I guess it’s human nature to accuse others having a crack in their lens when it’s actually our lens that’s cracked.  I’ve been reminded of what an asshole experience I had in grad school, honestly.  I wasn’t confident enough in any of my perspectives to believe my own impressions about that at the time, and it’s natural for me to look for common ground, to a fault — but in hindsight…yeah.  Obviously there were lots of good things about it and, at the end of the day, I did learn to write better, which is all that matters.  So it’s not a chip on my shoulder, but I’m re-examining some aspects of my life now, in light of my emerging…conservatism?  I don’t really resonate with that word, as a word, but the people whose perspectives I’m increasingly interested in can be lumped together — gay, straight, good bad and ugly, whatever other flavor — as “conservatives”.

I wasn’t raised to identify as anything, and in fact my parents made it a point to practice dis-identification from as much worldliness as possible, and always encouraged us to simply be, and not get too wrapped up in movements or bandwagons, as a rule.  Which is great; that’s served us well, my brother and I.  Part of me wishes I had recognized my fledgling sensibilities here earlier, and pursued education and social groups that would’ve helped me refine them.  I’d always rather be a sophisticated version of myself rather than an uncomfortably mute semi-apologist, vomiting out conflicting impressions at unpredictable times, and in poorly framed ways, when the pressure becomes too great.

That’s how veganism worked for me, really.  I resisted my own caring for years, because it was so poorly received — and this is *as* a lifelong veg, but continuing to subscribe to eggs and dairy functioned like an agnostic, continuing to subscribe to at least some idea of god.  All the religious people can tolerate an agnostic, at least.  I’m not saying this flippantly, either.  I had so many conversations, not initiated by me, about meat, and the very next question was, “But you eat eggs and milk, right?”  It’s an actual test of intelligibility and visibility.  I was really awkward about handling conversations about veganism for years, because you never learn how to do that as a surface level normal person, and eventual grace comes when you know your facts, you dis-identify from everyone’s reaction to them, and more than any other factor, you just choose your battles.  I mean, that’s the knack of truck driving too, for that matter — knowing in advance where not to go, what not to try.  I just did that yesterday, showing up to this fire.  They were like “We’re gonna put you right over there,” and I was like, “Nope.  You aren’t.  Unless you don’t mind losing that light pole, or the left half of that gate.”

Anyway, at Level Forty-Four I wish I had figured out that I’m a Conservative (or in that ballpark) earlier, so I could be further down the road on having these conversations, but I’m not and that’s okay.  Everyone’s gotta start somewhere.

And I might not even be a conservative, per se!  I just know I’m done being a liberal.  Conservatives, at this point in time, are saying smarter things that cohere more with what I know of reality, more reliably than their political counterparts, but just the fact that there’s this whole other side to be on that I didn’t know about is proof that I have a lot of refining to do.  And of course words like “liberal” and “conservative” mean different things and change over time.  I’m probably liberal af in regards to some meta-definition of the word, but I tell ya, right now, I’m not vibing with others of the same description.  I should probably have a sit-down with my former guitar teacher, Mr. Sheeley, so he can ask me a series of politically diagnostic questions, and assign me a functional label at the end of it.

I mean, that’s the fuckin thing right there, isn’t it?  Why am I a forty-four year old woman with a BA and an MA and a lot of real-world occupational experience, and I have to approach the entire subject of what my economic/political/social sensibilities might be, along rational and established spectrums, as a total newbie?  Why weren’t these spectrums fleshed out for me a long time ago, as a matter of educational course, so that I could better position myself and advance my own education fro there if I chose?  And I don’t think it’s just me.  I’m pretty good at cluing into what’s going on in my life that’s just about me, and this is about everyone.

You know what’s frightening?  I was a teacher, in charge of having students argue for and against certain issues (their choice), framed within a larger context, and I didn’t have shit for brains about the concepts that needed to come into play, there.  If that’s not proof of a liberal bias in higher education then I don’t know what is.  Teachers don’t go into it rubbing their hands, like “ha! There’s this whole other side of things that I’m going to strategically suppress.”  We just don’t know any better!  Literally!  Outside of some basic education in Constitutional air traffic control, you’re left with — what.  Feelings?  Injustices?  Oppressed groups?  An inability to conceptualize any power structure at all outside of being a tyrannical hierarchy?

