We Remember and Give Thanks

I’m all about family, friends, and food, and am always glad to have time off from the daily grind. I have much to be grateful for and I appreciate the many gifts in my life, past and present.

But I never forget that this holiday was born of the blood of Native Americans and that the real story was whitewashed and Disneyfied to cover up the crimes of colonialist genocide and ethnocide. It’s a day for paying respects to those whose names have been lost to us, a day to give thanks to the ancestors who persevered to bring us through, in spite of the almost unfathomable hardships of the Middle Passage and all that came after. And we remember to show gratitude to those whose lands, bounty, and generous humanity provided us with the riches we all enjoy. We bless those who clean and cook and share themselves and their love through their efforts. We eat with love, knowing that the circle is unbroken.

It is a day of mourning, remembrance, gratitude, joy, companionship, and love. I give thanks.

Earworms and the Search for Meaning

Ok, everyday of my life, I wake up with a song/music playing in my head. It can be anything, but whatever it is, it tends to stick until I sing it, or play it, or override it with another tune. They sometimes keep coming back into my thoughts, persisting until I stop and listen or drive my husband crazy, as he’s forced to listen to my speculations over the possible meaning or (maybe worse for him) my singing the same tune multiple times. 
Sometimes it’s about the lyrics, and sometimes the tune is appropriate to my dreams or agenda, or related to whatever we watched on tv that night.  They’re often silly: occasionally jingles from childhood tv ads or tv theme songs. More often than not I’m amused by these mental musings. I don’t know if this is an experience common to many, but it’s the way of my little world.

The songs from my teens bring back the dances of that time and more than once I’ve had to stop what I was doing for a minute and take those rhythmic steps back in time, bringing laughter to my family and reclaiming a tiny bit of a girl that once was.

Today’s song is unrelated to anything current in my personal life, a blast from a favorite 1974 BBC miniseries. Now it may be stuck in your heads, too (sharing is caring)

From February 2, 2013: More now than ever

I just want to say that although I know we are in a world of hurt and that it may even be too late for some of the solutions that we see being put forth now, I think that the real humans- conscious, compassionate, ruthlessly honest and willing to act on their insights and adapt- will survive and perhaps even “win.”
So I will fight on behalf of the earth and all sentient beings, and I will have times of doubt/fear/exhaustion and days when I can’t see or imagine how we could possibly survive the growing horror. But if you really believe that it’s only going to end horribly, keep that shite to yourself, I don’t want it in my life. Life is a precarious thing and for many, each day brings dilemmas, moral and material. We don’t always know what to do or how to be, but we put our practices in front of us and follow the good red road/saddhana/good reality/whatever you want to call it, for one day more, and we learn to let that be enough.

You do the right thing not because you always believe that it will “save” us, but because there is no other way to live.

Why Occupy Matters to Me

I spent Christmas Eve, 2011, with my brother, his wife, three of _Picon.rlf_6.117-88his four children and other kith. As is true of all of our family gatherings, there was an abundance of laughter, teasing, drinking, eating, dancing, and storytelling. My brother is a pretty taciturn character until he’s had a bit of holiday cheer, at which point he becomes as garrulous as the rest of us, often remembering incidents that have been long forgotten.

Among the many trips we took down memory lane yesterday was his memory of my first publicized protest many years ago. He was reminded of the incident when he saw a photo of me at Zucotti/Liberation Park in support of OWS. The earlier posting had been in our local paper when a band of other teens and I staged a protest in our favorite park against a long-established curfew time. I was 17 and deeply in love with the spirit of the ’60’s and the Civil Rights Movement and my friends and I took every opportunity to express solidarity with the great protests of the time and to bring to light the real and imagined areas of oppression in our lives. With the self righteousness that only teens can muster, we decided to protest the local park curfue, gathering our little band of malcontents in front of the Lincoln statue, thus emphasizing our naively imagined connection to “The Great Liberator.” We were successful enough to garner police attention and some local news coverage, and the next day, my darker image stood out among the small group of white teen protesters whose photograph now graced the front page of the most widely read paper in our city.

I don’t remember how I found out about the photo, but I do remember the lightning fast understanding that my mother would “kill” me when she saw it. My brilliant solution was to reach every doorstep on our block and smudge or remove the incriminating picture before my mom could see it. This kind of childish logic should be proof enough that the human brain doesn’t finish working out the kinks until we’re in our twenties, because of course I couldn’t get to every paper in a city with more than 1/2 million people, many of whom had called my mother by the time I reluctantly returned home to hide.  I had foolishly wasted time smudging photos rather than patching up my integrity and preparing to defend my belief in my cause.  I had also unwittingly given my siblings ammunition for decades of teasing, perhaps the worst outcome of all.

I hadn’t thought about that incident for years when my brother brought it up yesterday, but once he did, I realized-not for the first time-that my basic character had been set from an early age. I truly believed in the rights of human beings, the protection of all living creatures, and the sacredness of the earth. I believed in true love, the innate goodness of people, and the ability of each generation’s to make the word a better place for all.

Over the years life has been hard, and childhood beliefs have taken a beating, to say the least. I’ve spent my life continuing to support my values through social actions, charitable donations, and as a professor who (I hope) provides an opportunity for students to gain some insight and appreciation for the realities and cultures of other people, as well as the chance to consider the construction of their own realities and cultures, often for the first time. It’s good work and I enjoy my students, who are smart and kind and generally willing to grapple with the very foreign ideas that I present to them. But at the core, I’ve been damaged-by the greed of the 80’s, ignorance and apathy of the 90’s, self-interests of the aughts, the failure of relationships, and my own historical research which is full of enough horrific examples of inhumanity to force even the most optimistic or naive person to recognize an unhappy pattern among humans, and to doubt the innate goodness of our species.

There have been events and actions that kept me from giving up and sometimes buoyed my spirits, but I was too experienced and educated to believe that we were going to save ourselves, much less the world. While others “blissed-out” on Obama, I felt a now familiar disappointment as he began building a cabinet with people whose policies helped bring us to our already unhappy state. Protests in Seattle and around the world gave me the satisfaction of knowing that there were some people to carry the torch and to continue to chip away at the mortar of the fortress of the world-wide oppression, discrimination and injustice, but that nugget of sadness remained in my heart.

I was sad and I saw the roots of cynicism reaching out to my soul. My personal dreams hadn’t come true and it seemed pretty clear that the world was- as my elders so often predicted, “going to Hell in a hand-basket.” And then came Occupy.

What appeared to most to be an unorganized group of “kids” were, to me, the _Picon.rlf_12.117-88representatives of a real dialectic, a very diverse group of people from every possible walk of life. I am not seeking, nor do I support concepts of perfection. Occupy is far from perfect and still far from obtaining its many goals. But what it is and represents is more than a glimmer of hope. It is diverse groups of people coming together in common cause. It is the first time since the mid 70’s that people seem to understand that most of us (the 99%) have more in common with one another than with our common oppressors and that together, we have the power to bring about change and perhaps even create a more just society. What a concept!

Occupy Wall Street got people talking and thinking again, and it has forced politicians to pay attention and change their agendas. That’s not small. And now it has spread around the world, a rallying point for the disparate issues that people must deal with in their own ways and through their own ideas about solidarity. Since I started this draft, many things have occurred, some aimed at belittling Occupy as well as the usual ego issues that every group has to face. But despite the many issues, the force continues, here- through movements like Occupy Sandy and Occupy Student Debt-and abroad, where people have actively mobilized against governments and cultural forces such as gender discrimination.

I have no more to say. The struggle is real and the work continues, but I remain thankful for all those out there who heed the call and continue to contribute in any way they can, to the betterment of this world that we all do occupy.


She’s Back!

Welcome to the reboot of my blog. Shamamaspeaks is a non-professional page for my musings and topics of interest, from the Arts, to Social Justice, recipes and wisdom and stories from the Generations, to the simple joy of becoming a grandmother. In the spirit of the Delany Sisters, it’s a place to have my say. RR Dr. Sri. Anjana Blue Ridge overlook