By Trudy Wischemann
When I opened last week’s paper, I found myself in a difficult position: surrounded, Kevin McCarthy on one side, Pasty K. Miller on the other. The truths we believed we were speaking battle each other, even though Ms. Miller’s words said she agreed with most of what I’d written the week before in “Pray for Water.” Either she didn’t understand what I’d written or she was writing pen-in-cheek.
I’m not going to pick on Ms. Miller. She’s brave enough to write what a majority of us think here in the red heart of a blue state. Truth is, what I was writing isn’t widely understood in the blue belts surrounding us, either.
I used to believe in that package of truths both she and Congressman McCarthy (along with Brother Nunes) espouse: that our farmers feed the world, that dams are mighty works bringing holy water so the desert can bloom as the rose. The first report I ever wrote – in the fourth grade! – was on Grand Coulee Dam on the mighty Columbia River in Washington. I’d seen it the summer before on a family vacation to Ephrata. We went inside the dam, saw the gigantic turbines making electricity. We admired the fish ladders for spawning salmon off to the east side of the dam. We visited the Petrified Forest, where artifacts of once-living trees turned to stone had been gathered, perhaps discovered during the dam’s excavation.
Woody Guthrie was hired to write songs about that mighty government project while the dam was being built, and he bought the same truth package everyone else did. But twenty years later, when I touched down in Berkeley, I discovered a hard fact: when you open that package of truths, unwrap the ribbon and paper, you find the box is empty. All those promises are ether.
Our farmers do not feed the world. They sell their products to the highest bidders, most of whom now live in other states, countries, on other continents. Your (pl.) president, in signing his executive order to give more water to the highest bidders (the westside landowners, primarily) in our now-commodified water market, giving our precious resource to them so they can grow almonds, milk or citrus for export (or sell their water to LA) is only amplifying this auctioning off of our water.
Not only do the fish suffer, our communities suffer (fish are God’s creation, too; if you turn to Genesis, you’ll see he made them on the fifth day, before he made us, and I’m sure now the fish are resentful He went on to Day Six.) The small, real farmers suffer – they suffer extinction – trying to compete with the Big Boys who Donald, Kevin and Devin are serving with these “new” regulations replacing the “old, failed regulations” (Kevin’s words), like every other politician has served, inside the Valley and half the ones outside it, since we built our first dam. When water is controlled, the strongest get control of it and make the weaker ones pay: that is history’s lesson for those of us who want to learn it.
I didn’t want to learn it. It would have been easier to stay in the glory days of my youth, when Grand Coulee was truly grand, when I believed what the Government said was fact, when I believed our public servants served us all. But the package of truths you are holding up against mine just don’t stand up under much examination. If you believe serving water to Westlands benefits our communities, visit Huron. If you think our farmers feed the world, go volunteer at Food Link for a day. If you think dams are God’s gift, go look at what drowns every time they fill up.
We have a long way to go to make our water both sustaining and sustainable in this state, and no one but God to turn to for guidance and each other to make it happen. So I’ll say it again. Pray for water. We might get an answer. We might even get the strength to respond.
Trudy Wischemann is a reluctant Jonah who lives under an unpredictable plant in Lindsay. You can send her your word war stories c/o P.O. Box 1374, Lindsay CA 93247 or visit www.trudysnotesfromhome.blogspot.com and leave a comment there.
This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Sun-Gazette newspaper.