Home     Writers     Op/Ed     Book Reviews     News     Bookstore     Photoshops     Submit     Search     Contact Us     Advertise  
  You are here: 

Tue

10

Jul

2007

Dependence Day, or What the Bald Eagle Told the Desert Rat about the 4th of July
Tuesday, 10 July 2007 10:05
by Christopher Ketcham

Good party for the 4th here at Pack Creek Ranch: beer, fried turkey, music, starlight and moonrise and many friends.  But little talk about independence, or the U.S., or the Constitution, its crafting under duress. No surprises: I am 34 and for my entire life the 4th of July has been meaningless except as an excuse to drink, gather, eat meat, watch explosions in the sky.  Which is fine.  The dudgeon and pretense of the holiday should therefore be excised and July 4 renamed “Get Wasted and Blow Shit Up Day” or something more in tune with the American mind.   

 
Better yet, if we wish to commemorate the degeneracy of our historical moment, our peculiar fallen stature as a people and a republic, we might try simply Dependence Day.   Here in Moab, Utah, the dependence is utmost: strung out at the far ends of industrial foodism and carbon fuel addiction in the red rock, a desert people piling too many into a place with too few local resources for real sustenance: the trucks on the highways bring us the life of a 2,000-mile supply line, and the long strings of the power plants bring us air conditioning in the 108 degree days (growing hotter every year), and the lights at night and phone line that keeps me jabbering onto the Internet, and the fridges that keep the ice to cool the brain from the mashing of the sun – all of it the function of large-scale, far-flung, giantist systems of dependence whose links, if severed, would bring about an apocalypse of such proportions as to render moot our partying, this writing, intellect, politics, freedom itself: behold the purest Malthusian struggle, bug-eyed cannibalism, many young and old reduced to a mental, moral, physical fetal position.

 

A few facts we know, ought to know, or know and don’t speak of because unacceptable in the current hologram of wellness and self-regard: it comes home to me in the memory of a crack whore among the warehouses at 9th Street and 2nd Avenue in Brooklyn, a toothless creature no more than 30 years old and looking 70 who was starved and told me, “Mistah, I’ll suck yo dick for five dollars – please.”  I bought the woman a sandwich and avoided the blowjob…but here she is in the sage and under the moon haunting my imaginings of the U.S. as “independent”: We suck the dick of foreign oil, imports whose slightest shiver in supply would send us into chaos; we suck the dick of foreign lenders, the Chinese and Japanese buying up our bond reserves, propping up our markets with cheap goods that we hoover like apes at the totem of a banana and without which the sand and spit foundation of U.S. home mortgages would collapse like beach to the sea.  The perversity in these overseas relationships is that we bow for blowjobs while pointing a gun at the blow-jobbee, crying out By god we will keep sucking dick or shoot you.

 
Which brings me to the issue of the bald eagle as national symbol: I went hiking a few days ago in Salt Creek Canyon in Canyonlands park, finding again and always that the flora and fauna of the redrock country serve as a kind of metaphor and lesson plan for a true conservative conduct that so-called conservatives in the U.S. have abandoned.  Here heat, sun, lack of rain, the thinness of soil, the vastness of scarcity makes moderation, modesty, self-reliance the norm and the virtue.  And the eagle has no place. 
 
The bald eagle with its great strength and noble visage and razor talons is a fraud.  He survives not by prowess and creativity but by theft and the strong-arm, by dive-bombing smaller birds to make them drop the rats or rabbits or fish these more enterprising avians catch through lone hard work.  The behavior of the bald eagle hence falls under the rubric of kleptoparasitism, which makes the bird a fitting symbol of the U.S.  government, especially as regards foreign policy.
 
But kleptoparasitism is an aberration in the desert, which is why the vicious beady-eyed bald eagle finds a hard row to hoe in zones of self-reliance such as the redrock country.  Instead, desert life teaches more admirable lessons, lessons that jibe, for example, with the so-called paleoconservatism – awful usage – of a Barry Goldwater, himself a desert rat who late in life rafted the Green and Colorado Rivers where they confluenced in Utah, toppling down the canyons in whitewater, and who was thus converted from conservatism to conservation in understanding that wild places should be kept wild.  Desert flora foremost show that wildness – a sense of distance, keeping an arm's length, not getting in each other's way or invading mutual space – is key to a happy co-existence: among the top flora such as the sagebrush and the pinyon pines and the juniper, there is always spacing for each to have enough water and to cull the nutrients from that thin soil. 
 
