I’m imagining what could have been said differently by the Vice President earlier this week while she was in Guatemala. What would have been inclusive, acknowledging the differences that others endure, along with some of her own storytelling. For excerpts from statements made to the press;
I want to be clear to folks in this region who are thinking about making that dangerous trek to the United States-Mexico border: Do not come. Do not come,” she said. “And I believe if you come to our border, you will be turned back.
Listening to the stories of genocide, savagery, the incomprehensible behavior of whites that litter through history.
Last week, the children listened to the news detailing the research in Kamloops/Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc that revealed that 215 children were buried in a mass grave.
That wasn’t a school. It was a prison.
That wasn’t a residential school. It was an assimilation hall.
A few days prior to the stories out of British Columbia, I had picked up:
I Am Not a Number (Second Story Press, 2016)
Little Bird #1, by Darcy van Poelgeest (Image Comics, 2019)
The week prior, we were exposed to the language of lies wrapped inside a tone of cunning deception that qualified the officials who kidnapped and stole indigenous children as “nice” and the act of forcibly relocating children as “tricked” with stories of nourishing meals.
Lies perpetuated through decades and centuries, repeated in news accounts, embellished in children’s books upholding the sanctity of white colonizers, refraining from mentioning the horrors of abusers and authorities.
Turns out that M4BL has decreed that June is Reparations month. Yesterday, I was cringing at the prospects for something substantive, something that was more than performative bullshit. And I wrote about that. Today, I feel like reparations month is taking root in my soul.
It must be Reparations Month as I’ve read two stories in two days on the Politico website, that bastion of two-sided storytelling trying to paint both political parties as decent and honorable endeavors.
Tonight, I learned that, according to the United Nations, all reparations have five components: 1) Cessation, assurances and guarantees of non-repetition. 2) Restitution and Repatriation. 3) Compensation. 4) Satisfaction. 5) Rehabilitation.
All we can do is utilize this current system and operation to foment the next system even when that new era may be decades or hundreds of years away. Even when finding alternatives to the dominant cultural ways, I participate in this current system while still being an example of something different than the current.
I believe that we can use privilege and powers bestowed by an unjust and imbalanced system to contribute to its destruction. That is a timeless inquiry for men and boys, for citizens, for owning class people to see that the position that they/we are in is untenable and rather than continue to benefit from it, we can confront it and aim to transform if NOC destroy it.
messages lie in words …. But it’s metamessages that have clout, because they stir emotions, and emotions are the currency of relationships.
So said Deborah Tannen on page 10 of I only say this because I love you (2001).
Tannen wrote “those closest to us have front-row seats to view our faults” yet they also have the proximity to our attributes, gifts but we perpetuate a culture that does not appreciate as much as it deprecates.
A decade ago, I remember how bringing an assets based approach was a welcome salve in the nonprofit/civic sector rather than the continued fixation with being motivated by what was missing or lacking in a place and wanting to be the problem solvers by confronting those things that were missing. But a few workshops in a year full of meetings results in a low concentration. And that short lived attempt to embrace what a place had was challenging to sustain when being critical is easy and familiar and a way that we have been told to treat one another in school, at work, in public spaces, and at home.
Now, I have made it a fixture of naming appreciations for the people i am with on a daily basis, at the end of most of the webinars that I design. And still it is difficult for people to begin with what they like.
Tannen elaborated no messages and metamessages by saying:
message: the meaning of the words and sentences spoken, what anyone with a dictionary and a grammar book could figure out.
metamessage: “the meaning that is not said, what we glean from every aspect of context: the way something is said, who is saying it, or that fact that it is said at all.
Or using another metaphor that “message is the word meaning while metamessage is the heart meaning.” Tanner elaborated by saying how metamessages are implicit and difficult to pinpoint as they are about relationships. Her early suggestion is to distinguish metamessage from message and one way of doing so is metacommunicating or talking about communication, which I suppose is using words to describe the implicit heart emotions.
My answer in the form of a question: what is the ocean?
The ocean was the setting for the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
The ocean was the bridge to colonize the Americas.
The ocean is the medium for global capitalism.
These were the epiphanies in a conversation with a handful of other people of color earlier this week as I had not thought of the ocean’s role and distinction in these forces with global spread.
Today as I drove along the highway, I did see a whale repeatedly breaching and splashing about off of the coastline. Looking out at the blue expanse, I wondered what humans would need to recognize the enormity of the ocean and settle into the dominating presence that the ocean has over the continents. The ocean hegemony is not how it is perceived by humankind as we are self-focused though there are so many facets beyond comprehension, never mind the depths that are beyond cognition.
The ocean hegemony as the water gave life to all life, the lands arose from the ice and water and the life depends on the cycle f precipitation that depends on the evaporation of all that water out there.
The ocean hegemony is so all-powerful that humans do not register the supreme spot that the ocean holds as infinitum. We are partial to life on land as it is what we know, what we know better, and essentially all that we know even with the limited knowing of ocean matters.
Even in COVID times, the act of checking out a library book is delightful. We could not go inside the local branch. Instead I wrote a few authors and titles on the back of scrap paper that I handed to the librarian as one child walked through the grass and another rode a bicycle back and forth. We waited on the personalized attention as the librarian walked through the stacks pulling the books that we listed. And I saw one more sitting on top of the shelves nearest the door and asked if we could have that cat going cross country (skiing?), too.
Library books and lending are endless gifts of infinite curiosity. For a few years, I have searched for “publisher: Enchanted Lion” and a few series like Mercy Watson [“the porcine wonder”] by Kate DiCamillo, Dodswortb and Duck by Tim Egan, King and Kayla by Dori Hillestad Butler and the Brambly Hedge by Jill Barklem. I’ve read multiple books (approximately 24 different titles) by these four authors more than 200 in the last three years.
Yesterday’s haul included a few Mercy Watson stories along with books on whales, other marine life and volcanos. It was most special because they were the first library books that we checked out in three months — the longest stretch of not borrowing books in five years.
Now we are back at it in a new library system with no limit on the number of books that we can borrow. But a system that does have late fees, so hopefully I will be more diligent about returning borrowed materials back on time. Better than I was 15 and 20 years ago, when I’d incur late fees but it was paying $.10 a day per book to the libraries and though I never saw the budgets of the library, I never had remorse about paying fees that paid for such a renowned institution.
As I lay down for a second round of snuggles before bedtime, the five year old said:
“Poppa, I have always wanted you to be my roommate.”
I replied by smiling in the dark. I basked in the glow of this sentence as I looked out the window at the silhouette of the trees in the twilight. Then I said:
“I will always have your back. I will always love you even when I’m frustrated, sad, or angry. I will never leave you. You will live with Momma and me until your an adult and you decide where you want to live.”
It was a dignifying for me. I’m moved by the always of five years because these five years have been so enormous and consequential and so quick. And that some facets from a few months ago have been long forgotten. So always is so long.
And, it was a statement of right now. At times, she has the ability to recall some detail or moment or specific from months ago that has not been named and she can bring it up and remember some thing that I forgot. And throughout the day, a five year old can offer immediate feedback about how things are in any exact moment. And that’s what being told that I’m a roommate who has been wanted forever feels like some special love as a father finding my way in these unknowns.