A+ A A-

Janet Thomas: The Week That Is

  • Written by Janet Thomas

It is the week of MLK Jr. Day, of remembering his courage, his faith, his intelligence, his compassion, and the heartbreak of “being there when” he was assassinated.   And now, there is “being here now.” The uprising of violent white supremacy, the COVID isolation, environmental desolation, and the inauguration of Joe Biden as President of the United States and Kamala Harris as Vice-President.  The inauguration of hope in hellish times.

I remember watching TV at a friend’s house in November 2017 when Trump was suddenly forecast as the next president. I left before it became official because I could not take in the actual reality. And, it turned out, I never could. Trump’s transparency as “a malignant narcissist” was crystal clear from the beginning and it continued to unfold with greater and greater destructive results. Why he had, and has, a following reflects a complex history that encompasses a military-industrial-based economy that has for far too long exploited the human and environmental values that support all life in all its complexity. Yes, a change was needed. Trump, however, represented the ongoing and all-too-tragic exploitation at-large.


In 1999, when I started researching “Battle in Seattle,” I was stunned at the corporatocracy that had taken over democracy. When “Citizens United” gave human rights to corporations it set the stage for the takeover we have experienced over these past decades. Money--first, last, and foremost. The survival of the planet earth and all her residents, including humans, was not even a blink on the horizon. 

One of my evening rituals is listening to “Ideas” on Canada’s CBC radio, 690am at 8pm. Last night they did a re-broadcast of a talk by life-long Republican and retired U.S. Army Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson. Its title: “The Warfare State.” It was stunning to hear this life-long Republican, retired Army Colonel, and Chief of Staff for Former Secretary of State, General Colin Powell, expose the devastatingly destructive results of what Eisenhower called “the military industrial complex.”  Retired Col. Wilkerson sounded like a left-wing radical. But no, his knowledge came from being a right-wing insider who witnessed the destruction of democracy by military industrial complex and committed himself to speaking out about it. It was one of the most riveting hours I have ever experienced on CBC’s Ideas.    



The older I get, the less I know. This reality reflects corporatized media, the disposable sound-byte reality wreaking havoc on the internet, and my aging sinking heart. Republican President Eisenhower was the first to use the phrase “the military industrial complex.” At the end of his presidency he said, “As we peer into society’s future, we--you and I, and our government--must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without asking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage.”


As I struggle to take in the reality that young children today are growing up in, my aging sinking heart breaks apart in despair. Right now, thanks to COVID they are deprived of their friends, their schooling, their “normal” life and all its freedoms. Thanks to the destruction and consumption of the military industrial complex they are being deprived of humanity in all its glorious complexity and their earthly home in all its beauty. What I knew as a kid, and what saved my life, was the beauty of outdoors, the mysteries of the natural world, and the unfolding annual miracle of clear skies and longer days. These were the foundation of my healing from childhood trauma. Nowadays, trauma is the foundation of daily life. Our consumption, our pollution, our exploitation, our racism, and our ever-convenient obliviousness to it all is paving the way to an unlive-able future for future generations.  

This brings us to now--the day after Joe Biden’s inauguration as President.  I was utterly unprepared for the feelings of relief and elation that filled me throughout the day--and filled my friends too. None of us were prepared for the power of hope on the horizon regarding everything from COVID control to environmental protection. All of it embraced and announced by Amanda Gorman, the young and wise poet who reminded us over and over of what can be: 

“For there is always light, if only we are brave enough to see it. 

If only we are brave enough to be it.” 


Janet Thomas has lived on San Juan Island for 29 years. She is the San Juan Islands Coordinator for Orca Relief Citizens' Alliance and was the Superintendent of San Juan County Parks when Jet-ski-whale-watching was prevented from launching from San Juan County Park, a decision ultimately upheld by the Washington State Supreme Court. She is an author and playwright whose work has been produced in Seattle, New York, San Francisco, Portland, Honolulu and Los Angeles. Her most recent books are: "The Battle in Seattle--The Story Behind and Beyond the WTO Demonstrations" and "Day Breaks Over Dharamsala--A Memoir of Life Lost and Found."


Last modified onSaturday, 23 January 2021 19:03