Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Line of Fire


Living in Arizona for nearly two decades, and for more than half of that time in the central highlands region around Prescott, has presented innumerable challenges and opportunities alike. Many will be familiar with Arizona’s haywire politics and the international controversies that have ensued. Those of us working on progressive causes here often find solace in the fact that — though the victories may be few — this is where the work needs to be done. I’m thankful to have been part of this ethos of engagement over the years, even as I’m preparing to head eastward and embrace new possibilities.

One thing that’s hard to convey to folks outside this area is the sense of shared struggle that is often masked by the ostensible divisiveness in our midst. Desert living can be harsh, and living systems survive best when their mutual interdependence is made paramount. With all of the tragedies that have befallen the state in recent years — from the Tucson shootings to the most recent loss of 19 elite firefighters — this nascent spirit of solidarity has been at play, even if at times almost imperceptibly so.

The worst travails of violence, wildfires, extreme heat, and severe drought can be found here, yet in many such moments there is a concomitant experience of being part of a larger whole. As is the case in myriad disaster situations, people more frequently discover forms of cooperation and commonality rather than exacerbating their tendencies toward competition and conflict. We need not overstate this — indeed, major differences of politics and practice will likely persist — but it’s important to recognize the growing realization that crises can in fact bring out our best qualities in many instances.

This resilient spirit will be put to the test more and more in the days ahead, as so-called “natural disasters” escalate in their frequency and intensity. The wildfires experienced here in central Arizona are emblematic, as no sooner was the massive Doce Fire contained (a scant few miles from my home) before the Yarnell Hill Fire flared up and claimed the lives of 19 brave souls. These dedicated people were fresh off saving our area from one inferno before being called to another — all underscored by the reality of being in a 20-year drought cycle and a calendar year that in particular has seen almost no rain.

This is the “new normal” of climate and weather extremes in this brave new world that we have wrought. Increasingly it appears that the possibility of forestalling these calamitous events is growing slimmer by the day. At the same time, our individual and collective capacities for resilience are becoming more germane, as we seek to live with an escalating array of crises and catastrophes. We shouldn’t abandon the mitigative project altogether; indeed, it turns out that many forms of adaptation also represent ways of being in the world that could countermand the roots of crisis if practiced widely. But the clock is rapidly ticking, and it’s hard to change a paradigm when we’re navigating perpetual disasters.

All of this sort of deeper rumination will have to wait for another day here in the central highlands of Arizona. It’s difficult to express the impact on this small community that will come from losing so many good people in this manner. No one here will escape the “six degrees of separation” that bind us all together. Sometimes it takes a tragedy to recognize and rekindled those bonds. And perhaps, in that, may the shared experience of confronting loss and acknowledging mutual grief serve to weave the threads of resilience tighter — for coping with the events of today, and likewise for those yet to come.

Randall Amster, J.D., Ph.D., is the Executive Director of the Peace and Justice Studies Association, and is the publisher and editor of New Clear Vision. Among his recent books are Anarchism Today (Praeger, 2012) and Lost in Space: The Criminalization, Globalization, and Urban Ecology of Homelessness (LFB Scholarly, 2008). 



More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Rob Urie
Name the Dangerous Candidate
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Neve Gordon
Israel’s Boycott Hypocrisy
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Victor Wallis
On the Stealing of U.S. Elections
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Stanley L. Cohen
Equality and Justice for All, It Seems, But Palestinians
Steve Early
In Bay Area Refinery Town: Berniecrats & Clintonites Clash Over Rent Control
Kristine Mattis
All Solutions are Inadequate: Why It Doesn’t Matter If Politicians Mention Climate Change
Peter Linebaugh
Ron Suny and the Marxist Commune: a Note
Andre Vltchek
Sudan, Africa and the Mosaic of Horrors
Keith Binkly
The Russians Have Been Hacking Us For Years, Why Is It a Crisis Now?
Jonathan Cook
Adam Curtis: Another Manager of Perceptions
Ted Dace
The Fall
Sheldon Richman
Come and See the Anarchy Inherent in the System
Susana Hurlich
Hurricane Matthew: an Overview of the Damages in Cuba
Dave Lindorff
Screwing With and Screwing the Elderly and Disabled
Chandra Muzaffar
Cuba: Rejecting Sanctions, Sending a Message
Dennis Kucinich
War or Peace?
Joseph Natoli
Seething Anger in the Post-2016 Election Season
Jack Rasmus
Behind The 3rd US Presidential Debate—What’s Coming in 2017
Ron Jacobs
A Theory of Despair?
Gilbert Mercier
Globalist Clinton: Clear and Present Danger to World Peace
James A Haught
Many Struggles Won Religious Freedom
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Dear Fellow Gen Xers: Let’s Step Aside for the Millennials
Tom Clifford
Duterte’s Gambit: the Philippines’s Pivot to China
Uri Avnery
The Peres Funeral Ruckus
Reyes Mata III
Scaling Camelot’s Walls: an Essay Regarding Donald Trump
Raouf Halaby
Away from the Fray: From Election Frenzy to an Interlude in Paradise
James McEnteer
Art of the Feel
David Yearsley
Trump and Hitchcock in the Age of Conspiracies
Charles R. Larson
Review: Sjón’s “Moonstone: the Boy Who Never Was”