By Walter Simon –
RED CANYON, Utah — After 9 years of teaching, trying to get the financial support of the local community to be a living working artist, and searching for true love, I feel now like a lot of people from Alabama, that she took me for granted. Maybe this is her true form of paying attention, but there has always been that ever-present aspect of commiseration and mutual respect through escapism and the intoxication of firewater.
Standing on the edge of Yellowstone Canyon at Artist Point, surrounded by those who appreciate Nature visiting the first national park, I can’t help but notice what distance has done for my perspective on self and my family home community of the Mobile Bay. This is lower Alabama, the most vilified state in the Union, with the highest rates of opiate use, AIDS, and mental illness in the nation. Living here a while, you might start to think to be a success you have to either own property, marry into money, or just bring sexual intercourse to term and get tied down with family responsibilities to get a full Alabama citizenship.
Now that my daughter is in college I suddenly feel like I have an advantage to many of my peers who are just having children. I can go out west and set up shop as an artist in a more open-minded and affluent region and make money to assist her, and possible save something for my retirement, if that ever actually happens. I could move to Denver, and enjoy the liberties and prosperity people in Alabama claim to value and desire, without the religious oppression and the old slave rancher oligarchy in their secret white sheets and tribal football uniforms on the warpath of political insanity.
From a base in Denver or Salt Lake City or South Dakota I would have all the major Western cities within easy reach, and the many corresponding economic and cultural opportunities within a 3 day drive, which seems a paltry task to me now, after sleeping alone in a tent for 17 days in 7 states, at times in below freezing temperatures. You can do it, too, I assure you. The only thing stopping you is fear, that most treasured emotion of the weakling sycophants that make up the ranks of the unambitious. They too, can go out West.
What is stopping them? Allegiance to a system that offers no consolation but the solidarity of shared misery? Ah, but the greatest reward for selling out is not the pension, nor the wage, but the right to judge others who have not sacrificed themselves for the greater society. I reject that society that has rejected me. My ancestors fought the South from within the South. My lands are where my dead comrades are buried, the victims of the European jihad upon the Americas.
We can cry out against injustice. We can speak out against the war. But without victory, we aid our oppressors by showing the world how just our leaders are in tolerating our protest speech. But solidarity with the oppressed is not enough. The new left of the South is feeble, puritanical, and ultimately has failed, though they could have failed worse, I’m sure. Thank you urban freedom fighters for your steps towards a progressive future for the South, but I assure you, the crazy won’t go away on its own.
Oppression and stress do not make one noble, nor a better person, nor wise. Oppression makes you crazy, and you share the craziness with whoever will listen, but change is too little too late for the South. There are pockets of sanctity and liberalism such as Athens, Georgia, where I got my MFA in painting. They call it the Velvet Coffin for a reason. You might escape the system for your own personal liberty and happiness, but the war will find everyone eventually.
Wisdom is memory turned into poetry. The South offers the blues, the afterlife, and from what I have seen, a parallel legal system for white privileged self-medicated delusional paranoia and right-wing libertarian conspiracy theories in place of what could be compassionate scientific judgement instead. It could be Alabama’s problems are rooted in a racist ideology that resents the presence of the descendants of the slaves of the Confederacy. Why on Earth don’t THEY leave?
Go to Wyoming or South Dakota. See what freedom looks like. The West offers purple mountains, golden sage brush, free living wildlife, liberty-loving progressive-thinking people, and more money than the South can muster. The galleries and museums of Denver, NYC and LA are full of artists who have escaped the South to find success and recognition. If the most the South can offer their artists is free beer and exposure, I’m sorry, but my appetite for pity has been satiated, my thirst for desperation has been slaked. I have seen the light of the setting sun, and it is Western landscape I have fallen in love with, not the faces of the homogeneous humanity that populates Facebook and the urban centers. It is the city itself, I realize, that has driven my crazy.
The political frustrations and impossibly depressing economics of a former slave economy that whores itself to any company or nation that will pay to dump its trash there, or shuttle petrochemicals through the city’s water supply [with the approval of the elected city council], all this should give one pause, is it worth the cheap rent to stay in a region that is destined to be devastated by the eventual hurricane, and the inevitable sea level rise that will put sea level at the cannon loop in mid-town Mobile?
I love my friends. I love my family. I love them all despite my feelings of being misunderstood, left behind, backstabbed by maniacs and addicts of every sort who put their best face on when they meet you, befriend you, attach themselves to your consciousness, only to turn on you in a psychic tempest of mental illness and/or drug and alcohol inspired words fueled by devastated proletariat rage.
Disappointment is an understatement, but others have lived through and transcended worse lives. My apologies if I have offended anyone, ruined someone’s day, interrupted the positivity of wishful-thinking. Perhaps my wet-blanket will mitigate the damage of my bridge-burning, but as they say, better to ask for forgiveness than for permission. At least you bothered to read this testimonial.
My pity party is over, and I feel strong and brave after having made this trek from Alabama to the Red Warrior camp at Standing Rock, N.D. Yellowstone, Crazy Horse, and soon, the Grand Canyon, where we do battle in the intellectual dimension against the privateers, the frackers, oil barons, land-grabbing ranchers, and other assorted orcs of the inverted god of destruction and death they follow.
As I type, people are challenging the power of the state in Cannonball. I watched on Facebook livestream as native people led the country against the robocop stormtroopers which defend property and capital, not the people and the clean water they need to live. We have seen it over and over in the newsfeed, polluted water that catches fire, uranium mining in reservations and national parks and forests. The fields of corn that feed not people but the high-fructose-sugar peddlers that give children diabetes and cirrhosis of the liver in the form of soft drinks and other non-foods.
The Hopi indians venerate corn. We turn it into poison and give it to our children as sweet love. All ideologies and habits are worth careful scrutiny. This must be the century of renewal, restored trust, vigorous activity and stalwart diligence in the fight against the greed and neglect that the powerful have wrought upon us all. What once was happening only to natives and other non-whites is now coming down upon American communities everywhere. Divided we fall prey to these forces, the most powerful to ever walk the earth and claim dominion. Unite with those who “get it,” and leave the rat-frackers to deal with their own personal hells.
I have changed. If you want to change the world, start with yourself and your perception will change how you see it. From there you can plan, strike out, adventure, and hopefully find peace and success. If it’s the job you hate that keeps you stuck in Mobile with the Western blues, well, you just answered your own question, didn’t you, partner?
Signing off. Next stop Grand Canyon National Park.
2nd Lieutenant Walter Simon, a.k.a. William Clark
© 2016, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.