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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.

(or other places to find my writings from the mundane to the supermundane)
  • The Magic of Yellowstone
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  • Bozeman Antifa Dance (& Theatre Collective)
  • June 2005
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    Tuesday, March 08, 2022

    Intimacy Journeying with Jim and Dee Elle

    My activism extends beyond my friendship with Aly. One of my big passions is tantra, and for the first time in my life, I feel ready to lead workshops related to intimacy. My girlfriend Dee Elle and I are going to do extensive workshops for couples (and some singles) on intimacy. We are offering a pre-intimacy workshop March 27, 2022, from 3-5 PM MDT. You can contact me by email at jsmacdonald@riseup.net, if you want more details.

    This essay describes what the intimacy journey we envision is.

    Summary: Intimacy is primarily about learning to love and see yourselves and others fully. More than a cure for pervasive loneliness, intimacy offers us the chance to live joyful lives in harmony with our deepest desires.

    Many things go into intimacy, some obvious and some less so. Intimacy is about learning how to communicate, integrating our sexuality into our lives, as well as learning how to trust and love ourselves and others. It is also about learning how to use breath, movement, sound, and essential oils, as well as re-engage each of the five senses into the intimacy process.

    Dee Elle and Jim are offering a journey into intimacy with couples or single people who can find a working partner for the journey. We will facilitate and provide the space, tools, and practices as we co-participate in the journey with you. We are not your teachers or gurus; we are fellow voyageurs who are taking responsibility for holding together the intimacy “spacecraft” that we are all flying to journey together.

    Dee Elle and Jim do not claim any special expertise in intimacy, but we do have a deep passion to make it our life’s work and do have special expertise in facilitating and organizing workshops. If what we are doing resonates with you, join us. If not, we wish you well on your own journey.

    We are offering an Intro to Intimacy pre-gathering online Sunday, March 27, 3-5 PM MDT, where we will introduce our work and model a step we believe is helpful toward creating a sacred container for intimate communication. Anyone can join this particular gathering; it is not restricted to couples, and there will be no couple pairing work.

    Intimacy: What Is It, What We Envision, and Why Us

    What Is Intimacy

    So, what is intimacy?

    Intimacy, in a dictionary sense (one might say a very non-intimate sense), means to be “closely acquainted, very familiar.” According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the adjective “intimate” only came into the English language in the 1630s, deriving from a couple Latin words, including intimare, which means to “make known, announce, impress” and intimus, which means “inmost, innermost, deepest.” By the 1640s, the noun “intimacy” came into English and was first applied to sexual intercourse in the 1670s but not really applied to sex in popular culture until 1882.

    That may seem like a long time, but what strikes us is that English has been around for more than 1,400 years, but the word “intimacy” has not even been around for 500 years and has only been applied in any noticeable way to our sexuality for the last 140. What a long time that we did not have a word in our language for a concept we hold so dear. And while we cannot speak for other cultures and languages, it makes us wonder if one reason people have such trouble finding intimacy is because it is only recently in our collective history that we have become acquainted with or familiar with a concept called “intimacy.”

    That is, we are not yet intimate with intimacy, and so is it any wonder we have such trouble finding it in our lives or knowing exactly what it is?

    Yet, intimacy is something we all want, even if we are scared to let it in. We all want to feel loved and seen and to be able to love and see. Loneliness is such a pervasive feeling for so many, and people go to great lengths to alleviate it. Yet, how many people actually work at curing their loneliness by being truly intimate? How many people actually seek that familiarity and love with themselves and/or with other people or know how to accomplish it?

    However, let’s look at it another way. Yes, we can look at discovering intimacy as the best cure for the negative feeling of loneliness, but that only shows the least interesting half of the picture. Intimacy is also the source of our highest possible joy. If you are intimate with yourself or a friend, parent, child, or partner, you possess love and understanding. Every intimate action rooted in love and understanding can only produce joy in your life because it meets our highest desire to be close.

    Okay, that’s perhaps still too dense. Let’s get more intimate with it. How about an example? Let’s say you are with a partner with whom you had natural sexual chemistry. At first, you had amazing sex, and it felt wonderful. Perhaps, that lasted for a while. However, you never worked on other important aspects of your relationship. You actually never talked about your sex life and what was working and what wasn’t. You didn’t learn each other’s history or perhaps the sexual traumas or high points of your lives. Outside the bedroom, you never developed methods for communication or saw if your visions for relationship aligned. Perhaps, you don’t trust him when he works late or talks with other women. Perhaps, there are a whole lot of things you also don’t like about yourself. “Does he only like me because I’m attractive? Does he know all the little things I don’t like about him? Why am I so indecisive? Am I even good enough for him?  Is he good enough for me? What is he holding inside about me? Does he know that I want children? What does he mean when he says, ‘I love you’? Hell, what do I mean when I say it to him? Why can I not stop being jealous? Did he notice me flirting with that man in the grocery store? And yes, the sex is amazing, but could it be better? I don’t know because we never talk about it.” Block by block, this stuff builds, and eventually the chemistry wears off. But, what if that were the opposite? What if you did fully love yourself? What if you had built communication over things both pleasant and unpleasant such that you actually knew each other? What if trust could be built? What if sex could be better? Would that not produce incredible joy? Yes! Yes! Yes! And more joy than perhaps is obvious at first glance.

    The last paragraph begins to move us closer to intimacy because it invites us to know ourselves and others more closely and therefore experience joy. So, for anyone who wants to let that kind of closeness and joy into your life, we invite you to keep reading. And if you are one of those afraid to keep going, you may certainly pause before you enter or not enter at all. But if you do enter, we are gratified by your trust in us and will do everything we can to keep you safe through this journey. Be warned, though, that the journey can be unsettling and take you to your edges of what you think is possible and may take you beyond those edges. We are dealing here with a lot of repression in ourselves and in our culture, signified by the fact that “intimacy” indeed is a relatively new word in our English vocabulary. It is not easy to break habits, particularly collective habits, but we have experienced enough to know that it is so worth it if we open our entire selves to intimacy.

    The Intimacy Journey We Envision

    We envision a shared journey into intimacy. We are your facilitators and co-participants into the journey of intimacy and not your gurus or teachers. The distinction here is important. Intimacy is not something a teacher can give you. We cannot give you a magic elixir or a pharmaceutical product or even – as much as we might like – a natural plant and say, “Take this, and you will have intimacy.” We also cannot give you a step-by-step guidebook that will automatically produce intimacy in your lives. Intimacy is a journey into knowing yourself and others in your life, and each of you is unique. And while there are surely some shared principles of intimacy, within those principles is a universe of exploration. So, let’s explore … together!

    What we can do is facilitate and join on the journey with you. There are tools we have learned either from our own individual experience or experience as partners that we can share that have worked for us. There are tools we have learned from others that we can impart. And because you are journeying alongside us, we open the door for you all to share your experiences and insights into intimacy that can potentially be of benefit to us all.

    Our plan is to share some of the tools and practices that we have so that you can practice this with yourselves and others. Mostly, for our work, we are interested right now in working with couples, or with individuals who can practice together in some way. While there are many other types of intimacy and while we may touch on the ways they are interrelated, we feel a special call to work with couples.

    Moreover, we plan practices around a broad range of topics that intimacy entails, including communication and sexuality. We will focus mostly at first on what we call sacred communication, as that is the basis for all intimacy. That is, we are going to learn methods for talking to each other and various methods for communicating. This is such a big topic that it pervades all the others and will never be far from us on our journey. Related to sacred communication, we are not going to shy away from sexual intimacy, an essential destination along our journey.  Because sexual intimacy is so badly understood and so badly integrated into most of our lives, we must journey to our sexual core to have full intimacy with ourselves and our partners. We expect most of the edges you may approach will be related to sexuality. Sacred communication helps us navigate sexual intimacy, leading us often to an ecstatic experience.

    Beyond sacred communication and sexual intimacy, we believe there are undergirding topics that are also necessary principles of all intimacy. Some topics are obvious and perhaps others less so. Among the obvious topics we will explore are the essential role of loving oneself and the centrality of trust. Less obvious ones are the importance of breath, movement, and sound to intimacy work. As one example, we dance, and we’re going to invite you all to dance a lot, not simply because it is fun but because we believe this actually is a necessary component to intimacy. We are going to sing and scream and breathe and laugh a lot together. We will also talk about essential oils and how rediscovering our connection with plants is so important. Additionally, we will look at intimacy as it applies to each of our five senses, as well as to our hearts and even our minds. There are many other topics of exploration as well, including how to navigate power dynamics in relationships, especially around money. Many of them will arise as we become more intimate with all of you.

