Howling in the Night, an Eerie Wonder

wolf, dancing, Wouldn’t you like to leap and spin around and over your friends and end up out of breath in a mush pile, a laughing heap of beings? That’s what wolf pups do.
The wolf is one of the animals that call to me, one of my Tla Twein. (see my earlier post on the Tla Twein)
I notice that many people love wolves. For some of my piano students, the stickers of wolves that I receive in the mail from conservation organizations are the first choice to put on a finished song.
Two conflicting ideas about wolves are prevalent. One is of the “lone wolf”, solitary, strong, but alone. The other is of the close warm ties between the members of a wolf pack.
But perhaps they’re not so conflicting. Perhaps we yearn for the comradery, the playful closeness of the pack, and yet feel like the lone wolf who is seeking a pack. On the other hand, sometimes we need the solitary alone (but not lonely) of the “lone wolf”. Sometimes we need to move away from the pull toward compliance of the pack. We need to find our own path.
But the lone wolf doesn’t stay completely alone. Sometimes in the night the lone wolf howls. If others can hear them, they respond, and the song echoes back and forth across the miles. This howling in the night is an eerie wonder – wolves singing together reaching with their songs across long distances to lone wolves and other packs (and all the other species that can hear them). Strange dissonances send thrills up our spine, bring new ideas of harmony, new possibilities.
Solitary singing is good, but when we sing in a group there is something so powerful and breathtaking that happens that I, at least, can hardly contain the joy. And when a human composer brings in the forbidden dissonance we hear in the wolf songs, I tremble with some combination of fear and delight. It’s clear, when we watch videos of wolves howling, that this power of harmony and dissonance happens for the wolves, too.
I confess, when the husky down the street howls in her yard as my dogs and I go past, I cannot restrain myself from howling back. Sometimes if she isn’t howling, I’ll give a little howl and she joins me. My little dogs don’t howl with the husky, only with the fire sirens. But when they howl, they sit up so straight, so earnest, so involved in the howl, that I know it’s a spiritual ritual, a solemn invocation of….?
What is it that the wolf as my Tla Twei is asking me to take on? Perhaps it’s the cooperative bonding of the pack for the serious business of the hunt – in my case to take on the serious problems of the world – and the restful dance of playtime ending in the physical closeness of the mush pile.
And in the night, the ritual of singing in strange harmonies, reaching joyfully to my fellow humans on the other side of the valley or the world.

In my book, The Earth Woman Tree Woman Quartet, the Tla Twein are trying to bring humans back into the sacred Dance of Life, the Tsin Twei. You can purchase print and ebook versions at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and order print versions from your local independent bookstore.
Want to explore your own Tla Twein? If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area you can attend a three hour workshop on April 28th in Oakland where we will move and sing, write and create art work in search of the reason our particular Tla Twei call us. The fee is “pay what you can”. Contact me at connie@deephum.com for more information. Put Tla Twein Workshop in the subject line.

“All Who Hate [Wisdom] Love Death.” Proverbs 8:36

I Grew Tall like a Cedar in Lebanon

When I first studied the Wisdom literature of the bible I was so caught up in the joy and delight of the second half of this passage where Lady Wisdom speaks of her role in creation that I didn’t really get how serious and important this message found in the first half is. In fact, I thought it was a bit much to say that anyone who hated wisdom loved death.

But today I understand.

Why is this message so important today? The “hatred” of wisdom is prevalent in our society. Those who don’t listen to the words of the scientists who tell us of global warming choose the death of our species and many others. Those who turn their eyes away from the lessons we learned from the Holocaust and allow our government to imprison refugees, to separate children from their parents, choose the death of refugees and of democracy in our country.  Above all, those who embrace the ugly propaganda on right wing white supremacist websites and take a gun and commit mass murder choose immediate and horrific death.

What is Wisdom?

In Proverbs she says, “Learn prudence, acquire intelligence, … take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold, for Wisdom is better than jewels.” (Proverbs 8:5-11) She speaks of “attaining knowledge,” and using “the paths of justice.”

What is the difference between wisdom and knowledge?  “Attaining knowledge” is integral to attaining wisdom.  Wisdom has to do with what you do with your knowledge.  A wise person relates what they have learned, the knowledge they have gained, to how they should live their lives.

What does it have to do with “the paths of justice?” Those who are wise understand that without true justice in our world we will never have peace.  If we don’t choose peace, we choose death. Wisdom is knowledge that leads to justice.

Today we need to acquire knowledge about our earth, understanding the danger we have put all life in. In Sirach 24:13 a beautiful soliloquy compares Wisdom to the trees of Israel.  Trees just may be the salvation of the earth, since they filter carbon dioxide from the air, storing carbon in the trees and soil, and releasing oxygen into the atmosphere.

We need to learn about the other humans in our world, understanding their cultural differences and similarities, and most of all learning to love and care for them.

This means we must understand what is happening in other parts of the world, learn about wars and oppression, floods and droughts, so that we know what our neighbors are experiencing.

And, we need to understand the consequences of our own actions, of the actions of our government and of the corporations that bring riches to a few of our fellow citizens. We need to dig into the understory, the past, if we are to understand why we have so many refugees on our southern border.

Then, above all, we must act on the knowledge we acquire with a wisdom that makes a “path to justice.”

If we do this, we will have “chosen life.”

If not, Wisdom says, “All who hate me love death.”

