Here I present 10 things that I'd like to see happen in the next year in the Bozeman region; most of them probably won't happen. All of them could happen, though many of them are probably out of our control for now. In that sense, some of these might violate Hume's warning; however, I would argue that all of them could happen if enough of us dared to take the first steps while enough other people dared to follow.
There are a lot more than 10 things that I wish for; these are the things that come to mind this morning. They are in no particular order or rank of importance.
1. An end to the slaughter and hazing of wild bison and full tolerance in the state of Montana. For decades, the last continuously wild herd of buffalo have been confined to the cold mountain environs of Yellowstone National Park. The animals are ready to reclaim some of their lost habitat if only we would let them. However, the state and federal governments have waged war on wild bison, killing more than 6,000 since the 1980s, and yearly hazing large numbers back into the overgrazed ranges of the park. All it would take for this wish to come true is the political will to make it happen. Only policy and the fear of a lot of false bogeymen (like brucellosis) keep the bison from moving out. This is not at all likely to happen in 2012, even if small steps toward that goal come through (in large part depending on how a lawsuit by Park County turns out.)
2. A successful bank divestment campaign in Bozeman against one of the major banks. Last week, Occupy Bozeman consented on just such a campaign, with the most likely targets in town being either Wells Fargo or U.S. Bancorp. If such a campaign takes off in the coming weeks and months, look for a lot more talk about the role of banks locally and alternative places to keep money. Occupy Bozeman has never had an encampment and has conducted only a handful of scattered actions from a large march to a people's microphone inside of Wal-Mart; however, if a regular picket line or similar action causes pain to a major bank, Occupy Bozeman will have undertaken a truly effective occupy action on behalf of the so called 99 percent. A campaign like this is always an uphill battle, but its success is not outside the realm of possibility.
3. An end to the war in Afghanistan and a return home of any soldiers serving overseas. The waste that was the Iraq war finally came to an end after eight and one-half years; the war in Afghanistan is now 10 years long and growing. While there has been the beginning of a troop draw down, there are still a lot of troops in Afghanistan, where there is still a lot of killing and dying. Add to that the secret wars going on in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, with recent military actions in Libya, and the call by several - particularly Republican presidential candidates not named Ron Paul - for action in Iran, Syria, or both (and uncertainty in North Korea), and there's a lot to worry about here. The anti-war movement failed to put any dent whatsoever into the war machine; at best, it helped affect recruitment numbers over a short period (though not enough to matter). It is far from likely that activists in Bozeman can do much particularly with limited resources, but success would always be possible. It's just not at all likely.
4. A full recognition and respect for Bozeman's homeless population, as well as recognition of the cost of living problem in our community. Bozeman is among the most expensive - if not the most expensive - areas to live in all of Montana. While wages are relatively modest by a national scale, cost of living continues to skyrocket. Bozeman lacks adequate facilities to serve homeless populations, needs that go well beyond food and shelter. There is a lack of adequate and affordable health care (particularly mental health care) as well. Bozeman projects affluence, but the truth is that we live in an economically diverse town with a lot of people struggling to get by. Housing prices may not be rising like they were earlier in the decade, but they are still too high for many people particularly given the wage scale in the area. Many jobs do not pay a living wage of at least $12/hour (minimum), and health care costs for everyone continue to explode. People are taking steps to address some of the issues, but Bozeman chugs along mostly in denial, particularly as many here have simply not been as hurt by the recession as they have in other parts of the country. I wish that we would recognize not only what the top one percent have that the rest of us don't, but also what the bottom one or five or ten or twenty percent don't have that some of us do.
5. Greater respect for our First People's not only by respecting treaties but also by making an effort to come to terms with centuries of genocide (particularly assimilation). Some would object to my use of the word genocide to describe what happened to Native Americans; however, the truth is that populations in the Western Hemisphere of indigenous peoples from 1492 on fell by some 98 percent and by over 90 percent north of the Mexican border due in large part to policies designed to wipe out native peoples. From massacres to the spreading of small pox blankets to forced removal to forced debt and the reservation system to blood quantums, it is simply a misunderstanding of the definition of genocide to say that those descended from the original inhabitants have suffered anything less. What's worse, native cultures have lost so many of their traditions due to policies over the centuries that intended to integrate American Indians into the dominant practices of Euroamerican culture. Children were forced into schools; treaties were written to force tribes to learn the ways of the "white man." In many cases, languages have been lost. In Montana, tribes that relied on the buffalo have no access to them. Bozeman itself was founded because a trail was illegally set up to get settlers to mines near Virginia City. So much has to be done to come to terms with our past (and our present) that one year could only be a start. It could start first by respecting the sovereignty of the tribes and by taking steps to facilitate tribes who want to stay in touch with their traditions. Letting bison roam would be a huge start. Working with tribal leaders on education of traditional languages, arts, and ways of doing things would be another. Ultimately, though, it will take a different attitude toward land. Montana is a wild place; the less confined everything is to parcels of protected property the better. A commons view toward land might be the largest step any of us could take toward rectifying the causes that have produced this genocide.
