Swans Commentary » swans.com June 19, 2006  



Blips #37
 From The Martian Desk


by Gilles d'Aymery




"Wilderness itself is the basis of all our civilization. I wonder if we have enough reverence for life to concede to wilderness the right to live on?"
Margaret "Mardy" Murie


(Swans - June 19, 2006)  THE MURIES: Last Friday night, PBS, as part of their perpetual pledge drive, showed John Denver's 1995 Wildlife Concert, a benefit for the Wildlife Conservation Society. In it, Denver dedicated a song he wrote for Mardy Murie, who he called the "mother of conservation," and her husband Olaus, who died in 1963. (Margaret Murie was awarded the http://www.medaloffreedom.com/MardyMurie.htm Presidential Medal of Freedom in January 1998 and is the mother of Martin Murie, the unrepentant environmentalist who graces the pages of Swans with his naturalist writings.) Here's the song:

A Song For All Lovers

I see them dancing somewhere in the moonlight
Somewhere in Alaska, somewhere in the sun
I hear them singing a song for all lovers
A song for the two hearts beating only as one

Imagine the morning no longer alone
The arms of another, a place to belong
No longer the struggle, no longer the night
And ever becoming in the quickening light

To see the darkness, to listen within
To answer in kindness, to ever begin
To ever be gentle, to always be strong
To walk in the wonder, to live in the song

In a place of enchantment where the wild things are known
Will the future remember when the lovers are gone?

And I see them dancing somewhere in the moonlight
Somewhere in Alaska, somewhere in the sun
I hear them singing a song for all lovers
A song for the two hearts beating only as one
A song for the two hearts beating only as one

The Muries were key in the designation of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in 1960 and the passing of the Wilderness Act in 1964. Martin Murie grew up in the adventure that was his parents' lifework (read Martin's tribute to his mother and, again, his writings on Swans). There is much more about the work of the Muries that deserves attention.


CITATION FOR THE AGES: "I am testifying as an emotional woman, and I would like to ask you, gentlemen, what's wrong with emotion? Beauty is a resource in and of itself. Alaska must be allowed to be Alaska; that is her greatest economy. I hope the United States of America is not so rich that she can afford to let these wildernesses pass by, or so poor she cannot afford to keep them."
--Mardy Murie, testifying before the US Congress in 1980 during the debate regarding the expansion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.


WORLD CUP: I've been watching many football games for the past week. An American acquaintance suggested that there was not much to understand or follow with "soccer" -- out of a world population of about 6.5 billion people, 6.2 know the game under the name football; less than 300 million keep calling it soccer...go figure. Well, to make him feel better, he should know that he is not alone in the clueless section of Aisle 11B of his local Wal*Mart. Take Elfriede Jelinek, the 2002 City of Düsseldorf Heinrich Heine Prize and 2004 Nobel Prize in Literature. She had had this to say in the Berlin daily, Der Tagesspiegel which asked various authors and personalities their thoughts on the quadrennial feast that is being hosted in Germany: "I can't really say anything about football, although I've said so much about it already. I admire the elegance and speed with which these people run around, and the malice with which they punch each other in the face and kick each other in the shins. But as I don't know the rules I unfortunately have tremendous difficulties following the game, although I am not indifferent to the drama of important matches. It just takes me forever to understand who is who and where they're running. And then after the break everything's the other way round. I'm afraid I'm not intelligent enough for this game." (courtesy of signandsight.com) -- Worst teams? France and USA, always in tandem to make a fool of themselves. They can't score (and don't tell me the U.S. scored against Italy on Saturday. They did not. An Italian defender scored against his own team!) Boring teams? Germany, England, Sweden, Italy... Moments of brilliance and joy? Argentina, Ghana, Ivory Coast, and Trinidad & Tobago. Yet to prove itself? Brazil.


A FRIEND ASKS whether I've heard from the WorldNetDaily buffoon. I must report in the negative. Presumably, Joe Farah has been too busy building the wall along the border and rounding up the illegals; and then there was gay bashing, with love and compassion to be sure, and the Constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage to work on. There's also the flag burning act to fight for, and the defense of Ann Coulter who keeps disparaging the widows of 9/11. Finally, let's not forget all those Muslims that are in need of Christian "love" -- Coulter: "we should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity." That's quite an agenda.

I'VE BEEN WONDERING why these bigots had revived the same-sex marriage amendment to the US Constitution knowing full well that it had no chance whatsoever to pass in the Senate. Well, I wonder no more. I've just read a thoroughly researched article by Doug Ireland, "GOP Revives Anti-Gay Marriage Campaign for '06," in the spring issue of The Public Eye magazine. Electoral gay-bashing brings the bigots to the polls. Writes Ireland, "Along with homeland security, electoral gay-bashing was key to the Republicans' 2004 sweep of the presidency and both houses of Congress. . . . . The lynchpin of Karl Rove's anti-gay strategy in 2004 was to increase turnout by social conservatives through a crusade against gay marriage." They intend to repeat the same scenario in the 2006 mid-term elections.

