Letters to the undead: Or why I refuse to forfeit working class white men to partisan politics and white supremacy

September 3, 2007:

I left you in pieces

Mostly because my hope for you stayed alive

Mostly because I felt you needed me

First phase was leaving the past

And as I look to the history before me

I see the only few who made it

Out of the aura of a that time of that space

In rural southeastern Washington

Was through the military except me

We are all soldiers

Fighting different wars

Products of our environment

A mix of ultra-conservative right wing ideology

Combined with poverty

We’ve done our best with the contradictions we were given.

I won’t give up on you.

——

Spencer,

I’ve walked those same streets of London, did you take the walking tour? I recommend the Jack the Ripper one. Friend, for some reason I wonder how you’re doing at 3:30AM pacific. I think it had something to do with watching TMNT with my son.

cuidate eh,

-t

——–

Hey Shawn,

I was writing about home and thought it’d be good to say hello. How are things going for you man? Me, between being shot at by police, meeting up with folks across the country, and being a full time dad, I’ve managed to make it through my first year working towards my Ph.D.

I was remembering it was through you, Tim and this guy named Shane that I first heard about Anarchy and punk music, I’m sure in our middle school minds we must not have had a clue of the philosophical background but were drawn to the idea that power did not have to be vertical. Back then I think I was scared becasue I associated the punk regalia with skinhead groups like the hammerskins, something I later found to be a myth, as most anarchist punks in the Northwest fought against fascism in the tradition of the original anarchists, and in the northwest the closest opponent was the skinheads, it happened in Portland, Seattle and even in Pullman of all places.

I wonder if you remember? I also remember that you got me into Brian Jacques and I read the whole redwall series, and you went out with a chick I had the jones for, and hooked me up with Katie I think, but don’t remember clearly…

I guess I’m trying to think through the past to find a historical framework or context to write academically about modes of resistance in rural southeastern Washington.

I remember you being made to fight, even by instructors, like Jack Smiley during basketball season, I think it was with Josh. I remember sports being grasped by everyone as a possible way out of poverty ever since an undefeated Jr. High season. I remember segregation and race fights between the older students, Timmy Winehouse and Javier Güereñas. I remember how neoliberalism and the exportation of working class jobs led to the Los Angeles Rebellion in 1992 and afterwards how our world changed as refugees of the violence in LA and the lack of jobs came north and our demographics changed tremendously, and we started to be policed for wearing our favorite sports teams, religious t-shirts and dickies.

I ran away as fast as I could and never looked back, until now. And I wonder, what has become of those who stayed behind…

I hope you’re well

T

————

Hey Mark,

so have they shipped you back overseas? I don’t remember from the last time we talked if you were still active duty. My brother in law has been over for a while, folks be serving longer than they were scheduled to, hope your luck is different.

I’m starting to write about home and I realized most of the other folks who made it out of Prescott like you went through the military or jumped into the grind of the paycheck to paycheck cycle (not that the military pays any better for the work you’re doing) It amazes me as we approach 10 years after high school that we’re all still struggling, in a way, we are all soldiers, except we’re fighting different wars and different fronts, I think the grain we all have in common is the desire to survive, or the will.

here’s to staying alive,

T

———–

Luke,

It took me a while to figure out what your wrangler’s and my solo’s had in common and it happened to be your brother who helped me out, we’re both farmers at heart.

Though we may be walking different paths in the present when we look forward to our past, to our families labor in rural southeastern Washington those paths crossed through agriculture, no matter how hard I once tried to deny it, my hands were raw and my neck was tanned and my lungs burned from working summer harvests in the Pacific Northwest.

I’ve begun a process to remember the past, what I ran away from and thought it’d be a good idea to check in, seeing that we haven’t talked in , damn a good ten years. The thing that least escapes me of that past is the poverty we all grew up in, and the hope and drive we all had wanting to make it out of the confines of rurality, of poverty.

