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Democracy in the desert

Dear Editors, 

As one who wasn’t at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, I’d like to thank Shan Wells for his entertaining and bewildering account. This year, I felt called to attend a gathering of another sort, an exercise of freedom known as Burning Man. You may scoff and ask the person next to you “what’s the comparison?”

My goal isn’t just to compare but to tell a story and maybe even provoke more of a conversation between you and that person next to you. It was my first time to Burning Man, and at an event with 35,000 people where radical free expression is the rule, any variety of experience is possible. There is also an annual theme and this year it was “The American Dream.”

Initially, I spent time getting to know my neighbors, sharing food and stories, finding and catching up with old friends, and hanging out in Entheon Village http: //www.entheonvillage.com/ . I also wandered the playa encountering various mutant vehicles, art installations and dust storms.

Thankfully, there weren’t any riot gear-sporting storm troopers there that are becoming associated with American democracy these days. In the Black Rock Desert, we are left to our own senses, internal and external dialogue to shape our experiences. There weren’t any pundits to give us eight-second sound bites; Karl Rove wasn’t there to rig it; and glow sticks were being handed out instead of “Hillary” or “Unity” flags.

It was a pilgrimage of modern times complete with the devout and the doubters, costumes, music and artifacts (cheers Shan). A pilgrimage of lost and found souls, of deviants, ravers, dreamers, rebels and revolutionaries, united in our citizenship.

The night the man burned, I have rarely felt energy so intense as with thousands gathered around a giant wooden effigy. With thumping sound systems, lasers, blinky lights and glow sticks, it was electrifying! And rarely have I seen a fire so intentionally titanic. The masses were going nuts. I encountered a man shouting at the top of his lungs “Let freedom ring, this is what it’s all about!!!” And I was brought back to the theme, “the American dream,” and I got it, I really got it to my core, the symbolism of burning the Man. Sure in my mind I understood it before, but now I understand how necessary to our souls this symbolic act is. I had to choke back the tears because I also know that I don’t feel free. Contrary to being told that we are every day of our   lives, if we are afraid to ask a woman in riot gear a question, then we must ask ourselves “are we really free?”

The following sunrise, I found myself at the sacred temple which, that evening, would also be burned. I had discovered the temple several days earlier, it’s real name is basura sagrada (sacred garbage), a name I didn’t get until I went there. The temple is covered mostly in writing, and also pictures and mementos. It isn’t covered in signs that say “Pepsi Center” or “Invesco Stadium.” The writings are from individuals and appear as prayers, stories, intentions, apologies or even single words like “Love.” The pictures are of loved ones lost and the mementos can only be understood by their leavers. That sacred garbage we hold on to for so long. That morning with only a hundred or so people there, long before it was to be burned, the energy present was beautifully powerful. Again, I was awestruck by the symbolism of such a creation and the fire that would consume and release it. And again I was compelled to weep, this time tears of gratitude.

I’m glad to have experienced Burning Man, it was a renewal of sorts for me of that American dream. In reading about Shan’s experience, it seems obvious how controlled it was and even more so if you weren’t there and only watched the mainstream media.

In closing, Shan seems to indicate that Obama is somehow inspiring. I am curious what does he find inspiring? Is it his voting record? He voted yes on renewing the Patriot Act, Detainee Treatment Act, Real ID Act, and Iraq Appropriations Act. At this point, his record is identical to Hillary’s and only different from McCain’s on the last item. He would also be in line with Hillary and McCain if he had been in office to vote yes on the Patriot Act and Iraq war. What’s so inspiring about that?

– Carsten Almskaar, Durango

Pandering with Palin

To the Editors:

Ladies, we can’t afford to fall for it. John McCain’s pick of Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska for his running mate was not a feminist move.

In choosing her, he has made a shameless bid for the support of female Clinton supporters, who should be insulted that he thinks so little of their intelligence. He is banking on them latching onto her blindly as a glass-ceiling replacement, regardless of inexperience or whether her positions square with their beliefs. John McCain should have known better. Hillary Clinton is not just some token, interchangeable female.

Less than two years ago, Sarah Palin was the mayor of a town half the size of Durango. She is a first-term governor of a state whose population is significantly less than some American cities. If she were a man with identical credentials, she would never in a million years have gotten near a presidential election ticket. This is, plain and simple, an affirmative action choice. It’s pandering.

I would dearly love to see a woman ascend to either the presidency or the vice presidency. But not unconditionally. Not this one. Not a creationist who wants to take away our right to choose even in cases of rape and incest. Until there is a female candidate who wins my vote not because she is a woman but because she is the best person for the job, I will do the feminist thing: I will vote for Barack Obama in November.

– Emily Johnson, Durango

Four Corners to the Gulf Coast

Dear Fellow SW Colorado Residents,

Nearly 2 million residents of Louisiana evacuated their homes to escape the wrath of Hurricane Gustav. The Category 2 hurricane missed New Orleans but left a trail of destruction across Louisiana, Mississippi and the Florida Panhandle after making landfall in Cocodrie, La. There are now more than 800,000 people without power across the region, and they are expected to be without power for two to eight weeks. We are currently providing more than 400,000 meals a day. The Red Cross also is there providing shelter and comfort to individuals and families affected by the storm.

As Hurricane Hanna and Ike and Tropical Storm Josephine are brewing in the Atlantic, the Red Cross is preparing to help residents in the path of these storms.

One integral part of the Red Cross disaster mission begins before disaster strikes. The American Red Cross Disaster Relief fun enables the Red Cross to provide immediate, lifesaving assistance to the victims of thousands of disasters across the country each year, disasters like the Hurricanes of 2008.

