On attending an Art Response to Japanese Internment:

cranes on branch
The dancing, the poems carried the message,
Viscerally.
In our muscles, our bones.

Words,
letters from the interned.
A connection –
tenuous but important
to those left behind.

A thousand tiny red origami cranes
moving with the hands of the dancers,
forming shapes,
a heart.

The presence of people
black, brown, white
so warm and right.
All one
together.

Japanese Internment.
Immigrant Detention.
Incarceration of minor drug offenders.
Genocide of Jews, of Armenians,
Indigenous Peoples,
Africans on slave ships.
Apartheid.
Segregation.

The pain of separation
one group from the rest
is a ripping pain,
ripping
our Selves
apart.
No longer whole.

For the oppressed side
immediate,
horrendous
pain,
their very lives threatened.

The oppressors
hide,
numb themselves
to the pain
eating them
from the inside out,
killing them, too,
soul dead.

We cannot be whole without all of us present.
When I left the Art Response I carried with me a desire to never again be in a gathering without everyone there, every race, religion, culture, age, gender.

All the living and non-living things in the Universe are One Being emerging from one singularity. All pain belongs to all of us. When we hide ourselves from the ugliness of the pain we have caused, deny the pain, it becomes a disease eating us from the inside.

We are oblivious to it and it will destroy us all.

Never again.  Never again.  NEVER AGAIN!

 

Our US Version of Hunger Games

From Allan Kehler’s blog at the website http://www.outfromtheshadows.ca/unity/:

From Allan Kehler’s blog  post, Unity, at the website http://www.outfromtheshadows.ca/unity/

I’ve just finished reading the first book of The Hunger Games series.  I’ve seen the movie, but as a novelist realize I really need to read this series and some others that are supposedly young adult novels (they appeal to me and I’m far from a “young” adult).

This dystopian novel is about a United States taken over by corporate greed. The powers-that-be (referred to as the “Capital”) control the outer Districts by setting up a competition to the death between two children of each district, chosen by lottery, in a wild terrain called the arena.  The competition is called the “Hunger Games.”

I thought about what the “Hunger Games” did to keep the “Capital” in power.  By setting up the competition between the Districts they not only terrorize the Districts, but they divide them – turning them against each other.

Except for the blatant violence, Roman circus atmosphere of the Hunger Games, this is not too different from what is happening in this country today.  Using racism as the tool, the one percent is tearing apart any unity the rest of us might have by setting us against each other.  Trump, of course, is having a lot of fun playing into this.

“It must be those immigrants that are stealing our jobs,” — not the corporations that have sent the jobs overseas, or who are hoarding their money in tax havens so that they don’t have to pay their fair share of taxes.

“Those Muslims are terrorists and out to kill us,” — despite the fact that far more Muslims are being killed than people of any other religion by the violent extremists in the Middle East.  Extremists who are armed to the teeth with weapons sold by American corporations and those from other wealthy countries.  (I wonder just what the weapons industry has to do with this promotion of endless war?)

“That black man walking down the street must be casing my house because we know all black men are criminals.  Look how many are in jail,” – even though we know that the war on drugs was used as a way to imprison black men, destroy families, giving them huge sentences despite the nonviolence of their crimes which then made it very difficult for them to get jobs. This and so much more had the intent to dampen the success of the civil rights movement.

I’m hoping, as I start on the second and third novels of The Hunger Games series, to find that the “districts” find a way to unite against the corporate interests.  I’m hoping, too, that we will stop this racist nonsense here in our real world and begin to pull together for the good of all humanity and the earth.

This is the story that goes with the picture above (from http://www.outfromtheshadows.ca/unity/):

At the Festival of Peace in Brazil, journalist and philosopher, Lia Diskin, shared the story about an anthropologist who was studying the habits and customs of an African tribe referred to as ‘Ubuntu’. The anthropologist asked some children from this tribe to participate in a game. He placed a basket full of candy at the base of a nearby tree, and told the children that whoever got to the basket first was the recipient of all the candy.

After organizing the children behind a line that he had drawn on the ground, the anthropologist announced ‘Go!’ To his surprise, he observed all of the children join hands and run together towards the prize. One they reached the candy they all sat down together to enjoy their winnings.

The anthropologist was intrigued and asked them why they had run together when one could have had all the treats. One of the children responded by saying, “How can one of us be happy if all the other ones are sad?”

