Re-Seizing the Time

For all the gains we’ve made in electoral politics and community leadership, there has yet to be a successor to the Black Panther Party as a nationally organized, politically oriented body speaking out and working on the vanguard in the name of black progress, directly confronting and challenging the powers-that-be.

What We Want, What We Believe: The Black Panther Party Library

Distributor: Eclectic DVD Dist.
MPAA rating: Unrated
First date: 2006

William Lee Brent isn’t one of those names quickly associated with the furious tenor of '60s counter-culture. His face isn’t fodder for dorm-room posters like Che Guevara’s, his rhetoric isn’t burned into the history books like Stokely Carmichael’s. Many people probably didn’t realize that Brent enjoyed any notoriety at all until they saw the news of his death, last November in Cuba, where he’d lived for 37 years after hijacking a plane.

Brent strolled onto TWA Flight 154, leaving San Francisco for New York City on 17 June 1969. Once the flight was airborne and out of California air space, he announced that he had a gun, he was hijacking the plane and commandeering it to Cuba. It landed there safely, all the passengers were unharmed, and Brent was promptly arrested by the Cuban authorities. But he was never handed back to the USA, and spent the rest of his life there.

Brent was out on bail at the time of the hijacking, facing charges after a gas station robbery left two cops wounded. He’d done a stretch in prison before, and vowed he’d never go back. He chose Cuba as a destination because he’d heard about the availability of political asylum there. But why would someone who helped stick up a gas station need political asylum?

Because Brent was a captain in the Black Panther Party, and a lot of Panthers beat a hasty retreat to Cuba and Algeria when they needed to escape the long arm of the law, that’s why.

He told his story -- from underaged Army grunt to bodyguard for Panther Minister of Information Eldridge Cleaver to Cuban DJ, teacher and farm worker -- in his autobiography Long Time Gone: A Black Panther’s True-Life Story of His Hijacking and Twenty-Five Years in Cuba (w/Steve Wasserman; Crown, 1996). Brent’s is just one of numerous first-person accounts over the years by ex-Panthers famous and, like Brent, anything but famous. Collectively, they help give the lie to both the falsehoods about the Panthers (they were nothing but gun-toting thugs with no respect for authority) and the starry-eyed romance (they were shining black princes come to wreak revolution on earth). They help us understand the Panther movement as multi-faceted, noble in intent if not always in execution, vulnerable to both external agitation and internal disorder.

As we enter the 40th anniversary year of the Panthers’ audacious explosion into American life, politics and culture, there’s been a spate of new books and works adding to our understanding of their times and impact; given the media’s fascination with anniversaries, expect much more to come as the year unfolds. The temptation will surely exist for some to stroll back through those halcyon days of clenched fists and Afro picks, but as the growing trove of Panther stories indicates, it’s clear that the legacy of the Black Panthers can’t and shouldn’t be reduced to symbols and slogans.

photo from Washington State Archives

The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense took its name and symbol from a mid-60’s organization in rural Alabama that was more about the ballot than the bullet. Some 3,000 miles away in the Bay Area, Huey Newton, David Hilliard and others rose up to defend the ‘hood from police brutality and other injustices. They famously bum-rushed the California state capitol building, decked out in leather jackets, black berets and automatic weaponry, asserting their constitutional right to bear arms. News of their boldness spread, and in time there were Panther chapters everywhere, even overseas. For that, they earned the lasting indignation of J. Edgar Hoover, who personally ordered his Federal Bureau of Investigation to infiltrate, destabilize and eliminate the Panthers, under the COINTELPRO initiative. Hoover detested the entire left wing of American politics, and cooked up COINTELPRO to bust up the Panthers, the Weather Underground, and anyone else he didn't like. Wiretaps, illegal searches and seizures, and anti-Panther propaganda were some of the more benign tactics used to stifle and crush dissent.
Over the next few years, there were countless police raids in which prominent Panthers were killed (Bobby Hutton in Oakland, Fred Hampton and Mark Clark in Chicago) and key leaders arrested. But while they were agitating against a corrupt system of laws and justice, they were also serving the community -- literally. Thousands of kids got free meals through the Panther breakfast program. They also held educational sessions to break down the science behind their politics. Bobby Seale’s manifesto Seize the Time and Cleaver’s prison memoir Soul on Ice (both from 1967) made the best-seller lists, helping build Panther support and membership. And without specifically planning it, they became symbols of a swaggering, unrepentant black style. Fully on board with the prevailing "black-is-beautiful" ethos, they had no intention of crossing over to anyone’s standard of acceptable appearance. Their sharp-edged, hyper-focused look, their serious demeanor, and the passion with which they advocated their beliefs took hold in the popular imagination. White celebrities held dinner parties and fundraisers for them, and young black kids wanted to look just like them (indeed, if not join the Panthers outright). The 1968 photo of a scowling Newton in a wicker chair, armed with a rifle and a spear, is one of the most lasting images in all of black American iconography.