 *******

When taking a class on Wisdom Literature, I wrote a three part piece of music, For Wisdom is Better than Jewels based on Proverbs 8 and Sirach 24 for my class project.  Wisdom’s joy as she takes part in the creation of the world infuses itself in the music giving us the hope that will help us deal with the necessity to choose “acquiring knowledge” and the “paths of justice,” choosing Life.  For information about this music go to SheetMusicPlus.com or look at the Wisdom page on www.deephum.com

 

What is the Difference Between a Migrant Detention Center and a Nazi Concentration Camp?

Concentration Camp

Detention Center

I was reading a rather light book, American Ghost, by Hannah Nordhaus, enjoying her explorations into her family’s history as she tried to find out more about an ancestor, Julia, who was supposed to be haunting the building that had been her home and was now a  hotel.

As she delved further into Julia’s German Jewish family, some of whom had immigrated to New Mexico and some who stayed in Germany, she came upon Julia’s youngest sister, Emelie, who lived in Germany, and who was sent to a concentration camp at the age of 80+. The Nazis called the camp a “Jewish retirement ghetto,” a “holiday camp”.  Suddenly I had a much harder time reading the book as I saw the parallels for our time.

I quote: “… the town’s stern grid [the town became the camp, fenced in and guarded by soldiers], designed to house 5,000 people, held 50,000 instead.”

A month later it was 60,000.

“There was nowhere to put them.  They slept wherever they could find a spot …  Emelie could have expected to occupy about five feet of floor space… There was a desperate shortage of water, of sinks, of toilets… They were allowed to wash three kilograms of laundry every six weeks… they were covered in bites: bedbugs, fleas, lice… They were starving…” (p. 237)

When I read this I had just finished reading the New York Times exposée of the Clint detention center in Texas, “Hungry, Scared and Sick: Inside the Migrant Detention Center in Clint, Texas.” https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/07/06/us/migrants-border-patrol-clint.html

Some quotes from that article:

“Outbreaks of scabies, shingles and chickenpox were spreading among the hundreds of children and adults who were being held in cramped cells, agents said. The stench of the children’s dirty clothing was so strong it spread to the agents’ own clothing — people in town would scrunch their noses when they left work. The children cried constantly. …

…some children had no beds to sleep on, no way to clean themselves and sometimes went hungry. …

…The station was never intended to hold more than about a hundred adult men, and it was designed with the idea that migrants would be detained for only a few hours of processing before being transferred to other locations …

…The number of children in the site is thought to have peaked at more than 700 around April and May, and stood at nearly 250 two weeks ago …

…One day this month, about 20 girls were crowded into one cell, so packed that some were sprawled on the floor. Toddlers could be seen in some cells, cared for by older children…”

 And for those who think this is an exaggerated account:

“The accounts of what happened at Clint and at nearby border facilities are based on dozens of interviews by The New York Times and The El Paso Times of current and former Border Patrol agents and supervisors; lawyers, lawmakers and aides who visited the facility; and an immigrant father whose children were held there. The review also included sworn statements from those who spent time at El Paso border facilities, inspection reports and accounts from neighbors in Clint …”

 The parallels between the concentration camps of Nazi Germany and the migrant detention centers here in the U.S. are too obvious to ignore.  Will the future see you as one of those who turned their eyes away and pretended it wasn’t happening, as many did in Germany, or will you be one of the heroes who brings this to an end?

WE MUST STOP THIS NOW BEFORE IT BECOMES ANOTHER HOLOCAUST. 

The Cat

I am because I am a Cat, cat in Earth Woman Tree Woman, Connie Pwll Walck Tyler, www.deephum.comSo I’m at this workshop, and the presenter says, if you want to get people’s attention write a blog about a cat,

and I’m thinking, yeah, there’s a cat in my book (The Earth Woman Tree Woman Quartet) – a kind of magical cat – who plays a major part – sort of.

He hasn’t got a name.  He’s just “the cat”,
that deep smoky gray of the Russian Blue cat,
wise,
independent,
and …

Thump!

Startled, Giselle looked up from gathering the things on the seat beside her to see a small blue-gray cat peering at her from the hood of the car.

“Where did you…” She leaned over, pushing her hair back from her face as she peered through the windshield at the cat – who sat down, intense green eyes staring at her…
He wasn’t very old – not a baby, but not full grown either – with the same kind of impertinent stare as some of the teenagers she’d volunteered with a few years ago when she was in college.Russian Blue, Connie Pwll Walck Tyler, www.deephum.com, cat

He leaned down and licked a shoulder…
She gathered her things and opened the door quietly, trying not to startle him as she scrunched her legs out of the car seat, her arms full, her skirt twisting under her making it hard to stand.

One of her sandals fell off.
She rolled her eyes as she poked her bare toes back into the sandal while trying to avoid stepping in an oil streak.

The cat was unfazed.
Moving to the edge of the hood and giving a demanding, “Meow,” he jumped down next to her and flicked his tail stepping along beside her as she headed towards the garage entrance. 

Once outside Giselle took a deep breath of the cleaner air. Southwest winds.
No fumes from the refineries today.

The cat flicked his tail and raised his head.
An older man was leaning against the telephone pole on the other side of the garage entrance.
The cat walked over to him, rubbing against his legs.
The man crouched down and caressed the cat.

“Is this your cat?” Giselle asked.

“No,” he smiled, his brown eyes glinting in his craggy black face. “I think he’s yours.”
Then standing, he walked away, hidden behind the trunk of the big tree on the corner before Giselle could comment. A moment later Giselle and the cat were distracted by a shrill, “Kee-ee-ar,” as a large bird launched itself from the top of the tree and spiraled up and up above them. 