Yes.  How can any of us be happy when so many of us are sad, hungry, discriminated against, warred upon, dying, being pushed out of our homes…

Thug

Thug

What do we mean when we call someone a thug? If you google it, you find the meaning of this word is all over the place these days.

The urban dictionary says:

As Tupac defined it, a thug is someone who is going through struggles, has gone through struggles, and continues to live day by day with nothing for them. That person is a thug and the life they are living is the thug life. A thug is NOT a gangster. Look up gangster and gangsta. Not even CLOSE, my friend.

“That boy ain’t a gangsta, fo’sho’. Look at how he walks, he’s a thug… That’s the saddest face I’ve seen in all my life as a teen.”

Historically the word “thug” has been used to mean people who gang up and beat up others.  It originates in India – a group of robbers who attacked people, beating them up and killing them in the name of Kali, the defeater of demons. Did these people think the people they attacked were demons or is this just another of the many examples of people taking the name of some god or goddess or religion and twisting it to suit their own personal needs? (I’m tempted to segue into research about these original “thugs”, but I’ll refrain and bring the discussion back to today!)

Until recently I associated this term with fascism.  The historically earliest use of the term that I remember reading about was when “thugs” hired by companies attacked labor organizers.  In some historical accounts the Pinkertons and other hired militias were referred to as “thugs”.

Before World War II there were “fascist thugs” who attacked labor organizers, Jews, and others in Italy and in Germany.

Even today the words “anti-union thug” can be found in articles on the internet although they are talking about a metaphoric “beating”, rather than a physical one.

But mostly today I see the word used by white people on elists and comment sections as a code word for “black or brown man” (sometimes women, too).  I guess these people think they can claim not to be racist because they never identified the people they’re talking about as black or brown – even though it’s clear to everyone.

I do understand what Tupac was talking about in the quote above. I see young black men in my neighborhood looking lost. I had a conversation with a young black man in a class I was taking who said a third of his high school classmates were dead. Where are these young men to find grounding when we both haven’t prepared them for adult life in our society, and even when they are prepared, there are no jobs for them – where those hiring take one look at them and turn them down because they’re black.

But I have a hard time referring to these young men as “thugs”, even using Tupac’s definition.  I want us to stop using this word and start seeing each person in front of us as a complex human being whose life might be awash with fear, with violence, neglect, and the low self-esteem that comes from being immersed in the values of a racist society.

Please, no more name calling!

Running Internal Scripts

Racism 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.

(Tyler, Humming on the High Wire, 30)
(Tyler, Dancing the Deep Hum, 62)

Last post, just as I was talking about the “script” we have that says people shouldn’t complain about being victimized; they should just ‘grow wings’, another old script came popping up out of the ether.

An article circulated through Facebook about a justice of the peace in Louisiana who refused to marry an interracial couple.  His excuse?  It would be hard on any children they might have.  “He came to the conclusion that most of black society does not readily accept offspring of such relationships, and neither does white society.” (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/33332436/ns/us_news-race_and_ethnicity/?ocid=twitter)

We all have scripts running in our head especially from things we heard as a child, but also from messages we’ve heard repeated over and over again on TV, in both ads and shows, in church, at schools, and in organizations we belong to.  This justice’s comment is one of those scripts I heard many times as a child and young adult.

One friend, who probably had not heard this script before, questioned whether or not this was really racist.  He felt the justice had thought it through and believed that he was doing the right thing for the children.

Of course, many racists believe that they are right, that “separation of the races” is the way things should be.

What makes this action racist is not that he believed he was right, but that he had motives that came as a result of an attitude that white and black “races” should be kept separate.

I’m sure this justice isn’t living totally isolated from what is going on in the rest of this country.  In the movies, on TV, in magazines and in the newspapers, interracial couples, and their offspring, abound.   Our own president is the offspring of an interracial couple.

All of these folks are, for the most part, accepted in both the black and white worlds, and indeed those worlds overlap far more than they did when I first heard this “script” back in the fifties.  The prevalence of interracial children has done a great deal to further this overlapping of societies.

So, in 2009, the argument doesn’t make any sense, if it ever really did.

When I first heard this script the social climate did sometimes make it hard for interracial couples and their children.  But because we rose up, black and white together, to fight against racism, the world changed, drastically.  So now the argument is just a “script” left running around in people’s heads.

How subtle, how hidden even from our own awareness are our reactions when judging others.  There are lots of scripts about other people hidden in our subconscious minds.  They pop randomly into our consciousness when we encounter people of different ethnic groups, different religions, with physical differences, etc.  Even though we don’t like to admit it, if we are truthful we all know it is true.