But Hoover’s vendetta would eventually carry the day. By the mid-'70s the Panthers were essentially destroyed, from both within and without. Some ex-Panthers cleaned up and entered political life, others entered academia, still others floundered (most famously, Newton himself), and many went on with the business of raising families and building careers. Newton’s wicker chair moment was alluded to on an Al Green album cover. In the end, they built no lasting institutions, they changed no laws, and you can ask Rodney King or Sean Bell or any number of other brothas if police treatment has improved over the years.

Yet they have maintained a hold on our imagination, right up to this moment. It still hurts that dozens of Panthers got shot down, but it’s still a source of pride that they stood up in the first place. In the years after the prime victories of the Civil Rights Movement, life in the 'hood got hard, and there weren’t too many Freedom Riders going down ghetto thoroughfares. Folks grew weary of turning the other cheek, and the Panthers gave voice to anger and frustration that the old guard movement folk couldn’t (or wouldn’t, or both). They spoke the language of the street, even when they were quoting Mao. The Panthers spoke truth to power, and they did it with that righteous sense of cool known back then as "soul". To the point, they looked The Man dead in the eye and refused to blink.

Literature and scholarship looking back at the Panthers slowly emerged in the late '70s and '80s, mostly throughout the political and academic communities. In the '90s, books like Elaine Brown's A Taste of Power: A Black Woman's Story (Pantheon, 1993) took the discussion to the mass-market stage. In the last few months, there have been important new works about major Panther personalities, including Newton (most recently, Hilliard’s Huey: Spirit of the Panther, Thunder’s Mouth Press) and Cleaver (his widow Kathleen edited the 2006 anthology Target Zero, Eldridge Cleaver: A Life in Writing, Palgrave Macmillan). We’ve also seen Will You Die With Me? My Life and the Black Panther Party (Atria, 2006), an autobiography by Flores A. Forbes, whose Panther days were spent a few levels down from the top. Each of the life stories shed light and depth on their sections of the overall picture, but as charged as they are with memories of turf battles and ego clashes, none of them can quite lay claim to being a basic Panther history text for our time (nor can Mario Van Peebles’ 1994 film Panther which does about as much justice to the Panther legacy as a Hollywood entertainment product realistically can).

Of the recent additions to the Panther-related canon, Peniel E. Joseph’s Waiting ‘Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America (Henry Holt and Company, 2006) serves as the most useful place to start. Joseph, a professor at SUNY-Stony Brook, catalogues the events of the entire period, including its antecedents in previous movements. In Joseph’s telling, "black power" was an idea well before "Black Power!" became a rallying cry. Midnight Hour doesn’t have the exhaustive, epic sweep of the Eyes on the Prize franchise, but it’s a well-researched, accessible history that ties together the civil rights movement, the Black Power years, and the modern era of black politics.

An entirely different animal, also just out, was literally 40 years in the making. Back in the days before desktop publishing and citizen journalists with blogs and camera phones, alternative media activists had to use the same tools as the big boys to make communications products, and then figure out how to get them circulated. In 1967 a collective of filmmakers took to the streets to document the progressive movement at home and abroad. The group called itself, presumably with but a dash of irony, Newsreel. They produced several short films in the late '60s, and showed them at community meetings and organizing sessions; theatrical distribution was not remotely part of the equation.

Newsreel chapters in California produced three shorts about the Panthers, Off the Pig, Mayday, and Repression. Their visual style is basic, perfunctory cinema verite: they got to the spot where it was going down, started shooting, and let the action unfold. They shot Panther leaders explaining their points of view, telling what happened at particular showdowns. Production values are nil; they don’t even have on-screen graphics to identify the speakers. But the bird’s-eye view of real-time confrontations between Panthers and police, and behind-the-wall scenes of Panthers preparing to serve the cause, maintain their immediacy and power, if for no other reason than because so little other footage from the era is in any sort of circulation.

