when she is lying in bed with COVID, waiting for her grand-daughter to bring her a basket of goodies.

The final thing is forest fires. Wolves target stupid, slow, and sick creatures. Which likely means the same type of people who will idiotically leave a campfire burning when they are camping and burn down most of my goddamned state. Wolves prevent forest fires by eating tourists who are too stupid to know how to not burn down the forest. * (Okay. They don’t eat campers. But I wish something would have happened to those careless assholes that started all these fires. Maybe the moose need to step up their game and trample some people.)

Trust the science.

That’s it for now. If anyone is left, please vote YES on 114.

I am not a Deep State Wolf.

*It has been brought to my attention (and rightfully so) that in spite of the wolf packs in Yellowstone, there have been no attacks on humans since reintroduction. And there are lots of people and wolves in Yellowstone right now. You are probably more at risk being bitten by a shih-tzu.

Monuments

I’m trying hard lately not to be too political. For one thing, it eats up the resources in my brain, and for another thing none of it matters. Our population is being pitted against each other in a well-orchestrated ballet of devisiveness that is weakening all of us so that some really bad people can become more rich and powerful.

My current work in progress deals a lot with the importance of memories, especially those attached to objects. Tonight, I wrote about a plastic pearl that I kept which had come off a prom dress from a girl I dated a lifetime ago. Throughout my life I have kept many momentos such as this. Old letters. Figurines. Books with messages penned from now departed friends. Various knickknacks that I have held onto for a variety of reasons. I might have inheirited this from my grandmother, whose house was like a museum dedicated to all the treasures she collected throughout her life. Each one of those pieces, no doubt, had some kind of story attached to it. After she passed away, the meaning of those objects and the stories that were associated with them departed with her, blown off like a nearly imperceptible layer of dust with the next breath of wind.

Not all of the objects I have kept have good memories associated with them. Some of them are awful memories, but every once in a while I drag them out to beat myself up a little bit. They serve as a reminder of how far I have come and how I don’t have any desire to really go back to those times. Sometimes I let them go. But what I do know of this process is that they serve as a concrete reminder of how things were in the past and they work as an anchor to establish the reality of those times. If these objects exist, it is undeniable that things happened.

Think of the piles of shoes or clothes or photographs of a Holocaust museum. Wouldn’t it just be easier to dispose of these objects? What an unpleasant part of human history? Or what about battlefields? All the war memorials and battlefields and monuments to the destruction of life that exist are surely glorifying the destruction of human lives, right? They only establish the status quo and are made by the victors to mark their victories.

No.

Recently, statues and monuments are being torn down all over the world because they don’t align with the political ideologies of groups of people who want them removed. It isn’t the monuments that need to be torn down, but rather the lessons we should learn from these sites. A friend of mine said very astutely that Confederate statues are just participations trophies. I couldn’t agree more. Many of these monuments were built during the Jim Crow days, when segregation was the status quo. A completely irrational law that further divided a nation, long after the veterans of the War Between the States were cold in the ground.

Were some of these monuments cast and erected to remind people that the war was over, but as long as Stonewall Jackson, Nathan Bedford Forrest, and Robert E. Lee survey the lands of Dixie, then we are only a stone’s throw from slavery, and don’t you forget it. These monuments were made to oppress. That doesn’t mean this is the lesson we should take from them.

I think they should stand as a reminder of our history, which includes our collective mistakes. Being educated as to why these statues are around should remind people of our history so we don’t forget. So we don’t become complacent with how things are. Knowing that institutional racism was (and arguably still is) a factor in our country is important. If you tear down these monuments, where is your example of this? Say you are in an argument with someone who is denying institutional racism, and they can say, “Well, Jim Crow really wasn’t a big deal here.” You can point out the window of the cafe to the statue standing in the center of town and say, “Then why is a Confederate General standing in the town square?” With the object comes context. The fact that somebody paid to have a statue of a defeated general built says more than you can just read in a text book. Without that, it removes the provenance. The obverse is whomever controls the past, controls the future.