Also, it’s clear that I don’t even know enough to truly discard the liberal perspective, itself, which can’t and shouldn’t be conflated with its own most obnoxious proponents.  My biggest fantasy right now is that I could be locked in a room with the most articulate conservative, the most articulate liberal, and the most articulate libertarian in the whole world — and any other major perspective I’m missing — and then I would just go to town, asking questions.  Which is a scenario symbolic of what you’d hope higher education would be about, but it’s not.  Probably what I would discover is that there’s a time and place for each of those perspectives to take the lead, and a time for each to defer to the others as well.  It’s all about managing different kinds of risks, at the end of the day, isn’t it?

Here’s a question: how do I figure out where I’m at on the spectrum between conservative and libertarian?  Neither is associated with the most obvious examples of insanity of 2020, in my mind.  And for being the progressive, inclusive movement, I’ve never seen so much pearl-clutching in my life, as I’ve seen this year from the liberals.  (Props to my 2nd hometown, Flagstaff, for continuing to channel whatever is the least actually rational perspective, en masse.  Props to my first hometown, Chinle, and the Navajo Rez in a larger sense, for continuing to channel wry humor and general positivity to the world.  I think it’s called a “reservation” because people there have some serious reservations about what white people are up to, in any given century.)

I’m going to talk about social expectations along politically ideological fault lines, now.  I’m like, this really mild-mannered person who would far rather agree than disagree with any given person.  True fact.  The liberals seem to have constructed themselves, increasingly, as a group of who actually exhibits all the character flaws I *previously* associated with conservatives — ie, pearl-clutching, which leads to scolding as surely as dancing leads to sex, according to the Baptists.  (Joke’s on us — turns out it does.  Oh, for those heady days when the erosion of values in small town America looked like the movie Footloose, and not like California passing a pedophile protection law in the middle of a fake pandemic, an engineered economic collapse, a mass exodus of the tax base, a wildland fire apocalypse, a race war, and a catastrophic failure of the electrical grid.)

Now, the 2020 liberal affect of pearl-clutching differs significantly from the liberal affect of 2010, which was honestly just as obnoxious.  It was more like this permanently snotty, sarcastic amusement, back then.  All I have to do is remember every single fucking day of grad school, to re-capture it.  This “above it all” ness, without actually being above anything, of course.  I remember being almost traumatized by it, honestly (what a liberal thing to say, lmaoooo).  And I know it’s dangerous to conflate a microcosmic example with a macrocosmic trend, but nothing else I encountered in the larger world meaningfully derailed this impression, let’s just say.  Why did it become cool for an entire socio-economic class to reject earnestness and authenticity, and instead to embrace passive aggressive amused disdain?  It’s a real pain in the ass characteristic, and one that accomplishes nothing.

And, just to take an even deeper dive, which is probably even more offensive, but fuck it: devil’s advocate, how could a person have any other affect, if they’ve been steered away from acquiring skills that make them genuinely valuable and employable, while being assured that this makes them more important, not less; and steered away from anything resembling a commonsense morality, while being assured that this makes them more moral, not less?  I feel I’ve had to apologize for or justify, in these whitey tighty liberal environments, for years, my allegiance to the trades, and my morally “regressive” outlook on spirituality, sex, and gender.

I mean, the decision to leave academia in 2012, and go to the oil field to dust off my CDL, was an easy one, frankly.  Shortly before that decision, I had attended a dinner party hosted by a member of the creative writing department and it was an agony.  My job in North Dakota was often miserable, but never as miserable as that dinner party.  It’s just so awkward to stand around among a group of people that, by all appearances and racial signifiers and educational check marks, you’re supposed to have something in common with, but feel the way I felt.  I’ve often, through the years, attributed this discomfort to veganism, and indeed I’m not a fan of the whole pig or whole turkey, arranged in its honey-baked death throes on the dining room table, exclaimed over by assholes who would cry if their grandmother died but simply toast in the face of this.  I don’t like being in that situation, point blank.  But you know, I think it goes deeper, or along an additional fault line at least.

Like — here’s something.  This is so common I don’t even realize I do it, so it’s mostly invisible to me.  I always imagine myself in different scenarios.  I don’t know why, I just do.  What if this store I’m in was held up by a gunman?  Or this airplane was hijacked?  Or there was a massive car pile-up just ahead?  Or what if I was suddenly in the middle of a different continent, and had to figure out some employment for myself?  What do I have to offer?  What do I have to trade?  What if someone tried to hurt my loved ones?

