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Ducey

Dear Governor Ducey,

I hosted a meet and greet with the Democratic nominee for governor this weekend. The guy I wrote a letter to last week. I donated as much as I could afford and most of the copies of my book I bought from OSU Press. I made smoked trout and smoked turkey and a lobster mushroom terrine that was actually pretty good—like lobster mushroom meatloaf. My friends made pasta salad and spiraled zucchini salad and peach cobbler. The table looked like a harvest festival. Although the would-be governor’s campaign manager said people wouldn’t eat the food, they ate the food. I like to think it’s because people stayed a long time at the party. We talked for hours about the money that’s being donated by the Koch brothers and their kind. 9.5 million dollars trumps our 700 and some-odd dollars that we raised. But if the Democratic nominee does 20 events a week…no. He will never catch up in dollars.

But one thing I don’t think you count on, Mr. Ducey, is how much people are doing for free. People I know have gone door to door to get out the vote every weekend. They don’t get paid. They go in the hot sun and in the rain. They go with the support of neighbors who give them popcorn to munch on as they walk up and down the streets, hoping that people will answer their doors just to tell them how important it is for them to get to the polls, to file their early ballot, to volunteer like them. Because two volunteers is worth thousands of PAC dollars.

I’ve been thinking a lot about people who do things for free. My friends run clubs after school. One friend takes her kids on archeology trips to the San Juan River. Another organizes writers to come into his class to talk to his co-convening high school/community college students. The people at the Coconino Coalition for Children and Youth (CCC&Y) who work to stop the preschool-to-prison pipeline and they who attend the Teaching Academy and they who are starting a new literary and climate science magazine called Carbon Copy and the people who run the Northern Arizona Playwriting Showcase (NAPS) and my friends who organize the Northern Arizona Book Festival (NABF). Free, free, free. Everything is free—the labor and the events themselves. No one pays. No one gets paid. The book fest, which will run Sept. 14-16, is brought to you by people who want you to have access to as many kinds of writing as possible. So come, because it’s free and because it’s awesome (the two are not mutually exclusive).

“Free” is a crazy economy that I hope predicts the dream of the Universal Basic Income where each of us gets to work at what we’re best at. Maybe we each have to take a turn digging ditches because I don’t think that is anyone’s dream job but there is something to be said for manual labor and, yes, we did finally shovel the ton of dirt that we did not indeed need for the patio off of our driveway. My job is one I would mostly do (maybe not EVERY meeting) even if I weren’t paid. That must freak people like the Koch brothers out. What if we all had that opportunity? To do work we loved. We wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between working and volunteering and having a life. As the Artificial Intelligence revolution displaces people from jobs, we shouldn't despair. We should think, finally, I get to host my own fundraising event or start my own magazine. I have to get really cynical to believe that the Koch brothers and you, Ducey, have a plan to starve public education so much that it would fail and that those who could afford to jump ship and attend charters and privates would do so and the rest would be left to take part in the preschool-to-prison pipeline and all the cheap labor that prisons provide. But listen, Governor Ducey, we on these committees full of acronyms and abbreviations—we are doing work for free. We’re going to make sure people still have access to education even as you disembowel it. We’re going to make sure people still volunteer. We’re going to make sure people vote. We’re going to do it all for free and your PAC people will be so confused that they will wonder why their money didn’t buy the election.

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Nicole Walker is a professor at Northern Arizona University, and is the author of Quench Your Thirst with Salt and a collection of poems, This Noisy Egg. She edited, with Margot Singer, Bending Genre: Essays on Creative Nonfiction, and is the recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment from the Arts. The thoughts expressed here are hers alone and not necessarily those of her employer. For more letters, visit www.nikwalk.blogspot.com

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