The battlefield of the Little Big Horn is sorta like this too. To some, it is the site of a tragic massacre of a war hero–who has counties and streets and schools named after him. To others it is a place where a people who were being dispersed and subjugated took a stand against an aggressor and won a victory. History is complicated.

Every so often a statue of Conquistadore Onate is defaced, and I’m glad for it. The last time this happened in Santa Fe vandals sawed off one of his legs. This was because Onate used to come into a village and cut off just one leg of any man who was fighting age. He would go on to sodomize the men and rape the women. He would often murder children. I don’t know why he would be considered a hero, but everytime they fuck with his statue the history comes out. It is a reminder of how far people have come and what they have overcome.

I doubt very much that there would be any Confederate statues in the South or anywhere else had Reconstruction not completely devastated the South and embittered generations of people against the oppression of the North. And yes, it was oppression. People lived under honest-to-god martial law for over a decade before Reconstruction “ended.” In some places, the economy still hasn’t recovered. Rather than the Federal government just admit that they didn’t handle this very well, well, newly freed slaves were blamed for flooding an already impoverished work force with their numbers.

Remember too that a lot of the heroes of the Union went out west and slaughtered villages of American Indians. And a lot of the people who fought for the South didn’t own slaves and didn’t carry that ideology with them when they headed West either.

I don’t like the defacement of statues and monuments because it reminds me too much of the Cultural Revolution, fundamental Islamists, and the Soviets who attempted to erase any opposing ideology from the landscape so that they could rewrite the history. The US government did this as well, by using the Smithsonian Institute to catalog the history of North America as it fit into the narrative more conducive to Manifest Destiny. It’s a lot like grading a road bed before you pour the asphalt. Those Budhas that were blasted to pieces in Afghnistan are an example of this. History is complicated. Until you remove the complications.

My takeaway from the Civil War statuary is that these monuments were a way for artists and people to express their emotions about something that had happened. Yes, some of these feelings were racist and oppressive, but some of them were done because the people felt oppressed. They clung to a sense of regional pride. The North was not kind during Reconstruction, in many of the same ways the allies were not kind to Germany after World War I. Which is the reason it got a sequel. America is divided still, 150 plus years after the Civil War. Part of the reason for that is it is an old wound that cannot heal because the powers that be do not benefit from it healing.

I think the statues should come down when those wounds heal. Pulling them down now is a lot like removing the stitches before the cut can knit. It removes the conversations that should come with it. Only then can people see both sides to the story. Throwing out the old shoes and wedding bands at a Holocaust museum doesn’t fix anti-semitism. Tearing down Robert E. Lee doesn’t end centuries of racism. It might even prolong it.

Like a lot of the keepsakes I still have, a time will come when they no longer hold their meaning and I have moved past needing to hang onto them. In which case, they will occupy a landfill instead of a sockdrawer or cardboard box. In the meantime, I get to examine them and explore the foolishness and the importance of each while I can.

I know my ex wife hated these keepsakes because they reminded me of better times. Times that were outside of her control. She couldn’t touch the memories I had associated with them. Are these statues like that? I don’t know. But like some of these keepsakes, they aren’t entirely good, and they aren’t entirely bad either. Sometimes they represented hope and other times they reminded me of mistakes that were made.

I’m still trying to figure it all out.

The featured image is the Tower Bridge in London. Arguably a testament to colonialism from the 19th Century.

Thoughts about Shawshank

Today’s thoughts have taken me to a random place: The 1994 film, The Shawshank Redemption. When this movie came out, I was 18 years old. I had just graduated high school. I was dating my first girlfriend, and just about to embark on my adult life. I didn’t see this movie for another year. At the time, I was reluctant to begin anything. I was very naive for one. The College experience was like shifting gears without using a clutch, just grinding into another place and hoping you got there. It was probably the next year that I saw it. At the time, I considered it brutal. Violent. Gratuitous.

Only later would I recognize it as the truly beautiful story it was.

Today, mulling over thoughts about work, which has been on everyone’s minds lately, and recent work emails discussing the coronavirus and possible shutdowns here at work due to quarantines, a quote from the movie just leapt into my head.

