Western Watchins #114
I’ve always loved Frank Herbert’s DUNE. Beneath volumes of political intrigue, genetic manipulation and socio-economic commentary lies a story about one man’s destiny. One guy who stood up, faced fear and moved the fuck out of the entire universe. Of course his empire crumbled and more bad times came but that only meant that new heroes would hear their own calling, and find their own courage, as the series progressed. Paul Muad’Dib, from way back in the original book, called it his “terrible purpose” and the fact I’m a Fremen fanboy, a Romantic (with a capital “R”) and a dreamer means I’ve always felt that something great was waiting inside of me too. I know I’m not anything special Mr. Durden but here, at the midpoint of my life, as other faculties dull my hearing has quite oppositely improved and that sets me apart.
There are no great men, only great actions. We all hear, few listen.
Anyone who’s ever discovered a passion or sensed even a sliver of why the hell they’re here knows what I’m talking about…it’s pandemonium as potential energy gets off its ass, turns kinetic, and kicks you in yours. Recently I wrote a little book about a buffalo for my wife and also watched this movie. Some of my own terrible purpose revealed itself along the way.
Facing the Storm: Story of the American Bison isn’t an easy watch. Not lots of fun having the decimation of a species rubbed in your face. Ten thousand years of life nearly snuffed out in just over ten as America expanded and likewise, her national hunger. The only things hindering that manifest feast were a lot of “savages” and a lot more buffalo. The solution was simple. If the herds were gone the tribes would soon follow suit. The government cried “destiny”, the Plains cried at the devastation.
99% of the bison population was killed off in thirteen years. Facing the Storm does a great job of showing how senseless the slaughter was. Don’t confuse that with thoughtless though. All the thought that went into this little land clearing project was apparent once the Native American population began to decline. Their once strong backs broken leaving their corpses, along with those of their beloved buffalo, paving a solemn path for the U.S. to tread upon triumphantly as it marched like a bloated bitch towards the Pacific. Fields of bison left to rot with only their hides taken for shipment back east, human beings treated like horse shit, an inability to understand the long term consequences of these actions combined with a willingness to lie and cheat every tribe at ever opportunity. Wastefulness, cruelty, shortsightedness and disloyalty sure sound like immensely worthless cornerstones to build upon don’t they? And yet we built. A century plus later and in my experience many still cling to these vile virtues like a security blanket with no idea how to function in this world aside from being a fucking fuck. But bad times are good times for good guys. Lots of things to keep you busy. Like the government and cattle rancher conspiracies this film was exposing. Those can gain a lot of ground when no one stands to oppose them.
I felt a twinge in my terrible purpose.
This documentary was discussing the ominously obfuscated closed-door dealings that lead to the slaughter of any buffalo that wander out of Yellowstone National (along with the even more confounding practice of trapping the beasts within the park for shipping to meat processing or chemical testing facilities) all in the name of disease abatement and “population control.” I smelled bullshit, and bison shit and many, many other kinds of shit.
The government spent about five million dollars last year to remind us all to “get fruved” and offered a grant so that college kids could learn what’s funny. If you don’t want to be healthy, an asshole dressed like a bunch of grapes will not convince you and no amount of studying will make an un-funny fuck into someone fucking funny. We wipe Uncle Sam’s ass with tons of cash each year but spending money ostensibly to save a species to turn around and spend more money on culling that same species has to be up there on the goddamn ridiculous scale right next to electing someone with no pertinent experience to the presidency based on his skin color alone. Maybe I digress, but Obama is that horrible, and Washington is such a cesspool beyond just him so screw it all, this Libertarian is gonna’ help the goddamn buffalo!
Facing the Storm reminded me of how folks used to live hand in hoof with these beautiful brutes. An old Lakota Chief, Luther Standing Bear, once commented that “the Indian was frugal in the midst of plenty.” He was lamenting the way things once were, today he’d lament all we’ve sown from those first seeds of squander. Society’s highest value today is disposability. Enjoy your new iPhone, it’s obsolete as soon as you open the package. Don’t like the news at the moment? Just wait 24 hours, it’ll change. Friendships are just tools to toss away once they’ve been used. Nothing has meaning if nothing is meant to last. As with the buffalo, so too has gone everything else. In one generation we went from using every single part of the creature to this:
We shouldn’t run over Nature and we can’t bend over for it either so we must remember, or learn again, what it is for man and beast to share this world. Respect must be re-cultivated along with an attention span that lasts more than thirty seconds. Desire in our hearts must extend past the “latest” and towards the lasting . My little buffalo Ohno inspired me and this film confirmed that inspiration. I will give of my funds, my talent and my time to do some small part to help conserve these critters. I will educate the ignorant and combat those determined to remain so. I don’t have a rating then for Facing the Storm: Story of the American Bison but I do have this challenge for you.
This planet is a terrible place and we all have a terrible purpose in us ready to fight fire with fire. Something awoke in me last week. This movie and my journey up to that point were obvious keys but had I been deaf to those thundering hooves it would not have mattered in the slightest, the next day coming with its cubicle cowardice, its dead ends, its missed opportunities. Opportunities I’ve missed in the past and ones you’ve missed too. To change our lives for the better, by reaching beyond ourselves. For me, I know now I’ll always be willing to raise the buffalo’s banner high, but your own calling is coming. You won’t be ready, but you will be able. You might not save the whole world but that should never deter your ambition. Your something, whatever it is, will need you. And you will need it.
Be a hero for that something.
And maybe that something, like the buffalo, can simply continue to be.