Contrary to the opinion of some, I find no warmth in razing fire. I take no joy in pushing collapsing things toward their doom. Destruction, even of what deserves to be destroyed, is no cause for elation. I do not spit acid for the sake of burning scatter shots in the fabric of everything good.
Sometimes I am asked, why do I not talk about the things I love? Why am I taking aim at something all the time? Why am I destroying rather than building?
Yet the question “what do you love?” is an indicator someone has not been reading or listening closely. Even at my most acerbic, there is love. My discontent has its roots in love.
I’ll quote a song by Remember Me Feral that resonates with me:
“People often mistake the spirit of resistance. They see it as anger and hatred, and imagine its taste to be bitter. But resistance is founded in love. We find some things so beautiful, and love them so deeply, so urgently, that when we identify systemic oppression that endangers them, we must resist. People often misjudge this motivation, and feel it is a personal attack on them as individuals. But resistance is not something to be feared or to hold disdain for. Resistance is a passionate movement for the preservation of beauty.”
Though not in the least mysterious, leavened through absolutely everything as I think it is, I have no problem answering that question “what do you love?” directly.
I love the land. I love the soil underneath me. I love the air surrounding me. I love the water, and the nourishment it gives. I love the sun. I love all the iterations and tonalities of light. I love the darkness, the dusken autumnal winds. I love the sunrise, the sunset, and the starry night sky. I love the heat of summer, even as it incites wildfires that clog the sky with acrid smoke. I love the winter, even as its blizzards swarm the roads I must travel with ice. The land is so beautiful. Even as it is lethal, towering above and beyond me, liable to snuff out my existence with with even its gentle roiling.
I love the seasons. I love the cycles of the land, coursing through history without botherment. I love the creatures. Their struggle, their formation, how they fit their environments, how they make what they can of their brevity. I love their beautiful ephemerality. I love the million skulls and skeletons cradled by dust where they fell. I love the plants. I love the grass, sunbleached, or green and pregnant with rain. I love the trees, tall and venerable, casting shadows. I love that the earth is not a dead place. Nearly everywhere you step, there is life.
Loving this land, why should I not oppose the pipelines that will cut across the purity of water with their oil poison? Why should I not oppose the efforts to extract the uranium poison that is the most lethal substance humankind has ever known? Why should I not lament all the old things that used to grow, but have gone nearly extinct in the last hundred years or so? Why should I have any respect for the systematic exploitation and destruction of this beauty for the profiteering of a miniscule few on top of the capitalist pyramid? I’m on the side of the pine forests, the porcupines, the prairie flowers, the aquifers, the rivers, the springs. And I think this is a foolish world that does not realize destroying flora, fauna, and multitudes of biomes, we will ultimately destroy ourselves.
If it is unclear where I stand, or where my opposition comes from, let it no longer be a mystery. Let it be said here without obfuscation.
I love where I am from, the Pine Ridge Indian reservation, the Oglala Lakota. I love our history. I love our resilience. i love our values and philosophy. I love how many persons make it, through a stacked deck of adversity. I love how many are not broken, despite having so many institutions of bureaucratic red tape, forces of systematic enfeeblement, working against them. I love it when my people smile and joke. If they smile through teeth broken through the inadequate care of the Indian Health Services system, that is all the more beautiful, emblematic of deep resilience.
Contending with alcoholism, with dysfunctional family environments, with a lack of opportunity, with a whole community fallen through the cracks of America, with historical trauma, I love how many triumph. I love how many Lakota I meet, ripe with genius. Whether gifted artistically, musically, in the industrial arts, or in the sciences, in the legal professions, or being stellar human beings who care and uplift everyone around them. I love that we are still here, despite two hundred years of quarantine, placed in political structures never built for our success, but instead built for our failure and ignominy. I drive down highway 18, and I see Lakota youth, runners getting ready for the track season. It fills me with such pride. I am so glad to see anyone doing anything positive for themselves and for their community. I am glad to see elders recording their stories, see how much love they have for the art of storytelling. I am glad to see youth enroll in education to seek a better world and solutions to all the problems we face. I love how easy it is to connect with persons from indigenous communities all over the world, how similar and intersected our struggles tend to be. How I wish I had more power, to put it all right.
Loving these communities, these people, my family, my friends, how could I not stand against the caricatures, the straw Indians, the ignorance, the blind hatred, the oblvious invisibility, the prejudice, the whitewashed lying rosiness of American history? How can I not stand against the continued erasure, exploitation and subjugation? I’m going to let the voiceless inhabit my marrow, and have their say. I’ll remember in a world of forgetting, because who else will? When police use the shotgun for execution against an unarmed Native, and next week find the beanbags to subdue an armed white guy, I’ll stand against it. When uncaring far off bureaucracies try to defund everything that helps, try to terminate us through attrition, I’ll be there opposing it. When oil and uranium companies view Natives as an acceptable sacrifice for the profiteering of their greed, I’ll be there, ready to cut off the head of any poisonous snakes that try to pass. When the bordertown cowboys, prairie ignorant, want someone to look down on, want to mock Natives, merely so someone will be at the bottom of American society other than them, I will speak up against it wherever I encounter it. When shady preachers and non-profits see they can quench their lust for dollars by exploiting our poverty and need, I’ll call it out where I see it. If that makes someone uncomfortable, they can go ahead and be uncomfortable.
I love every pocket of life, of compassion, of creativity, of escape from the status quo, that I find in the anxious, ever creeping, all consuming, prosaic, apathy loving, inhumane uniformity of American society. I love the human connection of two vastly different persons, that should be isolated in separate cells by their socio-economic status, finding some commonality, breaking invisible barriers. Even friendship is revolutionary sometimes. I love the woman who can take a moment out of her busy day, the rat race of money gathering and needing to pass exams, to appreciate a song, a piece of writing. I love the street art that blankets alleys of business districts. I love the anarchy symbol on a light post in front of the bank. I love the underworld, the echoes of its vibrance, its whispers that all is not dead and drab. I love when persons begin to see each other, not as objects in the metropolitan monolith, but as tangible persons, teeming with real breath. I love when communities begin to question the myths that nothing can ever change, and that they are powerless. I love when persons start to see each other as non-disposable, not easily discarded, not merely means to some greedy end. I love passion. I love when someone is not too cool to care. I love when someone comes out of the cocoon of their sneering, to be vulnerable enough to have their heart eviscerated by the insanity of these ways of life, and carry the scars of everything.
Loving all not afflicted with the disease of prosaic, consumerist, authoritarian dictated systematic uniformity, how could I not declare the emptiness of all we find ourselves ensconced within? From Atlantic to Pacific, I have not found hardly anyone happy. It is the same worries, the same worker drone imprisonment, lavish yet desolate, the same sad stories of existential lament, and unfulfillment, howled over and over again. Everyone wants this harmony and contentment in their lives, but most seem to have forgotten how to treat one another, have forgotten anything other than ways of disharmony. I stand against it, and am glad to find anyone doing the same. Even if it is something so monolithic and huge it is hard to name or label with a description, you know resistance when you see it.
Even at my most critical, when I seem venomous and high on fire to some, I may be spitting acid, yet it will be in service of love to things I value, things I find beautiful. I don’t think any of this was ever hidden, or mysterious. To the contrary, pay attention, and what I love was shouted loudly in every polemic I ever wrote, every criticism I ever lobbed, every ideological fight I ever entered. Yet here it is, said as straightforward as possible, if somehow someone missed it.
To end, let’s look at that line from the Remember Me Feral song again:
“Resistance is a passionate movement for the preservation of beauty.”