Tag Archives: advocacy

Reflections about Following the Leader

Carol A. Hand

After reading a couple of chapters in Howard Zinn’s (1997) book, A People’s History of the United States, one of my students last semester asked a crucial question.

What does Mr. Trump mean when he says ‘Make America great again?’ When was it ever great?

Her questions led to a fascinating class dialogue.

Although it’s tempting for me to say that it was great here before Europeans arrived, I really can’t. Surviving the past long, cold winter made me realize how foolish and untrue it would be for me to say something so simplistic and disrespectful. Yes, much was lost for Indigenous people, but there have been benefits as well. For example, I can’t imagine the challenge of living in the north country without indoor plumbing and heat during a winter like the last. I am not sure how my ancestors survived by hunting and by gathering ever more distant fire wood outside to heat themselves, cook, and unfreeze water. Even when I lived off the power grid, I still had a well for indoor plumbing, a generator to run the electric water pump, and a backup propane heater in addition to a wood stove.

Despite my students’ critical view, the phrase “Make America great again” seems to be a powerful rallying cry for many people in the U.S. these days. I suspect it’s most powerful for those who have been programmed by schools that assiduously avoid resources that expose students to critical thinkers like Zinn. Those on the poorly-educated margins have been waiting a long time for America to be great for them as they struggled to make it as farmers, miners, or people trying to find jobs that made them feel that they were contributing something worthwhile to others and earning a decent wage in exchange.

Feeling forgotten or like a failure makes it far more difficult to resist the illusion that one can gain a little more power by putting others down. Many people are willing to follow a leader who sanctions divisiveness, who makes them feel special, and who helps them set aside any misgivings about morality. After all, someone in a position of authority tells them it’s a patriotic duty and demonstrates that it’s appropriate and legal to demean, scapegoat, and brutalize others whose differences set them apart somehow.

As I think about the class I’ll be teaching in the fall, research, I realize that Mr. Trump’s America reminds me of the Stanford prison experiment on steroids.

Give people a title and a little power and some will do anything to keep it. Or, as Stanley Milgrim’s experiments show, many people put aside their own common sense and empathy if a person in authority tells them what they’re doing is right even if it means inflicting harm on others. I have seen those dynamics in my work throughout my career in all types of organizations and communities. We’re witnessing what seems like escalating, outrageous, brutality on a national and global level.

The most crucial question to ask is, of course, what can be done to stop the egregious harm that is being done by people in power who seemingly have no hearts. I believe each of us who is aware must resist in our own way. For me at the moment that means stepping outside the protective comfort zone I created to heal from the battle scars of past encounters with the status quo. The specifics of what that will mean are still a work in progress. But so far this year, it’s meant planting the flower boxes I left empty last year as a gift of life and beauty to those who walk down the alley behind my house and happen to notice. It’s a small gesture, yet each life-loving thought and action may matter in ways we will never know.

***

June 25, 2018

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Work Cited:

Howard Zinn (1997). A People’s History of the United States (Abridged Teaching Edition). New York, NY: The New Press.

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Some Days I Wonder …

Carol A. Hand

Raised Fist Image by Keith Tyler, Courtesy of Wikipedia. (Details below.)

***

Mr. Trump is coming to town today
“power to the people”
Long lines of supporters wait to hear him
“power to the people”
Lined up for blocks above streets
in dark sweltering skywalks
no power to the people
As they wait for electricity to be restored
on this quiet lovely sunny day
in the part of the city where Mr. Trump will soon appear
*
How fervently I wish real heart and intellectual power
would be restored to the people
as children are once again
being torn from the arms of loving families

***

A Pleasant Quiet Sunny Day – June 20, 2018

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Note:

The “Raised Fist Image” by Keith Tyler, Courtesy of Wikipedia, “… is a variant of the clenched fist motif which has been widely used by leftist, workers, and liberationist groups since the nineteenth century. The motif itself is not under copyright.”

Keith Tyler’s image was released into the public domain by its creator February 2007. “The wider motif itself is not protected by copyright.”