Newsreel member Roz Payne held on to the group’s ideals, and the urge to get the facts down on celluloid. Over the years she continued to help Panthers who were caught up in the criminal justice system, and in the process acquired thousands of documents spelling out how the FBI railroaded Panthers into jail on the basis of trumped-up charges and paid-off "informants" (many of those convictions were overturned, but only due to the dogged persistence of Payne and other supporters). When digital video became a mass medium, she picked up the camera again and started filming oral histories of Panther laywers, retired FBI agents who agreed to come clean about their work, fellow Newsreel members, and various Panther gatherings.

The end result is What We Want, What We Believe: The Black Panther Party Library (AK Press), a subtitle far loftier than the contents may merit. The four DVDs of interviews, gatherings, and archival material don’t add up to anything that can be considered definitive, especially when there’s only one interview with an ex-Panther (Field Marshall Donald Cox, telling his story over hand-rolled cigarettes and baked apple crisp in his home in France). Newcomers to the Panther story will still need a basic timeline of events, and the interviews themselves are visual snoozers; one-camera setups with light editing. But the aforementioned shorts make the package well worth holding for history’s sake. And the other stories contained here are fascinating; Payne is most likely the first to interview the FBI agent who oversaw Panther surveillance in San Francisco, who didn’t think the Panthers were as big a threat as they seemed to his brass back east. As with the various bios and memoirs, What We Want has much to say from its perspective, even as a big-picture view of the Panthers’ impact goes wanting. But if anyone has the funding, patience, and nerve to tackle that big-picture project head-on, there’s plenty of useful stuff here.

Some still curse the Black Panthers as nonsensical hooligans, whose insistence on confrontation and weaponry short-circuited opportunities to extend the gains of the civil rights era. But their influence remains, and not just in the various groups and factions that have laid claim to the name over time. Consider, for example, that there’s an untold legion of young adults whose parents were Panthers (Tupac Shakur was in mother Afeni’s belly while she was defending herself in 1971 during the Panther 21 trial in New York); how did that experience in the family background shape them? Also still with us is the void of organized community activism left behind after their demise; we have no idea what might have happened had their ideas approached full fruition, but it’s sadly obvious that a free breakfast program for poor kids and families would be a hit again today.

For all the gains we’ve made in electoral politics and community leadership, there has yet to be a successor to the Black Panther Party as a nationally organized, politically oriented body speaking out and working on the vanguard in the name of black progress, directly confronting and challenging the powers-that-be. Whether such an outfit could be effective now is a parlor game for poli sci wonks, history buffs, and veterans from movements gone by. Whether such an outfit would be welcomed by lots of brothas and sistas in the street, I think the answer would be "Hell yeah!"


Spawning Ground

David Antrobus

In this ancient place of giant ferns and cedars, it seems the dead outnumber the living; the living fall away too quietly, too easily, taken away by stealth. There is tremendous natural beauty here, but its hold is tenuous, like moss clinging to rotting bark that will ultimately break and sink into the forest floor.

If I were to choose a visual symbol of my adopted home of Mission, an average-size town in the impossibly green western Canadian province of British Columbia, I would probably come up with a rotting carcass in a verdant pasture, a vision of death amid life. If this sounds harsh, hear me out and I'll tell my own truth about this place.

Clinging to the swift-scoured, salmon-haunted northern bank of the mighty Fraser River like an ailing lamprey to the deadly smooth flank of a Great White, this town, situated about 70 kilometers east of Vancouver, owes its entire existence to the water of its rivers and lakes, and to the wood harvested from the dense, surrounding forest. Settled in the mid-19th century, Mission has managed to survive despite two serious floods, a bridge collapse, the ominous early signs of malaise in the natural resource sector (did we really think the salmon and the great conifers were infinitely, magically renewable?), and a general reputation for unfocussed, redneck belligerence.

