Whisky is for drinking, water is for fighting.

In Montana there’s a dispute over water rights on a reservation now populated by three whites for every Indian.┬áDo you ever start out to talk about something only to realize you must first backtrack to wrestle a foundational semantic knot, and as you tug the knot only tightens?

A tribal leader refers to the reservation as “our homeland.”

Reservations were concentration camps to which Indians were forcibly removed (many perishing along the way), and with the original intent that Indians would die there, in isolation and exile. Water rights are the wealth of the future. What high irony indeed, if Indian tribes wound up controlling agricultural water access in this country.

A policeman knocked on our door. It was late Saturday evening. A house on the block that’s been vacant for a long time had been broken into and stripped that day, in broad daylight. I was relieved to hear that a witness described four white guys, who smashed in a glass on the back door and proceeded to load into their red truck appliances, copper piping, radiators. I had the same reaction to the marathon bombing: Please let the suspect be white. What gets unleashed in this country when crime suspects are identified as people of color is so ugly. In Boston this Sunday a priest called explicitly for people to avoid conflating all Muslims with bombers. You’d think we wouldn’t need that admonition, we’d be more discerning, but you’d be wrong. A friend of mine apologized for feeling pity for the surviving suspect. I saw the stories from his high school and college buddies. I feel sorry for him too, and it doesn’t take anything away from my grief for his victims. It’s so much easier to imagine evil acts are committed only by some sort of monster but sometimes the monster looks disturbingly like us.

Split This Rock sent out a poem by Pam Uschuk this week, and I was moved by her voice at a moment when many of us are mute with some amalgam of grief and perplexity.

I’ve been reading one of Henning Mankell’s novels aloud of late, so I was surprised to find an Op-Ed in the Sunday Times about racism in Sweden, one of Mankells repeating themes. Using genre fiction to carry deep moral and cultural excavations is a nifty trick, and of course there is that ineffably crisp writing of Mankell’s.

Resale of digital books has now been forbidden by courts in at least two countries including the US. The resale of digital copies of music remains a bit murkier. The marketplace continues to wrestle with new forms as the arts increasingly are purveyed digitally, disseminated over the internet. It reminds me how recordings had no-copy technology embedded, on tapes and CDs. Part of us wants to share art freely and part of us understands that this translates to poverty for the very people creating the art.

Dominique Browning’s interview with Sebastiao Salgado in this weekend’s Times includes a beautiful photo essay. At the close of the interview Salgado speaks to some kind of redemptive power in art, saying that his work is not about landscape, but about love: “With this project, I fell in love with my planet.”

with love,
sammy