An Open Letter to the President

2 June 2014 § Leave a comment

2 June 2014

Dear Barack,

Thank you for finally stepping up to play President. You’re doing great things. In this moment, the future of the human race may well be in your hands.

No pressure.

Today will be the easy part: your voice will carry us all through the shock of a government taking positive action. It’s a rare thing. Some people are going to be very upset. They’re going to throw temper tantrums, and throw money around, and try to keep things from changing. They may think the systems which pay them aren’t broken. They may think that you’re a fool, a Communist, a tyrant.

Show them compassion. They’re sleeping infants, whining when the teet pulls away to piss, when the sun shines too brightly through the window. Let’s wake them up, gently, and help them get ready for school. Let’s show up for them when the bell rings, and be ready for their questions. Let’s get through this together, trade ideas, and find new, healthy ways to grow.

Thank you for challenging those who have grown rich and powerful by facilitating the pollution of the Earth. They may be the same people who will see the rest of us through this great transition, and innovate brilliant new ways to thrive. Job loss must occur to create new jobs: no longer does society employ bourreaux – the men in masks who pulled the guillotine lever – and no longer must we employ resources which deteriorate the integrity of the planet. Our inventors and innovators have produced successful alternative energy sources for decades, many of which are in wide use today.

Historically, humans have survived through adaptation: when caves no longer served us, we built houses. We do not need coal. The mining companies know this best, which is why they will fight with tooth and claw and wallet. It is what we we do: we survive.

Stay strong, brother. Your strength today will empower us for generations, will help our great-great-grandchildren, whose fate we have thus far refused to acknowledge, in ways they may never know.

In Solidarity,

Sean Talbot

Digging Pebble’s Grave, part the next.

20 April 2014 § 1 Comment

In a widely-reported move, Rio Tinto, a major player in the development of Alaska’s Pebble Mine – long a threat to the Bristol Bay watershed and its fisheries – gifted its shares in the project to the Bristol Bay Native Corporation and Alaska Community Foundation. The decision was announced after the EPA said it would consider stopping the mine, citing the Clean Water Act. The White House supported the EPA’s announcement. Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski suggested that the Obama Administration may have held more sway in the process.

Last September, Anglo American, a mining company which had invested in Pebble Mine from the start, pulled out of the project. Currently, Canadian-based firm Northern Dynasty Minerals retains shares in Pebble Mine.

Alaska’s government, hyperaware of both how much money Pebble Mine would produce for the state and how much it would devastate the region environmentally and economically, has remained steadfast in “letting science decide” the fate of Pebble.

I’m a Bristol Bay fisherman. The threat of Pebble Mine has loomed over every season I’ve fished like a dark banner under which ornery fisherman gather and complain. Movies have been made in protest. For half a decade, nearly every fishing boat, tender, skiff and processor vessel in Bristol Bay has flown the anti-Pebble flag, the corresponding stickers stuck ubiquitously throughout the region (one remained on my car as I sold it last year in Oregon).

No one in the fishery knows, really, what might have happened had Pebble gone through. It still may, though the chances are minimal. Would we have had four years of decent fishing left, or until the spawn of the last uncontaminated fish died off? Should we worry about other problems now, like Fukushima and radioactive fish, or the Fraser River’s anticipated heavy run, which this year may overtake Bristol Bay as the most abundant salmon run in the world, and plummet our price?

On a smaller scale, I’m fishing this year with Heather on her boat, the Silver Kris. We’ll be running it together. Will everything work correctly? Will we catch fish? Will we lose money on the venture to Alaska? We’re to drive to Seattle today to put gear and food on the barge.

It’s that time of the year. I’ve mostly forgotten or repressed what negative memories of last year’s grind on the Okuma remained, and I’m readying for the northern migration again. With worries and confidence and news of this disaster, or that gift.

Pebble Mine is now in the hands of BBNC, who are, by and large, fishermen. Imagine if the protestors in Egypt were handed Mubarak’s power; if Syria’s government forces suddenly handed its arms over to the families of civilians it has murdered; if Occupy Wall Street accomplished something tangible. We’ve won, gotten what we wanted; the protest of Alaska’s rural communities, fueled by environmental and cultural stewardship, worked. What now?

Now, we continue. We buy food and coffee, rain gear, engine parts; save receipts for next year’s taxes. We visit a friend at the airport who’s on layover toward the fishing grounds. We tend to the passing of the seasons, and adjust the anchor lines for the flooding tide.

We go fishing, because that’s what we do.

feeling up portland.

3 February 2013 § 1 Comment

Bar Star District, Portland, 2 am.