It all comes down to the Fraser River. The river has brought both food and trade; it provides a thoroughfare upon which the people of Mission (among others) float the great log booms that are the defeated renderings we humans fashion from the vast tracts of coastal rainforest (cedar, spruce, fir, hemlock) in our seemingly inexhaustible compulsion to exploit her resources and bring Mother Nature to her matronly knees — in part because (we believe) we can.

But the details about life in this town — the jeweler murdered in a robbery, the pretty high school graduate killed by a drunk driver, the 14-year-old suicide — in fact, all the jostling narratives crowding like paparazzi, each insisting on exclusive front page drama, bubble and coalesce and ultimately conspire to reveal the hidden Mission. There is a dark vortex lurking beneath the seemingly placid surface; the ominous shadow of something ancient beneath sun-dappled waters. Even the countless apparent banalities playing out on the town's rural borders disguise something deeper, more clandestine: the hobby farmer up in MacConnell Creek bemoaning his exhausted well; the entrepreneur hungry for an investment opportunity, eager to transform the hillsides of quiet, bucolic Silverdale into sudden, lockstep suburbia; the hiker mauled by a black bear in the mountains north of Steelhead. And always, the numerous lives derailed by marijuana grow-op busts. For all the gradual liberalisation of laws at the consumer end of this local economic rival to wood and water, those who supply the celebrated crop usually feel the full force of Canadian justice, anyway. There are times when nothing in Mission seems devoid of some kind of meaning.

A monastery sits above this town, a Benedictine haven of alternating silence and the evocative clatter of Sunday Matins bells. Its tower is phallic and disproportionately defiant, rising above the landscape like a giant darning needle, casting its intrusive shadow over the patchwork quilt of human settlement as if to stitch a final tableaux, symbolically and definitively, of the history of the original inhabitants and their mistreatment at the hands of the white settlers. Said inhabitants were (and are) the Stó:lo people (their language, Halq'eméylem, was an exclusively oral tradition, so the words are spelled phonetically nowadays). Stó:lo territory stretched along the river valley from present-day Vancouver to Yale in the Fraser Canyon, a 170 kilometer swath of virgin, fecund land, teeming with such totemic creatures as salmon, ancient sturgeon, deer, black bear, cougar, coyote, beaver, and wolf.

The Stó:lo, a Native American (or First Nations) people belonging to the larger group of Central Coast Salish, settled this area around 10,000 years ago. Europeans, attracted by rumours of gold, arrived in the 1850s. The resulting clash of cultures did not work out well for the indigenous people, and today they are still recovering from the trickle-down effects of at least one generation having been torn from its extended family. Residential schools, for which the monastery in Mission is a present-day symbol, were sites of a particularly virulent form of cultural genocide. First Nations children across Canada were taken from their homes, often exposed to physical and sexual abuse and occasionally murder, their mouths scoured with soap if they even dared to utter their own languages. St. Mary's in Mission, founded in 1861 and relinquished in 1984, was the last residential school in Canada to close.

There are 82 Indian Reserves in the Fraser Valley. There are eight correctional institutions, two in Mission alone (Aboriginal people represent around four percent of the Canadian population, yet account for 18 percent of the federally incarcerated population). Somebody — something? — really likes to control and segregate people, around here.

This fragmentation is reflected in the odd demographics of the town in general. Leaving their multicultural mark have been, at various times, Italians in Silverdale, Swedes in Silverhill, the French in Durieu, the Japanese in the early years of the fruit industry (as in the US, the Japanese were rewarded for their labours by being sent to internment camps in 1942), and immigrants from India in the early days of the shake and shingle mills. (The Western Red Cedar, with its straight grain, durability, and imperviousness to the incessant rain, while inspiring Native culture with the quixotic grandeur of totem poles, grabbed more prosaic European imaginations in the form of the shake and shingle industry, which provides reliable roofing and siding components for homes.)

In some ways, Mission is a vibrantly conflicted example of Canada's multicultural mosaic. With just over 30,000 residents (of which 3,000 are First Nations) mostly crammed into a relatively small area, bordered by the river to the south and the mountains to the north, mill workers and biker gangs, artists and Mennonites, muscle car boys and summer folkies, soccer moms and Sikh Temple-goers, merchants and pagans, Freemasons and caffeine addicts, street people and Renaissance Faire anachronisms all rub shoulders with varying degrees of friction, occasionally achieving harmony in spite of themselves. Perhaps the relative accord is due to the overall youth of the population (73 percent are under 35-years-old).