“Terrible thing to live in fear.”

This thought has been in my head so much throughout my adult life. Quite possibly, this is the thought that has been the continual thread throughout my experience for the last 20 years. Lately, I see a lot of fear. Whether it is Trump, Coronovirus, layoffs, CPS, courtroom drama, loneliness, solitude, war, illness, poverty, Alexa, or anything else that keeps adults up at night, I’ve seen it. I’ve seen what it does to adults.

I think about one catastrophe after the next. The newest big thing to be afraid of. Climate change, pandemics, mass extinctions, socialism, capitalism, carcinogens in plastic bottles, an entire Texas-sized island of carcinogenic plastic floating around the Pacific. Turn on the news and if it bleeds, it reads. Words hurt and microaggressions, hashtag metoo, hashtag meat-too, the whole things sounds like a Billy Joel song after a while.

Yes, a Billy Joel song nobody really likes any more than an REM song with the same doom and gloom lyrics.

But here’s the thing. What in the actually fresh hell does anyone think any of this fear is going to accomplish other than putting a leash and a collar around your neck for someone else to drag you around by? If we just keep our heads down and don’t draw attention to ourselves, we can get by. We will get to lead our lives of quiet desperation. But really, nobody sneaks past Death.

Sorry, folks, but if it’s your time to go…no need to even pack a bag.

Pandemics have been around for as long as there have been people and germs. Here’s what happens. Germs are passed from people to people. A lot of factors determine whether or not you will die. Your general health, blood type, immune system, etc. We are constantly riding on the crest of infection and death. Those of us who don’t ride the wave wipe out. Yes, that is being glib, but what good does wearing the masks and bleaching everything really do? At some point, you will be exposed to an airborn pathogen. Much like smallpox and how it wiped out most of the populations of the Americas in the 16th Century, there were a lot of people who did survive.

That’s all any of us is really doing.

Should we put our lives on hold? Should we be hyper-vigilant to the point that our lives stop? No. As someone who was married to a self-proclaimed germaphobe, I can attest that this is the worst thing you can do.

Go, play in the dirt. Yes, wash your hands and cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough. If you are sick, stay home and try not to spread it around. Or you know, give yourself time to recover so you don’t die. Your immune system is actually pretty great. Take your vitamins to help it along. Get help if you are really sick.

This crap will run its course. More people in the 1920s died during the Spanish flu because of a miracle drug called Aspirin, which was used to relieve pain and lower fevers. Aspirin also gives women and children Reye’s Syndrome. They didn’t know much about this until sixty years later, so a lot of those deaths from the Spanish Flu were probably due to Reye’s Syndrome.

Lots of people died during that pandemic. More than World War One killed actually. But a hundred years later, the population of the world is at an all-time high. Ever.

With my job, politics, so many other things, I have learned that these things have a way of sorting themselves out. Losing my job won’t mean bread lines or a life of crime. It might just mean that I am seeing the end of an unhealthy relationship. Opportunities cannot present themselves if you are sitting around in a hole all day.

Sometimes I think that our governments want us to live in a constant state of fear because is keeps us in line. Lets be afraid of other cultures because they are our enemy. Let’s be afraid of the air and the germs floating around in it, let’s be afraid of melting ice caps.

How dare you! You have stolen my childhood!

How dare you? Propagating more fear, you little twit. You’ve encouraged more learned helplessness.

Let’s be afraid of everything instead of opening our eyes to that which we should just be getting angry at. Changes that need to be made. Institutions which have outlived their purpose. Such as racism, sexism, classism, or obsession with celebrity. Allowing academics to be experts because they have been gatekeepers of information for far too long, and now that we have all the information at the tip of our fingertips, they really don’t want to let go. Politicians, who used to represent thousands from afar used to rule because they represented the ideals of the people. Well, now the people are right here. But in spite of all the information we have, we are dumber than ever.

We need our fears to control us I guess.

Some people I know take comfort in their fear. That’s not really how I want to live, myself, if I’m gonna be honest. I would rather have hope. And if I can’t have hope, then I would rather walk away while I still can.