    We envision that this work will and must have some in-person components. The groups we put together will always meet together in person at the beginning and at the end of our journey together while we stay in touch through online and phone gatherings over the interim. For us, intimacy is in part a journey into our bodies and into the senses, though it is also a journey away from merely our bodies and into the work of energy and connection with our souls. We do not believe we do justice to intimacy if we are not able to create workshops where we cannot actually see and hear each other. However, we also understand the practical realities of our lives and that it would not be logistically possible right now for us to form a group that could meet only in person. Moreover, intimacy is possible at physical distance, and the efforts we make at communication when at a distance actually can teach us in many ways how to love and see the other person wherever our bodies are. We have firsthand experience, which for us began as a long-distance relationship. The intimacy in our relationship has traveled well, and it can also for us intimacy voyageurs whether we interact in person or remotely.

    Therefore, expect at least two full weekend in-person gatherings and weekly or biweekly online gatherings with an ongoing community of engagement online or by telephone. Expect exercises around communication, sexuality, breath, movement, sound, and many other topics. And expect to be able to work with a partner on these practices where that is applicable.

    Why Us

    We imagine that people will wonder why we have decided to take this journey together and what makes us qualified to facilitate a working project on intimacy. Some will note that we have been together for a relatively short period, and each has our share of failed romantic relationships and friendships. Why should you put your trust into us?

    Of course, this is an excellent question and one we take seriously. It would certainly be arrogant to say we have any more figured out than any of the rest of you. Indeed, we may have less figured out than some of you, and we are so hoping that is the case and that we can learn more from you.

    What we do have is a shared desire to express what has worked or has not worked in our experience as well as a deep and passionate desire to make intimacy and helping others on the path to intimacy our life’s work. Moreover, we do have significant years of experience facilitating groups of people. Dee Elle has been running workshops for many years and has a strong core of people who can attest to her skills. She is an expert in essential oils and has decades of experiences with plants and plant medicine. She has applied her insights in recent years to sharing tools to help people align their lives with their desires. Jim has been teaching classes, as well as organizing and facilitating meetings for decades. He taught college-level philosophy classes, has organized for many years as an activist, and he has facilitated thousands of meetings and gatherings both as an activist and for his day job. Besides being a licensed Chakradance facilitator, Jim also has been trained on many of these subjects through the Ecstatic Living Institute, an organization that offered intimacy workshops based on the writings of Margo Anand and affiliated with SkyDancing Tantra Institute USA.

    But this is ultimately a simple act of trust. If it resonates with you, stick with us. If it doesn’t, go on your own path. We really believe that this is a space of exploration that is being underserved or has been taken over by people offering false step-by-step solutions. We believe that intimacy, rather than being a how-to guide imparted by a guru, is a path of exploration and discovery that we must undertake with each other. Therefore, we are taking the brave step to get the ball rolling. Indeed, as part of the intimacy work we are doing with each other in our personal relationship, we both feel called to take this journey together. And so we are.

    We deeply desire to love and see you for who you are and witness you as you journey into loving and understanding yourselves and others more.

    Wednesday, March 02, 2022

    Welcome to Our Haters – What We Mean By Antifa

    Recently, after posting a podcast interviewing a teenager about her recent emancipation, volunteering, and other topics, a lot of haters descended on our Facebook page. This is what I wrote on that page to welcome haters and explain who and why we are antifa.

    To all our new guests to our Facebook page – lovers to haters (though especially the haters who have bemused us in our comments section) – welcome to our Facebook home here for BAD – i.e., the Bozeman Antifa Dance (& Theatre Collective). This is Jim here writing on all he is witnessing as you engage with us (mostly me, but also with Aly as we've both responded under our account name).
    You can find all about us on our website of https://www.bozemanantifadance.org, and yes, we even have a handful of podcasts (one published this week). Please check them out. A full list is at https://www.bozemanantifadance.org/category/podcast/. For those of you who enjoy reading, we have a lot of answers to the questions you have been asking us.

    We are especially amused at what a trigger word "antifa" is because a lot of our haters come in, call us names, make fun of us, treat us in a way they never would if they met us on the streets of Bozeman, simply because of whatever beliefs they have about that word. They could read our website or listen to our podcasts to see what we mean by it – and surely there will still be plenty to disagree with – but there is an assumption about who we are based on the deep beliefs many hold about what the word means.

    "Antifa," of course, simply means anti-fascist. And we'd hope we are all anti-fascists here. On the right, there seems to be a belief that antifa is a violent organization (a paramilitary organization of the radical left), probably funded by wealthy left-leaning billionaires, who are committed to a reign of terror on American cities, co-opting other movements to burn down cities. They usually come from out of town (people assume we are from California) and probably are communists, too (since all people who are perceived as being on the left must be communists at heart).

    We have a different understanding of antifa. We believe that fascism is, as Mussolini essentially understood and practiced it, is corporatism, or the fusion of capitalism with government power. It manifests in different forms, but it usually appears alongside intense pressure to conform to national identity (its colors, its institutions, its dominant way of life), and that intense pressure is brought to bear by the economic and political forces of the country, working together to enforce those same values. This has resulted at its worst the racist nationalism of Nazi Germany, but one can fall short of being Nazi Germany and still be fascist. Wherever a society merges corporate power and hierarchy to enforce a particular way of life, it is fascist. And, this is what we stand against. Like many who call themselves antifa, we are especially against the overt expressions of fascism – when people put fascist or Nazi or white supremacist propaganda on our streets, we take action. But, we are more interested in the more subtle forms of fascism and how they manifest in our society. We are against a world where we all have to be the same, walk the same way, follow the same job path, promote the same economic system (a system we all live in – yes, antifa anticapitalists still shop and participate in this system – how could we not? We are all forced into it, and that is in part what makes society essentially fascist).

    So, BAD is antifa in the sense that we are against a system of hierarchical enforcement of values both in our political and economic lives. Therefore, we are anarchists. By anarchists, we don't mean that we are for chaos. The word "anarchy" does not mean "chaos." What it means is that we are for a world where each of us is equal in determining our own destiny. So, we are neither liberal nor conservative. We neither support the rule of governments nor the rule of dollars. What we support is the collaboration of people who respect other people and believe that we all matter.

    Yes, we are idealists. We are fully aware that the world we are advocating does not currently exist and is likely never to exist. But, that does not mean it is impossible. There is no contradiction in what we are advocating. It is how many of you actually behave when you are with friends or loved ones. It is the norm of our existence in most respects. At the same time, we are not naïve. We have seen the course of the world. We know what world we are living in. We choose to advocate it because our lives are short. We want to make the best of them. And who would not prefer to live in a world where people all could be truly equal than one where the rich and powerful made all the decisions for us. We see how well that works with one world war after another and madmen and nationalists fighting now in Ukraine, risking nuclear war on all of us. Why not go for the best? And if we never get there, so what? At least, we did not choose to settle to work on a world less than what we actually wanted.

    Now, note that we are dancers and performers. This isn't to suggest we are disowning other antifascists who meet our definition of antifascist. We stand in solidarity with people who confront fascism as their conscience calls them. But, we ultimately believe in our collective that the best way to fight the conformity of our society is to find those places in our lives where we can eke out those moments where we don't need to conform and where we can embrace the full range of what it is to be human. Humans from the earliest age dance, sing, and perform as children. And then, gradually, we lose that. We lose so much of all that makes us human as we conform to walking in straight lines, singing the same songs, dancing in the same ways (if we dance at all, which is rare enough), and conforming to the demands of our culture. We believe this affects a lot more than national politics but actually has a harmful effect on many of our relationships. I'm not sure if you actually did open yourself to dance with us, eat with us, sing with us, get to know our friends, our children and families, that you would spew the ridicule and hate you do. Dance gets our bodies moving in ways that break conformity and open up different avenues of belief of what is possible for us. Doing so provocatively and in ways that break the conforming habits of our society changes us. To me, that fights the oppressive and frankly boring way we have reduced our lives.

