Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Us and Them

I think that's the most damaging phrase today: That people who feel their cause or opinions are the only "right" ones and any differing perspectives are wrong, or evil, or unacceptable. Here in the United States, free speech is supposed to be guaranteed. There was a recent headlining story regarding Nathan Phillips. I have to applaud his poise and intention. From what I can tell, there were two groups at a pro-life rally who were actively verbally attacking each other. It looked like a dangerous explosion waiting to go off. Then Mr. Phillips stepped in, tried to distract them, first with lighthearted conversation, then with traditional song. It worked. Unfortunately, the young men who were pro-life began to mock him. I've seen that often in inexperienced, young people. When we don't understand and are uncomfortable, we laugh at that discomfort. Then it went to the next level. I saw looks of superiority and mania...mob mentality mania, the kind that ends badly, stupidly, and destructively. They felt empowered in their group of many laughing at his soliloquy of tribal drum and song. It's sad there's a large segment of our citizenry who righteously feel their way is the "right" way and haven't an inkling of how to be respectful and teach respectful acceptance to their children, and the strength to voice their opinions without discounting those of others.

Do I agree with the MAGA pro-lifer stance? Not one bit. Do I know anything about the other group shouting at them? Not at all. However, it is their right to peacefully rally and exercise free speech. The key word being peacefully. Do I admire Mr. Phillips strength, calm, and intention? ABSOLUTELY. 

In my last post about cultural appropriation, I mentioned some self-reflection and reading. I haven't understood and am trying to understand. I reread Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and read Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI. More recently, I read some of Sherman Alexie's work (which was doubly helpful as I wondered if I might use The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian as a book study) and Becoming by Michelle Obama.

Sherman Alexie has come under a microscope in the last year. He's addressed it and seems to have made amends as appropriate. Does he seem like he's always a stand up guy, flawless and golden? No and that's what makes his writing so poignant and emotional. He writes about the tragedy in his life and his demons. It's one of the reasons why I thought my students would appreciate his young adult book and connect to it. Mr. Alexie presented cultural bias, bigotry, and appropriation in a way I could understand. He didn't hit me over the head with it or try to attack me for my past faults and mistakes made stupidly in ignorance, and the faults of the white people who came before me.  He drew me into his pain and personal experience with his signature raw, bold writing style. You don't have to agree with his past actions in order to weep and get sucked in to his world.

Michelle Obama's writing is completely different. Truly, the style and attitude couldn't be more opposite from Sherman Alexie's. She presents her life in a positive light, always concentrating on love, determination, and persistence of excellence. She blends in the differing treatments, obstacles and outcomes subtly. Towards the end, Mrs. Obama detailed how she is lifting WoC up and building structures for changes. I hope everyone reads Becoming and gets a little of First Lady Obama's infectious outlook on life.

These books, followed by Abby's (Abby Franquemont) insights, are providing an excellent education of what white privilege and the "us and them" outlook has done to our society. I was blissfully ignorant and because these three individuals, who all come from very different backgrounds, cultures, and outlooks, share of themselves, completely without fear, I feel I'm finally getting it.

History is done and I can't change it. I can't atone for others actions and I can't correct my mistakes except in apology but I can make sure everyone in my world knows We are all 100% and promote "we" to banish "us and them" actively.

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