THE SCARIEST PART, shows Ireland, is how organized and well-funded the Christian right has become and how far it reaches into the corridors of power in the nation's capital and in the states. In 2004, the little known and secretive organization, the Arlington Group, was instrumental for the crucial Ohio vote. A member of the Arlington Group, "Ohio's Republican Secretary of State, Kenneth J. Blackwell ... not only served as co-chair of Bush's 2004 campaign in Ohio, he was the public servant responsible for an election system that pushed Bush to victory by depressing the black, pro-Kerry vote in the state. A 2005 study confirmed that black voters waited three times longer than whites to vote and were more likely to be asked -- illegally -- by poll workers for identification."

WHILE DOUG IRELAND's exposé focuses on gay bashing, a topic he regularly broaches, his exploration is quite reminiscent of the 2003 book edited by Kimberly Blaker, The Fundamentals of Extremism: The Christian Right in America, which I reviewed in these pages at the time. As I wrote then, "The hard core of the Religious Right is anti-science, anti-environment, anti-public education, anti-choice, anti-feminism, anti-gay and lesbian rights, anti-sex education, anti-free-speech, anti-pornography, anti-affirmative action, anti-welfare, anti-civil rights, anti-evolution, anti-interracial relationships, anti-tax, anti-AIDs funding, anti-pluralism, anti-liberalism, anti-other religions, anti-scientific research, anti-secularism, anti-modernity... They are in fact inherently anti-democratic." Seen in this light, poking fun at the folks of WorldNetDaily may be satisfying, but these demagogues are dangerous and they vote.


COMMENCEMENT SPEECHES: Which one would you cheer for? Former CIA director Porter J. Goss, who told graduates at Tiffin University in Ohio: "If this were a graduating class of C.I.A. case officers, my advice would be short and to the point: Admit nothing, deny everything and make counteraccusations"? Or, the author Francine du Plessix Gray, who told the assembly at Barnard College: "You have to give hell to entrenched power when it violates our notions of human justice. So my final message to you is this: Whether it be on the issue of racial integration or gay rights or sexual equality or the pathetic state of health care in this country or one of the dumbest military excursions ever waged by an American government -- the Iraq War -- your motto should be 'Give 'em hell, give 'em hell, give 'em hell!' There are never enough troublemakers fighting for justice, so go out there and give 'em hell to create a better world for you and your children to grow into"? You choose.


--Mel Brooks (on CBS 60 minutes, June 11, 2006)


ACCORDING TO THE Associated Press, Two high school seniors in Northport, New York, "picked quotations from Adolf Hitler's book Mein Kampf to appear under their high school yearbook pictures, prompting school officials to apologize. The quotes were picked by Christopher Koulermos and Philip Compton, both 18. Koulermos's read 'Strength lies not in defense, but in attack.' Compton chose 'The great masses of people ... will more easily fall victims to a big lie than to a small one.'" Yes, indeed, they chose. You can too, no?

VOTERS PLEDGE: "I will not vote for or support any candidate for Congress or President who does not make a speedy end to the war in Iraq, and preventing any future war of aggression, a public position in his or her campaign."


Here again, you choose.


INCONGRUITY? A Student received a D-minus on his final test in philosophy at his local public school, which eliminated his chance to be accepted to the Ivy League college of his choice. He sued the state alleging that his teacher had missed so many classes that he was poorly prepared for the exam. The judge sided with the plaintiff against the state. Financial damages will be awarded in a couple of weeks -- he is asking about $210,000. When I heard of the story, I immediately thought that indeed the U.S. is a great country. Only in America can someone sue and make a killing for being an idiot. Wrong! It happened in Clermont-Ferrand, Puy-de-Dôme, in France. The student, Jérôme Charasse, is the nephew of a former Socialist budget minister under Francois Mitterrand's presidency. He scored 6 out of 20 for failing to identify German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. As a result he was not admitted to the "prestigious" Institute of Political Studies of Paris, aka Sciences Po (a school I attended and oh my oh my even graduated from!). You can't be elected president of France without having attended Sciences Po. As a consolation prize, you can become the co-editor and publisher of an obscure Web bi-weekly in America, but this is another story. In any case, the frogs are learning from their American friends. It's the very first ruling of this sort in France where traditionally public employees are tightly protected from lawsuits. Will the medical profession be next? Vive la non-différente différence!


BOONVILLE NEWS: In pure Charlton Heston-like fashion I shot a rattlesnake last Friday. I'd gone down to the chicken coop to re-supply the birds and fetch the eggs. As I was pouring water in their bowl, a small 16" snake began slithering away along the side of the cage, right under my hand that was holding the bottle of water. Small it was, but it did look very much like a rattlesnake, and as the story goes the younger they are the more dangerous their bite.