“Kee-ee-ar. Kee-ee-ar,” it cried before it gave one last circle and headed north.
The cat lifted onto his hind legs calling a melodic merrowl to the bird, and then turned back to Giselle.

red-tailed hawk, Earth Woman Tree Woman, Connie Pwll Walck Tyler, www.deephum.com“Was that a hawk – a Red-tailed hawk?” Giselle asked the cat – or maybe just the empty air around her.
A hawk in the city?
But where did that man go?
She turned in a circle, then shrugged her shoulders and headed down the sidewalk and up the steps to the front entrance of her building, the cat marching at her side.

A newspaper lay on the top step.
The cat stopped and looked at it, then up at her.
“Ten Story Garment Factory in Kanidu Collapses Killing Hundreds,” screamed the headline.

Giselle sighed. Last week the explosion at the refinery in Port Blas had destroyed everything for blocks around it. A list of other major industrial “accidents” passed through her thoughts, and she shook her head.

The cat flicked his tail.
It almost seemed as if the cat… Giselle laughed at herself. Of course not.
She keyed open the door.

Head and tail high, the cat stepped past her into the tiny lobby – the Visiting Dignitary.Visiting Dignitary, Connie Pwll Walck Tyler, Earth Woman Tree Woman, Cat, www.deephum.com
Giselle rolled her eyes and fumbled with her keys, listening to the dogs whimpering excitedly on the other side of her apartment door.

The cat marched up to the door and sat.

Putting her things down on the floor, she reached for him.

He side-stepped away meowing loudly.
The doggy whimpering stopped abruptly and Giselle opened the door a crack.

The cat stuck its nose in and pushed it wider, strolling in past the two sitting, tail thumping dogs, and the potted ferns that lined the entrance way. The dogs trailed the cat as he surveyed the apartment, sticking his nose into the ferns, batting the strands of spider plant that swept downward from hanging pots in the windows, peeking into the bedroom and tiny kitchen, and finally settling in for a wash on the old trunk Giselle used as a coffee table.

Laughing and shaking her head, Giselle dumped her things on the old oak table in the dining alcove, greeted the dogs, kicked off her sandals, and settled too, sitting on the couch with her feet up on the trunk next to the cat –

who flicked his tail, then curved it gently around a small wooden statue that sat in the place of honor on the trunk– a woman who seemed to be emerging from a tree, with one foot stepping out into the world.

Giselle took the statue in her hands. The wood was so warm and smooth, her face so serene and calming, and there was something so promising about the foot stepping out.

She smiled at the cat whose tail flicked slowly back and forth, back and forth.

The plants became a smoky green aura pushing everything else into the background and she closed her eyes, listening sleepily to the swish and thump of the dog tails. That deep dark thinking space inside her head seemed to open out. It felt like something was there… touching her. Something beyond…

A fragment of a melody slipped through her mind and then a deep voice whispered,

Breath.
Whispering breath…

Her eyes popped open. “Where did that come from?”
The cat licked a paw and then turned his head to look at her.Messenger, Connie Pwll Walck Tyler, Earth Woman Tree Woman, www.deephum.com
She closed her eyes again.

Breath,
murmuring in the wind-whipped grasses.

She cracked her eyes open just enough to peer at the cat,
but he just flicked his tail,
back and forth,
back and forth…

******

Want to read more about “the cat”, and Giselle’s journey to the Tsin Twei, the Dance of Life, and maybe about that redtailed hawk?

You can order print versions from Powell’s Books or your local independent bookstore, or purchase print and ebook versions at Amazon and Barnes and Noble
Quartet EbookCover

The Police and the Dance of Life

police, safety, protest, black lives matter, dance of life, Earth Woman Tree Woman, Deep Hum

Part Three of The Police Controversy:

This is my third post on the role of police in our towns and cities, states and nation.

In the first post, The Police Controversy, I laid out the problem and a little of the discourse around policing.

In the second, Police Officers or Peace Keepers, I presented some of my ideas of how to practically make the changes I think we need. 

In this post I’m going to give you a passage from my book The Earth Woman Tree Woman Quartet where the main character addresses the police lining the street at a protest march.

The Earth Woman Tree Woman Quartet is a metaphysical fantasy. The main quest is to bring homo sapiens back into the Tsin Twei, the dance of life, where all species come together to create the grand compromise that keeps life going on Earth. The characters can shape change into their Tla Twein, mythological animals or characters who represent the strengths the characters wish to acquire.

In this passage the main character, Giselle, becomes her Tla Twei, the Earth Woman Tree Woman:

Police lined the streets, protecting the skyscrapers that loomed above them, helmets on their heads with opaque plastic covering their faces, and plastic body shields held in front of them.

As they reached the starting point, … Monica and Rod made their way over to Giselle. “I don’t like the looks of the police,” muttered Rod.

Giselle turned around in a circle. “They look like robots. They’re dressed so they don’t look human.”

She turned to Rod. “But they are human. We need to remember they’re human, and we need them, just like we need everyone else if we’re to regain our grandsoul – if we’re to become a part of the Tsin Twei.”

She walked over in front of a line of officers, staring at the smoky gray of their helmets, and couldn’t tell if they were looking at her or not.

She smiled as her feet bored deep below the asphalt, reaching into the water and nutrients hidden below. Her arms stretched up, branching, moving higher and higher above the police, above the crowd. The cat, crouching on a thick branch, stared at them and the dogs sat at the base of her trunk.

With a rustling of leaves and a creaking of limbs, she spoke. “You are one of us.”
Her voice cut like a knife through the sounds of the crowd; her branches danced above their heads. The police line faltered a little, and then held still.