Hence no ostentation among these plants, no waste, no profligacy.  The flowers such as the evening primrose or the four o'clock show-off bloom white and cream or magenta and crimson only when night falls, but come daybreak they close to no one's notice (the scream of the sun would take their life in an hour's time).  Modesty is their virtue and also their survival.   Meanwhile, some of the most beautiful and most damned of the lifeforms are armed to the teeth, showing that the best defense is a good offense: the claret-cup cactus, spiny to the point of impossibility; the scorpion, who hunts little bugs but rarely deploys his terrible piercing stinger against human beings.  Above all, there is self-sufficiency in these lifeforms, suffering terrific extremes and the better for it, more economical, tougher, more muscled, more careful, more free than their counterparts in the easy climes of the temperate East.       

 
The notion of a desert conservatism is not new and it haunts the thoughtful newcomer to the desert as much as an idea of Eden: it has its precedence in the mountain men loners who came west before the en masse migrations of the pioneers, before the gold bonanzas and the cattlemen welfare queens (the hardest tit-suckers of the West), before the railroad corporations conjured the first of the big real estate scams.  And, in modern times, it finds expression in the throwback orneriness of writers such as Ed Abbey, who in Desert Solitaire of 1968 envisioned the deserts of the Southwest as a safe house of political liberty, the “base for guerrilla warfare against tyranny.” (Goldwater, an Arizonan, also spoke about this). 

 
Abbey wondered aloud in Desert Solitaire as to the necessary steps an American government might take to quash democracy.  First, he suggested, encourage overpopulation and “concentrate the populations in megapolitan masses,” where they are easily surveilled and controlled.   Second, mechanize agriculture so that food production sits in the hands of the few, eliminating the fundamental source of independence in self-sufficient communities (siege starvation is the ultimate strong-arm, barring the bullet).  Then, fight wars against distant, mostly chimerical, threats overseas, “divert[ing] attention from deep conflicts within the society” and rendering “support of these wars a test of loyalty.”   Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the wilderness is to be razed, paved over, developed, rigged with roads and cellphone towers and WalMarts and utility corridors, means of access, centralization, control – because it is here that the last of the self-reliant tribes will find their hold-out, a perch unacceptable to forces of dominion.  In short: create a system of dependency and thou wilt prevail…not news and surely an algorithm in the books of the sociopaths in the White House.  Like his peer of a generation earlier, poet Robinson Jeffers, Abbey saw in the vanishing of desert wilderness the perishing of the republic, the freedom for which it stood. 

 
And here in my hypocrisy of this screed, sitting up late on the Internet burning the coal of the power plants, I notice that even Google shows an image of the bald eagle, wings spread, descending in hero’s flight…holding perhaps an olive branch…or a stolen sprig from the mouths of children.

 




 
More from this author:
Bordering Chaos: A report from the birth-pangs of America's Citizen Border Patrol Militias (11636 Hits)
by Christopher Ketcham EDITOR'S NOTE: This articlewas originally published in a shortened, much-bowdlerized form in Salon.com. I ...
Notes from a Super Bowl Sunday with the TV B-Gone - Die, TV! (7538 Hits)
by Christopher Ketcham The TV-B-Gone, which fits in the palm of the hand, is a universal remote whose sole purpose and power is to shut down...
What Did Israel Know in Advance of the 9/11 Attacks? High-Fivers and Art Student Spies (13328 Hits)
by Christopher Ketcham On the afternoon of September 11, 2001, an FBI bulletin known as a BOLO ­— "be on lookout" ...
God Doesn't Follow the Law - How irrational love of religion in the U.S. fosters lawless religionists (10453 Hits)
by Christopher Ketcham "History…furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government." —...
Bigger than Watergate: the cover-up that succeeded (12406 Hits)
by Christopher Ketcham THE CHARGE Mark Felt as Deep Throat counseled his listeners to “follow the money,” advice...
Related Articles:
About (12485 Hits)
Atlantic Free Press was founded in September 2006 by Publisher Richard Kastelein of V.O.F. Expathos, in the Netherlands and Editor - Journalist Chris...
You and What Army? Bush Legions Starting to "Unravel" (11942 Hits)
Is it possible the largest and most advanced military in the history of the universe is ready to bust? According to General Barry McCaffrey (ret.)...
What Vote-Theft Conspiracy? (7479 Hits)
by Dave Lindorff, The big losers on Election Day were of course President Bush and the Republican Party, but there was another loser too: the...
What do we do now? (5813 Hits)
by Frank Pitz In the 1972 movie The Candidate, newly (and surprisingly) elected candidate Bill McKay – played by Robert Redford –...
They Hate Our Freedom: The Truth about the Military Commissions Act (8167 Hits)
By Aaron Sussman On October 17th, with Dick Cheney, Alberto Gonzales, and Donald Rumsfeld standing behind him, George W. Bush solemnly ...


Add this page to your favorite Social Bookmarking websites
Trackback(0)
Comments (0)add comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

adsense

Top