Support from our fellow residents of Southwestern Colorado can make a difference in the lives of people who depend on the Red Cross after a large disaster strikes, like Hurricane Gustav or more frequent, smaller disasters in our community like house fires. A financial gift to the Disaster Relief Fund ensures that the Red Cross can operate shelters and provide meals for evacuees, victims and clean up workers. Donations also ensure that we can provide vital services like mental health and first aid.

The Red Cross estimates it will spend more than $35 million supporting the people of the Gulf Coast area for Hurricane Gustav. With three more storms set to follow Gustav, the Red Cross is relying on the compassion and generosity of the American public now more than ever.

To make a donation to the National Disaster Relief Fund, please call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767), visit the Red Cross website at www.redcross.org or call our local chapter at 259-5383.

– Cindi Shank, executive director American Red Cross, Southwest Colorado Chapter

Mortenson speech at capacity

To the Editors,

We are sold out to full seat capacity at Fort Lewis College Whalen Gymnasium for the 7 p.m. Greg Mortenson presentation at Safer, More Compassionate World 2008 on Sept. 18, and many more folks would like to hear this inspiring humanitarian. Although we may have a few more tickets to release to the public onSept. 12, we would like to ask those who already have their tickets to make sure that they plan to attend. If you do not plan to attend, please turn your ticket back in to the Fort Lewis Community Downtown Box Office so that it can be given to a person on our waiting list.

Doors will open Sept. 18 at 6:15 p.m. for open seating, so plan to come early.

– Ross Park,  SMC-World ’08 planner

Of Batman and Barack

Dear Editors,

“The Dark Knight” is the most important political movie this year. In it, we are confronted with a moral clash that echoes one choice we face this election year. Will America’s place in the world be based on violence or power?

The difference between violence and power has been illustrated recently in “The Dark Knight.” One moral clash occurs when the Joker sets up the citizens of Gotham to kill each other, attempting to create ever more violence in the society. The violence of the Joker is aimed at all power structures, both civil society and the mafia.  The best hope for the city is the district attorney, precisely because he faithfully represents the institutions of law and democracy; the foundations of power. The tragic fall of the district attorney occurs when he embraces violence in a rage over the Joker’s murder of his lover, killing several in revenge. In the end, Batman understands that the public must not find out that the district attorney turned away from power to violence, and that he, Batman, must be blamed. In recognizing that he, as an agent of violence, must be seen as the bad guy, Batman shows that violence can never be the foundation for civil society.

Today we are confronted with urgent questions about America’s place in the world. In answering, Barack Obama and John McCain have clear differences. John McCain promises to continue the national security strategy of George W. Bush, while Barack Obama says we must restore the moral standing of the U.S. in the world. To return the U.S. to the moral high ground will require the U.S. to reject violence and return to power in international affairs.  

Following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, there was an outpouring of support for the US, with people all around the world saying “We are all Americans.” Previously hostile countries agreed to help the fight against terrorism. The American public was united unlike anytime before. 

However, Bush chose to lie to the American public, tying 9/11 and Al-Qaeda to Iraq, using the power generated by 9/11 to launch a preventative war in Iraq. Preventative war can never be just.  The means of violence are justifiable when the ends are clear.  Therefore, self-defense is always justifiable because the danger is clear and present. When the ends recede into the future, the violent means threaten to overwhelm all.

The turn to violence by Bush in Iraq led to a collapse in U.S. power. Domestic and international support evaporated.  Iraq was racked by horrific violence instead of becoming the beacon of hope in the Middle East. In an increasingly violent Afghanistan, NATO is now unable to convince many member countries to fulfill commanders’ troop requests. The U.S. military is overstretched, with soldiers facing multiple deployments.

Barack Obama promises to restore the moral standing of the U.S. in the world. He talks of a diplomatic surge, and of America being the best hope for the oppressed in the world who long for freedom. He speaks of the American promise, and part of that promise is to the world. Barack Obama can return the U.S. to a position of morality and power by limiting the use of military violence to self-defense backed by the power of international law. This will strengthen America, because our power has never come from violence, but from the ideas of freedom and popular consent. This November, vote to restore the moral standing and power of America in the world. Vote for Barack Obama.

– Daniel Patterson, Durango

One of Durango’s best

Dear Editors,

I would like to share a bit about why I volunteer with one of Durango’s best organizations, SASO. Volunteering for Durango’s Sexual Assault Services Organization has been one of the most enriching decisions I have ever made. Knowing that I can positively impact the life of someone in need is a reward beyond words. SASO creates learning opportunities and potentials that go beyond just being an advocate. I feel like I am part of a community that truly cares about people - not just in Durango and the surrounding area, but people everywhere.

SASO is dedicated to creating a safe environment for people to speak out against the horror that is sexual assault and creates awareness about an issue that, in many ways, is still taboo in our culture. I am of the opinion that my fellow volunteers all have hearts of gold, and I appreciate every minute of time they give to making the world a better place. Personally, the reward in volunteering greatly outstrips the efforts I have ever been asked to make. I have met people that have enriched my life beyond my wildest dreams. I have the support and friendship of all the SASO staff and other volunteers. I have been given the chance to learn and grow and have some amazing experiences.

To anyone out there that has ever considered volunteering, SASO is an incredible opportunity to give back to the community, and speaking from experience, I can attest that the rewards are well worth the challenge. For more information about volunteer opportunities or to sign up for fall training, call 259-3074 or e-mail durangosaso@durangosaso.org.

– Sincerely, Erin Olinger, SASO volunteer



In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows