combing hair

17 08 2017
Three Iroquois: Atotárho Protected by Black Snakes, Flanked by Deganawida Offering Wampum and Hiawatha

Sketch of Tahadoho, Hiawatha, and Dekanahwidah the Great Peacemaker, attributed to David Cusick, 1827

Combing Hair

08.17.2017

 

*My Facebook is flooded with news feed, memes, op-eds, disturbing images, & lamentations of the great tragedy that occurred in Charlottesville this past weekend. However, my own page is strangely quiet & in truth, my mind has been paralyzed by this tremendous evil & my own inability to do anything about it. Practically everything I would say has been said by writers and bloggers more crafty than I. Until today.*

My mind wandered to the events of this last weekend during my morning prayers & coffee. I think last night, a brief walk out into the dark woods & into the mist, the Ancestors called me to speak my Peace. I drink the strength of my Ancestors from the mist. I come from a great line of Peacemakers & orators but I am no brave; I am a word warrior.

Far back in tribal memory, I recall when Dekanahwidah, the Great Peacemaker, came to our Ancestors to resolve the very great evil during his time, the era of evil Tahadoho. Tahadoho was a terrible chief who knew only how to kill & maim. His body was twisted in seven places by his great evil & his hair was snakes. Dekanahwidah came from the western lands, a foreigner & preacher of the Great Peace that formed the League of Five (Six) Nations. He straightened Tahadoho’s body & he combed the snakes from his hair. When Tahadoho’s mind was right, he became the head chief of the League & today, the spiritual head of the Haudenosaunee is still called Tahadoho.

I think that all generations believe that their lifetimes are the most evil in memory. I think they all lament of a peaceful future. Indeed, almost 400 years ago, their warriors all dead, their lands stolen by settlers, & their gods removed from the country, the League of Haudenosaunee must have thought their times were the most terrible in collective memory. And they cried out for the Peacemaker to come back to them as he promised he would, Dekanahwidah! Dekanahwidah! Dekanahwidah! Many strong men & women responded to the cry for peace, but Dekanahwidah himself did not came to save the League of Five (Six) Nations.

The era we live in today also seems to us to be the greatest evil we have known. I cry out to the Peacemaker to come to us again: Dekanahwidah! Dekanahwidah! Dekanahwidah! But we do not need one Peacemaker. We need millions of Peacemakers! Dekanahwidah combed the hair from one evil man & set the Haudenosaunee on the path of Peace. Great Peacemakers came from that line, orators & diplomats, warriors to defend the League, chiefs who upheld the Great Peace to their end. And still, the League was vanquished; their lands reduced, their people suffered, & their best warriors all killed. We do not need one Peacemaker; we need millions! We need millions of Peacemakers to comb the hair!

Combing the hair of Tahadoho is symbolic. But, what exactly did Dekanahwidah do to restore Tahadoho’s mind? Was it the compassion he expressed for the crooked, ugly man; the power of human touch to comb his hair? Was it the power of the songs & prayers he sang as he worked the coils of snakes from Tahadoho’s knotted locks? We do not know; but I suspect it was the power of love & compassion that reached through evil to show Tahadoho a good path. I ask Dekanahwidah, “How do we ‘comb the hair’”?

We do not live in the time of the Peacemaker. We cannot just comb hair & sing songs & pray prayers. In the era of Tahadoho, evil could not easily persist, in small villages & isolated groups. In a time when folks lived in small groups, there were never any secrets. We laugh & say that nothing is faster than the “Indian rumor-mill”! But it is true. The people used the powers of peer persuasion, tribal taboos, banishment, & shame to “punish” wrong-doers. There was no jails or courts; just the people raising one voice to protect the Peace. And though we number in the millions today, in the era of social media, evil cannot hide behind white polo shirts anymore either.

These hate groups—modern KKK, Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists—domestic terrorists all just like Tahadoho—blinded and twisted by disillusion & indoctrination, they know only hate & violence. They wear their white polo shirts & hoods like snakes in their hair.  How do we confront that? We cannot use the tactics they are used to; weapons & fists they already know how to respond to. We cannot answer violence with violence.

I think of the counter-protests. I think of the clergy with linked arms singing hymns. I think of the little village in Poland that tricked the Neo-Nazis who marched through their town into a charity walk for a Neo-Nazi Exit organization. A whole village kept a secret to the very end & then laughed & laughed at the duped skinheads! I think of the solidary events & vigils across the country following the terrible events of last week. I think of the photographers & videographers recording the march in Charlottesville; how the twisted faces of the White Supremacists were published to social media in memes & cartoons. Amateur investigators studied their faces, identified them, & many lost their jobs or the police used the photos as evidence to issue warrants for their arrest. One family disowned their son when they saw his photo on the internet. There are consequences to hate speech & violence. All of this is unprecedented.

