Friday, July 18, 2014

"Free Steve Bass!"

“Free Steve Bass”

Thus reads one of the picket signs that has waved about in its various incarnations at each of the court appearances that i, Steve Bass, have made pertinent to a violation of  Colorado Springs’s municipal anti-camping ordinance.


It may not be quite so readily apparent to just any casual observer , or even to those close to the proceedings like my dear friend Jon Martinez who created the sign, just how deep its meaning roots itself in by psyche.  Simply contemplating its gravity as i attempt to marshal words with which to express the thoughts to follow raises gooseflesh along my forearms and threatens my vision with tears.

Peltier. Mumia. Mandela. Suu Kyi. Solzhenitsyn. Human and flawed as the bearers of these names may have been, each has earned his or her place in history and whatever grand mythos has attached to each’s name, (see my earlier thoughts about bullshit), because others have noted a deep principle underpinning acts of pragmatic defiance to misbegotten, misappropriated authority and overbearing power. Each of those names has appeared on countless pickets behind the word, “Free.”

Plenty others of my heroes have been imprisoned and worse over principle, whether crowds gathered at the time or not: King. Thoreau. Parks. Sinclair. Voltaire. Pussy Riot. Boethius. Occupiers all over the country and all over the world. Yeah, Jesus Freaking Christ.

I can sift my mind and recall dozens--possibly hundreds--of luminaries whose histories, myths, and leavings have formed our national and global consciousness and conscience, (seared though those appendages may have become), that spent time imprisoned or suffered various tragedies up to and including inglorious deaths at the hands of Power devoid of Authority. I can do this because i am so formed and constituted that i have been drawn to those historical superstars’ vaunted legends since i was very small. I was encouraged by virtually everyone--Mom, churches, schools, Hollywood, even government with its pithy marble and granite-carved parables--to revere the fortitude of the people attached to those names and the actual principles for which they stood and suffered and died, and for which they are recalled.

Wrap your head around this a bit, dear reader, especially if you are a U.S. American: I was encouraged my entire fucking life to place certain principles and their practical adherents high on a pedestal of esteem, until i actually began to act as if any of that shit was actually fucking real.

Liberty. Equity. Charity. Grace. Forbearance, The Golden Rule. Gentle mercy. Peace. Hope.  Fucking Love! Yeah, many will recognize these odd notions, and this is not meant to be about God, (though it is), nor is it a screed about Christian hypocrisy. (If you want that from me, see Today’s Tom Sawyer). These are just some of the principles i’ve been discussing, championed by my heroes. My kinsman. People like me.

I was recently compared with a few of the very best of these in public--even more, on record in a courtroom--by a well educated man whom i respect. My jaw nearly dropped because even though i had read his statement ahead of the hearing it just didn’t sink in that he meant to read it verbatim--didn’t seem real--so there was something embarrassing about the sound of those words. I felt manifestly unqualified, with my ocean-deep flaws, fuck-ups, and lifelong commitment to bullshit, to approach  the company of those worthies let alone to pull up a seat at their table, though i suppose i have indeed sought to emulate those most noteworthy champions there has never been a moment wherein i’d have ever been so bold, so absurdly hubristic as to place anything i’ve ever done on an historical narrative with theirs; until Chris Lasch made it magick for me to think about it by doing exactly that.

I started to think about what all those folks were saying and what spillover came from the notions. I thought of signs i’ve seen:

“Eritrea Must Be Free!” (I had no clue what or whom Eritrea may have been back when i first saw that one but it didn’t matter so long as they were free). “Free Tibet,” “Free Iraq,” “Free Ukrania.” “Free Hugs,” reads one of my favorite signs ever. In a fashion i can’t truly describe, all these notions resonate together.

Voltaire said, “L’amour est l’enfant de la liberté: Love is the child of liberty.” Love cannot be forced; it can only be demonstrated. Love is a verb, and it can coexist with neither self-serving institutional oppression nor half-assed apathy save there be conflict.

Resonance. This stuff is the reason we remember William Wallace, and why Braveheart won an Oscar. Sure enough, that idea is opinion(ish) and its proofs are for another piece but it’s key to the principles in general, and to the actions of those of us that have been imprisoned over the same.

So, sure; since i’ve been invited i’ll take my seat at that table though with eternal deference to those far greater than i. Who was Thoreau anyhow, but a guy with a backbone and a way with words, and a perception more or less identical with mine, and resonant, like segments of those fractal art pieces? We prisoners of conscience choose imprisonment over silence or conciliatory plea-bargaining because the points we have always striven to make are gigantic. Epic. Universal. So much bigger than any single one of us that we can’t even know how to wrap our heads  around them. We who seek this stuff on the grandest scale possible, cringing when self-promotion becomes necessary to further the Ideas, fight for just that--bigger fish than ourselves for the pan. I only met my heroes in legend, but there in those tales that define our mythos not one of those folks whom i so revere was ever so concerned with his or her own welfare that he or she allowed personal narrative to eclipse the grand cry of Liberty, that Lovechild of God.

More than one person close to me has asked me whether i don’t think this stubborn insistence on a point, this hard-headed leaning into a course of action that has me incarcerated isn’t a waste of time, talent, life. The answer is: Absolutely not. Although shit happens around each of us all the time that we can’t see and will never know, this looks to me as though more good has already come of my actions than much of anything else i’ve done during the past little spell of literary hiatus. Simply the effect i seem to observe here at the El Paso County Jail is worth every second of the experience. I feel more like a conduit for a higher greater Thing than “i”--more like an “I” than has resulted from anything i can recall doing. Ever. Except for bringing up my kids, of which all of this is a part. (Coming at The Machine has always been a “God” thing for me. It isn’t necessary for you to interpret it that way). And anyway, How can holding to Truth be a waste?

So, yeah. It’s be nice to be out of jail, but don’t fret too hard about Steve Bass. We at this table suffer far less than you imagine. I came to the conversation with a particular physical plan about a camping ordinance and having failed to eliminate the ordinance, the reason for continuing along with my fellow Occupiers, and guys like Assange and such is to blare it from the rooftops: This is a fucking emergency!!! The story we were told and are being told is a lie! We live in a fully-blown Fascist state, (and State), wherever we are in the World now, and if we want to own our own myth, we’d better fucking do something about it.

So when you see that sign  or when you read some shit about Steve Bass--forget about him and read all the thoughts above into it instead, and more if you can imagine it. Because that’s what’s important about all this. Don’t worry about Steve Bass. Worry about freeing yourself. Free the whole fucking World. Because that’s what’s important about all this. Because where I live, here in this flawed and tragicomic heart of mine--i am free.

The Free Steve Bass,
23 June 2014
Thing is, this stuff is all scribbled around on crappy paper with bad markers. I reserve the right to edit if i find words that ought to have been here.


*I really hope i’m just too tired to figure out how to make the blogger do footnotes. Meanwhile, here they are:


  1. got you back all the way brother!

  2. Ah, Joseph. Good to have you, and for sure, well met.

  3. Voltaire said, “L’amour est l’enfant de la liberté: Love is the child of liberty.” Love cannot be forced; it can only be demonstrated. Love is a verb, and it can coexist with neither self-serving institutional oppression nor half-assed apathy save there be conflict.