Earlier, I mentioned the presence of death. Why? Because it is everywhere here, its proximity eerily palpable. It inhabits the sly rustle of the towering conifers. It taints the air with the swampy pungency of skunk cabbage in springtime. It hums incessantly in the sub-woofer buzz of the hydroelectric dams. It shuffles along in the downcast, scuff-shoed limp of a lone child returning to a chilly home. From a distance, even the monks in their dark cassocks, knit-browed and bound by their vows of silence, seem eerily close to the Reaper caricature. For actual evidence of its pervasiveness, though, one need not go far back in time.

The bodies of three women were dumped between here and neighbouring Agassiz back in '95. Suicides and the furtive aftermath of murder, barely registering in the town at all, have spattered Burma Road, a potholed strip of rocks and dirt skirting the shore of Stave Lake. In 1997, Doug Holtam of Silverdale (a small community west of Mission) bludgeoned his pregnant wife and six-year-old daughter to death with a hammer. Against all odds, his young son Cody survived the attack. In 1995, a drunk driver, leaving in his wake not only the proverbial outpouring of community grief but also a devastated twin sister, killed 18-year-old Cindy Verhulst during the week she and her peers were busy celebrating their high school graduation. There was the little boy who slipped away from his day care centre and drowned in the swollen Fraser River. The 12-year-old boy found hanging from a school washroom towel dispenser. The elderly pilot whose body was discovered in dense forest a full two years after he had gone missing. And there was Dawn-Marie Wesley, a 14-year-old Native girl who took her own life in the basement of her home after enduring relentless bullying at school; barely noticed in life, Oprah material in death.

As disturbing and tragic as these stories are, however, there was little precedent for the breaking news in the summer of 2003. This one will need a little background.

Since the mid-'80s, women have been disappearing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, Canada's poorest postal code. Partly due to the initial incompetence of the Vancouver Police Department and jurisdictional issues with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), partly due to the amorphous (read: investigative nightmare) nature of the disappearances, and partly because so few people cared about missing hookers and addicts, more and more women went missing, with nary a ripple in the public consciousness (or conscience). In fact, as of this writing, a horrifying total of 65 individuals are currently on the Missing Women list. For years, law enforcement didn't even refer to their disappearance as crimes, and it wasn't until 1998 that an official task force was even assigned to investigate.

Finally, in February 2002, Robert William Pickton, a pig farmer from the Vancouver suburb of Port Coquitlam (approximately half way between Vancouver and Mission), was charged with two counts of first-degree murder of two of the missing women. More charges followed in the months ahead. Pickton currently faces 15 counts of first-degree murder with seven more expected. DNA samples of 31 women have been linked to his 10-acre farm. In short, potentially the largest serial murder case in Canadian history is now underway just 35 kilometers from Mission.

Given the frequent intrusion of death into the area, I suppose it should have surprised no one when, on 20 July 2003, the missing women's joint task force announced they would be searching an area of wetlands near Mission. Just south of Highway 7 (aka the Lougheed Highway) and the man-made body of water known as Silvermere (itself the subject of a delightfully creepy urban legend or two), the area is basically marshland bisected by a meandering slough. Immediately following the announcement of the search, the site was fenced off with temporary chain link, and the highway's wide shoulders — traditionally home to roadside fruit and flower vendors hawking their locally grown products — were suddenly and unequivocally off-limits.

Driving this formerly innocuous stretch of blacktop, especially under the after-dusk arc lights, with their swirling bug armadas and liquid island oases in the dark, now touched off an indescribably eerie feeling. It was a relief when, on 8 August, the entire ensemble of law enforcement personnel (numerous forensic investigators plus 52 anthropologists) took up their tools again and vanished. They gave no word of what they had uncovered or even whether anything had been found at all, leaving our community to its familiar, fitful dreams once more. Mission's part in this unfolding story, as it relates to the wider world, remains amorphous and indistinct, with its usual chilly glints of barely suppressed horror flickering amid the overall grey.

Here, it seems, empirical proof takes a back seat to rumour and anecdote every time.

