Guitars and Gusto

“I know my own nation best. That’s why I despise it the most. And I know and love my own people too, the swine. I’m a patriot. A dangerous man.” -Edward Abbey

I hid in my room all day, depressed and scared and sleeping my worries away. I’ve stopped going for runs outside because everytime I do, someone stops me and warns me.

“Where are you going? Be careful… watch out for stray dogs… and skinny polar bears, it means they are hungry… and the lagoon, people drown all the time…”

Fuck, man. I’m turning around and jogging home in a hurry after getting these ominous messages again and again.

Charlotte, a girl my age who moved here last year from the East Coast, says she still runs even though everyone advises against it. She said we could run together on Sundays.

Sorry, Charlotte, I can’t run with other people. The point of running for me is to be alone.

But I’m not going to take my chances most days anymore. The high school is open on weeknights, so I can go there on Monday if they haven’t shipped us out of here by then.

Lack of jogging is definitely not helping things, but I’ll make it work.

Around midnight tonight, I woke up to voices in the living room, growing more impassioned with the swirl of knowledge and energy that I am drawn to. I rose out of bed, and landed in my chair by the window.

“I think we’re all experiencing this long bout of emotional turbulence,” Carinne says, attempting to make sense of the state of our world, and of our team, and of this mind fuck that we’re in the middle of.

“Laura literally just told Heather that she just wants us to do the work, and not ask questions.”

“You wanted us to be mindless, naive worker bees? You picked the wrong damn team, Laura,” Jess spits out, with biting truth. “I’m happy we’re here, then. I don’t think a lot of other teams would be asking these questions… I want to write an email as well, but i don’t know how to be NICE about this, so I’m going to OPT OUT. If I did send an email, it would be to L. And it would just be a one liner: LEAVE THE NATIVES THE FUCK ALONE. or GET THE FUCK OFF THEIR LAND or YOU’RE STILL A VISITOR HERE FOR A REASON. or GET THE FUCK BACK TO CANADA. or FUCKOFFYOU’REQUITEPOSSIBLYTHEBIGGESTASSHOLEI’VEEVERMETINMYLIFE.

or “HI, I’M LAURA. LET’S POINT OUT THE ONLY BLACK PERSON IN THE ROOM AND ASK HIM TO TELL THE ROOM WHAT ‘WHITE PRIVILEGE IS.” There’s just so much! I can’t possibly choose one. So I can’t possibly write anything. Oh, wait. What about LET’S NOT TELL THE NATIVES WE’RE USING TREATED WOOD AND POISONING THEM, BECAUSE THEY WOULD FREAK OUT AND THEY DON’T ACTUALLY KNOW SCIENCE.”

During the conversation with campus on Thursday, we were told that the program was focused on “commitment to our sponsor over any ethical feelings arising.” Tony and Carinne keep shaking their head and bringing it up when I see them. “I should have quit long ago. I never wanted to be in a place in my life where I felt forced to give up my values…daily…”

“…‘Working within the system’ is merely a lame euphemism for ‘playing by their rules’. Once you do this, and lose… you’re expected to hunker down like a natural gentleman/politician and take your beating, the inevitable consequences of running a failed challenge on a deeply entrenched Power Structure.” -HST, Kingdom of Fear

“I hate all of it. Forcing these people off their land, making them relocate, denying them all of the treaties we made with them…”

“The country is like an irrational, irresponsible, thoughtless child that has denied itself the ability to grow up and be a decent human being, learning how to cooperate with its fellow universe.”

“They fucked up everything once they put those crosses in the ground outside in that graveyard,” Carinne says, pointing out of window. “And then put the fucking AC store in the middle of town for all the unwanted visitors taking up residency here. So I can see why our country is trying to put a tundra garden out here. If white people and missionaries had never come up here, people would still be eating healthy, wholly traditional diets. It’s an attempt to cover up how we fucked up. But who trusts the person who fucked it up to come back and fix it? No one wants the person who fucked up to even come back again, much less try to tell a people how to fix the mistake that they forced on the people earlier in history” Carinne spouts, wrapping herself in her blue, white and black Mexican blanket.

“I will never be that gung ho, patriotic fuck. I think we owe so many fucking apologies to everyone, as a country. Did you see the video I sent you about the Australian government apologizing to the Native Australians?”

“I’m not that person you think I am when you see me out on the street. I’m embarrassed to be associated with this history. Especially up here where most of the people do not identify as being American, they just see me as one. Separate from them. It’s embarrassing and shameful! I just got fucking pissed today. Everyone Drunk and in Bikinis and Fucking Stupid all over my facebook page. I was just so angry at them today. No, there’s nothing else we should be focusing our energies on. Of course not. No racial tension, nothing. Let’s just have beer and paste the American flag on our foreheads,” Jess exclaims, running out of breath.

