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Hi, my name is Jim Macdonald, and I have an odd assortment of interests. In no particular order, I love Yellowstone, I am an anti-authoritarian activist and organizer, and I have a background in philosophy, having taught at the college level. My blog has a lot more links to my writing and my other Web sites. In Jim's Eclectic World, I try to give a holistic view of my many interests. Often, all three passions show themselves interweaving in the very same blog. Anyhow, I think it's a little different. But, that's me. I'm not so much out there, but taken together, I'm a little unusual.

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    Friday, June 08, 2007

    Yellowstone on my mind again

    I've not had a lot of time to write, especially at the times I have been most inspired to write.

    If this had been another day, I would have written about Yellowstone bison, about how we as people should move away from talking about how we should "manage" or even "preserve" wildlife as though humanity is the main actor on the stage of the world. I would have written about ranching and class, clearly connecting to my view that there is no such thing as a right to property.

    On yet another day, my mind was drawn to the Great Falls of the Potomac, which aren't so much overwhelming in their beauty as they are surprising given their proximity to Washington, D.C. On two successive weekends, Genevieve and I went to Great Falls (once on the Maryland side alongside the old C&O canal and once on the Virginia side in a delightful mist). If you think about Yellowstone as much as I do, you can't help making the connections and drawing distinctions. In a land far less beautiful and perhaps even less wild - swimming in people - Great Falls still has its advantages, the first of which is clear diversity of the people able to visit such a place. I might have written about eastern trees and western trees, the metaphors of empire and the surprise of beauty in its blind spot, and perhaps some of the strange management decisions I noticed in Great Falls. I might have shared a picture I took of my pregnant partner now in her sixth month of pregnancy and what I take for granted.

    In recent days, my mind has been on NBA basketball. My family is from the Cleveland area, and no Cleveland team has won a major sports championship since 1964, 9 years before I was born. Of course, they lost last night, not to anyone's surprise, least of all someone from Cleveland. Yet, to watch Cleveland sports is to watch from the vantage of misery and shared hope. Of course, I couldn't help but think of the mess in Yellowstone, more poignantly the context in which the mess exists. I received a thank you letter from Jay Winter Nightwolf for my write-up on his work with Pine Ridge in South Dakota. I can never see the tourist-infested Yellowstone as anything but one of the consequences of the genocide that also created Pine Ridge. And, NBA basketball, of course, is another consequence of sorts. And, yet, hope and shared misery mixes the metaphors up in my singular being. To "witness" Lebron James, a Nike billboard come to life that inspires frenzied belief in a town that's suffered far more than sports futility over the years, a spiritual person like myself can't help it. I'm at once rooting for a basketball to go through a hoop, a defensive stop, and yet noting that there's something very strange in our diversions. They are both consequences of what we have lost on this earth and yet singular with them in the sense that both involve a striving and a suffering. The only thing that people seem to miss is the ability to see things in different contexts.

    I might have written about all that and more.

    Of course, the dominant event in my life is preparing for the coming of my new son. Of course, he's already here. When Genevieve walks in a room, it is obvious. I put my head to her belly and feel movement; I have even seen the boy kick. We prepare to bring a child into this strange world, and strangers congratulate us, acting as though we mean more to humanity because we have reproduced. Both of us are sick of it. Our joy isn't so much tempered as it is schizophrenic, oscillating between euphoria and the realization that we are bringing a child into this world. Then, we realize we will be raising a child in Yellowstone, a place we would never have been in (like the place we are now) without a long and brutal history. And, yet, the thought warms us of the possibilities, excites us to new possibilities.

    Because I work on a little compiling project called the Yellowstone Newspaper, I see pretty much everything that people are writing on the Web related to Yellowstone, outside of what appears in some online forums. I see much more than what appears in the newspaper. Most of what doesn't appear is remarkably dull, reducing Yellowstone to a photo, or a list of happenings without context. The blogs I find most interesting are the employee blogs, which have grown since the write up I just did on them. I suppose many readers will have trouble understanding what could be so interesting about drinking in the employee pub or going out on one's 21st birthday, or how bad the food is in the employee dining room. Except for those blogs I have put comments in, I have a sense that I'm a relatively anonymous observer. You sense who the audience is, and perhaps that's what is most interesting to me, this notion of explaining the unexplainable to people who often can't possibly understand. We can't help it, eh? I still find myself relatively disappointed by most of what I read, both in the blogs and in the news. Things just poke along, and the conversation has very little daring to it. Rarely is it in service of organizing; it's empty passion. The exception is Buffalo Field Campaign, and yet the lengths they need to go to for people to care is unfortunate. When bison were scheduled to be slaughtered, they had to trot out pictures of calves. To stir an outrage, it isn't good enough simply to state what's happening. I don't blame them; in a crisis, you have to use what speaks, and yet that this is the image that speaks is sad to me. The merits of a free roaming bison population are enough; yet, in blogs, only those closest to Buffalo Field Campaign were careful to make that point. The rest was a cut-and-paste hysteria that stopped satisfied that bison survived via the torture of hazing rather than be sent to slaughter, sent back to Yellowstone to munch on too little grass (is it any wonder that bison are going to keep leaving to greener pastures?)

    I might have written about that as well.

    This Sunday, I'm going to a demonstration related to Palestine. I don't particularly like mass mobilizations anymore, certainly have no love for United for Peace and Justice, but I do in this case want to register my solidarity with others who are suffering under an oppressive regime. These days, I would like to do more in connecting global and local struggles and make people aware of the systems and history that brought us to where we are, but I feel a bit scattered in finding the direction to make that happen. Being stuck between Washington and Yellowstone, I am biding time. I long to know the people working beneath the radar in the place that I am going; they are there for sure. Oppression, and therefore resistance to it, is all over the place. The likely landing place for me is Jackson, Wyoming, which is not a friendly place for poor people. In a short time there last year, class and race issues were palpable to me. I've read a lot about businesses embracing "being green", which more and more sounds like the newest wave of class and race oppression (and perhaps environmental oppression as well). In Palestine, the forms of oppression also morph. People are stuck while authoritarians on all sides make rubble.

    I think a lot about Iraq, the death, and the obvious bigotry inherent even in the commentary I hear of most people, even and perhaps especially most of those who now oppose the war. So many are dying, wounded, and displaced, but the ones we seem to care about most are the American ones, and even then many wonder if most even care that much about that. There are now over 3,500 deaths in Iraq of American soldiers; I wonder how there can be any Iraqis left after so many decades of brutal war. Yet, even in Iraq, my mind wanders to Yellowstone. What wonders have long since been forgotten along with everything else.

    I've thought a lot about work, which is something I don't write about ever in public. Let's just say that the reform revolution is alive and well ticking beneath the scenes in bureaucracies everywhere. I am a witness, and I believe.

    However, in all these thoughts, it's been hard to put something meaningful together. In all of this, the strange thing is that I've been remarkably happy and joyful. It's easy to mistake cynicism for sadness. Life is full; that I write so much - even such scattered thoughts - is evidence to me of how alive I am.

    I have a good feeling that there's going to be a lot more to come; some of us suffering fans don't know when to stop and get a perverse joy out of this process called life. Supervolcanoes be damned; we're going to have a great ride ahead of us.

    Love,
    Jim

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