She continued, her words resounding off the walls of the skyscrapers that edged the street. “I know you’re afraid for your jobs. I know you believe you’re privileged – a part of the corporate strong men, rather than one of us. But they will sacrifice you, and your families, just as quickly as they sacrifice us, the poor, and the quality of the air and the water.”

She turned swinging her branches down the line of officers. “Your families will not be spared the cancers that come from pollution, or the illnesses that come from poorly inspected food.”

Some of the officers began to shift their feet restlessly.

“When global warming pushes more and more people toward famine and homelessness, your families will also face famine and homelessness.”

She looked at the crowd as her words bounced back and forth in the urban canyon, and then back to the police. “You hide behind these plastic masks trying not to look human, not to look like people who love, and hurt, and care about this world. But I know otherwise. I know that you are people of love, just as we are. You’re one of us.”

The crowd took up the phrase and repeated it over, and over again. “You’re people of love. You’re one of us. You are one of us!”

The Tree Woman took a deep breath. “If you haven’t the courage to take off your masks, lay down your shields, and join us, at least refrain from hurting us,” and she grew taller and taller as she spoke.

“When the orders come to shoot us, or beat us, don’t. Just don’t follow those orders.”
“Don’t follow those orders,” echoed the crowd. “Don’t follow those orders.”

The Earth Woman Tree Woman began to sing:
Remember, we are your family,
Your family!
We are you, and you are us.

The song echoed off the buildings, climbing higher and higher into the sky, reaching even the helicopters that hovered high above.
We are you, and you are us.
We are you, and you are us.

Amen, sang Ayoabia*, her voice deep and resonant. So be it, amen.

This we need to remember as we talk about the role of the police, or of anyone in the conflicts we face today.

All people, police, politicians, CEO’s, are humans. If we are to survive, we must win them to the cause of compassion – we must find ways to show them that we are human, that all people are human regardless of color or ethnicity, regardless of religion, of able-bodiedness, of IQ, of sexual orientation. This means educating “them” until they all are “us,” – until they all understand the need for the power of love in our world.

*We will see more of Ayoabia, who has become my favorite character, in later posts.

 

Helpful references:

https://www.thebalancecareers.com/law-enforcement-changing-role-974558  https://amp.burlingtonfreepress.com/amp/1668183002?__twitter_impression=true

Black kids get harsher sentences:

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/black-boys-discrimination-teenagers-children-white-racial-bias-prison-a8466606.html
https://blackamericaweb.com/2018/06/01/black-teenager-sentenced-to-5-years-in-prison-over-sneakers/ *https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/17/opinion/sunday/unequal-sentences-for-blacks-and-whites.html

The original meaning of the word “police” was “policy.”  How did it move from “policy” to meaning “the regulation and control of a community”?  https://www.etymonline.com/word/police

https://www.berkeleyside.com/2018/12/20/as-staffing-crisis-continues-for-berkeley-police-officers-who-left-reveal-why?utm_source=Berkeleyside+master+list&utm_campaign=73506c7899-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_BRIEFING&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_aad4b5ee64-73506c7899-323108229&goal=0_aad4b5ee64-73506c7899-323108229

In my novel, The Earth Woman Tree Woman Quartet, there is a world wide protest movement.  At one of the marches the Earth Woman Tree Woman challenges the police to become a part of the movement.  In this mystical fantasy, humans are trying to rejoin the Tsin Twei, the dance of life, where all the species on earth (except one…) dance together in order to have a compassionate understanding of all their needs.

You can order print versions from Powell’s Books or your local independent bookstore, or purchase print and ebook versions at Amazon and Barnes and Noble
Quartet EbookCover

The Policing Controversy, Part Two

Police Officers or Peace Keepers?

 Police violence against child

In my last post, (http://deephum.com/the-policing-controversy/), I said:

The police have often (not always) become an “occupying” force for some elements of our population bringing harsh consequences for minor misbehavior while protecting not only the lives and property of the upper and middle classes, but shielding them from facing the consequences of illegal activity – especially in the case of their children.  (See below for documentation.) And of course, there is the problem many of us have with the increase of military type equipment in our police departments.

What should the role of the police be?

First, maybe we need to stop calling them “police officers.” I think what we call ourselves makes a difference in how we behave. They are sometimes referred to as “peace officers”, a term first used in 1649.  If they see themselves as spreading peace, rather than as catching villains, they might not be as ready to see others as villains.

And maybe we shouldn’t use the word “officers” which has a military edge to it. According to Wikipedia, “An officer is a person who has a position of authority in a hierarchical organization.” We’re supposed to be a democracy, not a “hierarchy”.

How about “peace keepers”?

Newark Police Department detective Michelle Cote, left, lets 4-year-old Kevin Maresca wear her cap during a visit to Ironbound Community Corp Preschool, Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014, in East Rutherford, N.J. Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind Sesame Street, has partnered with PSEG to develop "Let's Get Ready: Planning Together for Emergencies" and "Here For Each Other: Helping Families After Emergencies" emergency preparedness and response initiatives in English and Spanish. These apps will help families talk with their children about preparing and dealing with emergencies. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Second, we must insist that our “peace keepers” have training in non-violent approaches to people with special needs.  Far too many people with special needs have been killed by police when there was no need.

Third, we must educate our “peace keepers” in the cultures of people from all the different ethnicities that make up our communities.  Yes, ethnic studies.

And fourth, let’s make their uniforms less intimidating and more friendly.  During the 1960’s when I attended my first protest march in Berkeley, the Berkeley police wore khaki uniforms.  They lined the march, but seemed friendly and protective.  We got to the Oakland border and the police were wearing black uniforms and swinging bully clubs.  To me, at 22 years old, they were very frightening.  If the police are working for us, they should not appear frightening to us.

