We are not alone. Progressive movements are alive, vibrant and making advances across the country—even if it doesn’t always seem that way out in the middle. That was the unmistakable message from inside a surging crowd of thousands marching down the streets of Detroit during the U.S. Social Forum (USSF) this June. Day laborers and unionists, veterans, refugees, religious leaders, academics and the unemployed—and yes, Nebraskans, all joined in unison with the call, “Another world is possible, another U.S. is necessary, another Detroit is happening!”—the rallying cry of the week’s forum.
From an ancient medicinal and agricultural plant to a Schedule 1 dangerous narcotic, from the sails, ropes and clothing of Christopher Columbus along with the clothing, cordage and canvas sails of our navy (up until World War II) to a plant that elicits reefer madness hysteria, cannabis has had an interesting journey.
September 2006. It’s 7 o’clock outside the old horse barn in Wyuka Cemetery we now call The Swan Theatre. Outside the theater, an actor or two, the stage manager, ticket sellers, the director and a large white duck are all staring at the black cloud moving in from the west. This is our preshow ritual on rainy days. If it starts pouring before 7:30, we’ll cancel. If it doesn’t, we’ll perform, but only a few intrepid souls will show up if the sky is black. If the sun breaks through, we’ll be fine. The perils of out-of-doors theater.
Nancy Bass, a nationally recognized abstract agrarian artist, combines several historic art forms in new ways in order to express her feelings about her happy and humanely treated farm animals and the fragile existence of family farms and ranches. Portraiture, Impressionism and sculpture are popular art forms understood by most of us. Abstract Expressionism is a blanket term for various non-figurative trends in painting, in which expression and meaning are conveyed by color, form and manner of painting. Bass’s abstract work been applauded by museum curators from the Mint Museum of Art and the Chrysler Museum of Art, as well as by art critics from publications such as “New Yorker.”
The branch of a mulberry tree hangs over the parking lot, dangling ripe berries to within easy reach. I pluck a few, taste the seedy, mildly tart pulp. It’s a humid morning, overcast, warm but not oppressive. The threat of a storm hangs in the heavy clouds, but it doesn’t feel imminent. The air is still, with only the slightest breeze to shake the mulberry leaves, to ruffle the surface of the nearby lake I’ve come to drift upon at Olive Creek State Recreation Area.
Nebraska’s economy is built on our crops and cattle. Our heritage is based in places like the Sandhills where homesteaders built communities. Much of the water we drink and use for crops and cattle comes from the Ogallala Aquifer. And yet, much of this is at risk because of what is happening in Alberta, Canada.
In far northern Alberta, on the border between Alberta and the Northwest Territories, lies Wood Buffalo National Park. The park is a mix of boreal forests, the Caribou Mountains, bogs, streams, salt plains and wetlands. The park was set aside in 1922 to protect 1,500 wood buffalo, a smaller cousin of the larger plains buffalo that once roamed the Great Plains tens of millions strong.
The early 1900s brought an industrial boom. Abuse of natural resources had taken its toll throughout the nation, and evidence of this abuse was clearly visible in the decline of various waterfowl and large mammal species. Nebraska’s deer population was estimated at a mere 50 animals. America was becoming an economic giant, yet through the roar of machines, both political and metal, a small voice could be heard. It was the hunter, and the voice was of concern for the direction our wildlife resources were heading. Conservation-minded men and women had continued a relationship with the land and the wildlife.
During the 1930s and 1940s, there were about 500 pairs of peregrines in the United States, including about 210 active nests in the eastern states and 250–350 nests in the western U.S. Additionally, the arctic peregrine, a tundra-nesting race, consisted of perhaps 150 pairs that nested in high latitudes from Alaska to Greenland. Over all of their range the birds typically nested on steep cliffsides, and because of this need for tall cliff nesting sites, there are no firm historical nest records for Nebraska, although evidence exists for possible breeding having occurred near Fort Robinson, in 1903.
In the wake of the vote last month to approve an ordinance limiting housing access to undocumented immigrants in Fremont, Neb., I began to think long and hard as to why this has all come about. No reasonable mind can deny that the citizens of Fremont were frustrated at the dynamic changes that were and are occurring in their community, and it stands to reason that because of the perception of a flood of “illegal immigrants” that they should take steps to address this “invasion” on the sanctity of their way of life by essentially outlawing the mostly Latino population of undocumented immigrants. Here are the facts: 56 percent of the citizens who voted favored imposing the ordinance. Insofar as the turnout was a paltry 44 percent, it came down to 3,900 voters determining how the 25,000 citizens of Fremont will have to deal with the implications of the decision. This has already prompted the threat of a suit against the city by the ACLU, and it appears that the hits to the city’s budget to cover legal costs will unfold as predicted. Ironically, there are only about 1,000 Latinos in the Fremont area, most of whom reside south of the city limits. We can legitimately estimate that about half are U.S. citizens or “documented” immigrants.