    So, we are antifa who dance and perform. We sing, we talk, and we still live and act in our community on issues we are passionate about. (And no one funds us; we are not affiliated with any other group – we are simply a couple of best friends with an artistic point of view).

    This is only the tiniest fraction of who we are.

    And if you're not a fascist, consider dancing with us. At least, take the time to know us on our podcast. You will see that we are just like you in so many ways - falling in and out of love, taking care of pets and children, working jobs, having adventures – and yet, we're not like you – because we refuse to be just like anyone (and have the style to prove it). And we hope the same for you.

    Thanks,
    Jim (not speaking for Aly) from BAD

    Monday, February 28, 2022

    The BAD PODCAST - Freedom! Emancipated Minors and Other Topics with Special Guest Lilly


    Aly and Jim have their first podcast interview! (00:00:21) Emancipated minor and special guest Lilly shares her experiences of becoming a legal adult. She explains the why, the how, and her feelings since regarding her emancipation journey. After BAD asks Lilly some rapid-fire questions (00:32:41), they talk about the pros and cons of different kinds of volunteering (00:36:30) and conclude by brainstorming new creative ideas (01:02:17) for the Bozeman Antifa Dance (& Theatre Collective).

    As always, you can find BAD and reach out to us at https://www.bozemanantifadance.org. Very soon, we will be posting to the BAD website the downloadable posters that Lilly made for! So please look for that!

    Wednesday, February 09, 2022

    The BAD PODCAST – Much Ado about Nothing: New Adventures in New Orleans and Bozeman, MT

    Jim and Aly are back! But they have been on some new adventures. First (00:00:21), Aly reports back from her epic vacation to New Orleans, being interviewed by Jim from a comparison and contrast with Bozeman, Montana as well as a social justice perspective. Then, (00:30:05) Aly reads an excerpt from How To Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell , and they discuss. Rapid-fire questions is replaced this episode by "Would you rather" (00:35:51), where Jim asks Aly a few would you rather questions (though Jim answers his own questions, too). Finally, Jim's new adventure is discussed (00:41:07), namely the new adventure of living the entire month of January with his girlfriend, as well as plans the two of them have to create an intimacy workshop.

    Of course, for more, please see https://www.bozemanantifadance.org

    Wednesday, January 12, 2022

    The BAD PODCAST - Organize Your Co-Workers, Friends, and Tenants

    The Bozeman Antifa Dance (& Theatre Collective) - i.e., BAD - members Aly White and Jim Macdonald talk to each other about organizing. First, (00:00:21) Aly and Jim discuss labor organizing, especially their experience helping a collective bargaining negotiation with nurses in Bozeman. Then, (00:34:43) we have a new anti-ad! (video). After that, our BAD friends have a fun improv segment (00:36:45)  where Jim screens possible Bumble dates for Aly. They move to an in-depth discussion (00:41:08) of the challenges they are having building an affinity group, as well as why you might want to form one yourselves. After Aly asks Jim rapid fire questions (01:03:43), they wrap up with a conversation (01:06:58) around organizing tenants.  For more on BAD, go to bozemanantifadance.org.

    Note that the essays referenced on John Locke and property rights can be found in this post.

    Thursday, December 23, 2021

    The BAD PODCAST – The Agony and the Ecstasy of Relationship

    Anarchists and anti-fascists also live complex lives just like everyone else. We have families, relationships, and traditions. In this episode, we look first (00:01:03) at Aly's recent break-up with her boyfriend Gray and then (00:34:51) the bliss in Jim's relationship with Dee Elle. Those discussions focus on having ideals for relationship that are consistent with anarchist beliefs around freedom and therefore anti-authoritarian approaches to relationship. The discussion focuses on feelings, how to approach differing values in relationship, and the degree to which we believe we must seek our ideals also in our partners. Other segments include a Kellogg's anti-ad (00:53:48) –which was recorded prior to the strike's resolution (and has a special guest) – Aly's answers to rapid-fire questions from Jim (00:56:14), and a discussion about our approach to Christmas (00:59:17).


    If you like what you hear, find out more about the Bozeman Antifa Dance (& Theatre Collective) at https://www.bozemanantifadance.org.

    Saturday, December 11, 2021

    The BAD PODCAST - First Episode!

    We just recorded the second podcast tonight, and hopefully it should be out in the next week or so! In the meanwhile, enjoy Episode 0001!)


    The Bozeman Antifa Dance (& Theatre Collective) - i.e., BAD - launch our first podcast, where collective members Aly White and Jim Macdonald discuss (00:22) what BAD is, why BAD is, what the podcast is going to be. Along the way, (29:32) they explain why you shouldn't eat at Sidewinders Restaurant, and discuss some of the pieces they have written on the BAD website (www.bozemanantifadance.org). First, (37:32) Jim discusses his controversial essay on a bull moose that came through Bozeman, how it was treated by the authorities, and what that says about our society. After Aly asks Jim some rapid fire questions (57:05), Aly talks (1:00:33) about her essay about working through anxiety, how that is mirrored in her dog Echo, and the social implications of talking about mental health issues.

    So, why shouldn't you eat at Sidewinders? Check out this PDF flyer!

    Tuesday, November 09, 2021

    New Project: Bozeman Antifa Dance (& Theatre Collective)

     

    In recent years, I have not posted a lot on my blog, as blogs have gone by the wayside as social media platforms have become the preferred avenue for sharing. The actual truth is that I have not been writing a lot, but that should change, and it may mean that more content from my current project - Bozeman Antifa Dance (& Theatre Collective) - that is, BAD, may end up right here.

    BAD is a collective of two people that I'm in with my best friend Aly White, and besides all the dancing we have done, we plan our website to be a showcase of writing and regular podcasts. Therefore, since we want word to get out, I may also point to posts on the BAD website here on this account and occasionally also post the best of my own writings here.

    This page is still the best storage place of my writings through the years as I've gone through evolutions as an anti-war grassroots organizer and activist, to someone who wrote a lot about issues related to Yellowstone National Park, and then to a flurry of activism related to buffalo as well as the Occupy Bozeman movement. In recent years, I've simply written less and danced a lot more. I became a licensed Chakradance facilitator and have pursued serious studies related to tantra (particularly the neo-tantric writings of Margo Anand). I have not stopped being an anarchist or anti-authoritarian; I found myself just seeking out the roots of why people are not so good to each other, even in well-meaning activist contexts. However, the itch has always been there.

    BAD is the place to find one side of me, even as I continue training in Chakradance, pursue my love affair with Yellowstone, continue on my ambling journeys in friendship and relationship, continue to be a father, and keep on with the process of living. For Yellowstone-related items, one of the best places to go is my Instagram, where I have posted a lot of beautiful pictures (even more on my Facebook), but I don't really want to see people I don't know there!

    Anyhow, look for more at the BAD website! Things I specifically write will be at this precise link.

    Tuesday, February 02, 2021

    MSU Soroptomist Alternative Futures Project Willfully Ignores Unhoused Bozemanites


    Besides 2020 being the year of COVID, it was a year for social awareness, for Black Lives Matter, and for educating ourselves about those who face systemic oppression in our society. One such group of people, who in Montana are disproportionately BIPOC (Black and Indigenous People of Color), are the people in our community without homes.

    My dear friend Aly and I spent some time in Bozeman's tiny downtown Soroptomist Park dancing with and listening to the stories of some residents of this park and took time to educate ourselves about and witness this population. Over the last many months, I spoke with city officials, advocated for the population in a City Commission meeting, and spoke with the head of HRDC (who provide services for this population). Bozeman's unhoused population has no year-round permanent shelter, and city laws forbid them of even pitching a tent. The large majority have jobs, but many of those who want shelter cannot afford or find a place to live.

    More recently, I happened on an article in Bozeman Magazine celebrating a 112-page report put together by Montana State University, which discussed ecological and development approaches for Soroptomist Park. What was never mentioned once was the population of humans often residing in this park. They presented no evidence of having spoken to a single person living there.

    This upset me, and I commented on the article. I shared it with Aly, and she also commented. Bozeman Magazine Publisher Angie Ripple reached out to Aly asking her to write an essay explaining our views. Appreciative for the platform, we wrote the piece you can read here. True to Angie's word, Bozeman Magazine has published it unchanged. Besides following the link, it is available also for free, available at a number of stores in town.