We spend lots of time teaching our police how to shoot a gun, how to physically restrain people, ramping up their adrenal reactions to situations, and very little time training them how to approach a situation slowly and calmly, how to read the body language of people with a different cultural background than their own, and yes, how to take the “flight” reaction rather than the “fight” one when faced with “flight or fight” situations.  Simply moving to a protected place from which to negotiate with someone who is out of control rather than shooting them seems much more logical to me.

Our jails are full of people with mental illness. Why are they there instead of in institutions designed to help them? Our jails are full of very young men who behaved stupidly, as teenagers of all races and ethnicities are apt to do.

Interesting that black and brown boys are in jail, and the white ones released to their parents. The police are the first in line to effect this, often taking kids down to the station and calling their parents. Judges, of course, are second in line here giving probation or community service to white boys and jail to black kids.  (See corroborating articles listed below.)

Who wants to be a police officer?  It would be interesting to interview various officers to find what drew them to policing? There are many good officers out there. Why did they join?

We also know that there are many who join because they want the power and the gun. These folks need to be weeded out. Our “peace keepers” need to cease being a symbol of authoritarian power and start being a symbol of someone who can help – for all peoples, not just the wealthy and the white.

Please feel free to add your suggestions on policing in the comments or on my posting of this article on Facebook or Twitter.  My next post will continue the discussion.

Helpful references:

https://www.thebalancecareers.com/law-enforcement-changing-role-974558  https://amp.burlingtonfreepress.com/amp/1668183002?__twitter_impression=true

Black kids get harsher sentences:

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/black-boys-discrimination-teenagers-children-white-racial-bias-prison-a8466606.html
https://blackamericaweb.com/2018/06/01/black-teenager-sentenced-to-5-years-in-prison-over-sneakers/ *https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/17/opinion/sunday/unequal-sentences-for-blacks-and-whites.html

The original meaning of the word “police” was “policy.”  How did it move from “policy” to meaning “the regulation and control of a community”?  https://www.etymonline.com/word/police

https://www.berkeleyside.com/2018/12/20/as-staffing-crisis-continues-for-berkeley-police-officers-who-left-reveal-why?utm_source=Berkeleyside+master+list&utm_campaign=73506c7899-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_BRIEFING&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_aad4b5ee64-73506c7899-323108229&goal=0_aad4b5ee64-73506c7899-323108229

In my novel, The Earth Woman Tree Woman Quartet, there is a world wide protest movement.  At one of the marches the Earth Woman Tree Woman challenges the police to become a part of the movement.  In this mystical fantasy, humans are trying to rejoin the Tsin Twei, the dance of life, where all the species on earth (except one…) dance together in order to have a compassionate understanding of all their needs.

You can order print versions from Powell’s Books or your local independent bookstore, or purchase print and ebook versions at Amazon and Barnes and Noble
Quartet EbookCover

The Policing Controversy

(Important to know as you read this: I am an older white woman of privilege, born in 1943, so these early memories of police encounters come from the nineteen- forties.)

One of my earliest memories – I must have been three or four years old – is of following the wrong coat out of a department store in a town twenty or so miles away from my home town. I had been playing under the dresses on a rack of clothes my mother was looking at. I saw the hem of her coat move away from the rack and followed it out the door of the store. When the woman in the coat turned around and looked at me, I realized she was not my mother.

She gave me a strange look and walked away.

I don’t remember what happened next, I just know that the next memory is of being in a police station – it was a small round building, I think, and white – and sitting inside with the nice policemen eating an ice cream cone waiting for my mother to come pick me up.

In later years my mother and I talked about this event, but I don’t remember being aware of the sheer terror my mother must have felt – that I certainly would have felt – when she looked under the rack of clothes and I wasn’t there. The only moment of terror I remember was when I looked at the woman’s face and she wasn’t my mama and she wasn’t smiling.

I do remember feeling happy with the policemen at the police station.

I know in the neighborhood where I grew up, the role of the police was to make sure the “wrong” people didn’t come into our neighborhood. My father worked for a publishing house. I must have been around eight one night when an author who was coming to our house for dinner was picked up by the police as he walked to our house from the train station. They were polite to him. Asked him where he was headed and gave him a ride to our house, coming to the door with him.

“Why did they do that,” I asked my father, feeling uncomfortable about the whole thing.

“They were just making sure that he really belonged here,” he assured me. The author was a white Englishman who lived in India. I remember that his clothes didn’t look quite the same as an American businessman which probably drew the attention of the police. He wasn’t wearing the uniform of the privileged men of our neighborhood.

Imagine if he’d been black.

Today I live in a traditionally black neighborhood  in Berkeley, CA that is being gentrified.

On my neighborhood elist there has been a lot of discussion about “police.” Many are concerned because people are not applying for police jobs in our community (and apparently in many, many other places) and our police department is understaffed. Some people attribute this to Black Lives Matter and the restrictions placed on police. (Actually, the restrictions have been there. What is different is the call for enforcement of those restrictions.)

Some don’t think that more policing is the answer. Some don’t want any police at all.

There hasn’t been a lot of discussion on my neighborhood elist about the role of police.