I can see how the collective power of unity is moving the people to a place of Peace. Many people with many different talents & skills are moving across this country in Peace. I am writing. Many are writing. Powerful people are speaking. There are memes & cartoons on the internet. The identities of those marching in hate groups are known to all through social media. Signs of welcome & peace are popping up in people’s lawns. Monuments to Confederate heroes are being taken down & placed in the basement archives of history where they belong. (I would hope that the statues of Christopher Columbus & other “explorer-conquerors” also follow Robert E. Lee to the museums where we can learn from but not repeat their twisted history). Towns & cities are saying “No!” to Alt-right marches in their streets, citing potential for violence. Bolstered by the power of love, by prayers, songs, silent protests & vigils, we are using the tools of the modern era to stand with our backs to hate. Snakes are falling from their hair; they realize that hate is not such a powerful weapon. Millions of Peacemakers are on the rise!

It all comes down to, “What can I do?” And many op-eds have already been written about that. I was paralyzed when I first heard the news about Charlottesville. Now I am writing. If there was a march in solidarity here, I would go. I pray & I love. I sing songs. I am self-reflective in my encounters with people of color. I am vigilant in others’ encounters with people of color; I will not tolerate hate in my small sphere of Peace. I am always combing hair & I will continue to comb hair until Dekanahwidah returns.

(c)henry francis redhouse, 2017. Artwork is property of its respective owners.

 

 

 

 

 





dancing is my medicine

9 04 2017
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Regalia:/Beads & feathers, silver & shells;/This is my payment,/This is how I honour myself.    (The author at UPenn Powwow, March 2017. Photograph provided is property of its respective owners.)

Dancing is my Medicine

04.08.2017

 

She wanted to know what my “expectations” were at this little powwow,

“We can’t pay our dancers,” She said apologetically,

“I have no expectations. I am just here to dance,”

“We could maybe arrange something…”

“I am just here to dance.”

 

Dancing is my medicine,

This composition of carefully chosen sacred items,

Lovingly gave, Lovingly made,

Regalia:

Beads & feathers, silver & shells;

This is my payment,

This is how I honour myself.

 

(C)henry francis redhouse, 2017. Artwork is property of its respective owners.





panther’s breath

22 01 2017

cougar

*Since my Dad got sick in 2013, & since he walked on in 2015, poetry has eluded me. Used to be I would walk & make words, or I would drive & make words. It flowed through me as vital as breath or like the wind whenever I moved around. It was a life force & a connection to the natural world & the Ancestors. Many times I have since walked & not made words, or I have driven & not made words. Many times I have almost made poetry but it was stoppered by some unseen force, afraid to come out of my heart  onto the page. Finally, today, what would be Dad’s 64th birthday, the flow was restored like a stream too long dammed by rubble & debris. I would not say this is “epic poetry” but I am glad to be making words again as Creator intended me to. I am like a stream restored to its natural state.*

Panther’s Breath

01.22.2017

Silently I walk—

As silent as the line of Ancestors behind me;

I wear my hair like no one else does;

I wear clothes no one wears anymore;

I sing songs not heard in seven generations;

I sing songs no one has ever heard;

And my feet dance to music no one can hear:

Babies being made,

Trees talking,

Snow falling,

The sound the stars make at night.

I am Panther’s Breath.

I am the Ancestors alive;

The Seventh Generation.

(C)henry francis redhouse, 2017. Artwork is property of its respective owners.





hope.

14 11 2016

 

15032884_10209818343408313_7811002641120023106_n

All that energy, all our songs, prayers, stories, bundled up together as one mind, and headed out to Standing Rock to give our relatives hope.

I read an online article and watched a video in which the American Bison (Buffalo) came back to Standing Rock Sioux territory where Native Americans from over 300 tribes, and indigenous people from around the world are camped out, protesting, and protecting their land from a corporate oil pipeline project. If you are not familiar with this volatile situation in North Dakota, and admittingly mainstream media and our late Presidential candidates have been ignoring 10,000 people camped out on the prairie, search for the hashtag NODAPL or “Stand with Standing Rock”, or “Dakota Access Pipeline.” The indigenous people camped at Standing Rock are the only thing preventing this pipeline from drilling under the Missouri River to build a connecting pipeline from North Dakota to Illinois. The members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe (whose land it passes through) were never consulted on the development of this pipeline, never consented to it, and fear rightly that if this pipe leaks, it will poison the entire water supply of the west from the Dakotas to the Gulf of Mexico.