    We call for unhoused residents to be treated with respect, that we listen to their stories, and hear and consider their needs and desires. Too often, their lives have simply not mattered, particularly here in Bozeman. This must change.

    Sunday, May 31, 2020

    Remembering Bozeman's Racist History

    I’m writing this mostly for the white residents of Bozeman, but everyone is free to read if they want to be provoked, take inspiration from, react for or against, and confront the uncomfortable reality of racism in Bozeman, Montana.
    I just returned from a spirited rally and march organized by the Montana State University Black Student Union and the Montana Racial Equity Project of thousands of people in my town organized in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and in solidarity with Black and Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) in our city and state. As a white male observing what is happening right now in this country, I feel that I do not have the privilege to stay silent. I must say something to elucidate the situation here, namely how white privilege is manifest in my town, and I must ask anyone here who cares to join me and others in thinking of and acting on ways to tear down the systems of injustice that keep us all from being able to live in the best and most vibrant community possible – one where we all have the privilege I have—to breathe, to enjoy this beautiful environment, to earn a decent living, to care for my family, and to be able to walk my streets without fear.
    It may be lost on most Montanans, in a state with the lowest black population per capita in the United States, how we in Bozeman have not come to terms with our own racist past and how that perpetuates in the reality today.
    Once upon a time, there was a white man named John Bozeman. He and some of his friends—in part to escape America’s largest racially charged war (the Civil War) and in part to join the gold rush at Alder Gulch—headed to this area. Only, they didn’t just head to this area – which for centuries had been a passage to hunting grounds for numerous indigenous peoples—including the Blackfeet, Crow, Shoshone, Salish-Kootenai, and Nez Perce. They decided that the Oregon Trail was too long a route. So, they found a shorter route right through lands that had been granted to the Lakota by the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851. This became known as the Bozeman Trail, and Bozeman was founded as a town near the end of the trail where John Bozeman and his buddies could sell supplies to those men foolish enough to think they would get rich off of the gold at Alder Gulch.
    This inevitably started another Indian war—known as Red Cloud’s War—and it is one of the few wars that the indigenous peoples actually won. They temporarily closed the trail and settlement by way of the trail.
    So, the people in the new town of Bozeman needed some way to survive. Interestingly, it came from the fall out of the murder of John Bozeman, a murder that was blamed on Blackfeet Indians. The people did so with the intention of stirring fear and racial animus and to force the hand of the military to build a fort just outside of Bozeman (Fort Ellis). It is likely that John Bozeman was murdered by his white friend for having an affair with this man’s wife, though no one really knows. However, what is pretty certain is that Blackfeet Indians had nothing to do with it. Where Bozeman was murdered was outside of their typical range, and there are numerous other holes in the story, which you can research if you are interested.
    Nevertheless, a town built along an illegal trail by people who felt privileged enough to create that trail and build a town there had a new lease on life from an army fort that the people could supply and sell grain to. And the new town slowly grew and gained a foothold.
    That town was racially diverse. There were people of all colors in early Bozeman, including a significant population of Chinese people. Some say that the Chinese population may have been as high as 20 percent. This is a little known fact of Bozeman life. However, during the era of the 1870s, where the buffalo was being hunted to near extinction in a genocidal war to force indigenous people to reservations to make way for settlement and the railways these Chinese immigrants were often hired to build, there was growing racial hatred throughout the country of Chinese immigrants. This culminated in the Chinese Exclusion Act that for generations forbade Chinese from being American citizens and largely stopped their immigration. Alongside that, there were many laws openly aimed at Chinese people throughout Montana to make life for them impossible. One of our largest groups in what was once a racially diverse city were mostly wiped out of Bozeman by force of law.
    While all this was going on, a group of prominent citizens formed vigilante committees to take law into their own hands. They were not entirely dissimilar—in their culture and that they consisted of the prominent members of society—from the early incarnation of the Ku Klux Klan. However, in Montana, they did not simply act on the basis of race. Nevertheless, they established their own fear and order that benefitted the white business interests who ran the state. These vigilantes have been mythologized to the point of celebration and part of the Montana heritage. To this day, their numeric symbol “3-7-77” is on the very symbol of the Montana Highway Patrol. It is a disgusting legacy openly celebrated by our state’s police force.
    Over time, the white people of Montana forgot this history of racism, as was forgotten the forced removal of Shoshone Sheepeater Indians from Yellowstone National Park, as well as the Marias River Massacre of Blackfeet Indians and also the tragic story of the Nez Perce. Over time, white people forgot, and Montana became whiter and whiter.
    Yet today, we still have a significant population of indigenous peoples, many of whom fill up our prisons and jails and have a life expectancy far lower than the rest of the population. We have a city here in Bozeman that has become very expensive to live in and increasingly so. You find homeless throughout our city but not a permanent homeless shelter. While this has been true, you also have an increasingly progressive population that is happy to stand up for the environment and will even come together to stand up against overt forms of racism. And yet, it is people of color who are poorer and are less likely to be able to afford the spoils of this community. It is still people of color who end up in jails. It is still a town that seems totally unaware of its racist past and how racism has made it the affluent, predominately white town that it is today.
    And I as a white man benefit from this. Lucky me. I get to work from home and raise my son and go to Yellowstone whenever I want and hike in the beautiful canyons and mountains that surround me. I can afford to live here in the peaceful town with a low crime rate. But how often do I stand up and say that this is not working for everyone here? Beyond race, Bozeman has a high rate of rape. It has outpriced poor people of every race. Right now, I’m helping a nurse’s union at a nursing home collectively bargain a wage that is even comparable to wages across this city, let alone the state and country. These nurses put their lives on the line during a pandemic, and yet they can’t get a fair wage. What does this town do for the mentally ill or for the homeless? So long as we ourselves feel comfortable, we go on merrily. And yes, I do go on merrily. I live a really good life. It shouldn’t just be me and for people who look like me. We should all have this opportunity. All our lives would be luckier, including my own, if we could realize true racial justice in our city.
    BIPOC people in Bozeman, I hear you. My friends and others in Bozeman who hear me, if you are moved, I want to talk and help be allies. I don’t want us to ignore the uncomfortable truth of our city any longer. Let’s be allies and supportive of all efforts to change this, led inspiringly by the BIPOC community of whom we support. And let’s no longer pretend that we who are also white have not been complicit in a racist system in a city that was founded on racial injustice and continues to bear too much of its rotten fruits.

    Tuesday, October 08, 2019

    I'm Offering a 9-Week Chakradance Course in Bozeman Starting October 20

    What? When? Where? Who? Why? Cost?

    What? Nine-week Chakradance course facilitated by Jim Macdonald

    When? Most Sundays starting October 20, 6:30-8:00 PM

    Where? Montana Ballet Company (at the Verge Theater building on 2304 N. 7th Ave. in Bozeman)

    Who? Anyone interested who can commit to the full course and being present for 7 of the 9 classes and is willing to make up what is missed (no experience required)

    Why? Dance is its own reward, but also greater inner balance, healing, and help reaching our own personal potential

    Cost? Free for the full nine weeks, with a $50 refundable deposit for attendance at least seven of the nine sessions.

    More questions? Contact Jim and read below

    An Invitation to Chakradance

    I invite you, starting on Sunday, October 20, at 6:30 PM at the Montana Ballet Company (over at the Verge on 2304 N. 7th), to dance with me on a beautiful nine-week course in Chakradance.

    Chakradance has been for me a life-changing dance modality. You are not required to learn a single dance move in order to dance it. All you need to be is present and open to the power of dance to uplift, heal, or help you work on whatever it is in you that needs working out. Chakradance focuses on seven energy centers that ancient people identified in our bodies that represent physical, emotional, and psychological functions within us. By moving to, around, and with that energy, you can unravel blocked energy and deepen your connection with yourself.

    A class involves both still and moving meditation, a little sharing, some exercises to get us grounded into our bodies, and even some work with mandala art. None of it requires any experience with dance, art, or chakras. Really, all it takes is presence, an open heart, and a commitment to complete every step of the course. For seven of the nine weeks, we will also dance and work on a particular chakra.

    You will dance with your eyes closed or gaze lowered, and so this truly will be – though in a shared space – your own dance and your own process in a judgment-free environment.

