Worth A Whole Holiday

December 16, 2002

It was a clear, blue-sky morning and when I stepped outside my black and white heeler dog spun and leaped across the road, prancing, racing away beyond the cottonwood, circling and running dead on back at me, tail straight out, flying like a missile to crash into my chest. I caught her up in my arms and held her wiggling, trying to chew my wrist, nipping at my legs, reaching up with her wet nose to lick my face. When her feet touched down she went suddenly quiet, ears flicking toward robins moving among the pinõns. She stood motionless and poised, taking in our world. Somewhere a chickadee spoke softly. There was no wind, no clouds, no smell of coming weather. The dog hovered there, feeling my warmth, flapped an ear this way and that, turned and nosed up again to lick my face. She asked if I could smell the coyotes, or did I see any rabbits in the dry grass? I said, no, not yet.

My world was filled with Iraq and my dog was worried about hiding places in the pinõns. My mind was full of lists of political perfidies and pharmaceutical campaigns to minimize the killing side effects of drugs, corporate callousness to all truths except the truth of self interest. I was beetle-browed over a government peddling images of patriotism and glorious war to cover cuts in funding for food, for schools, for seniors, for farmers. My dog's world would be complete, I knew, if I would roll over on the ground and wrestle while my world, by contrast, was filled with the canker of worldly passions. My dog would be happy with a walk for Christmas. I would be happy if corporate America did not tell me to buy more to save their economy.

I stood, after awhile, and walked along across the now drying desert, last week's snow almost gone, faced with the prospect of another dry winter and another summer of waterless washes, dying cottonwoods. Crossing the road to the yellow box where The New Mexican awaited I began reading headlines. The Bush Administration is asking for additional billions for what it calls "national defense" and local agencies are being forced to cut back. We will do for oil, but we will not do for the poor, or for the shrinking middle class. Some say Iraq is not about oil, after all. Maybe class is what terrorism comes from, underneath it all. Maybe that is what drives the fury of wealth-driven political campaigns, in this country. The Iraq war may be an unconscious cover for what amounts to a class war. Oil is the emblem, but control and status and me-first is the emotional driver.

I crossed the road to return home and the black and white heeler dog came hurtling out from behind a pinôn where she had been crouching, waiting in ambush. She began dancing, barking, leaping in circles. Then just as suddenly she stopped and looked up quizzically. Is this man lazier than he used to be, she asked? Yes, I said, but all will be well again when somewhere, in some dusty precinct, some lonely liberal wins an election again. She yelped and leaped in a circle and ran off, taunting me to run after her, and I did.

I have a friend who went to Africa this summer to spend six weeks working on a project to educate about AIDS. I have friends who go to Guatemala to help build solar ovens. I have friends who work in the soup kitchen here in town. I know a man who is in Baghdad now, witnessing the heart of America, saying, in effect, bomb them and you bomb me. I have friends writing poetry to give us courage in times of corporate government; I have friends who do nothing but call others and who pray for the sick and who sing for the elderly.

The list of people I know who tell the truth is a lot longer than the list of people I know who lie. I don't know why that is. They pay their taxes and they give to the United Way and they stop at stop lights and their numbers are legion. They are Americans, too. I am not proud of this corporate-controlled government which would rather fight than talk, rather bluster than seek the harder, longer, compassionate course, would rather look angrily back than patiently forge forward. But I am proud of Louise and Cyndi and John and Buie, Walt and Kay and Mikaela and a hundred others of my neighbors, and yours, who never give up in the schools, in the kitchens, in the hospitals, holding the soil and the grass out on the land. They seem to go on forever and never give up. It is worth having a whole holiday, just for them.