“And why didn’t I know shit about AIM (American Indian Movement) until last week? Did you learn about that in your American History classes in high school? We can’t give native people their rights, and we can’t even recognize their struggles for their rights! And Anna Mae Aquash…where is the justice for this silent history?”

“I was just reading about Anna Mae as well… it’s in this book ‘The Rights of Indians and Tribes’. Going to start it after I finish this biography of Thurgood Marshall… I don’t get WHY a significant portion of people in our country hate black people…! You’re just mad because they’re not your fucking slaves anymore? You’re flying confederate flags high in North Carolina while black churches burn? Do the Germans still fly swastikas high in the air to celebrate their history? I just get so mad when I read these history books— and then I still see it in everyday life in my FUCKING FACE.”

“Except it’s not in your face, you have to look for it. The media doesn’t care about black churches burned by white boys. If it had been an Islamic man at a white church, we’d be having a national crisis right now. I mean, we ARE HAVING A NATIONAL CRISIS. The nation is just taking its time catching up. Just because there was a civil rights movement in the past in no way means there isn’t a movement that needs to take place now, and forever on.”

“Bernice’s sister was telling me how she’s never never been anywhere else in Alaska, or the world besides Anchorage. ‘This is my home,’ she stated simply at the games today. These people are geographically tied to the land, spiritually and historically. We long for a spirituality in our empty American Dream lives, and travel the world because we are not connected with our land, and cannot even begin to comprehend it the way that these people can. Or could.”

“I guess you hate the people most who make the most justifiable demands. Because they go to the heart of our psyche.We know they are right, and therefore we have to destroy them if we can. I think a lot of people are really afraid of justifiable Indian claims to land and resources. They’re most afraid of the fact that the claims are morally right, because when you are confronted with a moral imperative against you on your part, you’ve got to hate the people who assert that moral imperative. And I think there is an irrational, guilt caused hatred now that is beyond my ability to analyze. We hate them because their claims are totally justified– and we know it.” Bill Kunstler

Earlier tonight I found the mantra that got me where I’m at today, penned in my “everything” notebook last summer, after a maddening year of questioning and self doubt, I made a decision to move forward. I was never going to piece all the information together, and I couldn’t wait til I understood everything to move. Did I want to let fear rule me? Or did I want to run toward it in intrigue and defiance?

“Going To

live the life I want.

Today forward, no exceptions.

Going to live the life

I want or die trying

I do Not live my life

In fear. I live

in opportunity and will

Choose to focus on

opportunity over fear.

Life over fear.”

I went on to continue to write about how one should never fear anything but a situation/environment that doesn’t foster self esteem/self growth. If it’s doing that, ride on. And really, truly, if I can stick this out, if we all can stick this out, we’re going to be changed people. Obviously everything changes us, but something like this is pushing all of us to our limits.

I’m looking over the edge, and realizing that I don’t want to jump. That I can be absolutely terrified, but stay solidly where I’m at. Which is what I’ve always wondered about myself, and was scared to find out. But have continually proved the answer to myself this year, with each arising challenge.

I don’t feel the way I used to feel as a depressed/over anxious kid in college that was scrambling through Emerson and Thoreau books for answers, desperately running down to the cafe to steal packs of Skittles off the shelves of preservative distractions, turning on a TV back at the dorm and trying to be a normal college student but feeling trapped in a fish bowl, running down the hall to get high with strangers and then running back to my solitary dorm room to consume a box of granola bars by myself and write crap poems about how much the world sucks because it didn’t need me.

I’m not doing any of that right now. I’m possibly drinking too much coffee, but I’m aware of the fact now that I am not a victim. And that it’s up to me to fix my situation, and my mindset right now. And sometimes I’ve just got to hideaway for the day. And I did that today. Then I walked out and remembered who I’m up here in the Arctic with- my ladies.

I retreat back to my room after our early morning hours priming for revolution, and sit down on the floor to write this all down around three in the morning. Five minutes later, Carinne and Jess enter the room. Carinne is carrying a guitar, and Jess is singing. And they are serenading me, and they are absolutely au naturel: butt-ass naked and jumping around with the joy of life. Have you ever seen someone play the guitar naked?

I join them.

And I tell myself again, there is no place I could have been this year, this month, this day, than here.

When I went to England I found my voice, without having the confidence to use it in the way I wanted to. And now I’m learning how to use it in just the way I’ve always cared about but couldn’t muster the courage to do. And I’m surrounded by three ladies who feel the same way, who only rarely shave their bodies, and scream about justice at two in the morning.

I have found my way. I’m on the right track. Everything at the appointed time.

We’re about to take off the runway, world. We’re flying toward the rest of our lives.

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