An Active Measure
for my always engaged father, who passed at the VA in Norman, Oklahoma, in July 2016
Fifty years ago, I was eleven. Dad, excited by people moving onto Alcatraz, occupying and reclaiming the rock, whipped up some pinto beans and sat down with us over his coffee and chicory, and our Quik. It wasn’t the first time, by any means, that he mentioned how he was influenced reading about the revolution in Haiti when he was younger, nor the first time he mentioned people were capable of the same here, but it was the first time he noted it during such a public happening. We were impressed, enthralled, he was within the dream of possibility that fully permeated the room as much as his sweet tobacco would as soon as we finished the meal. We were smoky-eyed in its power.
This dispatch is written today, in a manner and time we are bitterly being tested by. This issue of WLT is gathered in an era sadly precedented by terrible bits and pieces, by remnants of the worst possible moments in collective memory. If Dad were alive today, he’d shake his head at the blatant fascism, the eroding of rights and basic decency, and remind us we survived Jackson, survived so many regime heads we have the base of what Gerald Vizenor termed survivance inherently stitched into our memory, mind-set, and measure. Like legalese once intuited, the limbo legacy of being, in place, and in this case as Vizenor noted, an active sense of presence in resistance.
We have the base of what Gerald Vizenor termed survivance inherently stitched into our memory, mind-set, and measure.
In the long lineages of active presence, of resistance, in the long, long continent of the Western Hemisphere, in the long history of terrible happenings, something terrible is happening here again now, within the wide breadth of the cross section between the forty-ninth and twenty-fifth parallels, and floating between our breath along the long, long line approximately twelve miles west of the ninety-seventh longitude, the Indian Meridian, and as far as you can walk either side out from it then cross waters in the extent of its reach.
With innumerable terrible happenings, jettied up against the utterly resistant and beautiful survival of song, story, life, love, and, as plotus Joy Harjo terms, grace, the world swings, careens, plummets, pummels, and pacifies whatever wind winds its alleyway home and whatever fracking quake trembles us low. We are in this world and our presence immeasurable in battling the onslaught headed, counterwinged, this way and back, and the literary life we muster lays out leanings of each and every moment’s measure along the way. These baselines, the essays, stories, poems, plays, deliver us from outside a moment to within it. Take us from far reaches and center us. Turn the worst casualty into meaningful reflection, and they offer us ways and means to surpass the lot afflicting us if wielded well. The best of it, of active presence in language, life, literature, gives us credence and cause and calls upon us to rise, stand, and to overcome the barriers set upon us and the essence of hate meant to take us out.
These baselines, the essays, stories, poems, plays, deliver us from outside a moment to within it.
The truth of our time is that our world is being destroyed as we type. The most critical keystones in the networking of the planet are compromised, threatened, endangered, and wiped out by a mood swing and a seemingly simple signature on a page and by our general immobility where there should be concerted effort to protect, to sustain, and to nurture all life-forms and each and every inch of the planet we come from and will return to in our end. It is a time we are steeped in, and each step we take must be active, be present, to remain fiercely fighting what is unjust, fighting to protect who and what is unjustly wronged in the world, fighting for peace to be more than imagined, to be realized, and may each step against the hideous and abundant weaponization be called for eradication from our pathways, our schools, our gathering places and from the reaches of those who harbor hate and obsess with control of others.
Fifty years ago, someone stepped on the moon, someone started up the internet, and someone decided enough was enough and made a case for reclamation on what was commonly considered no free man’s land and the place of no safe escape. Dean Chavers was one of those someones, and he’s here within this mad mix from reaches inside and outside what we consider being present in the world, whether witnessing, in the world, in times like today, harbored mayhem, environmental damage, acid rain, Vietnam, Nixon, Stonewall, Charles Manson, Biafra, Lucens reactor, you name it, and the world responded in a multitude of powerful ways, movements, actions, de-escalations, disarmament, and returns. Insomuch that the music and texts of the day still hold power, we must question these wrongful events and remember not to repeat them again.
The time for raising consciousness is now, is imperative, and each and every active engagement we devote ourselves to can be the difference of life or death.
In this spirit, the inclusions in the following special section present ways of being present, engaged, active, and completely alive despite maneuvers to oppress and terminate. These words are memory, happening currently, and nourishment to feed our rising above the sense of despair we carry with the strength of fighting injustice, standing upright, and the strength of peace in the clarity of what it means to take a stand, to resist, and to deliver better options for the future of human life.
Sending support to all who take the stand against injustice, who stand for equity, equality, balance, harmony, good health for the planet and all its measure of creatures and beings; to all who understand the significance of Indigenous knowledge and significance of caretaking of the waters, earth, air, and life; and to all who keep a fire for the future and hold the timeliness of memory close. The time for raising consciousness is now, is imperative, and each and every active engagement we devote ourselves to can be the difference of life or death. Make a difference. We must be fierce in the face of fear and peaceful with the world we need.
In the end, our actions and inactions are our measure and our grace.
It is such a privilege to bring this offering of essays, stories, poems bringing deeper meaning to what we know and what these words call us to do: partake, participate!