Monday, October 18, 2010

Character spotlight with Zaahir

Tell us about yourself. I am Zaahir, responsible for the punishment meted out at Eagleridge Bluffs. That is my Muslim name given to me by my Indonesian mother. My Christian name is the same as my American father’s, James Jensen Jr. My father was an international financier, a middleman, a broker. If you wanted something, legal or illegal, he could get it for you—for a price. My mother was his housekeeper.

I am 27-years old, and have a British boarding school education and a degree in Comparative Religions from Cambridge, courtesy of my father. Upon his death, his estate was divided among his children, my two half-brothers and sister, whom I’ve never met, and myself. I inherited $40 million.

I now use his money to fund my organization, Terra defendo. Big business and governments call us eco-terrorists, but we are as our name signifies, defenders of the earth. You know the who, which is more than most, if you want to know the why, I have revealed it to Rod Raglin in his latest novel, Eagleridge Bluffs.

What makes you special?
My passion to protect the environment and my commitment to punish those that would destroy wild animals and wild places makes me special. I am smart, decisive and, when necessary, ruthless. I am a born leader—charismatic, charming and devoted to my team of five comrades. Never doubt that a small group of people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

Tell me about your most current adventure.
Eagleridge Bluffs was our most current campaign. It was a special place, home of endangered plants and animals. The government wanted to blow it up to make way for a highway bypass. Terra defendo was there to help organize the citizens to prevent this from happening, and in the case that their protests failed, to punish the defilers of nature. The author has chronicled this confrontation and those involved, including my involvement with Miriam, an older, local woman whom I initially recruited to serve the cause.

If you could offer your author advice, what would it be?
My advice for Rod Raglin would be to have the courage of his convictions. When Eagleridge Bluffs was threatened what did he do? He wrote a letter. He should have put himself in harm’s way. I would tell him if he is given another opportunity don’t fail the cause, don’t fail himself.

Are you happy with the way people perceive you?
My life is underground. My work is subterfuge. I am not who people think I am and if I’m to stay free, safe and lead my team, that is how it must be.

Is expressing love difficult for you? Why?
Getting involved with other people means they could find out about Terra defendo. That would not only make them a liability, it would also threaten the safety of my team and myself. My team has become my family and yet with every campaign I have to put them at risk. It’s difficult to love someone and at the same time ask them to do something that puts their life and liberty in jeopardy. Better not to care too much.

Is there a message you want to get across in this interview?
When you love something, you must do everything in your being to care for and protect it. If you don’t, and it’s lost or destroyed, you’ll not only live with an empty spot in your heart, your soul will be plagued with the guilt that you could have done more and didn’t.

Share a little bit of the real you with our readers. Any Dark secrets?
I will reveal this only to you and you must not betray my confidence. I’m tired of this life. I’m discouraged by the lack of success and depressed we even have to fight for, what should be, self-evident. It’s stressful living in the shadows, cautious of every situation and suspicious of every stranger. I want a relationship, to love and be loved. I want roots, a home, instead of moving from country to country, posh hotel to seedy safe house. The responsibility of being a leader is filled with anxiety and fear, all of which must be concealed to appear strong and confident.

But then I tried the conventional route in the beginning, not unlike the folks that protested at Eagleridge Bluffs, and where did it get us, the movement, the living things that are now gone forever? How can it be different? To save the Earth, society has to drastically be changed and powerful interests are threatened by this. They will do what it takes to maintain the status quo—undermine legitimate governments, support corrupt ones, lie, cheat, even kill those that opposed them while they continued to rape and pollute the planet. They will never submit, even as they draw their last breath of poisoned air.

What motivates you to continue on these adventures?
Writer, environmentalist, thinker, Terry Tempest Williams said, If you know wilderness in the way that you know love, you would be unwilling to let it go… Unfortunately, I know it that way—what choice do I have?

How does one become an eco-terrorist?
Quite easily. Find a place that you love like my Miriam loved Eagleridge Bluffs. Here’s how she described them to the author.

At least twice a week she looked forward to taking Ruth’s binoculars and climbing Eagleridge Bluffs where, for a few hours, she would lose herself and become one with the birds, breeze and ever-changing nature.