Reflections about Adversity and Resilience

Carol A. Hand

Four crows sitting atop the willow tree
chattering loudly while surveilling their domain
reminding an old eagle grandmother of four dark souls
determined to keep fledgling eagles from taking flight
to travel to heights where crows cannot breathe

There was a time when crows were new to her
when she listened and watched them in thoughtful silence
as they crowed loudly about how clever they were
strutting about confident in their superiority
showing off shiny things they gathered in their travels

Nevertheless she naively believed that they could be friends
not realizing then how different she was
until she discerned a disturbing pattern
watching them band together to keep fledglings grounded
reveling in the suffering they caused

She understood then that lone eagles have a different path
to attract the focus of crows’ attention elsewhere
to create a safer space for fledglings to practice flying
so they could develop the strength of their wings
and study the nature of wind and weather and gravity

Trying hard, though they did, the crows didn’t darken her vision
as she learned how to keep them at bay
without harming them even though they struck her
repeatedly with increasing ferocity
crowing in joy at their collective power to wound

Scores of fledglings launched before she needed rest
before she could take flight herself and rise
though she heard that the dark souls continue
taunting and grounding those they fear who can fly higher
and explore vistas beyond the limited realm of crows

She watched as the crows in the willow tree grew silent
and departed one by one to the four directions
their lone cries echoing in the distance

She gave silent thanks for her freedom
and for the inner strength the crows helped her find
realizing that it might not have happened otherwise

***

Golden Eagle in Flight – By Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, UK, CC BY 2.0 (Wikipedia )

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Mainstream Media Circus …

Carol A. Hand

Come one, come all!

Microsoft Word Clip Art

***

Step right up,
ladies and gentlemen
Welcome to the circus
Our main attraction
may appear to be
the orange clown
He will perform
astounding feats
of buffoonery

Microsoft WORD Clip Art

***

His act is intended
to distract your attention
Perhaps he will also be able
to divide you, the audience,
into illusory opponents
and maybe even provoke you
to fight with each other
But don’t be fooled

Microsoft WORD Clip Art

***
His main objective is
to keep you from noticing
the machinations of the puppeteers
who, behind the scenes,
are building structures that will
imprison you in joyless lives
of endless servitude to
feed their insatiable appetites
for yet more power.

***

What’s in a Title?

Carol A. Hand

What deeper messages do titles convey? That’s a question that arises as I contemplate a powerful poignant book I just finished reading, Beyond Two Worlds: A Taiwanese-American Adoptee’s Memoir & Search for Identity by Marijane Huang. I read this work from a unique perspective as an Ojibwe scholar who has studied the history of Indian child welfare, as a descendant of a culture that has survived despite centuries of Native American child removal policies. I reflected on Huang’s experiences as a daughter who witnessed the deep emotional scars my Ojibwe mother carried as a result of the joyless, demeaning years she spent in a Catholic Indian boarding school far from her family and home. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that the topic of child removal, particularly adoption, triggers so many thoughts and memories for me. Often, I need to turn to critical scholarly reflection for balance to consider the underlying questions.

Together the myriad of cultures makes up an intellectual and spiritual web of life that envelops the planet and is every bit as important to the well being of the planet as is the biological web of life that we know as the biosphere. You might think of this social web of life as an “ethnosphere,” a term perhaps best defined as the sum total of all thoughts and intuitions, myths and beliefs, ideas and aspirations brought into being by the human imagination since the dawn of consciousness. The ethnosphere is humanity’s greatest legacy. (Wade Davis, 2009, p. 2)

Huang speaks of the “primal wound” adoptees suffer due to “multiple losses, the most significant being the loss of the adoptee’s birth mother, but also that of culture, language, and original family” (p. xvi). Removing children from their families, communities, and nations causes harm on many levels and can be viewed as a powerful form of ethnocide. Huang’s account hints at the life-long suffering of her birth mother and family of origin because her father made choices he felt necessary in a context that wasn’t supportive of children and families. It reminded me of some of the stories I heard during my research about Ojibwe child welfare, aggregated into a poem I later wrote.

…All the child welfare system could do
was take a mother’s children away.
No one ever asked why she always had tears in her eyes.
Although her daughter cried for her beautiful mother every day,
no one ever asked what her mother needed to heal.
So the young girl spent her childhood with strangers,
a grieving mother mourned, and the White strangers felt virtuous.
The Ojibwe community lost yet another child to county removal
and the child welfare system closed the case, its job complete…

Huang’s courage to confront her fear of the unknown and her tenacity to keep moving forward despite so many obstacles are deeply inspiring. It wasn’t too late for her to reconnect to her original cultural legacy and some of the family that she lost as an infant. Her honest, gracious, and moving narrative brought me inside her experiences. She brought me inside her feelings as she discovered her adoption papers when she was in her 40s and learned of her heritage for the first time. And I felt as though I stood with her in the Taipei airport in Taiwan anxiously awaiting her first meeting with her two older sisters who had last seen Huang as an infant.

Huang’s healing journey brings joy and tears. I’m grateful for the chance I had to travel along with her. Her first book ends with a powerful realization.

Without a doubt, the reunion with my birth family has been one of the most significant, life-altering events of my life. (p. 159).

Learning to see the world through different cultural lenses is always s gift, and Huang does such a powerful job taking us beyond two profoundly different cultural worlds to see both the importance of being in touch with our cultural roots and the human bonds that connect us across cultures.