The video I saw of the Buffalo was very moving. These folks camped out on the harsh prairie, brutalized by police and security guards, arrested for terrorism and rioting, held illegally in dog kennels at the jail, and facing unprecedented opposition, had been repeatedly traumatized. Hope that they would effectively halt the construction of the DAPL was malingering. But, as a reporter was interviewing a young Native man about why he was there and what he hoped to accomplish, suddenly, out of nowhere, a herd of Buffalo appeared on the distant hill! The man stopped talking to the reporter and shouted, “Look! Buffalo!” and the crowd that was peacefully standing at the barbed wire fence praying for the water, all cheered and ululated and you could hear them blowing their sacred eagle whistles also.

The Buffalo gave the people hope that day. This is a sacred animal, no, ancestor, to the Sioux and many other western tribes who depended on it for shelter, clothing, and food. Their prophecies say that when the Buffalo return, then the people will rise again against the white colonizers, that Sitting Bull himself would come back to them, and they would be victorious in reclaiming their land and their proud identity. So, you can imagine how truly epic the sudden appearance of Buffalo at this place of conflict was to them.

Well, now, however, those Buffalo have been rounded up, fenced up in razor water without food nor water, and are being trucked away from the conflict at Standing Rock, so the DAPL can continue digging and drilling for the oil pipeline under the Missouri River. Is it 1835 again?! The US Army extirpated the Buffalo, hunted it almost to extinction, wasted its gifts of food, shelter, and clothing, to rob the western prairie tribes of their means of sustenance starting in 1832. Essentially, they killed and wasted the Buffalo so the people would either starve or surrender to the nearest US Indian Agency to beg for Army rations and maybe survive. Did they just truck hope away from the people again?

On Friday, November 11, 2016, the Seneca Nation of Indians in upstate New York, where I am from, celebrated their 222nd Canandaigua Treaty Days. Treaty Days commemorates the first 1765 Treaty made between the United States of America and the Five Nations of Iroquois Indians living in New York State. The Five Nations have kept every word of that Treaty for 222 years. The United States has broken every clause and forsaken their every responsibility, and stolen all the land promised to the Five Nations in that Treaty. So, why do the Five Nations still celebrate Treaty Days at Canandaigua? Why do they not smash the sacred wampum belt that symbolizes their everlasting friendship with the United States? Why do they not bury the “chain of friendship” with the United States and let it corrode and rust in the ground? Because of hope. They parade the wampum belt that sealed that Treaty through the town of Canandaigua every year, and they “polish the chain of friendship” that that symbol represents. They polish their side of the chain, hoping that one day the United States of America will polish their side and keep their original promises to the Five Nations.

I believe that when people gather together to dance, to sing, to pray, and to tell stories, that those actions echo out into the world. That though some of us cannot go to Standing Rock and camp out on the prairie for the winter, nor can we travel to Canandaigua to polish the chain of friendship, we can gather together as one mind for hope. Hope is an energy, and energy can neither be created nor destroyed. It is like sound waves, never ending but only diminishing with time. A dog that barked 500 years ago, is still barking today, though we can no longer hear it. The sound has traveled off, very far away. So, when we pray or we sing and tell stories, that energy also travels off, very far away; maybe even to our relatives in Standing Rock.

I can almost see it if I close my eyes: we gathered by a lake in Nipmuk territory yesterday, held signs that said, “Water is Life” (the war cry of the Water Protectors in Standing Rock), held hands, prayed for the water at the edge of the lake, sang songs to the water, and a little girl told us the story of Sky Woman. All that energy, all our songs, prayers, stories, bundled up together as one mind, and headed out to Standing Rock to give our relatives hope. I see that bundle of hope, traveling over the land of the Eastern people (where I am right now in Massachusetts), over my New York homeland and the Finger Lakes that Creator scratched into the earth, across the Great Lakes where Deganawida came to us in his stone canoe, skimming like a flat rock over the 10,000 lakes of Minnesota, over the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, up the mountains, and across the prairies to Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. A ball of energy. A bundle of hope. Now our minds are one.

(C)henry francis redhouse, 2016. Photo provided, property of its respective owners.





changing child & the cogs of war (revisited)

7 11 2016

natureboy

*I originally wrote this dystonian story in 2012 , and it seems especially appropriate to re-post it now. It was one of the most vivid & detailed dreams I have ever had. Was it a prophecy or a history? We now know who “Changing Child” is. They are embodied in 20 or more “Standing Rocks”, and 20 or more “Dakota Access Pipelines”; the indigenous who are demanding that Mother Earth & the Ancestors have their collective voices heard concerning current, unprecedented ecological warfare & irreversable damage being caused by corporate greed & reliance on fossil fuels & dirty extraction methods. They are speaking & screaming for Ecological Justice.  And I still do not think, like in this story, that the “Ministers” are listening to Changing Child’s screams.*

 Deep in the earth and far in the future (or the past?), a great chamber is filled with all the counselors of the world of men. If you seek faces in the crowd assembled there, they would not be that different from the men and women of today. You can pick out farmers, bankers, leaders, and doctors from among them all by their ostentatious dress and carriage. They sit in the balconies and stadiums and converse loudly amongst themselves, laughing, smoking, cursing, and patting one another on their backs. They have assembled for war.