    What Is Required

    If you are interested in taking this nine-week dance journey, the biggest thing I need from you is a commitment to the course. We will not be meeting every week because of holidays and my own travel, and so anticipate the actual course to be closer to three months. The time between classes is important because a lot tends to come up in the classes, and the real work is often the integration we do on our own throughout the week. More importantly, chakra work is about achieving balance throughout our chakra system. Your energy system will receive the most benefit from completing the full program and may feel imbalanced if it is only completed partially (much like getting a massage on one arm and not the other!) Therefore, a commitment to the full nine-week process is essential. However, because we all have lives (myself included) that do not always make attendance possible, please make a commitment to attending at least seven of the nine courses. If you cannot be at a class, please commit to making up the work in the week or two that you miss. I will make special arrangements with you so that this can be possible.

    To cement your commitment and the value we put into it for your time and my time, I ask that you place a $50 deposit either by check (payable to Jim Macdonald) or by cash. If you complete the course, then the check will be ripped up or the cash returned. If this is a hardship for you but you are truly committed, we can make arrangements.

    I also ask that by agreeing to take the course, you take responsibility for your own safety. I will do everything I can to hold the space, and the dance tends to be gentle, but I am cognizant that accidents can happen. Because I am offering a basically free service, I would just ask that to keep it that way, we all take responsibility for ourselves through this.

    Great, But What If I Am Still Unsure?

    If you are unsure of whether Chakradance is for you or whether you want to make a commitment to it, besides talking with me, you may drop in to the first class for free, and try that out. The first week is an introductory week. If it turns out that it is for you, then you can make the commitment during that week.

    If you end up needing other arrangements, please contact me separately to see if we can do one-on-one work or whether you might be available for the next cycle that I facilitate. Once the cycle gets going fully in week 2, we cannot add new people to the class. It is important that we keep the energy of our circle and those in it with us safe and protected. I am not offering the class to build as big or open a class as I can; I am offering a journey for those who want to take it first for themselves and secondly with the other dancers who have chosen to take that journey with them.

    I may, at times, offer some separate classes for those not in the nine-week cycle.

    Okay, But if I Am Trusting You, Jim, What Is Your Background?

    While you can read about me more here on my bio, let me say briefly here that I am a licensed Chakradance facilitator, having completed my facilitator training with the founder of Chakradance – Natalie Southgate – and also a nine-month deep dive course into Chakradance, also led by Natalie. Moreover, she has recently hired me to co-facilitate with her in next year’s online deep dive course and to help with future live trainings for Chakradance facilitators. Beyond that, I’m just a regular person who has lived in Bozeman for 12 years, with a day job at Oracle, a father of a 12-year-old boy, an M.A. in philosophy, and who loves to camp and hike in Yellowstone. In addition to Chakradance, I dance 5Rhythms, and I also love to swing dance or just dance anywhere and everywhere. However, I am not a licensed therapist. That is not my role here. I am someone who simply facilitates you through the dance and helps hold the space for your journey.

    I have numerous other interests we will surely discover as we get to know each other. If you are interested, please contact me.

    Thursday, January 25, 2018

    Hopeful Words

    What is the magic of a word?
    Marks on a background
    Meaning something
    Sound waves on an ear
    Ringing true

    For all the ways we fail
    To understand
    For all the words that fall
    On deaf ears

    Isn't it much more the miracle
    That words communicate at all?

    I believe this suggests
    By nature, we connect
    Or else these marks, these sounds
    Would suggest nothing more

    And yet, even when they don't
    We think they might
    We believe they ought
    Mean something more than they do

    These thoughts give me hope
    That none of us is really alone
    That if we only pay attention

    Try, reach, listen, and speak

    We have every reason to believe
    That someone else may speak
    Something ringing true

    To our eyes, our ears, our hearts

    jsm 1/25/18

    Wednesday, January 17, 2018

    Chakradance Classes in Bozeman, Montana

    I'm announcing today my new website, http://www.yellowstonemagic.com/dance. If you live in or near Bozeman and are interested in Chakradance, please contact me.


    I'm very excited now that I'm a licensed Chakradance facilitator.  I hope I can share this wonderful transformative dance with you.

    Tuesday, October 24, 2017

    A most beautiful dance to the heart chakra

    I just had the most beautiful dance to the heart chakra.  Let me try to find the words to describe it.

    It actually began before the heart chakra – in our abbreviated dance through all the chakras.  In the third-eye chakra, I began to see dancing pretzels.  They danced on an earth of cotton candy, surrounded by snow that fell as popcorn.  There among them was the pink elephant who could fly. At times, I was but a feather flying and tickling these dancing pretzels, making them laugh, making the pink elephant who could fly sneeze.

    This picked up into the heart chakra dance, and I was narrating everything I was seeing in a soft voice as I saw it.  There were the dancing pretzels, sometimes dancing like the Rockettes, sometimes just holding hands in a circle.  There was the pink elephant who could fly.  The falling popcorn.  The cotton candy fields.  Candy apple trees.  There too was I, now not a feather, but just myself, dancing like a bird, sometimes grabbing a pretzel for a twirl.

    Then, I saw a woman in an emerald green dress.  I know who she is, but I will not share.  I walked over to her, and I asked her if I might have this dance.  And she said yes, and we danced a beautiful dance on cotton candy dance floors in and around dancing pretzels as a flying pink elephant smiled over us.  But we did not simply dance – she and I – we then looked out of our circle.  We grabbed homeless people, we wheeled in people who could not use their legs, we brought in the forgotten, and came in with a cart of misfit toys.  We all danced together – us and these misfits and the woman in green who will not be revealed – and in the middle was the pink elephant who could fly showered with love.

    Then, I saw my son – my beautiful River.  And he brought in his misfit friends.  And they danced with pretzels.  The popcorn began to smile, and I turned back to feather form, tickling and making people laugh, and then me again.  I’m narrating out loud everything I’m sharing here, and I’m narrating that I’m narrating.

    The scene changes.  I’m now in the Norris Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park, at the very spot of my first kiss.  I’m with the woman in emerald green, and we look into each other’s eyes, still in a swaying dancing way.  But then we look out at the beauty before us.  We open up our arms to it and invite it into us.  This is not the love of a selfish couple, a romance only for the two, the first kiss of a boy who didn’t really know how to kiss.  This is an openness to the world, a love for all that’s in it.  And so came the elk, and so came the buffalo, and so came the wolf and the coyote and the fox, and so came the moose, and so came the grizzly bear and the black bear, and so came the beaver, and so came the pine trees and the fir, and so erupted the geysers all around us, and there too came the dancing pretzels, and the pink elephant who could fly was smiling down on us, and all the people who have been forgotten were there with us.

    And then came my son – my dear River.  And he runs into my arms, and he says, “I love you, Daddy.  Are you having a nice day?” – he says that nearly every time I see him.  And I cry – and I’m really crying (I’m crying now writing this) – “The best day … the best day of my life.”  And we hold each other, and we cry, and the world dances around us, first the lady in green, and around her the dancing pretzels, and around them geysers and animals and pink elephants who can fly in a sky of snow and falling popcorn. 

    The love I feel right now is tremendous.  I ended by wanting you all to join this scene and dance with us.  This world is for you; this dance is for you.  You are invited into my heart, into the strange curiosities of my mind, into the silliness, into the light touch of a feather, into a world where pretzels dance in a field of geysers, in a place I call Venus on Earth.  You are always welcome in my home, in my dance, into my surrealism.

    And like an old movie, we bowed as the curtain closed – the last thing you see is a dancing pretzel and the hint of a pink elephant ear.  And, closing credits. 

    The End.

    Wednesday, April 19, 2017

    The Infinite Beauty of Tautologies within the Gallatin Valley

    Living in the Gallatin Valley in such close proximity to the most beautiful place in the world – Yellowstone National Park – surrounded as we are by mountain ranges on every side of us, immersed with a sky so big that you can see forever even on the vast majority of cloudy days – we derive our sense of beauty from the striking and endless beauty around us. The valley floor contrasts with the rise of the Bridger Mountains. Very cold waters in the region mix with very hot. The colors in our morning and evening skies are like few places in the world. It is not hard for me to write just these few sentences because my view at work gives me a striking vantage on the Bridger and Tobacco Root Mountains. I know if I could turn 90 and 180 degrees that I’d have equally stunning views of the Madisons and the Gallatins.

