Jim Radloff referred Wade to me way back in early summer, but due to a number of scheduling conflicts, it took a few months for us to finally meet. In answer to my needing a quiet place to record our conversation, Wade suggested we pile into his truck and head out into the woods. On the ride out there, Wade pointed to swaths of forest where logging and controlled burns had taken place. He pointed out healthy and unhealthy patches of forest and he gave me a political and cultural education about logging. I loved seeing the world through his eyes. I was once again reminded that there are so many things I don't know - so many things I have an opinion on that I simply just don't understand. And I'd venture to guess that the same is true for you. I enjoyed my time with Wade very much and I'm excited to introduce you to him here. Our interview ends in a rather big discussion about what gives me a heavy heart. I decided not to transcribe it at length, but if you are inclined to listen, it's all there in the audio.
Who are you and how would you describe yourself?
(Laughs) I should have read some of the things. I'm Wade Fagen. Born in Bend, Oregon. Had a childhood at the University of Kansas - very liberal childhood. Very liberal mom, very conservative dad. And I like to think of myself kind of in some ways - I don't know bad or good - a one-track scatterbrain person. I like to think up a lot of ideas. I like to be balanced politically. I like to be a good father, a good husband. Who am I?
Going through art classes in college, I learned about the Renaissance era and Renaissance men, like Michelangelo, and I thought, That would be really cool to be good at a lot of things. And I find myself pretty good at a lot of things. I think it's worked out pretty well. The bad side of it might be that I get easily distracted and I don't follow through on some things, but it's all good. I feel very blessed in my life. Feel a good relationship with the man up above. I don't know how else to answer who I am.
What matters to you? What motivates you?
Efficiency. To see things work with the minimal amount of effort. To make anything more efficient, I found, is what I enjoy doing. If there's a problem, I like fixing problems. And efficiency encompasses everything. So like, when I was falling timber and when you're logging, efficiency was of maximum importance because logging is an older industry that has lost its lucrativeness because everybody's in the market, competing for such a long time. Where computer industry's so new you can stumble on something and it's very lucrative - it's a new business. And so I found in logging, efficiency was of utmost importance because when it came down to it, you're trying to balance production with a smaller footprint on the forest with maximum safety. So, that's all efficiency. What more do you risk at getting hurt or what more do you risk at doing damage to the forest to increase production and your profits? So, yeah, efficiency motivates me every morning. Efficiency.
What concerns you? What gives you a heavy heart?
The political... well, I'll tell you what I've always believed the number one world problem is: it's not the lobbyist in our Congress; it's the lobbyist money in the United States Congress. America campaign finance reform, to me, is the number one world problem. We've got to get it so corporations can't contribute to a political fund. Because whether it's forests or the price of beans in Australia, every problem that I've ever had to deal with (laughs) practically on a social level comes from the United States Congress - or 90 percent of 'em. So, I would say that's a funny, weird thing that gives me a heavy heart because I think our country is the leader of the free world - free enterprising world. I think that free enterprise is of the utmost importance to humanity. To be able to get up every morning and do what you want to do in your heart and enjoy will make you the most efficient and productive person you can be because you're doing what your heart has called you to do as opposed to what some political king or dictator has made you do. So America, I think, short of monopolies, is great because of that; not because of what race we are or who came here. It's because our founding fathers established a free enterprise system for us.
What was the question (laughs)? Oh, the heavy heart - is losing that. Because that also relates to the forest, which I'm very passionate about - all the government regulation in the forest. And the manipulation of those resources. I've come up with that heavy heart because of the problem I lived through - reinventing myself through the era of the spotted owl. And then, being an efficiency-minded person, I wanted to look deeper. What caused me to lose my job as a logger in the town that I love? You know? What's the deeper, deeper, deeper problem? And that's what I've come up with. We need campaign finance reform... it's simple, why can't we just make a regulation? You cannot contribute to any sort of campaign over $100 per registered voter. If a corporation wants to promote some campaign or some political party or something, that's fine; just put your name right underneath it, We're for this. That's fine. That's freedom of speech. But to say you can go and give money and leverage power against a politician is insanity. And that's gotta be changed. As well as a few other little things we could go into, but...
What do we mean to each other, individual to individual?
I would think we're of the utmost importance to reproduce and to friendship and support.
I mean, we mean everything to each other. Unless there's too many of us and tourism and then they can go away (laughs). We mean everything to each other. Nobody wants to be on the planet alone. Right?
What does it mean to you to be a part of a community?
Well, I kind of believe in that... I don't even know how it goes - god, self, family, community, world. You take care of each one of 'em and I think you're a better fit into the community. And just as far as my community goes, I think community and socializing and accepting and like our church says, All are welcome, is of the utmost importance. You know? Save your community and save the world. And save your family, save the world. But that's the next step out... beyond your family, so I think community's of the utmost importance. I like tradition. I like the history of the community. Learning as a community - that's what's gonna help keep the world go 'round in an efficient manner.
I have a heavy heart especially in regards to the taking away of basic human rights and for social injustice and for greed. What kind of effect does that stuff have on you? And what can you do about it?