About a year ago I went to the Tux, for the first time I was able to legally go into the bar, a friend of mine had been working at the GEAR UP program and invited me for a beer. As we sat and b/s’d about shit going on in our jobs I payed attention to the folks around us and it all seemed familiar, the bartender was a refugee who had left her husband somewhere and thought small town life would be good for her family, she lived day by day, there was a vietnam vet and that one guy, one of Mr. Zepeda’s son’s I think his oldest was still working odd jobs despite his handicap. People laughed at my friend’s tropical drink and masculinity reigned supreme in the form of arrogance and stupidity.

I tried to imagine if it had changed much since the late 60’s when my dad and his buddies as bachelor’s had regularly had dinner and some brew’s at the tux and had been friends with the owner, Jason Fuller’s grandfather, since way back then…

I write this in a struggle to remember your place in my past, I remember thinking of you when I moved to Pasco High and the segregation there was way worse than at Prescott, where “hicks” in wranglers fought regularly with the “spics” in dickies and solo’s. Not recognizing that we both were farmers, and that we both were poor, and that we both had dreams and the will to survive.

I hope all is well with you and your family,

T

—————

Hey fool,

how are things in Tri-cities? Hope well, been thinking about up north for a while so I thought I’d write. Damn, do I have a conflict about connecting the dots in some areas and whether my intellectual work will endanger my family’s jobs.

I remember when we were in Pullman, I was threatened by the Jane Doe Foundation for being critical of the corporation, I never knew what exactly it was they were accusing me of, but the memory has stayed with me. It resurfaced years later when Brent and I had proposed working together on recruitment and retention and outreach with local youth, that one really scared me because it felt like they’d go after my family, and I’ve stayed away since.

I wondered if you’ve ever felt the same caution.

On a lighter note, I was remembering the past, about Prescott, and how even though you and your brother were white when it came down to it you both were always on the side of the Mexicans, being that prescott was a segregated school. I remember your fascination with black popular culture, you should read some of the literature that’s out there, a lot of it’s negative, but I think in the case of your brother and you, it’s more in line with the literature by David Roediger on the white working class and the examples of the San Patricio Batallion of white soldiers who fought on the Mexican side during the Spanish-American war and beyond.

I often wonder why it was only our two families of all the folks we grew up with, who made it through higher ed. I have a feeling it’s linked to the above mentioned conflict, as our parent’s upward mobility was based heavily on the charity of the corporation and their ability to act on the behalf of the owners interests as if they were their own.

My own mother has been used as an ambassador for the company to a Republican fundraiser for President George W. Bush during his first campaign which if you remember as I do was heavily propogandized through the “Save Our Dams” initiative. My own father was quoted in a newspaper article that can be found on a Google search promoting the “necessity” of dams to immigrant’s way of life, an interview that was set up by the company. My mother was also sent to meddle with water disputes in Chiapas, Mexico.

When Francisco Sedillo was working as an advisor, he found a way to deal with the regular losses from the unstable cherry crop harvests, which by the way were subsidized by the US government after NAFTA in 1994. He suggested, in order to keep the workers from striking and unionizing, what the corporation could do was to make the workers take more “ownership” of the productivity of the company, by being able to vote on the “charities” that the usually minimal profits from the Cherry crops would be sent. It was divided into portions to be decided by the office workers, the warehouse workers and the field workers.

One year, after the field workers elected to send part of the profit from the Cherry crops to “Chiapas” code for the EZLN, rather than contribute to the anti-capitalist and self-determination efforts of the autonomous centers of good government in Chiapas, the company instead, sent my mother to establish irrigation for “farmers” in the mountains of chiapas, the EZLN and the indigenous people of Chiapas had been fighting the damming of their rivers because of the negative effect it had on the communities that lived downstream, and the displacement of communities by the dams. [For an example of the effect you can read the work of Arundhati Roy on Dams in India] There’s a reason they stopped building Dams in the United States completely, and have begun the process of decommissioning them, and that is the environmental degradation they cause both when they are built and after they become obsolete. There’s a reason the Snake river is among the most polluted in the world, it all started with irrigation. I’m sure as an engineer this makes sense to you.