    We can muse forever on what makes this place beautiful. One of the notions that seems obvious to me is that beauty provides a kind of endless diversity, one that never grows dull on the senses. The place will not allow you to take it for granted for very long. It is always full of pleasing new dimensions.

    Let’s shift gears radically.

    In philosophy, there are these obvious truths called tautologies. Perhaps, the most famous one is expressed in the law of identity – “p = p“. You are you; I am me; something is the same as itself. There are other forms of tautologies. What we need to remember is that tautologies are always true; we also need to know that they can connote needless repetition or the stating of something so obvious that it does not need to be said. Either I am here, or I am not here. You will either be or you will not be.

    Tautologies seem quintessentially uninteresting. You might even argue that they are the ugliest things you can imagine. Not only do they not say anything new, but also they dull you by saying it in a needlessly bulky way. Do I really need to say “I am me”? Isn’t it enough that I am?

    However, I think tautologies are infinitely fascinating and that even our love for this valley or for anything anywhere else we may live is nothing more than a new way of expressing a tautology. When we mistake the staid quality of particular tautologies like “p = p“, we run the risk of confusing the mere body of the tautology with its beautiful embodied soul.

    What possibly could I mean by that metaphor?

    Let’s try to reduce truth to its smallest possible component. What if instead of saying “p = p“ I said instead “p“? I walk up to you on the street and gleefully announce “p!” You probably are going to wonder where someone urinated or something of that sort. You do that because saying “p“ by itself is never enough to express any truth. You have to fill in the blanks. What is this “p“? You sniff around, hop up to avoid stepping in it, but you have no idea what it is I really mean unless you know what “p” actually is.

    So, Okay, maybe I should say something like “p is”. Yes, you might think that’s a strange thing to say and still have little idea what that means, but at least it's a complete sentence. Yes, indeed, whatever “p” is, it most certainly is. Or it is not. Yet, you can still have some conversation about it. Yet, notice what your mind has done. In order to grasp the meaning of a simple sentence with a subject and a verb, you have unwittingly in your head turned it into a tautology. Either “p” is, or “p” is not. Another way you can put that is that “p is p“, which logically means the same thing as the disjunction “either p is or p is not.” You will still fill in a context for which the “is” relates.

    We cannot assert truth, then, by reducing it to something less than a tautological form. There is no “om” that reduces the world to itself unless one means that “om is om” Try expressing anything true without a context. There is no way to do so. We can spend more time expressing why, but that is true of anything. Any attempt you make to express why you can simply say “p“ or “p is” will result in you saying something more. However, go ahead and say “om” and see if I understand you without either of us making reference to anything else. If you can, it’s a wonder that you could make sense of my sentence asking you to do that.

    So, not only are tautologies true, but also truth cannot be simplified beyond its tautological form.

    Now, this is fascinating. Why? If “p is p“ but you cannot assert simply “p“ by itself, then it means that the nature of “p“ is such that it has to be expressed as containing some diversity within itself. What I mean is that “p“ must also have as part of its nature that it must be expressed by a subject and with a predicate. It doesn’t matter that the predicate of “p is p“ is self referential; it is still necessary to its concept that it be expressed through aspects which are not the same. Predicates and subjects are not the same in any sentence, even if “p“ is still “p“ That means the simplest notion of identity still entails a kind of internal diversity.

    So, there is no “p“ without a world of context, without a reference to something that is not merely “p“ as “p“ “P as subject” is not “P as predicate” even if “p is p“ must be true. This is a surprising conclusion and opens up Pandora’s box, right? Is it not also true to say that “1 = 1” and “1 = 3 – 2” and perhaps also that “1 is the loneliest number” and even that “3 – 2 is the loneliest number”? We are not equivocating. If we are saying things which are true that follow from the nature of tautologies, then there are infinite many things which we can say while anchored to our tautologies. If identity is true, so is it true that identity entails infinite diversity of any true statement.

    Why write about this subject? I think what I am trying to get across is that the study of philosophy is not an abstraction that is distinct in any substantive way whatsoever from the world we inhabit. When philosophers talk about Truth, Beauty, Being – with all the capital letters – they can and should be talking about notions that are really the same as the ones we are expressing about our world. They are only abstract in the sense that we talk about them as generalities, but they are not abstract in being otherworldly or perfect ideas of which our world only is a mere replica. It is to say we should not run away from the trail of truth, virtue, logic, and several thousands of years of jargon built to facilitate the discussion of our world.

    I am an activist. I do care deeply about the injustices in the world – to people, Animals, the land, and our overall environment. Nevertheless, I hope I am also a philosopher. To deal with big concepts like injustice and working toward a world that looks like we want it to be, we cannot be afraid to do the hard work of gazing into the depths of these ideas. We cannot simply assert “injustice” and hope everyone knows what we mean. We have to tie it to a context; we have to reach that subject into a predicate. What is “injustice”? Well, it is injustice. Yet, to tie that to the endlessly diverse context of our lives, we need to be willing to explore the tautology further even if the path can often be littered with all kinds of ugly and ineloquent things.

    Saturday, September 26, 2015

    My Experience at the 2004 Republican National Convention Protests: Part I: Prelude (March 21 – August 27)

    My Experience at the 2004 Republican National Convention Protests

    Part I: Prelude (March 21 – August 27)

    By Jim Macdonald
    September 2004




    This series of essays will consist in four parts:

    I. Prelude (March 21 – August 27) 

    II. The Great Big Opening Act (August 27 – August 30) -
    http://www.eclecticworld.org/2015/09/my-experience-at-2004-republican_26.html 
    III. A31 and Guantanamo on the Hudson (August 31 – September 1) -
    http://www.eclecticworld.org/2015/09/my-experience-at-2004-republican.html
    IV. Copwatch and Aftermath (September 1 – September 3)



    Prelude to the prelude

    Many of you are certainly wondering about what happened to me in jail, how it happened, what it was like, and what the next steps in that particular fight are. Since it could be several days before I share that account, let me share a few things on that score right now.

    Firstly, the jail experience was one of the best in my life, one where people came together and took very good care of each other. It was like going to the best protest rally ever, only made that much more poignant by the ridiculous situation we found ourselves and some of the harsh realities of life in a jail cell. The friends I made in jail give me great confidence of the power and imagination in our movement, and the compassion I saw and received from others was astounding.

    However, more importantly, and secondly, for all of us who are so gladly martyrs for the cause of peace and social justice and who are trumpeting our own personal stories (for instance, read this one), the reality is that we are not victims, that we are not the forgotten story of New York. The forgotten story is all those people who have gone through and continue to go through the jail and prison system in this country. In New York, police repeatedly told us that we were lucky, that it usually took up to 72 hours to process the average person and that the “Tombs” (as the jail in New York is called) were remarkably more clean and more pleasant than usual. The poor, the mentally ill, the minorities, the homosexuals, the transgendered, and the unfortunate drug addicts go through this system all the time. They become lost in it without charges for days, without the support system that the activist community brought. They do not know who they are locked up with, and they do not have people outside when they get out. It is for them and not for us that I give my support and pity. If writing this account inspires others to speak out on behalf of those who are the real victims, then it will serve its purpose. I am intent on building this movement and showing both the positives and negatives in my experience, but none of that means a damn thing if we do not reach out to those people who are truly feeling the brunt of this system.

    So, as you read, remember the forgotten people. Then, organize and take action so that we can create a world where we truly take care of each other and the world in which we live.

    Why protest the RNC?
    Well over 500,000 people protested at the Republican National Convention (RNC) at hundreds of events and demonstrations. No other political conventions in American history have had anywhere close to this many protesters. Yet, this year, the magnitude of these protests surprised few.

    George W. Bush has been a horrible President. In 2000, he stole Florida and the national election despite losing the popular vote to Democrat Al Gore. He gave the rich a tax cut that bankrupted a government that was starting to get on its fiscal feet. He used the tragedy of September 11 to start wars in Afghanistan and Iraq where tens of thousands have died, including over 1,000 Americans. His environmental policies have included easing restrictions on the Clean Air Act, numerous attempts to drill for oil in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, allowing increased snowmobile emissions in Yellowstone National Park, and attempts to weaken the Endangered Species Act. He has been a friend of big business, the pharmaceutical companies, and the oil industry. His Administration supported the successful coup against the democratically-elected leader of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and the failed coup against another democratically-elected leader in Venezuela, Hugo Chavez. He has cut benefits for many social programs. At the same time, his government has assaulted civil liberties, especially through the Patriot Act and the detaining of those held without charges in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

    The list could go on indefinitely.

