There is some struggle in me that I keep trying to put into words. It’s a struggle I see reflected in the landscape, in the emotional terrain of most organizations, in the news at home and abroad. In this mid-night moment of clarity, I think it comes from living with two dreams.

One dream—and I have had this dream as long as I can remember—is to win: to make it to the mountaintop and stand pure and clean in brilliant sunshine; to ascend to the water’s surface from far below; to break free of clouds of uncertainty and know, finally, the answer. To reach Yes. Yes!

The other dream—and it’s entirely possible this is simply the other side of the coin—is to not lose. I like to think this is the dream of equality, that I want no one to lose, no thing, no being, not even inanimate objects. I want every one/thing/being to be accorded equal respect, to have its life, its existence, valued, its place in the universe revered. For there to be no No.

It just occurred to me that both dreams are impossible, even though I live in their grip.

The two dreams go on anyway.

It’s not hard to see the war between these two dreams on the other side of the world: Vladimir Putin’s dream to be king of the once glorious Russian Empire before he dies, that dream waging war against Volodymyr Zelensky’s dream for his Ukrainian people not to lose and become Russia’s peons once again.

It’s not hard to see this war being waged here in our valley over water: the Resnick’s, Boswell’s, Vidovich’s, et. al.’s dreams of winning some kind of economic victory by increasing control over water supplies from any source, proving their business acumen before the final court in the sky, while tromping over the water rights and economic survival of the most ordinary, common and exquisitely decent devoted farmers who would be happy just to stay in business.

But there are wide gray zones between Yes and No, where the desire to shine and the desire not to get dusted get tumbled together and nothing is clear.

Sunday, late morning, I saw what looked like a group of teenaged boys riding their bikes together through downtown Lindsay. They moved together like a swarm of bees or a flock of cedar waxwings, a little raucous (which could be rewritten as “joyous”), feeling their oats. I had never noticed a group like this before, so they caught my attention. They were clad in street clothes and a tad irreverent about stop signs, but I’ve seen similar behavior in lycra-skinned biking enthusiasts, so I didn’t hold that against them (much.)

Later that afternoon, however, out of town on Strathmore Road, I ran into them again, almost literally. They were rapidly leaving the scene of a mini-crime they’d just committed, and one of the hooligans thought he’d play chicken with me in my lane, his amped-up body on two wheels coming straight at me in my Ford Ranger. His dream of winning was pitted against my sudden desire not to lose, and I won that time. He moved back into his lane at the last moment.

And then I saw what they’d been doing. They’d removed about 10 sandbags from the bank of a drainage ditch and strung them in a line across the road. The sandbags were painted white, so even in the dark they might have been seen by oncoming cars and thus avoided. But my mind did its perfect imitation of my mother and exclaimed “Somebody could have been killed!” So I pulled over and helped the two men stopped behind me drag the sandbags back to the side of the road. One of them called the sheriff.

I think it was a kind of “Don’t Tread On Me” move on their part, an act of defiance against being losers somehow, as if making losers of other people (even if it was just inconveniencing me and the other two guys, plus whoever gets to put the sandbags back in place) wins them something. On the other hand, we got to be winners for just a moment, even if only in our own eyes, by just saying No to their vandalism. Yes, we will not have our road made hazardous by hooligans. Many of us say this kind of Yes on a daily basis.

But my dream of equality went into the shadows, where it’s licking its wounds.

Trudy Wischemann is a writer working for rural justice and equality. You can send her your dreams c/o P.O. Box 1374, Lindsay CA 93247.

This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Sun-Gazette newspaper.

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