Historical research shows police have traditionally been about protecting the rich. In the south policing came about from the slave patrols who chased down runaway slaves. In England the first police were “marine police” who were protecting the cargoes of ship owners. (https://plsonline.eku.edu/insidelook/history-policing-united-states-part-1)

In his article, Guardians or Warriors? The Changing Role of Law Enforcement, Timothy Roufa says:

When the concept of a uniformed police force was first championed by Sir Robert Peel in London in the early 1800s, he was met with much resistance due to fears of what would essentially be a standing army within the city; comparisons were made to police as a government-sanctioned occupying force. The problem of how to enforce laws while preserving rights is not at all new. (https://www.thebalancecareers.com/law-enforcement-changing-role-974558)

It’s clear to me that this has become a real problem. The police have often (certainly not always) become an “occupying” force for some elements of our population bringing harsh consequences for minor misbehavior while protecting not only the lives and property of the upper and middle classes, but shielding them from facing the consequences of illegal activity – especially in the case of their children.  (See below for documentation.) And of course, there is the problem many of us have with the increase of military type equipment in our police departments.

What should the role of police officers be?

I will continue this discussion in my next posts. Please send me your suggestions and ideas through the comments section or on my facebook or twitter link to this post.

Helpful references:

https://www.thebalancecareers.com/law-enforcement-changing-role-974558
https://amp.burlingtonfreepress.com/amp/1668183002?__twitter_impression=true

Black kids get harsher sentences:

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/black-boys-discrimination-teenagers-children-white-racial-bias-prison-a8466606.html
https://blackamericaweb.com/2018/06/01/black-teenager-sentenced-to-5-years-in-prison-over-sneakers/*https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/17/opinion/sunday/unequal-sentences-for-blacks-and-whites.html

The original meaning of the word “police” was “policy.”  How did it move from “policy” to meaning “the regulation and control of a community”?  https://www.etymonline.com/word/police

https://www.berkeleyside.com/2018/12/20/as-staffing-crisis-continues-for-berkeley-police-officers-who-left-reveal-why?utm_source=Berkeleyside+master+list&utm_campaign=73506c7899-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_BRIEFING&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_aad4b5ee64-73506c7899-323108229&goal=0_aad4b5ee64-73506c7899-323108229

In my novel, The Earth Woman Tree Woman Quartet, there is a world wide protest movement.  At one of the marches the Earth Woman Tree Woman challenges the police to become a part of the movement.  In this mystical fantasy, humans are trying to rejoin the Tsin Twei, the dance of life, where all the species on earth (except one…) dance together in order to have a compassionate understanding of all their needs.

You can order print versions from Powell’s Books or your local independent bookstore, or purchase print and ebook versions at Amazon and Barnes and Noble
Quartet EbookCover

 

Finding the Deep Hum

Berkeley Mural

Berkeley Mural

 

When I was nine years old, a friend and I took scarves and “holy” objects down into the nearby woods to make a little altar on top of a rock canopied by the oldest oak tree in the woods. We called it “The Little Chapel in the Woods.”

In my first book, published in 2008, (Dancing the Deep Hum, One Woman’s Ideas About How to Live in a Dancing Singing Universe) I wrote, “… we felt something – a vibration, a hum – something still and so deep in pitch you couldn’t hear it.  Shintoism talks about the Kami, the ‘spirit [or god] of that place’, when talking about places that feel sacred.  We were children.  Adults thought we were playing, but deep, deep inside ourselves we were very serious.” (p. 7)

I learned about the “Kami” in a class on Religions of Southeast Asia and was very taken by the idea, but I now realize that the word “Kami” is really untranslatable, it’s meaning not quite the same as “the god or spirit of that place,” so rather than speaking of something I don’t fully understand, I will refer to this feeling as “places that hum.”

So often the places we seek for spiritual renewal – places where we feel the hum – are in the woods, in “nature.” We leave our urban homes to go seek these spiritual places.

But we humans are also a part of nature. Where we are can also be “places that hum.”

Perhaps it’s at coffee shops humming both with human interaction and people working quietly side by side. When I saw a group writing postcards to people in another state to urge them to vote, I could feel the hum. When I work on my writing, cocooned at my own table side by side with someone at the next table working on their doctoral thesis, we hum together, separately.

I feel it in the murals on the building walls, all over the City of Berkeley – murals often created by a local artist and a group of children.  mural makers

And at art shows, musical performances, and when moving together with others at InterPlayce.

Protest marches? Yes.

How about when you stop and look right at a homeless person and ask them how they are and they reply, “I be blessed,” and suddenly you feel connected to the whole universe.

Often the hum sounds in delighted laughter, like when the fire engines go off and all the dogs in the neighborhood howl together, or when you pass a school yard and hear all the young voices shouting and laughing, see the children running and leaping.

How about on Facebook as we all weep together over another mass murder. Is there not a fierce and righteous “hum” found in the community we form even in virtual space?

Alison Luterman tells of walking in her neighborhood after the horrendous shootings at Tree of Life Synagogue:

I have felt deeply comforted today just walking around my neighborhood saying hi to people and being polite and kind and experiencing other people’s – “stranger’s ” – politeness and kindness to me. Moving over on the bike path. Saying excuse me, or thank you, good morning or good afternoon or, in my neighborhood, buenos dias or buenos tardes or just hola. Smiling at beautiful little kids and their parents. Smiling at old people, and people walking dogs. Noticing that the vast majority of us want to be in good relationship with each other. That’s the real news. (https://www.alisonluterman.net/)

A neighborhood of people that “hum”.

As I write this I realize that the places in the city that hum for me are places where there are many people present – even if I’m standing alone in front of a mural, the many creators of that mural are present, and the people or creatures in that mural are present.