    As a result of the failure of many to have faith that electoral politics can be counted on and the sheer suffering that Bush’s policies have caused, massive demonstrations have been the norm during the past four years. In 2000, 80,000 protested Bush’s inauguration, by far the largest such protest of any inauguration ever. From October 2002 through March 2003, tens of millions demonstrated worldwide hoping to stop the war in Iraq, including an estimated 32 million alone on February 15, 2003. More than 1.1 million women and men marched in the March for Women’s Lives in April 2004.

    For over a year, most activists knew that the protests at the Republican National Convention would not only be necessary but also that they would be quite big. The million reasons to protest Bush could not but stir the passions and enthusiasm of those who wanted to make it happen.

    Why protest Bush and the RNC? Are you seriously asking me that?

    The Beginnings of My Involvement
    On March 21, 2004, I was writing about my experiences on March 20 just as this September 4 I’m writing about experiences of the day before. In writing, I find the power to preserve and to collect so that I can gain perspective on the melodies of my existence. However, in writing, it is not the truth we are preserving. Writing does not contain the truth not so much because what is written is untrue but because truth is not itself able to be contained. The truth is always so much more than any particular collection of words. Nevertheless, writing is a melodic process with potentially profound results. What writing does is invite others to conversation with the wonders of our minds and with the tapestries in our world. If successful, it evokes response and creativity. That process is profoundly beautiful, and in that process truth unfolds—rather than being contained—before our eyes and sets fire in our hearts.

    Something about March 21 was different, though. I found myself unable to feel enthusiastic about my writing. It was as if what happened that yesterday no longer seemed all that relevant to tomorrow. Often, I write with the idea that the thought that went into that writing session would organize my actions for the next. Yet, long before that day, I already knew what was next for me. The March 20 demonstrations by United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) and Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER) were moderately successful, but everyone knew that they were only a prelude to the later demonstrations in New York at the RNC. Perhaps, that is why we in the DC Anti-War Network (DAWN) could only field two buses to New York that day. Everyone knew that a bigger wave was on its way.

    Thus, what I wrote that day failed to resonate, it failed to seem all that important. The formulas of our protesting had grown as old and stale as what I had to write about. This is not to say there were not fresh thoughts of some relevance, but it is to say that they were not fresh and active enough. We had to do and be more or the RNC would be our Waterloo (what is the fascination with the analogies of war?)

    On March 21 I knew that I was going to propose to DAWN that we immediately turn the team that provided buses to New York for March 20 into a working group to prepare for the protests at the RNC. In my heart, I also believed that I wanted to be the working group’s point person for the action. Never before, believe it or not, had I ever been the point person for any action in DAWN. For March 20, I served as the bus ticket sales coordinator and ultimately as the bus coordinator for two other bus captains, but I was not ultimately responsible for keeping the overall work of the group together. For the RNC, finally, I felt that I had the confidence to do the hard work of taking the lead in organizing, not because I had some egomaniacal need to be a leader but because my energy was at an all time high, and I knew that that energy could best be used in this effort. The bus trip left me feeling unusually confident that maybe I could take on a project of some scope and organize a team of people to get things done.

    DAWN formed a working group for the purpose of protesting at the conventions, both the Democratic National Convention (DNC) and RNC, the following Tuesday. Within the week, the working group met for the first time at Café Mawonaj and then soon after over at the Warehouse Theater. From efforts following those meetings, a DC Conventions Coalition formed, meeting regularly at St. Stephens Church and eventually in Dupont Circle. That entire planning experience truly is a book in itself. I would like to write it some day, but I think that there are going to be far too many volumes of experiences upcoming for me to ever tell the whole story. That’s a happy thought, to know that life is so full of wonder and experience that there is not enough time to write about it all.

    The Scope of Our Work
    While I cannot write about all the work of the DAWN working group, the DC Conventions Coalition group, or the DC Cluster that arose out of the latter, I will highlight some of our thinking and try to give you the scope of the planning that went into this. Eventually, DAWN buses brought 200 people to New York. We estimate that over 1,000 DC-area residents attended the protests, perhaps more. We housed between 30 and 40 activists and had the capacity to house many more. The activists on the ground took part in numerous planning meetings while many DC affinity groups took effective action on the ground. In the past, big demonstrations in other cities simply meant that DC people came to participate in a march but do little else. This time hard work and planning by our group and so many other groups like SOA Watch, MGJ, and Codepink meant that Washington, DC activists could play an important and organized role in both the national planning and the actions on the ground.

    In my particular case, I estimate working at least 60 hours a week simply on conventions-related planning. I organized meetings; attended meetings of other groups; participated in conference calls; researched and created spreadsheets of activist groups; wrote calls and press releases; created, printed, and distributed flyers; participated in every wheatpasting; oversaw all the bus tickets sales; updated the website; publicized meetings; created agendas; participated in numerous events; took trips to cities like Richmond to promote the coalition and get support; helped organize other events where conventions was promoted; organized the bus trip; worked with groups in Boston and New York to secure housing; and so much more. There wasn’t a job too big or small that I didn’t have some part in. In fact, many have told me that I probably did too much, that one of the central flaws in organizing was my inability to delegate responsibility effectively. I can say that it was not for lack of trying, but it surely was for lack of ability that I hope will improve over time.

    And, yet, for all that I did in planning from late March until the very end of the convention protests, I absolutely did not and could not have done this alone. Genevieve had her hand in most things, too. She made hundreds of phone calls, which is especially useful given my neurotic fear of making phone calls. She helped wherever I needed help and took care of so many of my physical and emotional needs. She single-handedly secured Jan Hus Presbyterian Church where some people ultimately were housed and which provided the DC Cluster meeting space. She accompanied me at several meetings and offered numerous planning suggestions. She was the inspiration for so much of my energy. Then, there was Andy. From beginning until end, Andy was critical. He designed and maintained the conventions part of the conventions website. He helped with important outreach, designed flyers, worked hard on helping us put on events, at least one that never happened but still may. His analytical mind helped us see ways we might do things differently or remind us of tasks that needed to be completed. Sam was another extremely important member of the group. Having moved recently from New York, Sam was our best source of information about what to expect in New York and for potential contacts and information. He made whatever calls we asked him to make and more besides. He was able to do a lot to help build our coalition and secure ticket outlets. At moments when I felt low about the enthusiasm that the community had for our work, he always reassured me and told me that things were going on the right path. Then, of course, there was Ryan, who although he had a very busy summer which took him away from being as active as he had been in leading us on the March 20 action, he played the extremely important role of acting as liaison with the bus company and for coordinating the final days of the August 29 bus contingent. Besides these people, many dozens of others played important roles. Ellen fed us several times and provided a lot of food for the August 27 trip, which one passenger from Texas called the best bus trip ever. Morrigan helped us with wheatpasting buckets, by giving advice about securing St. Stephens, and played the pivotal role of organizing affinity group, legal, and medic training. Gordon and Tracy at Iraq Pledge of Resistance helped put on a nonviolence training workshop. Josh and Christy at SOA Watch facilitated the affinity group training while Peter and Carol led crucial medic and legal training respectively. Pete, through his “Free the Peace” events, gave a megaphone for conventions. Louise at All Souls Church and Cindy with the Virginia Grassroots Coalition helped a lot in getting the word out. Mary from Maryland helped us flyer. Jeff, besides being a bus captain on August 29, was an important help to me in particular by making sure that I put an emphasis on training and action. Without that emphasis, I might not have put such emphasis on the necessity of training, which turned out to be especially important for those of us who eventually went to jail. Ashley, a summer intern for Los Angeles, helped wheatpaste and she also promoted conventions heavily, especially at a poetry slam at Mangos. Ethan, a graduate student from Berkeley, helped wheatpaste, print numerous flyers, and offer general support to our efforts. Loree made sure that we had plenty of wheatpasting flyers. Jose helped us create a Spanish version of our wheatpasting flyer. Ryme at WPFW helped us publicize the protests as did Brian at the Washington Peace Center. Jesse helped us wheatpaste. Sam W. over at DC Labor for Peace and Justice was so important early in the process and helped us develop a better connection with that organization. The Kucinich campaign helped us get the word out about Boston, and I’d like to thank Charles in particular. In New York, we need to especially thank Julie and Todd with the noRNC housing team; the good people at West-Park Presbyterian Church, especially Philip, Hope, Lauren, Rev. Braga, and Rev. Brashears; and Rev. Irwin, Marvin, and Del over at Jan Hus. There are so many other people to acknowledge, who played important roles, including Gael at Codepink, Malachy and David B., Chris, and David K. in DAWN, our new friends, especially Jen L., in Richmond, Mike with the Green Bloc and Baltimore CAGE, Paul the Peacewalker, Ann and Dean with the DC Statehood Green Party, Shahid and Laurie and all the DC Guerrilla Poets, and on and on and on. As I remember others, I may go back and edit this. However, you can gather from this that this was no small effort.