The summer seduced her with sweet, wild strawberries, languid reptiles basking on sun-baked rocks, outrageous sunsets and a Golden-crowned Kinglet.

The autumn offered her a myriad of brilliant colors, a sky that was ferociously blue, air that was first-day fresh, and a Red-breasted Nuthatch, characteristically climbing down a tree headfirst.
The mists of winter brought somber shades of grey, eye-watering winds, ice filled crevices and the companionship of an ever-present Raven.
Then Spring spoke of rebirth with green life sprouting from the most unlikely places, seductively fragrant breezes that caressed the chapped landscape and a cacophony of migrating birds lead by the loud trill of the Spotted Towhee.

Again and again the Bluffs would refresh her soul and rekindle her spirit.
Then learn that this place, and all the plants and animals that call it home and have for eons, are going to be totally obliterated to make way for a highway bypass. When you argue there are viable alternatives to this destruction, you’re ignored or dismissed. Finally, when all your legitimate avenues have proved futile, you discover what is really motivating the destruction of your sacred place is political payoffs—construction contracts in payment for past political contributions.

The need for revenge, for retribution, to inflict pain on those that are causing you such unnecessary anguish coalesces. An eco-terrorist is born.

Tell us about the campaign before Eagleridge Bluffs?
Here is an excerpt from the prologue to Eagleridge Bluffs. The event took place in West Virginia while the author, at the time an investigative reporter, was embedded with my team.

   The January night air was thick with an icy fog tinged yellow by neon vapor lights. On the far side of the expansive open pit mine a gigantic excavator and several monstrous trucks rested from the their labors in a compound fenced on the three sides that weren’t open to the quarry.
Beyond the guardhouse, a road traversed carved slopes leading down into blackness and finally to the pool of chemical sludge.
   This was the toxic brew, seeping from the settling ponds and leaching into the ground that was suspected of poisoning the drinking water of the residents in the valley below.
   Everything was as still as death.
   In the forest opposite the site, the darkness was so impenetrable Zaahir couldn’t identify his team members.
   “Sound off,” he whispered into the void.
   He waited. “Where’s Terra?”
   Zaahir fought to contain the rising panic.
   “I’ll find her.” It was Caelum.
   “Stay put, there’s no time.”
   “No way, I’m going back.”
   “Someone’s coming,” rasped Luna. “It’s her.”
   “Sorry,” Terra said, “I twisted my ankle.”
   There was a beep from the timer.
   “Thirty seconds,” warned Bam-Bam.
   “Can you make it back to the vehicle?” Zaahir said.
   ”I’ll help her,” Caelum said.
   “Did you locate the third security guard, Tim?”
   “Nope. Maybe he didn’t come into work.”
   “Ten, nine, eight…” Bam-Bam continued the countdown.
   Zaahir swallowed, fighting down nausea. Something wasn’t right.
   A blinding flash ripped the winter night and a ball of orange flame swallowed the giant excavator. The concussion swept over their hiding spot on the opposite side of the huge quarry like a blast of wind, the sound arriving seconds later.
   “Far out!” exclaimed one of the team.
   A huge cloud of smoke mushroomed above the destruction. Zaahir hunched down as the clatter of debris landing in the surrounding pit filled the air. But there was something else, a high, thin keening. Someone was screaming.
   Then Zaahir saw him tumbling from the cab of the excavator. The exploding diesel fuel had soaked his clothes, and flames now hungrily fed on his jacket, pants, and hair.
   “He’s on fire! He’s on fire!” Terra screamed.
   “Shut her up!” ordered Zaahir.
   The fiery figure got up and ran, which only encouraged conflagration. A human torch, he fell over the edge of the open pit mine and rolled, bumped, and finally flew down the steep embankment until he was out of sight.
   “There’s the third security guard,” Bam-Bam said, breaking the shocked silence.
   “He must have been sleeping in the cab, probably drunk or stoned,” Tim said, his voice shaky.
   The other two guards appeared, coming from the security trailer, running toward the destruction. An alarm wailed.
   “Let’s get out of here,” Zaahir said.

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