We didn’t create the scripts and we usually, dearly, don’t want them there, but we can’t erase them, only recognize them and reject them as they pop up, and, most importantly, refuse to perpetuate them by letting our children hear them.

I have learned when the script from some inane television ad for something that is not good for me pops into my head, to “just say no!” (A useful “script”!)  That’s because I recognize the ad script for what it is.

We have to learn to recognize the racist, elitist, stereotyping scripts that are around (and unfortunately “in”) us and say no, no, no to them, sometimes over and over again.

And in the case of the justice of the peace we need to go farther.  What he did is against the law.  We need to say, “No, no, no, you can no longer hold this office.”

Take a deep breath.  Let it out with a long sigh.  Shake one hand and then the other.  Shake your whole body.  Let my ideas dance in your head and through your body.  If they sit well, keep them.  If not, throw them out! (For more information on deep breaths, sighs, and shaking go to InterPlay.org)

You can find more about my experiences with racism in my book, Dancing the Deep Hum, One woman’s ideas on how to live in a dancing, singing universe! You can learn more about this book and my other writings at www.deephum.com.  You can purchase Dancing the Deep Hum online at Lulu.com, Amazon, or Powells, or order it from your local bookstore.

Not So Little Boxes

Last post I talked about our love/hate relationship with the personal boxes we put ourselves in.  But there are some socially imposed boxes that we are put in because of our race, our culture, our religion, our physical makeup, etc. that carry with them stereotypes of behavior and expectation that are even harder to escape.

Remember the folk song about the calf “bound for market” who is told by the farmer to stop complaining.  “Who told you to be a calf?  You should be like the swallow and have wings.”  I always loved this song, but recently I’ve begun to see the subtle irony in the story.

I identify with the calf, not the farmer, or the swallow.

Why is this?   Is it because there is an unwritten subtext in the song?  Probably.

Calves don’t have a choice to grow wings and fly away.  The only way the calf is going to escape being sold and slaughtered is if there is outside intervention.  That’s not the calf’s fault.  If we look at it from this point of view, the song, using the voice of the calf’s exploiter — the farmer — is blaming the victim for his victimhood.  The farmer has put the calf in a box that says, “All calves are meant for slaughter.”

This was not the original intention of the author, Aaron Tsaytlin (1899-1974).  The song was written in Yiddish during the Nazi era and translated into English first by the composer of the music, Sholom Secunda, and later by Arthur Kevess and Teddi Schwartz.

There is no voice of the farmer in the original translation.  The song is written from the point of view of the calf who asks the wind, “Why can’t I fly like the swallow, why did I have to be a calf?”  The wind replies, “Calves are born and soon are slaughtered with no hope of being saved.  Only those with wings like swallows will not ever be enslaved.”  The voice of the wind is not the voice of an exploiter, but a neutral voice.  It seems to be saying, “This is the way things are.”  This doesn’t blame the victim, but it also leaves the victim feeling pretty hopeless! (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donna_Donna)

Interestingly, the second English translation, the one written from the farmer’s point of view, was written in 1956, after the defeat of the Nazis.

There is a “script” in our society that says that people shouldn’t complain about being victimized.  They should just “grow wings” and pull themselves out of the situation, out of poverty, out of racism, and all the myriad other deep mires people find themselves in.  In other words, if you are victimized, it’s your own fault and it’s okay to exploit you!

In the case of calves, it is obvious that we humans, born with physical advantages that privilege us and make us able to exploit the calves, are the only ones who can help them escape their circumstances.  In Dancing the Deep Hum when talking about this song I said:

….. I [can’t] help but imagine a stampede of cattle rising up against their human oppressors.
Mad cows, rather than mad cow disease!   (DDH, p 86)

We all know hundreds of “scripts”, stereotypes, boxes that people are placed in because of their race, religion, country of origin, size, age, etc.   Even those  who happen to be born with privilege are put in a box which makes it easy for them to fall into the role of exploiter, a box that can also be difficult to break out of!

We all of us, exploited and exploiter, need to be willing to ask for, and offer, help to break the boxes of stereotype we find ourselves in.   Frankly, I think if we can’t find ways to do this our world doesn’t have much hope of surviving.

How do we deal with this hard stuff?  Take a deep breath, let it out with an audible sigh!  Shake out one hand, and then another!  Shake yourself all over!  Let out another deep sigh and head out into the world!  (For more about sighing and shaking go to InterPlay.org!)