Be Afraid, Very Afraid

October 22, 2010

These days I am terribly bothered by the prevalence of encouragement to BE AFRAID. I know this has been going on for awhile, and ramped-up a thousand-fold at 9/11. And it’s always been over-the-top, but OH MY GOSH things are out of hand.

There’s an election coming up, and I attended the Candidates’ Forum held at the Malo Grange. I heard several of the candidates make impassioned statements about how they were committed to “protecting our rights”. Such statements were accompanied by what was essentially encouragement (or admonishment) to BE AFRAID.

I am not delighted by this, and frankly cannot give my vote to someone who is stirring up (mostly groundless) fear. I mean it is one thing to alert us to real hazards, but trying to convince us there is a Bogeyman out to get us? And using the Bogeyman as a campaign ploy?

Holding a County Commissioner seat is a big deal in these parts. The current race is “hot”. Cynthia Bonneau-Green and Brian Dansel are competing for the seat in District 2 of Ferry County, Washington (the county where I now reside).

I heard them both speak at the recent forum, and they’ve both come by door-belling for our votes, so I’ve had a few moments with them one-on-one.

I’ve been contemplative about this race. The seat is an important one in this rural county. We have the lowest population density in the state, and only about one-quarter of the land is privately owned; our tax base is very limited. And, the local industries, well they aren’t flush. These days they consist mainly of Kinross gold mine and Homeland Security’s Border Patrol. (This is setting aside the illegal industries such as meth labs, pot, and drug “importation”.)

This is a complex county. Real old skool about things such as “property rights” and “bearing arms” and anti-”tree huggers” sentiment. It’s not a rich county. And as a sociologist I infer that some peoples’ attitudes are just what you might expect from folks who feel they are “on the wrong side of the tracks” and looked down upon. It is evermore easy for people here to compare their lives unfavorably to the greenies who live on the coast.

It’s not lost on me that folks here refer to the coast side of the state as, “the other side” and that there is an antagonistic and/or divisive aspect to that.

In any event, today I asked candidate Brian Dansel what he thought a Commissioner’s role is in regard to the trees that are dying in this county. You see, there is a horrific infestation of bark beetles that is killing the pine trees throughout the county, and these beetles move from tree to tree to tree. This is a big deal, and from what I have seen so far, nothing is really being done about it. Granted, there’s not a consensus about what can be done. But, once the trees are killed, they are good for nothing but making fires – in a woodstove, and as forest fires. Not lumber, not houses, not jobs really.

I was struck that Mr. Dansel’s first response to my question was in regard to safety (dead trees are inclined to fall easily). Then we talked about fire (dead trees like to burn). But what is more onerous from my perspective is how the loss of these trees is going to affect the county on a larger scale, really devastating the landscape and I feel, de-valuing property. I was surprised that this wasn’t candidate Dansel’s first focus here, but his concern about safety comports with his emphasis on fear.

James Von Sauer, candidate for District Court Judge, says, “Everyone here is about to lose [their rights]“; he’s going to help protect them. But, I thought a judge’s role was to protect my rights by applying the law. I don’t understand how “rights being lost” is relevant to which is the best candidate for this District Court Judge seat.

These cries for fear are joined by other candidates. Dennis Boone, candidate for Sheriff, wants to “make Ferry County a safer place” which of course is nice, but focuses on Ferry County as an un-safe place. Boone hopes to train citizens to be reserve officers and thereby expand his force. I dunno. Sounds big-brother to me.

Now, “property rights” has been bandied about a lot in the current campaigns. “Olympia is trying to take away the freedom of the people” says Representative Joel Kretz. That confuses me a little, because as I see it, Homeland Security is leading the way in that regard, much more so than Olympia. And no public official at the county level is going to trump Homeland Security. Neither is our state representative.

When living in a state of fear, thinking cannot happen. Thinking, examining, reasoning, cannot happen when we’re super-charged with avoiding danger and surviving. I think that all this encouragement to be afraid helps distract us from our real lives, and what is truly happening around us. In a county such as Ferry County, stirring up fear keeps us from looking close and asking hard questions.

I am newly returned to this county and am only just learning what questions to ask. But I can see the trees dying around me and the noxious weeds obliterating the pastures, and want to know why every resident of this county isn’t very concerned about this.