To acknowledge the wonder of other cultures is not to denigrate our way of life but rather to recognize with some humility that other peoples, flawed as they too may be, nevertheless contribute to our collective heritage, the human repertoire of ideas, beliefs, and adaptations that have historically allowed us as a species to thrive. To appreciate this truth is to sense viscerally the tragedy inherent in the loss of a language or the assimilation of a people. To lose a culture is to lose something of ourselves. (Davis, pp. 201-202)

I hope Huang will have an opportunity to return to Taiwan and I eagerly await her next book.

Information about how to purchase a copy of Huang’s book, published on May 8, 2017, is available on her website, Beyond Two Worlds.

Works Cited:

Wade Davis (2009). The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World. Toronto, ON, Canada: House of Anansi Press, Inc.

Marijane Huang (2017). Beyond Two Worlds: A Taiwanese-American Adoptee’s Memoir & Search for Identity. Bloomington, IN: Author House.

Celebrating Possibilities

Carol A. Hand

Who would believe it’s possible
to witness lives transformed
in the span of a mere 2 years
by working together on a vision
of what could be?

Skills, knowledge and lasting bonds are built
when everyone shows up
graciously offering open minds and hearts
contributing their critical creativity to overcome challenges.

Divisions between teachers, learners, and cultures dissolve
expanding inclusive caring communities
empowered by life-long liberatory curiosity and compassion.

***

Students sharing what they learned to open up new possibilities and help create healthier communities

Celebrating Accomplishments –
April 21, 2017

Promoting restorative justice as an alternative to juvenile corrections

Celebrating Accomplishments –
April 21, 2017

Preserving culture and language by bringing generations together through storytelling circles

Celebrating Accomplishments –
April 21, 2017

Using research to involve youth in diverse communities to improve education

Celebrating Accomplishments –
April 21, 2017

Using skills to build programs to improve services for people who are homeless
and inspiring the next generation

Celebrating Accomplishments –
April 21, 2017

Celebrating connections and accomplishments

Acknowledgement:

In gratitude to colleagues and graduating students who make liberatory learning possible, and a special thank you to MJ for inspiring others by sharing her exceptional scholarship, tenacity, and wisdom.

“Integrity vs. Despair”

Carol A. Hand

The mean(ingless)-stream media circus continues
Celebrating the latest ignorance and cruelty
Seas, air and land poisoned by hubris and greed
Drones and bombs shredding lives and livelihoods
Millions of refugees searching for shelter
I feel the earth crying out to awaken our hearts
It’s more than enough to foster sorrow and hopelessness

***

crouching child

***

As a woman of little importance I still have a choice
to resist that temptation
for the sake of my grandchildren and yours
As a simple teacher and storyteller I can give voice
to the suffering and wisdom of my ancestors
to the fleeting fragile beauty present, now, everywhere
to clear visions of the peaceful world that could yet be

***

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Each one of us who resists despair
adds a bit of light to the world

***

Note:

The title, “integrity vs. despair” is drawn from Erik Erikson’s theory on human personality development. It’s the eighth and final stage, according to Erikson, that begins when people come to terms with their own mortality.

 

Reflections about Being Human

Carol A. Hand

Make the most of each moment while you are here

Observe life intently with an artist’s eye, listen deeply with a poet’s ear

Contemplate life with an empath’s heart, engage life with a compassionate mind

Live your life humbly, simply, remembering to be kind

***

Lake Superior Dreaming
Lake Superior Dreaming

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Speak your truth when you must

urged by an inner power you’ve learned to trust

sometimes gently with the voice of a singer in a choir

and other times, boldly, with a spirit on fire

***

Forgive yourself for the moments you squander

when emotions or daydreams cause your focus to wander

It’s what often reminds you how human you are

***

A Powerful Message from Standing Rock

Carol A. Hand

On November 20, 2016, Kendrick Eagle posted a video appeal to President Obama.

“You gave me hope…. You said you had our back, and here we are. Help us stop this pipeline. Stick true to your words, ‘cause you said you had our back. I believed you then and I believe you now – that you can make this happen. Thank you.”

The response to Kendrick Eagle’s message reminds us all about the long history of broken federal promises to the Indigenous Peoples of what is now called the United States of America. On Friday, November 25, 2016, the day after Thanksgiving, the US federal government issued an evacuation order to the largest Water Protector encampment in Standing Rock, North Dakota, the Oceti Sakowin campground.

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said in a letter to a Native American tribe leading the opposition against the pipeline that it will close the area on Dec. 5, after a series of clashes between law enforcement and protesters…. Anyone staying in the area after the deadline may be subject to prosecution…” (Huffington Post, November 27, 2016)

Thank all of you for doing what you can to stand against tyranny.