Sometimes, while hiking alone in the tree-bejeweled mountains west of Steelhead, east of the dams, I have suddenly felt the fetid breath of graves, a harsh raven-shadow lurking behind the abundant emerald and olive greens of this sodden paradise. Inexplicable noises in the deep tangled brush; distant rending, gnashing. Something skulking and hungry. With all the assured rationality of the white male immigrant, I've been known to smirk at the idea of ghosts, and yet stumbling along a jade-tunnel trail bristling with old man's beard and devil's club, I've occasionally recoiled from something, the skin of my arms prickling with gooseflesh. There are spirits here, all right, something not too far removed from the capricious tricksters who inhabit indigenous myth. Spectres of a kind, nursing some nameless, hollow ache of unrequited need rendered manifest, paradoxically, by a landscape dripping with life.

The closest we Europeans get to perceiving this (however inadvertently) can be heard in the low extended rumble of the nighttime freight trains as they call out in the dark, hunching parallel to Railway Avenue long after most residents are asleep, lonely as a buffalo herd that's somehow seen and almost comprehended its own approaching ruin.

Of course, my telling is by no means the complete, illustrated history of Mission, a town that can barely hold onto its own name (since 1884, take your pick: St. Mary's Mission, Mission Junction, Mission City, Village of Mission, Town of Mission, and currently the District of Mission). Not by a long shot; this lurid splash portrays but a small corner of the canvas. How can any one person paint the full picture of a community, after all? No, despite my perverse zeal to stir the viscous mud below the bright surface, great deeds and happy memories adorn the history of this place, too, adding the sparkle and lustre of life above and hopefully beyond the stillness and silence. And yet, no matter how much joie de vivre this community may exhibit on its special days, like a red-carpet celebrity when the cameras start rolling — whether it be the laughing children with their maple leaf flags and pancake stacks celebrating Canada Day up at Heritage Park, or the benevolently stoned crowd at the annual Folk Festival, or even the choked air and sharp adrenaline at the Raceway — surely one thing cannot go unremarked: nearly half of those missing-presumed-dead women were of Aboriginal descent. This adds one more layer of indifference to a jaded populace apparently caught somewhere between the small town rural cruelties of its past and the uneasy suburban shrugs of its gathering future.

I know this. I worked with the street kid population here for years, witnessed their hardscrabble resilience. Few people ever gave a genuine damn about the plight of these children, even though some of the throwaways had not yet reached puberty. Two-thirds of street-involved youth in Mission are Aboriginal. Many are sexually exploited by family members, neighbors, pimps and selected citizens, but few speak of it. Some of these kids head west to Vancouver for a date with misery, stretching already tenuous community ties to the breaking point. My job as a street worker was to speak for these lost children, to ensure some semblance of the child welfare system would kick in through advocacy with social workers or teachers or families or counselors or probation officers. In a world in which the so-called "bottom line" — money and the politics of money — has become drawn too garishly, these already marginalized youth were, and continue to be, largely abandoned by a system designed to protect them. Sometimes I stand beside the town's failing heart, its run down main drag (1st Avenue), taking in the pawnshops and thrift outlets and dollar stores, and I'm convinced I truly hate this place... but only because I've loved it so deeply. In life: death. In death: life. The great inscrutable cycle.

In this way, the perennially troubled summer Pow Wow, always skirting the edge of ruin (corrupt, inept politics and sporadic funding, take a bow), yet often prevailing regardless, seems to me a far more accurate symbol of the clutching, ragged breaths that secretly haunt the sleep of this community. The fleeting vibrant colours of traditional dancers whirling in bright regalia — poignant as the plumage of endangered birds, flying amongst the high wailing melismas of the Northern-style singing and the vital, aorta-punching drums of the circles — somehow speaks more of an unavenged wound in time and place, set amid the cruelty that underlies so much beauty, than anything else this conflicted human settlement seems capable of offering.

An absurd contrast, really — this vibrant gathering and the judgmental silence of all those surrounding stories of the dead — the whole place holding its breath waiting for these mortal sorrows to purge themselves before the pristine lawns and asphalt and vinyl sidings are allowed to spread and eventually suffocate every fucking thing that ever felt like something here.

For here, tenacious as the town itself alongside relentless churning waters, the living will no doubt cling to hope and the perpetual dream of life until the muscled river — unnoticed, stealthy, taken for granted — wrestles away everything (horror, joy, splintered wood and the final word) at long last, sending it all tumbling toward the planet's dark and pitiless seas for good.

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