I guess there are many more important things to sit around and be fearful of, at least according to many candidates in the upcoming election.

(With all due respect to those whose foremost concerns is keeping food on the table and diapers in the bassinet.)

But really people. Can we quit listening to the folks who are yelling “FIRE” in our crowded theater, sending us racing around in a senseless flurry, hoping that someone will protect us? The only Bogeyman is the one within our heads; and protection from a Bogeyman is a matter of using our minds.

Can we get out of our comfortable chairs and take ownership of our own damn lives?

Photo: Worry Wart’s File Cabinet. Actual file folder labels:

  • Law
  • Money Making
  • Witchcraft Occult Mind Control
  • Trailer + Solar
  • Conspiracy Crash
  • To whom
  • I found it
  • Freedom Threats
  • Keys to Freedom
  • Maps. AZ. WA.
  • ||||

    My own personal cheat sheet for the Washington election. Opinions expressed are not solely those of the writer; the management concurs.

    1053 – No. This one’s Tim Eyman’s right. Enough said.

    1082 – No. I’ve seen the nasty effects of self-administered L&I coverage and of insurance companies going TU. I can’t see the up side to this one.

    1098 – No. Lifelong Washington resident just can’t get behind a state income tax. And, sorry, I don’t adhere to punishing people for success.

    1100 and 1105 – No and No. Yeah, state stores as a source of booze are f*cked up. As is the WSLCB. But I don’t think these approaches are beneficial to the whole of society.

    1107 – No. I was around for the changes made to sales tax that took it off food and medicine sales. Candy and soda pop are not food. Sorry. They might be a drug, but they are not food. Leave the tax.

    { 3 comments… read them below or add one }

    Joel Kretz November 5, 2010 at 5:51 pm

    Be afraid? Not so much. Informed, hopefully. I agree HS is a larger, more immediate threat, especially for those of us living within 25 miles of the border. I also agree there’s not a lot I can do about it, hence my comments focused on Olympia. Try to focus on things I at least have a chance to change. Is that confusing? Not sure that keeping a wary eye on Olympia really translates to yelling “Fire in the theater.” You obviously love your land, so do I. Threats to my ability to manage it (like for example, responding to a beetle outbreak) is what sent me to Olympia in the first place. I don’t fear Olympia, or advocate anyone else fearing it. But I do feel like the biggest threat to our nation is a sleepy, uninformed, ambivilent or discouraged public. I think it was one of the founders who said “eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.” I don’t believe in being fearful, didn’t intend to come off that way. I do believe in being vigilant.

    Leila November 6, 2010 at 11:45 am

    Mr. Kretz,

    Thank you for that elaboration and for attending to my thoughts. At the forum I was very troubled at so much emphasis on fear and loss of rights. I don’t want to be choosing my candidates on that kind of platform.

    I was very impressed with your awareness of the importance of developing understanding between the two sides of the state, and I was pleased that you are working toward that. That gave me some hope.

    Best wishes for your new term. And feel free to contact me if there’s a way I can be involved in addressing the bark beetle/noxious weed problems, or helping the east and the west sides of the state better understand each other.


    Joel Kretz December 21, 2010 at 1:01 am

    Appreciate your thoughtful response. For that matter, a response, period. All too often, responding to posts leads to mostly internet mayhem, hate and discontent, and no productive discussion. Please bear with me as I veer back into a bit of fear, and loathing, with regards to the upcoming budget situation. We are facing an over $5 billion deficit, and I am concerned that cuts will disproportunately be made, as usual, to things that actually benefit the public, as opposed to looking closely at the sacred cows grazing the capitol lawns. Specifically, forest health and noxious weed funding is at risk, with huge potential impacts to rural Washington, and especially Ferry and Okanogan Counties. Okanogan County recently announced plans to not renew the Weed Board Directors contract, don’t know what that’s all about, but I am concerned that noxious weeds and forest health could become a budget casualty. It will take both public awareness and pressure to keep these issues on the table, so please, gin it up!

    In the area of understanding between west/eastside I have found it is very effective work, but time consuming, as it is generally one person at a time. Would you be willing to “adopt a westside democrat legislator?” Only half kidding, I have had some success in getting those folks to visit, but it is helpful to have real life folks willing to share real life experiences from a rural perspective. Thoughts?

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