Discover more from An Irritable Métis
Of the personal....
With no sign of leadership (or interest in doing anything short of pretending it’s all going to disappear on its own) at the federal level, and state leadership (i.e. Montana Governor Steve Bullock, who is running against a loathsome Trump stooge, Steve Daines, for the senate) overly timid in an election year, the Missoula City-County Health Board, as reported by the Missoula Current, “became the second in Montana to mandate the wearing of face masks in all indoor public places – a rule that takes effect immediately.” This is in direct response to COVID-19 infections run amok in our state to a degree we haven’t seen yet, and with no sign of abating. This is an issue I made time to post a public comment on, as it is very important to me. I am in public spaces far more than I would prefer to, feeling overrun by tourists, and I don’t feel it should be the responsibility of low wage, at-risk retail and service workers to make selfish asshats wear masks without the weight of official mandate behind them. If you think mask-wearing infringes on your “rights” then please take one important revelation from this week’s newsletter: you are an imbecile.
Conversely, while the actual line item details haven't been released yet (at least to my knowledge), the Missoula city budget, as announced by our mayor, John Engen, actually allocates more money to the police department for fiscal year 2021. This after a wave of protest and public demands for defunding. While the entire defunding of the police debate is a worthwhile one, that discussion isn't my intention here ... but Engen's simpering advocacy for Missoula cops makes me want to puke. This, in a city bursting with homelessness, facing a gigantic housing crisis, and way behind when it comes to addressing mental health issues, we keep throwing money at the people whose sole purpose is to "protect and serve" ... property and the wealthy. It fills me with rage.
These are just two examples of news items in a stretch where it seems like something landmark is happening every hour. So here is something that comes as no surprise: I find myself burning out. Burning out on anger, burning out on trying to get all the facts straight, and feeling like I just want to throw my hands up. And I'm hardly doing more than struggling to pay attention! But that's what these people want. They bite their lip and nod and placate, then when angry people stop to take a breather, they go on about their business as usual. That's what this whole Engen/cops/budget thing feels like. Bureaucrats count on activist burnout. It's a long game and we need to figure out how to combat it. That's how it worked for the Little Shell and federal recognition. It's not resiliency. It's dogged determination and relentless advocacy that wins the day. Resiliency is a shitty word. It’s like an adverb, when what we need is good, strong action.
So here's the question: How do you decide which things you are going to care about? I mean really care about, to the degree that you go deep in educating yourself on the issue, get involved, arm yourself with as much information as you can pack into your brain? Yes, you can care deeply about multiple things, and I get pissed when, as an example, an Indian activist might get indignant and say something like, "How can you care about Indigenous mascots for sports teams when there are so many Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls?" It's easy. I can be deeply moved and care and comment and fight for both at the same time. I can also care about the plight of the endangered grizzly bear vs. the meatheads who only want to shoot them; the should-be-listed-as-endangered wolverine; climate change; activists being jailed for providing water to immigrants crossing the desert; and the sneaky attempt to establish a gravel mining operation as my new next-door neighbor, all at the same time. At any given moment I can be raving pissed about any one or all at the same time too!
But where do I really dig in? Where do I take a leadership role as someone who has put in the time to learn, to be able to argue facts and policy, rather than just be an advocate and ally for people whose priorities exceed mine in other areas that I care about?
It’s like giving money. I'm constantly under a barrage of requests from worthy organizations asking for it. Artist friends are flocking to Patreon and setting up pages you can pay for content from, and I want to support all of them too (though I've come to loathe Patreon and won't participate there, sorry), but I just don't have the means. I don't have hardly any money and, sadly, some folks aren't going to get any from me. I do my best and I hate saying no.
It sounds kind of business-ish and "mission statement"-ish, but I've been thinking of drafting for myself something of a personal Manifesto. For two reasons. One, to really identify, if only for myself, what I really, really care about and then ACT. And two, I'm a list person and “document-stuff” person and it's the kind of thing that will help me clarify where I really stand. Because I don't want to turn my back on the shelf of books about Native history and all that in favor of one of the hot #BLM-themed titles flying off of bookshelves and into the hands of white people these days. I understand there is institutionalized racism in this country. I've read, for example, The Autobiography of Malcom X and The New Jim Crow. I get it. I'm an ally. I'm all in. But I don't need all the detail. And I want to make sure people read stuff like The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America too, because it’s damn important. Frankly, believing that the stories of people like me—Métis people, disconnected people, Little Shell people—are important too is the only thing that keeps me feeling like the work I do is worth doing. Otherwise, why do it at all?
Is this a failure on my part, this deciding where to really bend my energy? I'm not inclined to think so. I want to be part of a community of active people, with some people working on issues where they are the experts, who I can trust to call on my physical presence when it is critical—a rally, a letter, a vote—but where I don't feel obligated to be someone who has to give the presentation, you know? Sometimes I just want to stand and be counted, not out of laziness, but for the sake of having energy for the things closest to my heart, and to preserve my own sanity.
I'm curious to know what others think. I'm all ears. I don't want my energy to fizzle out. This is important.
I wrote a good chunk of this waiting for a ride after leaving my intrepid hooptie for some maintenance at the tire shop. On arriving just before opening, I found everyone ahead of me not only socially distancing, but masked as well. That made me happy. Just now, though, while sitting here, the first folks I’ve seen go in and out of the shop without masks on are a dude and, presumably, his pre-teen son. Way to go in indoctrinating your kid into being an asshole, dad....