We’re standing in front of the Shanghai Tunnel restaurant, which just closed, in search of post-black light party food. We are four, dressed entirely in white, two women, two men. I am wearing a white jalabya and shal. Muslim prayer garments. I am not Muslim, yet I pray.

Across the pedestrianized street, a man with a megaphone insists that everyone present “be somewhere else,” for the bars are shutting down, and it is time to go. Police cars grace every block. Tickets are issued, and drunk people are yelling. To our right, incoherent insults fly over the shoulder of a small man with a beard. On our left, two very large black men turn heads, and then bodies, toward the source. In three steps they have gained enough momentum to not be stopped by streetcar or police lights, let alone small white people. We are leaving now.

I have been the target of such anger, and been projected upon by those who did not know what to do with their feelings.

Fact: there are a greater number of negative feelings in human emotion than positive.

Many people do not know how to articulate negativity. Like sub-genres of music undeserving of the stereotypes associated with their more popular counterparts, feelings like sadness and fear can be translated easily into hate and violence. So can excessive levels of lead in one’s blood.

We walk briskly, brushing by homeless men digging in trash cans and scantily dressed women crying their sorrows on the shoulders of men who do not respect them. I am wearing sunglasses because here, I’d rather be anonymous. I do not recognize the looks I’m receiving from people in the Voodoo Doughnuts line. A police officer holds my gaze for three eternal seconds until somebody in high heels pukes at his feet.

I am impressed by Portland’s ugliness. She is rolling on her back, scarred belly exposed, wanting attention. Begging to be loved, like the woman crying to the man wearing his erection and history of sexual abuse on his sleeve. He’s saying all the right things while his hand on her ass is in the driver’s seat, popping the clutch.

The others in my group decide this place is not a Yes, and that we should go home. Marai, our Egyptian friend, offers to make traditional North African food when we arrive. “This is a yes,” he says when he finds something interesting. “And everything is interesting when you have no expectations, because you cannot be disappointed.”

As my troupe crossed Burnside, a brown-skinned man in an Escalade stuck his head out of the window, looked me directly in the eye, and said “Osama? I didn’t know you were in town, buddy!”

Really, Portland?

My new friend can teach me much, for my disappointment in humanity is huge right now. I have no trust in it. I expected better, I expected more.  It baffles me that people spend as much time, energy, and money on things that make them angry and numb. Alcohol and self-hatred. I am confused by the lack of learning, and by the stagnancy so many live by. If reaching out in a certain direction ends with your hand stuck in the mouth of a hungry shark, why look that way again? And again, and again? Does the Unknown not contain the possibility of Better? Are we all aware that there is Better?

And what is that Better? Holding on to what we have because the good moments are great, though the bad moments hurt like broken bricks and dry ice dropped from a second-story window?

My compassion eclipses my judgement. I do not exclude myself from those who hold their hope over violent flames waiting for it to freeze. I enable suffering in myself and those I love. I manufacture conflict from expectation, and am hurt when others do the same to me. Sometimes, right when I think that I’ve got myself together, someone shows me all the context that I’ve missed, and how I’ve betrayed them. As much as I’d like to think of how I’ve refined myself to get along best with me, the alphabet streets do not ask for my permission to hide beneath misdirection, to express their pain, or to inflict others with it. I simply wish that they wouldn’t.

America Starves Herself Silent: A Call to Link Arms.

25 March 2012 § 1 Comment

Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City, has banned the donation of food to homeless shelters in his city.

He’s enacted the anti-food policy because he, his food task force, and the NYC Department of Health (together dubbed the ‘food police’) want to keep better track of the nutritional needs of homeless in New York. The Department of Health Commissioner Seth Diamond insists that the ban is consistent with a government effort to improve everyone’s health.

The donations are to be turned away because the salt, fat, and fiber contents in them cannot be verified, which defies new regulations which require of all food now served in government-run shelters. The good deeds of local bakers, restaurateurs, and shops who have donated food to the homeless for years, even decades, are now being rejected. Diamond says that the food they donate really isn’t needed.

Naturally, those who donate the food, such as Glenn Richter and his wife Lenore, of Ohab Zedek, a synagogue on the Upper West Side, and those who eat the donated food, such as Jeff Stier, senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research, disagree.

It’s not difficult to understand the aesthetic, well-intentioned nature of such policies. If the true motive is for the homeless to be healthier, there is nobility in the actions of Bloomberg’s so-called Food Police.

Given that New York City is in the United States, however, where people were once free to eat, pray, and love as they pleased, governmental micromanagement to this extent is intolerable, and unacceptable.

Just down the road, in Philadelphia, feedings to the homeless were banned in city parks, supposedly to protect homeless from “foodborne illness.” Family picnics and gatherings around food are still allowed in city parks.