That's one of the million-dollar questions. Yeah. I am for social justice and I think that's where efficiency comes in. If people weren’t so greedy... and when you think of free enterprise, you think of capitalism; when you think of capitalism, you think of the monopoly mongers. There's the bad capitalists, you know, that are all about money. But that's where I come in as a sentimental capitalist - as a hoarder - that everything has a value. And you've seen with my older equipment that I don't need to extract more resources for a new piece of equipment to have my business look good so that people will like me and do business with me. I need to do a good job so people will like me and do business with me. And if that older piece of equipment can do it, it's like, More power to ya. You did with less that other people can't do with more. And so maybe there's a chip on my shoulder for that.
And when it comes to social injustice, I learned back in the University of Kansas - where I was growing up as my mom was going to school... my three best friends were all little guys: there was a red-headed, freckle-faced Rusty Brunns; a Mexican, Richard Rodriguez; and a black kid, Greg Francisco. And that religious family that was down the street from me... they were an adopted family and they were all adopted: a caucasian daughter was the oldest; a caucasian boy named Marty, a little older; two Vietnamese girls, my age; and a little black boy. So prejudice and injustice.... I always think of Saturday morning cartoons and the Hall of Justice with Superman, but to me that's where it's at. I would love to see a day when we could use the N-word and it had no effect. You could call me a Honkie and I'd like, Yup. I would love to see prejudice come to an end. Again - your heavy heart on injustice - if you took a specific problem, we could discuss it and I'll bet you it leads back to the lobbyist money in the United States Congress again. If you're about injustice, get campaign finance reform in the United States political system. That's the number one world problem. You say it lightly, but if that's where you're depressed, concentrate on that problem. Fix it.
Do you have a sense of purpose?
I wish (laughs)! Still trying to figure it out. I grew up - I think it's kinda different from the millenials or even my kids, you know maybe I'm the last of the generations that think, Become a man, get a job, buy a house, find a wife, get married, have kids. So my purpose was maybe to raise a family just because I, you know, did that. That's what society did. Now my kids are like, Oh, let's have a baby. Ahh, let's think about getting married. Ahh, oh, maybe we'll get a house. You know, what's your sense of purpose? Maybe they've got it right because their sense of purpose is happy. My sense of purpose was to earn an income and become a stable financial person to be able to raise a family. Just a whole different concept.
Now my purpose... I've really fallen in love with the forest. And one of my biggest passions would be straightening out the forest. So my sense of purpose right now would be to help society straighten out their forest problems - I guess that's a sense of purpose. And, obviously, be a good dad and all that along the way...
What do you want more of in your life?
Youth (laughs). Youth! I've always been a very physical, hard-working - probably if anybody said anything about me, one thing they know me as is hard-working. But as you get older, time chisels away on you piece by piece where you don't even notice it until you're 10 years down the road and you're just going, God, I can't do that as fast as I used to. I'd like to see more love and acceptance in the world. And I mean that in the most real way. I'm a wishy-washy guy, meaning liberal and conservative and bounce back and forth. I love the forest and I'm a logger. Well, maybe the executioner appreciates life more than anybody else. So maybe the timber faller appreciates trees more than anybody else. I want to see openness and acceptance and I want to see it on the liberal side. My kids talk about being open-minded. And they know me on forestry; they won't debate me on forestry. But, boy, they're liberal in other ways that I'm not. They know they can't win at forestry. But on the other ways, they want me to be more open-minded, but yet they don't want to be open-minded about the old ways! And I said, Hey, if you want me to accept your ways and you think it's logical, why can't you be accepting and open-minded about these conservative, closed ways - just looking into 'em? That's what the world needs is real open-minded, not greenwash or... We need open-minded, all are welcome people. Even in our new church - All are welcome is hard for some of our parishioners to accept fully and completely. You know, everybody probably has their level. Not everybody's black or white; they might become blacker quicker or whiter quicker or whatever, but open-mindedness - how far do you want to go along to help people? And help people... you'd have to judge 'em - who deserves to be helped and who doesn't? You know, when you are helping your children and when are you hurting them by enabling them? So, open-mindedness, yeah. We need to be more open.
Do you have anything you'd like to ask me?
Yeah. When you said you have a heavy heart, I was really interested in that. What is it that's heaviest on your heart?
Well, I guess what's heaviest on my heart isn't so much this umbrella of social injustice 'cause there's so many things underneath it - I do think they're all essentially the same; I think they have the same cause - but it's that I'm capable of it, too. It's starting to affect me in small ways. So, I go through town, right? The parkway comes through town at 45 miles an hour, but it's an interstate - 65 miles an hour is the minimum that people are doing. As I'm trying to get onto the road, I'm this victim, right? I picture myself as this person just trying to fight for my spot in the flow. And so I can see it from that perspective. But if I'm on the highway, I get all bent out of shape if someone tries to squeeze in front of me. So it's this one, basic thing that happens every day that I get in my car. I'm either this person or I'm that person. And depending on which perspective I'm looking at it from, I'm either the hero or I'm the victim. And that's just one really generic... what else? What do I do every day in my interactions with my girlfriend or with my friends or does this thing that I say offend this person or did I say something that made me sound good and it's not exactly what I believe? I don't know. There's a whole slew of... judgments that I carry at the same time as I want to go around saying what we need. How am I failing?
Do you believe in god?
Umm, I have a very difficult time with the word believe. I don't know. Nobody knows, so I don't know about that. I'm open to the idea, but it doesn't affect me one way or another.
So where do you get your faith from?
Faith in what?
* Conversation continued in the audio…