The more and more dots I connect the more and more I feel that I can’t stay quiet. I guess I was writing this to you in the hopes that I wasn’t the only one who saw these connections, and felt that kind of conflict.

I hope you are well,

T

———–

September 14, 2011

Dear Shawn,

I can only begin to imagine the fear that you live with, startling to every sudden move to the sounds of something hitting the ground. I can only imagine what it is like to have limited information about the missions you are forced to take, about seeing in every brown face you encounter, your own mortality. I can only imagine the ghosts that haunt you, perhaps you drown them with liqour and other vices, but the dead that you’ve seen and pretend to be trophies, I know are eternally tethered to your soul along with those brothers who died to make somebody else a little money.

I am writing to you because, Shawn, we are at a sort of a crossroads in our society where the degeneration of the social fabric of our lives, that which links us together and forces you to listen to me, though you may not agree, is a symptom of a greater crisis, an international class struggle that has made it necessary for you, in your line of work, to destabilize the sovereign nations you’ve been deployed to, under the banner of a “just” war on terror, on drugs, and other blatantly vague causes. You must have realized at some point, based on the sheer number of casualties, civilian and insurgent (like me), that real life terrorism has the uniform you wear, the weapons you care for and operate, and a flag with stripes and a field of stars, and more importantly the money to sustain such massive state sanctioned murder, also known as genocide.

I am writing to you again, Shawn, because I know you. I grew up with you. I listened to your hopes and dreams. I saw your family struggle to survive like mine. I saw you love. I saw you be kind. I saw the goodness you are capible of in the childish potty humor you so enjoyed, to the feeling of knowing we had each other’s back on the football field. Jason, that field you have come to know as an adult, has much more at stake than a score, glory, or trophy. Shawn, that field has come home, and I want you on my side.

The poverty we both experienced, is just as great as the bond of blood you lament today. Brother, I would rather have you refuse to do your job and face court marshal than to see you kill one more person to make other people wealthy. I would rather see you riot in the streets out of anger that the country that caused you tramatic harm won’t even pay for the medication you need to take off the edge of several tours, than to see you join the ranks of the prison gaurds, border patrol, police force, or Xe. Brother, I would rather see you speaking publically against the war and dishonorably discharged than to see you war mongering with the tea party, republicans, and democrats on your livingroom recliner with a beer in your hand, isolated from the rest of the world.

After seeing you write that my, “nasty body would have been picked up sometime yesterday after [you] had put [your] boot though it!” I came to realize that you are still suffering from the nightmare of doing the work that you do. I wonder how many bodies you’ve seen that they have become to mean so little, that death is so normalized that you can no longer give value to the lives that were lived in those bodies. I am concerned for you, Shawn, because nobody should have to witness what it was that you have seen, and anyone in their right mind would be correct to be afraid under such conditions. I want to tell you that I have your back. Still, and even more ferociously so, like the wolves you mention. Shawn, there are no lone wolves, we hunt in packs, and you belong to mine because you were born into it, poverty.

I don’t want you to become a minuteman, a clansman, a tea partier, a partisan, a neo-nazi, a right wing Christian, a skinhead, or be cast into the endless number of partisan politics that have re-emerged in the 21st century. I don’t want that for you because I know you have suffered enough and I know you feel sorry for what you’ve done and I know you are desperately seeking affirmation in the complete absence of human dignity. But a caution, Jason, your fear will drive you to darker places if you let it rule your judgement.

You and I are amongst the undead, we have been given the gift of life in the face of so much death. Let us use it to breath life and vanquish death, remember, you have the ability to refuse your orders and to break the chain of command, because these are 21st century chains and neither you nor I nor anyone else deserve to be in bondage.

Suerte,

T

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