In February, Alaska Rep. Bill Stoltze refused to call a hearing to discuss Senate Bill 3, which would provide 15 cents to lunches and .35 to breakfasts in Alaska public schools. Stoltze’s argument? He wanted to use that money on another bill that would improve the health of the state’s children by providing Alaska-grown and caught foods.

A local Anchorage activist, Kokayi Nosakhere, sat outside the representative’s office in Juneau, on a month-long food strike, trying to get Stoltze to call a hearing on Senate Bill 3. The politician never budged. Neither did his other proposed bill.

These events are not isolated or coincidental, just as the same-day crackdown on Occupy protests across the U.S. last October was not an accidental act of desperation by the threatened Powers That Be.

Now, it’s personal. It’s about food – that most basic resource that we all require, regardless of politics or social standing. If governments control the food supply (i.e. restrict resources) more than they already do, they control the people’s ability to act – to protest, to speak up, to rally, to say that No, We Won’t Have This.

Two months ago, SOPA and PIPA, acts that would have effectively shut down the internet, came dangerously close to being passed. Only what began as a grassroots movement against the bills kept them from passing. For every one law that people stand up against, twenty are passed under the radar.

Notice how the food policies are not beginning in the House of Representatives or the Senate. Just as film production companies screen ‘risky’ films in selected, representative locations (does the line “‘Love Story’ opens in NY and LA August 4th, everywhere August 15th” ring a bell?), the mayoral puppets of Government are trying out these tactics in smaller waves to see how people react to them.

If we don’t say anything, what will come next? If the Egyptian protesters in Tahrir Square went home after then-president Mubarak told them to, where would have gone the Arab Spring? Libyans had to declare war on their dictator Muammar Gaddafi before he paid any attention to them. How far will America have to go?

The U.S. Constitution is a tourist trap, and means less now than it ever has. Corporations have been considered people for a hundred years. Our presidents are elected not based on their worth or potential, but how much money they pour into advertising. Peaceful protests are made violent by those sworn to protect and serve Us.

Now regional governments are limiting food supplies to children and the homeless, who are instead to be provided by institutional vendors serving genetically modified food that Americans have said with their silence that they didn’t care to have marked as such.

As a result of that silence, kids are hitting puberty earlier than ever, having been raised on hormone-injected meat from animals who grew fat without ever gaining the strength or dexterity to stand. Multinational corporations that control food sources have been in bed with government for years.

Make no mistake: the Democrats and Republicans, no longer a unified America, have created those hormone-injected animals out of the American people, unable (but perhaps not unwilling) to stand and speak against the political atrocities made against them.

The generations who wield control say that it’s too late to change things – that we’re in a downward spiral, and no one’s got the will to throw us out of it. Understand this: that’s what the Powers are counting on. They want submission; they feed off silence like a bad relationship, and direct us in whatever direction they wish.

Control best operates on three basic concepts: fear, greed, and laziness. All are childish virtues to hold, and yet the world’s powers use them in the face of even the largest protests and strikes.

We are capable of moving past them, of taking back our most basic resources. Of protecting and serving ourselves when those ‘sworn’ to battle us. We are capable of feeding our children.

We are the children of the internet. We are supposed to be the Y Generation, the insatiable children who ask Why? Why? Why?

We are the freest, most globalized organization of rebels history has ever known. Our ambition matches those of the corporations and governments who seek to no end our loyalty. So ask yourself, why else is our loyalty so important to them?

 

It’s not just about money. It’s about something bigger and more drastic than paper currency made by a private company that is employed by a government that we have the power, by our most basic rights, to redesign from the inside, out.

 

Initiating change takes the will to step outside ignorance, to learn about what’s happening – events that penetrate deep into our lives and homes – and to do something about them. It takes the willingness to stand on anothers’ shoulders to make the mountain less daunting, and the presence of mind to hold our ground when we are threatened. We have been tested before, and have succeeded. It’s time to stand again.

Spread the word: share this, send it to your friends, reblog it, repost it. If you know of a publication which might put it up, please let me know.

A Lesson in Effective Protest: Part One

2 February 2012 § Leave a comment

In Panama yesterday, the Ngobe shut down the longest motorable road in the world, the Interamericana (Panamerican Highway), in a protest effort to keep international mining companies from invading their lands. 

This is not the first time this group of indigenous people have blocked the road to make their point. A year ago around this time, and in 2010 also, they blocked traffic from moving to and from Panama City, which included tourist buses, supply trucks, and private vehicles. In 2011, international travel between Costa Rica and Panama was interrupted for four days. this year, they’re holding out for longer. 