    I do not know how much reading such a list might bore you, but in truth it was only a very small part of all that went into this entire experience. Days and minutes were so full of activity that you cannot simply reduce all of that varied experience into a few pages, which many of you will tell me you never finished reading because they were too long. Planning for these protests were some of the most rewarding days of my life and represented the beginning of what I think is a new age in my life, one with many happy days to follow.

    Our Strategy
    Our mission inside of our small local grassroots anti-war group was to help DC mobilize for two long and important protests one month apart. Logistically, it was the most complicated thing that we ever had to do. This was not simply organizing a bus trip, which was not at all easy to do. It was organizing several inter-coordinated bus trips, housing, and myriad on-the-ground actions. Each level of complexity made the workload increase geometrically. To deal with this work, we developed a strategy that was largely successful, though probably flawed in some respects.

    Our strategy in DAWN was to create partnerships with a large number of groups so that we could share the workload. For instance, we identified the housing component as the crucial element of our success. Whether it was is quite debatable since so few actually stayed in housing we provided, but nevertheless the housing need and our interpretation of its importance helped set the strategy. How would we house up to 150 activists in New York who needed free housing? Knowing little about New York, we believed the only way to successfully get that much housing was to develop partnerships with New York-based groups who would help us with housing. To form those partnerships, we researched New York-based peace and social justice groups, contacted them about our needs, and then offered similar assistance in the future. These groups had a vested interest in having the New York protests become massive, and we had a vested interest in getting as many of our people there as possible for as long as possible and for others to come to future Washington events. Thus, I spent much of April contacting many groups in New York and doing general outreach. Interestingly, though response was pretty decent in New York, especially from groups like the War Resisters’ League, we managed to attract some attention and help from outside New York. Charles Shaw, the editor of Newtopia Magazine and Green Party organizer, generously offered to help out. Over time, we joined the noRNC housing group, which was somewhat in disarray, and offered to do what we could to help. They gave us access to databases, and we held calling sessions to New York churches, using that info to update their database. As a result of that and our early start time, that group committed heavily to providing us with the housing we got at West-Park Presbyterian Church.

    So, we formed partnerships with working groups and organizations in New York, Boston, and Chicago, but what about DC? In DC, there was no way to mobilize as many people as we wanted to mobilize without the help of the other grassroots organizations in town. So, while we were simultaneously working outside of DC, we worked hard inside of DC forming a coalition of groups to work on planning. We recruited and received endorsements from several organizations including Codepink, SOA Watch, Mobilization for Global Justice (MGJ), DC Labor for Peace and Justice, Howard University peace groups, Critical Resistance, Kucinich for President, Richmond’s Virginia Anti-War Coalition (VAWC), Veterans for Peace (ch. 016), Jews for Peace in Palestine and Israel, the International Socialist Organization (ISO), DC Guerrilla Poetry Insurgency, Proposition One, and the DC Statehood Green Party. Frankly, the coalition almost never functioned like a coalition. Some groups never sent members to meetings, many groups did their own thing, and some others gave sporadic support. Yet, forming this coalition was not unimportant to the efforts. The outreach created relationships that did not exist before. They introduced some of us new to big scale organizing to many others in the local, regional, and national movement. I also believe that while the coalition did not always meet or work together on coordinated projects, the general notion that there should be a coalition for this effort must have had some effect on overall attendance at the convention. Since word was getting out to very active participants in these organizations, conventions-related activities spread through to the general body of supporters in the region.

    Our strategy of partnerships inside and outside the DC region was key to helping us pursue the ambitious organizing we hoped to and eventually accomplished. At times, I found myself exhilarated by the scope of the project. How was housing coming along? Where are we on getting bus ticket outlets? Are we playing an active enough role in the Free the Peace planning? Which interview must I do today? How do you like this flyer? How many meetings do I have this week? I was not getting by financially at all throughout this process, working a temp job at the US Department of Education in Federal Student Aid through July, and not working at all in August. I was getting poorer and likelier to be homeless by the day, and didn’t have time to take care of many of my basic personal needs. Yet, seeing this project through was worth the enormous personal sacrifice and was so often energizing. Other times, however, I was running myself ragged, getting myself discouraged by the lack of participation, by tasks not being completed on time, wondering if there was general dislike of me since so few seemed to be participating as actively as I might have liked. Sometimes, that sense of discouragement would seem to happen to me most at our Monday conventions meetings, which probably turned off people who were there looking for enthusiasm and a way to help out. The low point was certainly when we discovered that only one ticket for Boston had been sold a week out from the convention and that we had to scrap any buses. At the DAWN meeting 10 days out from our trip, I broke down in tears in the meeting believing that I had been an absolute failure as an organizer.

    Finally, It Comes Together
    Eventually, through hard work and a lot of help, everything came together spectacularly. I think the turning point may have come when Shahid began organizing the DC Cluster. Up to that time, bus ticket sales had been okay but rather slow. After the last couple meetings, which had great participation, bus sales exploded. DAWN ultimately filled four buses, but we could have easily filled two in the last couple of days after ticket sales ended. Genevieve, Ryan, and I wore ourselves out the week before New York. In all honesty, the week before the RNC, I was receiving well over 200 emails a day, and about 60% of those were in some way relevant to the work we were doing on the conventions. My phone rang off the hook, giving me cell phone bills that have left me scrambling for ways to pay them. I was also moving out of my apartment while all this was going on. Genevieve’s home turned into a travel agency office where we were booking reservations for travel and housing while answering individualized questions. WUSA, channel 9 in DC, even suggested coming to the house to watch us work. When I was not doing all of that, I only found a spare moment for a WPFW radio interview. The day before our trip, I worked 16 hours nonstop on the bus trip. You have no idea the accounting, the money collection, the information packets, etc. that goes into a bus trip. Throw on top of it that it is a protest with potential legal, medical, and other issues, and you just add layers of complexity. Yet, I made a commitment to keep up. Very few emails went unanswered (except when my email went down for half of a day the day before I left) as quickly as possible, and I put all my passion and work so that others could protest at the convention. I felt a big rush from it all, a sense that the more exhausted I felt, the more alive I became.

    I had a great sense by the time I got to Union Station to board our charter bus to New York that we were about to have the time of our lives.

    In the end, I had the time of my life.

    What will follow is a lot more writing. All my memories crowd together and compete to be remembered in black ink. If I had started writing this later in the day, another flood of different memories would have found themselves here. My point is that writing is merely the façade of a much more intricate and compelling world. The major party conventions had very little coverage on prime time television, and people complain about that. Yet, how much more time and space they get than we get, we who are working on systemic changes in our culture and society? How much more do we get than those who have been forgotten, who don’t have the time to write and record and to share? The world is so much more than our words. Activity and color flood us all the time, infinitely occupying even the smallest recesses of any being. So, what will follow is largely small, even though it will be too long for most editors. We as readers have the responsibility to remember and to ask about what our writing and our words do not say. There are words for the forgotten, too.

    I have reduced several months of experience to mere pages of writing. In meetings, I would reduce it to a minute’s worth of speaking. How lucky are those who stand out to be counted! In New York, the few represented the many, and they were represented only barely. What I hope these few words have shed light on is the sheer scope of the effort that went into it from just my end of things.

    Tomorrow, we can only hope to do more.

    To be continued… [Editor's Note: Part II is shared here.]