6. A more unionized workforce in Bozeman. One reason that there's such an economic disparity in Bozeman is that most workers in this town are not members of a union. They do not struggle together for their own good. In some local cases here in Bozeman, workers have chosen not to unionize because the word "union" has such a negative connotation. The problem is, of course, that workers don't see a union for what it is intended to be - a way for them to work together for their own benefit. As long as workers in this town continue to be at the whims of management - who have little incentive, particularly in this economy, to care - the economic problems beneath the surface of this town will continue to fester. All workers, whatever their job, should unionize. It wasn't that many ages ago in Butte where even the bartenders and waitresses were all unionized. Bozeman would be better off if we went that route, and the more connected workers are as workers, the better. If people do not want to support the narrow focus of trade unions, join a more general union like the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) - which believe it or not DOES exist in Bozeman. The opportunity is there; will people organize to serve their own and their community's better self interest?
7. An end to violence against women both here and elsewhere and zero tolerance for it in our community. I moved to Bozeman four years ago, having lived the previous seven plus in Washington, DC. Crime is no doubt more of a problem in many respects in the nation's capital. However, before I moved, I checked out crime statistics. There is one crime stat that was per capita higher in Bozeman than it was in Washington; that crime is rape. That can only be true in a town as otherwise safe as Bozeman because there must be something culturally tolerated about violence against women. I doubt that anyone in Bozeman thinks that rape is okay, but are women believed when violence occurs? How are they treated? Do friends stand by them, or do they give the male the benefit of the doubt? Is there a "boys will be boys" attitude? Whatever the reason, this cannot be tolerated at all by our community. If we are going to take action on any of the other things listed but don't stand against violence and disrespect of women, then all we are doing is for nothing. From the parties on campus to our homes, we must be strong against the most demeaning violence that continues to be perpetrated and tolerated in our society. There's no reason we can't be doing more in Bozeman. It starts first by providing a safe place for survivors to come forward - not just institutions but rather in our social circles - and by maintaining that safe place by not placating the men who do such things. We need to take this seriously.
8. No racism tolerated. To Bozeman's deep credit, when the Creativity Movement has intimidated local people of color in recent years, community reaction has been swift and decisive. In 2009, in response to racist action in Bozeman, organizers from every corner of the community (from radicals to the city's elected officials) came together in a march of more than 800 that intimidated the racists out of the town. Racism, though, goes beyond the more overt forms that the city has risen against. In the early decades of Bozeman, there was once a Chinese population of about 30 percent. Now, the city has quite low racial diversity, much of the diversity that does exist due to the presence of Montana State University. Racist laws eventually drove out the Chinese population. Now, we don't have such laws, but because Bozeman is a place with such a high cost of living and perhaps myriad other reasons, Bozeman is nowhere near as diverse as it once was. It is not that racial justice is measured simply by numbers or strictly by diversity, but it would do us all good to look at the reality of what people of color face and why Bozeman might not be particularly an attractive or welcoming place to be for the larger populations of color in our society. Given this country's and city's history of racial injustice, it is important that we all look at the ways each of us may unwittingly be perpetrating the effects of that history.
9. A physical space for community organizing in Bozeman. This independent media site began as a first step toward facilitating community action in the Bozeman region. All of us believe that that step will die without further steps. The most crucial, many of us feel, is for us to get real physical space for organizing and for building community. Because more than half of Bozeman's population did not live here 10 years ago, people generally neither know each other nor have strong roots in the community. The cold nights keep people from hanging out on their back porches; neighbors are often strangers. To build community, there needs to be places where the community can gather. For those of us who care about making changes in our community, a space is crucially important. While this wish for 2012 seems more than possible, it is a huge challenge because of the cost of acquiring and maintaining such a space. Occupy movements attempted to rectify this problem through tent cities only to be evicted in most of the places they have sprung up. A more permanent structure for media, with library resources, meeting rooms, a lounge, and even a garden (in solidarity with Bozeman's large and growing food movement) is essential toward facilitating the many efforts that people in this town are taking to help this community.
10. To hike and camp as much as possible. This is such a cliche Bozeman wish, and people here do an excellent job of following through. Nevertheless, I never want to lose touch with the beauty of this place. I fell in love with Yellowstone working five summers in the 1990s; I'm even more in love with this place today. The land here motivates the other nine wishes as much as any other. So often, people disconnect this wish from the other nine. I have heard it said, "That other stuff will cloud you; just be one with the snow." The truth is that the snow is most beautiful when you know it's there for everyone. At the same time, why are we doing any of the other things if we are not doing it to experience the world around us through our senses? I want to climb again up Baldy Mountain with my son and ski through Hyalite, take backcountry trips in the park and take an excursion up to Glacier. I want to hike in the Beartooths and camp among the bears. I want to smell the sulfur and feel the spray of the hundreds of waterfalls. I want to hide in canyon caves and lie under the Milky Way. This wish I know I can make happen. By working on the other nine, those experiences will be all the more special.
So, those are my ten wishes. What are some of yours?
The labor unions have often been undercut, packaged and made a mockery of by people that don't have the best interests of the 99% in mind. Perhaps I AM WAR WEARY (After all, I did get arrested for protesting the Viet Nam war!) but I think the scene is deeper than what a few well wishers make of it...
Did you say change?