Across the country, market owners are not receiving their goods. Vegetable and fruit shelves are virtually empty, and what’s left is rotting at higher prices than before. Fuel is not reaching gas stations – this morning, there were lines of vehicles at every fill-up station in Boquete, and by three o’ clock, all the petrol in town was gone. As I write this, there are far fewer cars cruising through town than usual. 

On the news, nearly every story has to do with how pissed off people are, and is full of images of truck drivers eating their transported goods, and selling them to fellow drivers. Tour buses are parked on the side of the road, and gringos with Panama hats and Gregory backpacks stand outside looking confused and slightly constipated. Some locals have taken to walking. Those in Panama City with a need to be elsewhere are reverting to flying. A plane ticket to David, as of this morning, was $125, much more than a tank of gas – for now. 

If there’s a distinct difference between the protests around the world which inspired Occupy in the United States to take off and the leaderless brainchild of fed-up twenty-somethings in the land of the free, it’s that in most of those other countries, the movements actually worked – that is, they gained national attention, for better or worse, for success or failure, in their homeland, and at least in Egypt and Panama, a certain group of people know that when they want something, they can occupy Tahrir Square, or the middle of the Panamerican highway, and even if the powers that be do not like their message, at least that message will be acknowledged. 

Occupy is supposed to be a peaceful movement. It is based on practicing the rights provided to the people in the Constitution – the right to peaceful assembly, for example – when other rights are being manipulated – corporations being acknowledged as human beings comes to mind. And the numbers seen in this massive, if haphazardly organized protest are impressive. However, the determination of the U.S. Media (seemingly a conglomerate all its own) is great, and easily ignores, if it is the will of those in power, groups of people camping in parks and others marching behind holiday parades with cardboard signs. 

Those intentions are noble but ineffective. Asking for permission (i.e. for the permits needed to camp in a public park) from a system one wishes to dismantle is counterproductive. It says that the 99% are still subject to the rules of the 1%. The now-famous photograph of Wall Street employees looking down at the protest from the top of the steps in New York with amused faces is a blatant insult to what needs to be accomplished: they’re saying ‘March all you want, you unemployed vagrants, just wait until the cops come. Meanwhile, we’re going to get a little more rich today – see you at lunch.’

lazy sunday

5 June 2011 § 1 Comment

Oh, what an awkward day. Surely it’s worthy of some tragedy to befall it. I need some Calvin and Hobbes perspective.

The UK stepped up to the plate and said that they’re tired of Gaddafi’s bullshit in Libya. Get out, Colonel, said Britain’s foreign secretary from Benghazi, you’re no longer the leader. The writing on the wall says so.

And I’m certain the graffiti decorating the rebel city said it first. English is but an echo in those parts of the world, and the West claims false lordship over them no longer. We cannot handle their history, as we fumble and repeat even our own. Let the drawbridges fall from their welcoming embraces, for they divide neighborhoods and cities into warring nations, and we cannot allow these divisions and call for peace on the same day.

On quite a different note, I’m going to a wedding next weekend. It will be the first one of my generation that I’ve been to, and I’m not sure if I’m looking forward to it or not. I imagine it being a ten year reunion of 9th grade, and who wants one of those?

Of all the places I’ve lived, Kenai somehow drew the Home card from my hand, and where I once considered it an honor and a blessing, I feel now that it is some annoying pest that refuses to let go of my pant leg. But I continue to love it, for sometimes I know I’m not quite willing to let it go myself.

Anyway, the wedding. The first girl I had a legitimate crush on (you know, the kind that start innocently and eventually become burdens) is marrying one of the coolest guys I’ve ever met within a thousand miles of that little fishing town in southcentral Alaska. And he’s the mature kind of cool – the person whom you most want to be like for his charm and virtue – both of which are seemingly authentic. I don’t know him particularly well, but I have a feeling that if they ever talked about me, he might call me his friend. Those are the things I’m honored by these days.

And all I keep thinking about is how I don’t have anything to wear.

pre-rain shower, post-rapture

22 May 2011 § Leave a comment

Sometimes it takes a bit of fun to realize that it takes dedicated work to survive in this world and prosper. We make real the events we participate in, simply by existing and choosing to say something, by directing our energy into a community, however small, that we invent out of interactions and mutual understanding, instead of saying nothing, and letting the moment die, as would an untouched child.

And it’s funny that we find strange connections between us and the nouns we hate. As if the universe is saying hey, now that you’re gone, I just wanted to say that this place isn’t so bad. There are good people there with good energy. You just couldn’t find them.