It’s a kind of “hive”ness, a group hum, like bees.  A connectedness.  In InterPlay (www.interplay.org) there is a form called “side by side.”  Sometimes it’s danced, sometimes it’s storytelling.  In both cases the individuals are doing their own thing, but because they are doing it together (but separately), because they are aware of each other even though they are not interacting, there is something that feels connected to the rest of the world, the universe. Something that “hums”.  Something that is the “spirit of that place.”

We must keep ourselves open to that hum, we must “arise” out of our self-centeredness and our despair and join the “hum”, the “Dance of Life.” (Arise, join the dance of life.)

 

In my novel, The Earth Woman Tree Woman Quartet, humans have lost the ability to join the Dance of Life, the Tsin Twei.  Perhaps this is akin to losing the ability to hear the “hum.” The protagonists, who have shape shifted to the form of one of their Tla Twein (see former post “Exploring Our Tla Twein”), are trying to bring humans back into the Tsin Twei.

You can order print versions from Powell’s Books or your local independent bookstore, or purchase print and ebook versions at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.


Quartet EbookCover

 

Some thoughts on Kelsey Blackwell’s post on A Marvelous Crumb

Some thoughts on Kelsey Blackwell’s post on A Marvelous Crumb, “Why People of Color Need Spaces Without White People”:

racisim handsRacism permeated our childhood,
A muddy stream constant through our lives,
Crying out to our innocence with its painfulness
Interfering with our friendships
Seen clearly in our child-eyes
as the wrong it was

Murdering the purity of our souls.
        by Connie Pwll Walck Tyler, December 1985

Kelsey Blackwell says, “People of color need their own spaces. Black people need their own spaces. We need places in which we can gather and be free from the mainstream stereotypes and marginalization that permeate every other societal space we occupy. We need spaces where we can be our authentic selves without white people’s judgment and insecurity muzzling that expression. We need spaces where we can simply be—where we can get off the treadmill of making white people comfortable and finally realize just how tired we are.”

She has faced criticism for saying this, even being accused of being a “racist” herself.

The first thing I felt when I read Kelsey’s article was sadness. A deep well of sadness – not hurt. I understand why Kelsey feels unsafe around white people. Racism is so embedded in our white culture that when we open our mouths and something comes popping out, we often can’t even see how racist it is. Why wouldn’t a person of color feel unsafe when, at any moment, something hurtful might pop out of the mouth of the white person next to them? Why wouldn’t they want some places in their lives where they don’t have to worry about being a person of color in a racist society?

We all of us have been in situations where someone says something general that zings like an arrow right into our most tender spot. Imagine this happening ten times, fifty times – I don’t know how many more times as much.

So, yes, I understand why Kelsey might feel the need for some “spaces without white people.” But when I read Kelsey’s article I was sad – not for Kelsey, but for me.

Years ago I wrote in my book Dancing the Deep Hum: “[Racist] things will pop into our minds, sometimes almost like another voice in our head – something I find astounding. Where did that come from? I think.”

I wrote that in 2007. I thought I knew a lot about the racism embedded in me. I thought I would always recognize it when it emerged into my consciousness. Now, eleven years later I know so much more about racism – and I know that there are racist concepts I still don’t see.

It’s hard knowing that I only recognize some racist things as racist. How much more is there for me to learn? Will I learn it all in my lifetime or will I die with my subconscious mind still enslaved by my racist culture?

Last year I had one of those momentary flashes of deep understanding. I was attending a White Awareness class in which all the people were white – by design. Not a bad thing but an attempt to keep people of color from being hurt by hearing again about the racism in our culture.

One Sunday, right before the class meeting, I went to a special event to memorialize the internment of the Japanese during World War II. The group was amazingly diverse. There were, of course, people of Japanese descent and European descent, but also Latinos and black people, and … who knows? There were children and elders, and people with different abilities. It was an InterPlay event so we danced, we sang, and we listened to the experiences of people who had been interned.

I felt so happy – sad and angry at what had happened to the Japanese, but happy to be in this group – and safe. I wanted to be there with those people forever.

As I drove to my White Awareness class I felt angry that I had to leave. I thought, “I don’t want to ever be in a room with only white people again.”

Most of my life I have been uncomfortable – really have felt unsafe – in groups of people. Most of my life the groups I’ve been in have been all white or white dominated. I’ve never felt like I fit into the white middle class culture I grew up in. I’ve always felt different. I wasn’t interested in the same things – clothes, make up, even the boys I had a crush on made my girl friends laugh and look at me strangely. I felt like I wasn’t “like” them.

I think a lot of people feel this way. Maybe we are individuated beings who are also part of a greater whole — the universe? or … And perhaps the very thing that makes us see ourselves as separate beings – is what also makes us feel lonely and like we are different from everyone else.

But white people might also consider the idea that by separating ourselves off as the dominant culture – the white culture – an elitist group – we are setting ourselves up to include only those who are like us in other ways so that the group divides again and again with one group “better” than the next one. Sororities and fraternities, exclusive clubs etc., or just an informal group that nevertheless includes and excludes others. And each time we do this the group becomes more homogeneous and more critical of those who are different, and therefore less safe.

Research has told us that this homogeneity is bad for us. The more diversity in a group, the more new, creative ways of looking at problems emerge. If we celebrate our diversity, welcome it, delight in our differences, we will feel safer – and as a bonus, we will be more creative, productive, and exciting.

But until our culture really embraces diversity, until there is no longer one dominant group with power over the rest, there will be a need for the “outcast” groups to find ‘space’, as Kelsey says, without members of the dominant culture – space where they can breathe freely and without fear of some hidden racist, ableist, misogynist, homophobic, etc. words popping out of someone’s mouth.

