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Founding Father


There are days when the sun doesn’t rise so much as it erupts. A founding father of the flames, he sends them shooting high above the peaks, a lava flow of light spilling down the southern slope of the mountain.

We live now in a world on fire: literally overheated and politically aflame, a place where innocents die dishonored at the hands of the dishonorable.

At least for the last half-millennium, it has always been so.

Today, we are told to honor the “Founding Fathers,” but these are not the men who birthed me. That’s not to say that fatherhood, in my family, was anything special; it wasn’t. But the red ribbon of my blood is far longer than that of the earliest colonizer. Even those shorter threads that share colonial space predate the founding-that-was-not-a-founding, some by well over a century.

Our world was set aflame then, too.

This is why you don’t see me using the “settler colonial” locution. “Settlement” seems passive, benign: a mere dropping into place, weary and spent aft4er a long and dangerous journey. It seems almost honorable.

Colonization is occupation. It is by its very nature and definition an act of violence. It is also, by nature and definition, a martial act. To colonize is to wage war, with or without a declaration, but the Declaration of Independence, like the Constitution, was an article of war and a weapon of genocide. One does not “discover” an inhabited land, especially not one whose habitation runs into years of five figures. One is not granted a “destiny,” manifest or otherwise, to steal, rape, maim, torture, kill, massacre, and exterminate.

Fire on the mountain; fire in the sky.

The first “founding father” ordered massacres; everyone’s “favorite” presided over the largest mass lynching in the continent’s history. One was a slaver, the other willing to countenance slavery for political gain. Those whose visages deface the sacred mountains far to the north were all proponents of genocide, and its tools as well.

No, these are not my fathers.

My fathers, the mortal sort, were conflicted men, some immeasurably brave, some just as immeasurably foolhardy, some cowardly. They were proud, but their pride was the dangerous kind, the sort that gets in the way of protecting their own. There were reasons for this, of course, reasons rooted in abuse both structural and individual, the kind of systemic torture that turns families against each other and wipes out entire peoples.

Now, they call it generational trauma. We all still suffer for it, at a genetic level.

But there are other fathers, too, ones that rise from the earth and fall from the sky. If anyone can be said to have “discovered” this land, it is they, for they were here at the beginning, spirits of fire and water colliding, exploding, becoming: the very dust of creation. When we call upon what some call “Creator,” it is these spirits older than time who answer.

Today, the conflagration here is one of air: the wild wind spirits, tricksters, forces of destruction and regeneration simultaneously. The winds batter and howl, cold, hungry, never sated, never full.

Windigo spirits.

But the child who defeated the windigo did so with fire of her own, dipping her hands in tallow that stretched so far and so long that she melted the cannibal from a safe distance.

No adult was ever so wise.

No, adults rush headlong into the breach, whether to make a show of foolish force against an enemy who will eat their souls before their bodies, or to make common cause with it in an orgy of colonized greed.

Sympathy for the devil, indeed.

But in our way, there is no hell, no lake of fire, no brimstone and flames of eternal damnation. We know that fire purifies, it cleanses and cauterizes, it births the smoke that carries our prayers.

Fire heals.

Our own founding father, the Sun, rose to dance in the light his own fire this morning.

It is time for the flames to erupt.









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