I’m always writing the things in between what I think I should be writing. When am I going to sit down and write something I can legitimately say I’m proud of? Or rather, something that I’ve put some thought into, some wonder, some organization – work, if you will. There’s always an excuse to not. I don’t have enough stories, or enough plot. Enough time. Focus. And what the hell would I write about?

So I’ll stick with my ramblings here, which sometimes take the form of fictional accounts of real life, or dreams, occasionally a true story with poetic exaggerations (which have exclusively noble intentions) and line here and there about what I think of the business that surrounds me. All in good time, you’ll have the real story. I’ll disappear, and someone will be sharp enough to fit the puzzle together, to find whatever’s missing. Man, I would love that. Just like in the movies. Detective noir extraordinaire. Dick Tracy. He was too good for his own good.

We need a little turbulence to shake us up when we’re content, something to make us wonder why we’re still doing this. And you’ll have your answer on the day you stand on top of the desk instead of hide under it. You can’t see anything from under there – get out. You don’t deserve blindness. Some of us don’t deserve sight.

Tell that to the kid whose deficient eyes will keep him from flying jets. That’s going to cause a mess. Get out the gauze and tourniquet. Watch his silence screaming louder than his words do. They’re in the air, across the desert, in the dry, heaving wind which carries plastic bags in such grace that the sound waves do not bother them. Such was his fate.

No, no it wasn’t. Forget that garbage. What does that garble even mean? I’m just here to tell a story. Like the time we met in Iceland. I was reading the Tommyknockers and it was starting to get creepy, and there you were in front of me, and said something about the book, that you’d read it or not finished it, and I told the truth and said that was the first time I’d read it.

And there you were again. And again.

The more time that passes, the less I remember about those conversations. Perhaps because we have communicated so many ideas since then, we have speculated so heavily on the context of happy monkeys in the worlds of philosophy and literature that I take what I learned from you as inherent knowledge, and put it away, to be used when necessary and cited as needed.

I read lava rocks in London and it didn’t hit me until after I left, when I rode that bus through the English countryside feeling like I was going to visit the set of Wuthering Heights, that I’d become the change I wanted to see in the world.

Heavy, right? But that’s all I wanted – just to know someone is capable of understanding. I didn’t need you to understand, per se, but that you might anyway thrilled me.

And here we are, post-rapture, and who is left? All of us. Doesn’t that say something profound? It’s certainly not proof that God doesn’t exist (though it might imply the fanaticism of one 89-year-old California man who tightens the bible belt of America when he gets up in the morning and spouts off the latest evangelical, modern-day hellfire sermons from the 17th century mixed in with a modern twist of being vague and never quite to-the-point), but he could well just be ignoring us. Like, do they really think I want anything to do with them after the Yankees lost the World Series like that? I’ve got other worlds to lord over, and they appreciate me with gifts of chocolate instead of shame.

See, God’s just a regular guy with a regular job: to regulate and direct all of the energy in the known universe into tangible forms of the things we want to be familiar with. Nothing else.

Anyway, on TV, it seems like they go on and on, reading various scriptures and trying to earn another AMEN from the crowd. The picture is always bad, and there’s always a woman in the congregation crying. I mean, bawling. But getting their attention isn’t so hard. All he has to do is say JESUS or LORD or some other word to which they are debilitatingly subservient like SIN or FEAR and he’s sure to get some sort of emotional reaction from his flock of willing sheep standing in the pews of a multi-million dollar church complex they are slowing paying the church back for, like a weekly mortgage with variable interest. Just in case Aunt Suzie’s not feeling well this Sunday. It’s okay, she’ll make good next week. Because if she doesn’t, we’ll break her legs, make her say four thousand Hail Marys, and turn her crucifix upside down. Who’s to stop the church from this asexual nonsense? Isn’t that what they do?

I’m sorry, I’m getting a little off track here. This old Slipknot album still plays – I’m surprised. Heeth took horrid care of his CDs, and for that reason had two copies of most of those he owned. I talked him into this after he asked me to steal a second copy of Mer de Noms for him from Fred Meyer. He knew he’d fuck up the first one, but what had I become? Thief for hire? But I couldn’t charge more than the disc cost, for he might as well buy it. But fourteen dollars was not nearly enough to cover insurance for getting caught by the over-doughnutted police academy failure that flashed his badge out front when you had something in your pocket you didn’t pay for.

Usually we ran. Always into oncoming traffic. He wouldn’t follow a couple of kids running into the nose of a Mack truck because he thought he was smarter than them. But the driver of the truck was my uncle, and we had planned the whole thing. We got away every time. His office smelled like Old Spice, and no one wanted to go in there a second time.

we learned to not get caught.

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