I Am the Wolf and So are You

Gray wolf. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

It’s a feeling of tightness and pressure that has only increased since November of 2016.  It began like a constrictive python, slowly enveloping me, wrapping around and around, tighter and tighter. The first pain was felt as a woman, a vocal misogynist would be our Commander in Chief.  Fine, we have been here before, at least we knew what kind of animal we were dealing with.  However, I quickly learned that this was a monster far larger than the beast familiar; children were being ripped from their parents and put into cages.  I should have known how foreshadowing this was, I should have done more, but the years slogged on.  Hit after hit, I began to learn my lesson, the disgusting human rights violations that surmounted to child abuse were just the beginning of the story.

The grip grew tighter as I watched people I know and love denounce real journalism as “fake news,” all while embracing conspiracy theories like “Pizza Gate.”  As the pressure built, the coronavirus acted as the metaphorical lid, slammed onto a pot that was already heating to a steady boil.  Boil over it did, spilling all of our nation’s dirty secrets: racism, murder, violence, and widespread inequity in our educational institutions.  Yet rather than lead the way, rather than turn down the heat, rather than ease the tension, the Trump administration gleefully fanned the flames of our divide.  No justice was served, only very real wildfires began to consume the coastal states.  Too many people had died who didn’t need to, too many… Trump’s embrace of the consuming chaos struck a note familiar, of the Batman’s arch nemesis Joker, of whom the wise Alfred accurately assessed stating “some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.”  I began to feel crushed by the weight of it all.

Heavier still was this administration’s attack on the environment, which, as a wildlife advocate and lifelong animal lover, hit me, again, where it hurt.  The agenda included rollbacks on the Endangered Species Act, rollbacks on the National Environmental Policy Act, and openly hostile cabinet appointments.  There has been an ongoing assault on all of our natural resources that will take years to undo, if we can undo them at all.  With Justice Ginsburg’s death, the Supreme Court is likely stacked against us. Then came a final kick while I was down, wolves will almost certainly be removed from the Endangered Species list, no longer receiving any federal protections once afforded to them.  This blow landed right in the gut, opening the door for the mass slaughter of a familial animal, one I have revered since childhood.  Like Game Thrones’ Young Wolf, Robb Stark, it felt like this story wouldn’t have a happy ending for me, or the wolves.  Yet, it was after this cumulative loss, after this dark moment of deep despair, that I remembered.  It was Batman who rose from the Pit to defeat Bane, and it was John Snow who rose from the dead to save Westeros.

The growing pressure we are experiencing together is not a show of power nor a grip of strength.  What we are feeling is the dying spasms of institutionalized inequality.  This moment, and the devastatingly real consequences we have endured are nothing more than the desperate actions of bullies and cowards, who are incapable of meeting our collective devastation with compassion.  But we know better now, we’ve learned from our pain.  Those in power can no longer get away with grabbing women by the pussy, they can no longer murder black and brown people under the guise of law enforcement.  We cannot be told that our schools, our healthcare and our opportunities are equitable for all Americans.  We are watching now, we are seeing now, and we will hold power accountable now.  There is goodness in this country that will rise up like our beloved Batman or John Snow; hope is just around the corner on this dark road.  As for my wolves, I hope you will join me in amplifying their howls, because these are not songs of mourning, they are a battle cry.  I am the wolf and so are you.  Rise.  Howl.

Samantha Bruegger is WildEarth Guardians’ wildlife coexistence campaigner. She writes from Salem, Oregon.