Read Kelsey’s blog post: http://themarvelouscrumb.com/people-color-need-spaces-without-white-people/#more-1016
Listen to Ade Anifowose interview Kelsey about her blog post: https://www.audioacrobat.com/email/EjtxSgHq5

In my book, The Earth Woman Tree Woman Quartet, the protagonists, who have shape shifted to the form of one of their Tla Twein (see former post “Exploring Our Tla Twein”), are trying to bring humans back into the sacred Dance of Life, the Tsin Twei.  The Tsin Twei is in danger from many directions, but they all lead back to one place — corporate malfeasance.

You can order print versions from Powell’s Books or your local independent bookstore, or purchase print and ebook versions at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

What part of the web will you weave?

spider-web-with-water-beads-network-dewdropJune 20, 2018

One of the comments on my last blog post, I Just Figured It Out, (talking about Disaster Capitalism) was “What do we do?” reflecting that feeling of despair we all face when contending with an unimaginable power way beyond our own.

It’s hard to think about what we can do. We want some one answer, a big one, that will stop all of the horror immediately. (As I’ve said before, I wouldn’t mind a few lightning bolts from heaven….), but we all know a higher power is not going to send down fire to stop the greedy.

At the time of the Vietnam War protests I was a draft counselor. With a lot of help from a lawyer, I informed young men (women weren’t drafted) of their rights under the law. If they wanted to be conscientious objectors, I listened and asked questions so they could figure out what they wanted to say. I also told them about the option to be Resisters, to refuse to follow the draft law, but some of the people in the Resistance groups were upset at me. They thought everyone should be Resisters, everyone should be ready to go to jail or Canada.

But not everyone was ready. What we needed was a billion different approaches to opposing the war. We needed the legal draft counseling and the Resistance. We needed the peaceful marches and the invasions of draft boards by priests, nuns, and lay members of the Catholic Workers who burned all the records of those with the rating A1 who were scheduled to be drafted. We needed letters and calls to congress members. We needed boycotts, sit ins. We needed all of it to finally get the war ended.

So much more do we need a billion approaches to end Disaster Capitalism and all the horrible things it brings all over the world. Choose a place. Choose an organization. Choose a cause you believe in and put your heart into it.

But, we also need to tell the truth. Don’t be afraid to tell it because you know there are people out there who will pooh-pooh you, who won’t believe, who will think you’re just some mixed up radical. I understand this fear because I have not told people about disaster capitalism so many times. But I know now I need to write about it and point out its relationship to whatever evil people are worrying about. To find out the relationship, just follow the money:

War? Sales of military equipment, acquisition of land, oil, resources, etc. Accumulation of money and power.

Global Warming? The chance to move in on devastated communities, privatize at great profit, acquire land, etc. Accumulation of money and power.

Racism? They’d like to return to slavery, and through unequal prosecution of laws, etc., are incarcerating more people than any other country in the world. See The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. Also pitting groups against each other keeps people from uniting and standing up to the powerful together. More Accumulation of Money and Power. (Let’s call it AMP)

Immigration? Private prisons are raking in the money and now for the children, private “child care”. AMP

Unequal wages for women, child labor, minimum wage? Profits and AMP.

Pharmaceutical misuse? Profits and….

Education? Privatization with great profits to the privatizers. Isolation of children with needs and no money to provide for their needs because capitalists believe in survival of the fittest and don’t want to spend any of their accumulated wealth on making life better for those with special needs.

Cancer? The lack of regulation of polluters means more money for the CEO’s of the companies (not their workers, of course) and again – survival of the fittest means we don’t care about the sick (and yes, for their own families, they have the financial means to avoid the pollution, pay for health care, etc.)

Health care costs? Big profits for the insurance companies… and see above.

Factory farms? When I received a small inheritance from my mother and went to an investment advisor for “socially responsible investing”, I was given a long list of concerns I did not want my investments to support – like racism, women’s equal pay, etc. I checked almost all of them but couldn’t find anything about animal rights.

The advisor’s eyebrows shot up. It was not a cool leftist thing to be concerned about. I heard it referred to recently as a “boutique” protest. But Factory farms are also part of the disaster capitalism problem. Not only from the point of view of the poor animals who are kept in horrendous conditions, but for those of you who eat them. Accumulation of Money and Power.

We share our planet with many different other species. We do not own them. We are not of greater worth to the earth than they are. Disaster capitalism would say they are not of worth to the “fittest” of the humans, so why worry about them. Destroy their habitat to extract oil and minerals. (Maybe set up special parks and wildlife preserves or places you can hunt them and mount their heads on your walls for the very rich, but only if there’s no profit to be made by exploiting the land ….)

I wonder if there’s a worthy cause out there that does not have some link back to Disaster Capitalism? If we choose to work on a cause that is close to our own hearts – and understand how Disaster Capitalism is an underlying problem for this cause – working together we can create a web of consciousness to catch the greed before it destroys us all.

What part of the web will you weave?

 

In my book, The Earth Woman Tree Woman Quartet, the protagonists, who have shape shifted to the form of one of their Tla Twein (see former post “Exploring Our Tla Twein”), are trying to bring humans back into the sacred Dance of Life, the Tsin Twei.  The Tsin Twei is in danger from many directions, but they all lead back to one place — corporate malfeasance.

You can order print versions from Powell’s Books or your local independent bookstore, or purchase print and ebook versions at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Want to explore your own Tla Twein? In the fall I will be presenting a workshop in Oakland, CA where we will move and sing, write and create art work in search of the reason our particular Tla Twein call us. Contact me at connie@deephum.com for more information.  Put “Tla Twein Workshop” in the subject line.