In most of these scenarios, I’d probably blow it in real life, but still I ask myself these questions, and maybe even more importantly, I keep a sense of this when I meet other people.  I’m not like, “oh, you said something wrong that triggered me,” I’m more like, “this person seems basically useful to have around,” or, “this person seems basically not useful to have around”.  I’ve always done this.  When I was driving water tender on the fire line during night burns, with engines and crews, and there was a cliff drop down on one side, an active fire on the other, and a very narrow dirt trail obscured by dark and smoke to negotiate, I knew which guy I was cuing off of.  He wasn’t the head guy in charge, but it was an engine crew member close to me who was not afraid to rock the boat, socially, but also not afraid of a little fire.  People’s rearview mirror mounts were melting off their vehicles, on the passenger side, which is where my fuel tank was located.  “If that guy freaks out, I’m gonna freak out,” I essentially decided.  He was calm the whole time so I felt pretty good.  There was another guy in my Guard unit, and I decided that if we deployed, I was gonna cue off him, regardless of who was in charge of me.  People’s usefulness, and savvy orientation to actual reality, is a quality and characteristic that exists above and beyond their narrowly constructed social demeanor, education, appearance, and even intelligence per se, sometimes.

This practiced usefulness seems markedly lacking right now on the liberal left.  Pretty much everyone saying everything on that side, be that as it may, I’m like: you’re the last person I would pick to be on my team, if anythingwas at stake.  Or even if I just wanted a good hang, cuz you’re not that either.  They just strike out, for me.  And somehow I’m supposed to care more about preserving their delicate sensibilities around Trump, or masks, or whatever, more than I care about allying myself with people who are actually much more useful, per my estimate —and I just don’t!  I don’t care more about delicate sensibilities than I care about usefulness.  And somehow that makes me this fringe-y conservative tacky person currently causing always at least a few sets of pearls to be clutched, and that’s fine, because you know what?  The unexpected allies and ideological partners I’m finding and evoking and attracting are far more useful, and far less pearl-clutching, then anyone I’m alienating in the course of simply caring about the things I care about.

So, that’s feeling odd I guess?  And down to really big basics, here, I think we all have the potential to deepen as individuals, and the fact that some of us haven’t, or haven’t much, is a testament to how privilege works, in the emotional dark ages, as a reducer of character, when it should be the opposite.  Which goes back to the higher education vortex of bias, again.  I mean, when monuments to WW2 soldiers are cancelled due to their lack of diversity, we’ve got a problem.  When mostly-peaceful protestors are, en masse, faking seizures as a strategy to slow down the process of their entirely rightful arrest, we’ve got a problem.  It’s like, how far up this asshole are we gonna climb?  No one should be sent to war.  It’s awful, and represents a humanity-wide crack in the lens that we’ve gotta heal.  So now we’re saying MORE women and people of color should have been used as cannon fodder, as machine gun bullet stoppers, and that’s somehow better?  We’re gonna dismiss the experience of the people we put in that situation because they were predominantly white males?  How crazy does this have to get before it ejects everyone, finally, from its maw?  I got ejected from the maw a while ago, to the extent I was in it, and I’m fascinated that anyone still wants to roil around in there, but they do!

So yeah, in keeping with my parents’ bandwagon-rejecting sensibilities, I’m hesitant to claim full x y z status about anything, but if I have to label myself, I’ll go with “patriot, gun-owning vegan metaphysical female in the trades” I suppose.

It’s interesting how the specter of climate change comes up, again and again, in and around and behind the worldviews du jour, and I’ve been agnostic about that as a rule.  But you know what’s sharpened up for me there: the reality of how a legitimate threat to everyone can become a specialized political club (the kind you beat people with, primarily, but the kind you join, too, to a lesser extent).  If the fake pandemic (based on a real virus, per my best assessment) has taught me anything, it’s that the last perspective I’m gonna trust is a talking head in a white coat, on TV, saying science-y things.  And if “new world order” or “global coordination committee” or ANYTHING like that comes up, which I understand is the level that we’re supposed to act at, but anyway, I’m totally out.  Not that I’d immediately discount said talking head, but that my skepticism level is at an all-time-high, and my trust is at an all-time-low, thanks to nearly eight solid months of unprecedented political and media malfeasance, which — when you look into it — points to decades more, swept under the rug.  Like, if you’re gonna make some kind of claim on my money, time, activities, or opportunities, you’re going to have to prove you’re not an epic piece-of-shit shadow puppet.  Plus, and above all that, I’m not doing one single goddam thing about climate change, personally, until I see a lot more emphasis on diet, which is the obvious leverage point.  If we’re supposed to replace our cars with Priuses and listen to Greta Thunberg’s obnoxious ass and accept UN interference in our affairs, I’m out.  Oh, the UN just came out with some statement identifying COVID as having delineated the extent of systemic patriarchy.  Humming “fuck off with that!” to the tune of Dixie Land Delight.