I cautiously retreated and waited for the (super) woman of the house to arrive from San Francisco. Being a forceful woman, she took the binoculars and went on the prowl. Sure enough, the snake was there, baking in the hot afternoon sun, happy to have found a breeding ground restocked on a daily basis by ignorant bipeds. How does one get a snake out of a 10' by 10' cage with a small coop inside, under which the snake would hide at a moment's notice? Even addressing the reptile in my most formal French would not do. It ignored the shovel, laughed at my attempts to push it away, and away from it I'd stay either out of wisdom or cowardice. Anyhow, the bugger would not bug. A free food encampment it was not ready to abandon, and those real organic eggs are tasty.

So, I went back home; took the Russian 20-gauge shotgun that we purchased last year after having encountered a few of these nice fellows -- Western rattlesnakes -- and been advised by the locals that there was no humane society around to come and get those reptiles off the territory that we share not too congenially. What to do then, I asked. The answer: Get a shotgun. After much angst, we got one.

So, here I was with the shotgun -- I'm not the NRA type and don't go to the range to shoot gazillons of cartridges (this game is not my game, to say the least). I loaded it, approached the cage with caution, being afraid of either shooting myself in the foot or discharging the gun by mistake on Jan or Priam (our dog). Assuredly, Jan had advised me to try to avoid killing her, which would be idiotic on my part since she brings the bacon (and French bread) home time and again.

Gun loaded. Snake in the cage 10 feet away. I can see it clearly. Are you sure it is a rattlesnake? I asked myself. (Last year, with a shovel and to my eternal shame, I killed two gopher snakes that were 25 feet away from the house.) Yes, I mentally answered. The head was triangular; the tail had a couple of rings to its rattle. I aimed. I pulled the trigger. Boom... The shot severed its body. Minutes later, carefully, I retrieved the remains with the shovel and placed them in a glass jar.

We drove down to town and stopped by Rossi's hardware store. I wanted to make sure it had indeed been a rattlesnake and that I had not done another stupid mistake. David Severn, our heroic editor of the local rag, the Anderson Valley Advertiser, who works part-time at the store since the paper keeps being more or less in the red (do I know about red ink? You betcha!), took a look through the jar and concluded: "Yep, it's a rattlesnake alright," and went on to talk about his daughter having been bitten once and what we should do (and not do) in the unfortunate event one of us got bitten. David, beside his editorship, publication, and hardware salesmanship, is also an EMT (Emergency Medical Tech). He knows more than I will ever.

One of Elmo Rossi's sons who was in attendance confirmed the finding. "No doubt, it's a Western rattlesnake."

I was very proud of myself. Drove back; stopped on the way to have a chat with the king of real estate in the Valley, Michael Shapiro. I showed him my trophy. He talked about the one he just had fried days earlier...Simple times...happy times...so secure in our well meaning..."Ciao baby," it's only a snake, after all...

As we were driving back, my mood became clouded and started to change, from euphoria to sadness. I had killed a beautiful being that did not mean any ill to us -- just wanted to feed itself and keep on living, as we all do. It had not attacked me, had not threatened me, but I still killed it because it was in my way and I was scared it possibly could hurt me -- though hardly could kill me. And I thought of what we're doing in Iraq... What would happen to me were I to walk by a rattlesnake hole? Would they shoot at me with their venom or would they let me walk by so long as I did not attack them? You know the answer, don't you? And Martin Murie came to mind. "Is he going to flatten my hind," I thought. From his parents to him and Elison, his companion in life, so much to learn from their wisdom and love of people and nature...

Learning...a generational endeavor... Still, how does one share a chicken coop with a rattlesnake? You tell me.


Ç'est la vie...

And so it goes...


· · · · · ·


La vie, friends, is a cheap commodity, but worth maintaining when one can.
Supporting the life line won't hurt you much, but it'll make a heck of a 
difference for Swans.

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Internal Resources

Blips and Tidbits

Patterns which Connect

America the 'beautiful'


About the Author

Gilles d'Aymery is Swans' publisher and co-editor.



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This Edition's Internal Links

Peter Handke And The Watch Dogs Of War - Diana Johnstone

The Report On Ward Churchill - Tom Mayer

Three Faces Of Ostracism - Gilles d'Aymery

The Insurgent Word: Freedom - Gerard Donnelly Smith

The Telecommunications Act Of 1996 - Seth Sandronsky

A Second Look At The Folk Music Revival - Book Review by Louis Proyect

NSA Traps Suspected Terrorist In New Jersey - Humor by Charles Marowitz

The Coulter Solution - Charles Marowitz

Election Shenanigans - Deck Deckert

Making Those Responsible Pay A Price - Philip Greenspan

Flowers For Lunch - Short Story by Peter Byrne

Vergil's New World - Poem by Guido Monte

Letters to the Editor

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Swans -- ISSN: 1554-4915
URL for this work: http://www.swans.com/library/art12/desk037.html
Published June 19, 2006