The term “redpilled” as an action verb has been going around, which is interesting in all kinds of ways, but one of my blog readers commented that he’s been “black pilled” for so long that x y z, and I meant to ask him more about that.  Does that mean a state of total political nihilism?  If so, I’m not there, and I actually doubt my reader is there either based on a steady outpouring of smart and passionate observations.  Nihilism, like boredom, and to a lesser extent adult shyness, is for the weak and those without inner resources.  None of us are without inner resources, but a lot of us have been convinced we are.  I prefer to think “black pilled” means, “hey — this is actually all a lot more fucked up than anyone’s copping to, to an extent that most people’s sensibilities entirely cannot handle”, which is kind of what veganism feels like.

Gosh.  It’s so much he-said, she-said these days.  Teal Swan was right; 2020 is the year of the ideological crossroads, being forced to choose a side, feeling deeply alienated by stuff that got a pass before, consciously aligning with principles and ideals that feel no longer optional.  Looking around and feeling like everyone’s gone crazy, and other people are looking around thinking the same thing about me.  Oh well!

Meanwhile, no matter what anyone says or doesn’t say, in public or in the media, child trafficking sex rings are being busted at an accelerating rate.  Every single week there’s a couple, nowadays, and a couple hundred more kids are freed.  I don’t know where they’re housing these kids, post-rescue, or how they’re rehabilitating them.  That’s the work of a lifetime.

Well anyway.  We were dispatched to this big smokey California fire on our way home, or “home” — back to standby home — from the Colorado fire.  A couple times, this season, I’ve put on a pair of clothes with no idea that, through logistics and necessity, that would be the pair of clothes I’d have on for like three solid days, and sleep in, and everything.  That happened again.  I got really sick of those jeans.  And I swapped out contacts for the long term ones, because the wind blew my other contact lens off my finger when I was trying to clean it beside the truck.  It was a long drive out here, and the lane markings were just horrible in Bakersfield, plus road construction.  I never want to drive tractor trailer there at night again.  I got behind another big truck as soon as I made the interchange and just stuck to him.  There were entire seconds, like ten or fifteen seconds at a time, that I couldn’t see any lane markings and was just following those tail lights.  That’s really stressful.  And the drivers in California really do seem worse, which is a true cliche I suppose.  I bailed over into the lane to my left just as a Prius entering the interstate aimed for, apparently, the space right underneath my trailer, in defiance of all survival impulse.

Panning out for a moment, though, I’m so so grateful to have this summer to drive class A, in all these different terrains and circumstances.  I’ve leveled up markedly, in a couple ways, and it’s just a bank of experience that it always serves me well to continue putting, you know, deposits into.

We tore down camp on Monday, drove all day with some work-related interruptions, made it to Salina, Utah at around midnight, drove all day again, made it to the fire camp around midnight again.  Smokey, crowded, couldn’t even see how to get in, so we just parked on the shoulder outside.  Got set up, things are pretty pleasant.  We’re in a huge baseball diamond, surrounded by a high school campus in Yosemite wilderness.  Got a hose fixture that broke during demobe, gotta fix it here soon, and put out our second 1000 gallon gray water bag, because the incident management team still can’t find a gray water truck.  We’ll just give out showers til they’re both full and then cut everyone off, I suppose.  We’re going to have some hard choices, soon, if this fire burns like it’s been burning, about time versus money.  We can stay on the fire and keep saving for Hawaii, but we’d like to be moved by the election which is already too soon.  We’ll see how the universe choreographs our trajectory, let’s just say.  I’m just grateful for the work, for the leisure, for my family and life.  It’s a good deal either way.