 A woman dressed in a black gown with a long train, steps to the center of the stadium and ascends a podium. She raps with a mallet on the stand and calls the men and women to order. They file into seats with much noise and clearing of throats but finally settle down and sit quiet as she raises her voice and addresses the populace. Her eloquent words are lost in the rafters and in the tombs of history. But, her intent is clear: she is calling on her most trusted Ministers to go to war against their most dreaded foe. And who is this foe? As these things often go, we do not know anymore; like petty arguments drawn out by lovers. They cannot recall the original reason and by the end, it matters not a bit as long as they win. But, it is a foe that has threatened the whole of their way of life and united the entire counsel as one against it. Their leader, this woman, is calling for war and seeking her Ministers’ advise and blessings.

 Mounted on the wall behind her are seven great cogs representing the seven counsels of her ministers. The cogs, like wheels of machinery, are individually made for each counsel. The cogs are covered by cobwebs and dust; for it has been many generations since the last wars. The central, and largest cog is made of wood and each ring on its disc represents each year since the last war, like the annual growth rings on a great ancient oak tree. Keeping this cog in place are the roots of a giant, ancient tree, reaching deep into the cracked wall of the chambers. These great roots nourish a single live branch that grows from the face of the great wooden cog. A single leaf clings tenaciously and delicately to the end of this branch. Under the foot of the woman, its other leaves, long dead and dry, crinkle and crush on the floor. The winds from the woman’s dress stirs some of them up and some cling to the edge of her train.

 Each cog next to the central, wooden one, is smaller and smaller; and man-made with materials representative of each Ministry and counsel. Each has a unique locking mechanism kept as secret trusts by the each of the woman’s Ministers—Ministers of Industry, Agriculture, Health, Finance, Resources, and Education. After a time, the woman addresses each Minister individually:

 She calls on each Minister to join her in the war, “Is the Minister of Finance with us?” A finely-dressed man in black suit coat and top-hat steps from among the bankers and financiers present. “Yes we are. Our banks are strong and our coffers are full. We can finance this war as long as it lasts.” His jowls, covered by muttonchops jiggle as he speaks. He ascends the podium and pulls white, cotton gloves onto his chubby hands. From his pocket he takes out a gold key on a gold chain. He turns to the cogs on the wall and brushes the dust and webs from the smallest cog with his gloved hands. With a flourish he places the gold key into the gold cog and turns it laboriously. It takes many turns to open the lock. It creaks from years of disuse and tarnish. But at last, the lock is opened and the cog is free.

 He returns the key to his pocket and removes his soiled gloves as he regains his seat in the chambers. The woman calls the next Minister, the next keeper of the cogs, “Is the Minster of Industry with us?” A man carrying a red toolbox, wearing a white shirt, a hardhat, and khaki trousers approaches the podium and responds,”Yes we are. Our Industries are the best in the world. We can create bombs and guns and machines like no other! We can create anything this war needs as long as it needs it.” He unlatches the toolbox and opens it. Its hinges do not creak even though the toolbox is as old as the oldest wars. It is a well-oiled machine. Inside the toolbox, nestled on a fine cushion, is a single tool—a shiny, delicate steel ratchet which will unlock the steel cog of Industry and free the next wheel to go to war. He fits the ratchet to the bolt on the second cog, and turns the handle until the bolt is unscrewed. He places the bolt into the toolbox with the ratchet and descends the podium silently. The cog of Industry is now free to go to war.

 Next, the woman asks, “Is the Minster of Resources with us?” A man in work clothes comes from among his counsel. He wears jeans and work boots; a hammer and chisel hang from his belt. He ascends the podium and addresses the woman, “Yes we are. The world has many resources in the ground and on the ground. They can last a very long time, as long as the war, to supply our needs.” He removes the hammer and chisel from his belt and approaches the third cog made of stone. He blows the dust from the cog and finds a small groove to place the chisel in. He hammers on the end of the chisel as blows resound in the chambers. Finally, a hidden stone shim comes loose from the cog and clatters to the ground. He picks it up, blows stone dust from its surface; then ties a leather thong around it and slips the thong over his neck for safe-keeping.

 “Is the Ministry of Health with us?” the woman continues the roll call to war. A woman, a doctor, separates from her colleagues in their white lab coats, and comes to the front of the assembly. She replies confidently, “Yes we are. Our people are strong and healthy. We have many medicines and many vaccines to prevent many diseases. We can cure every type of injury from this war.” She turns to the cogs and puts latex gloves on her hands. From her lab coat, she removes a syringe filled with a milky, gaseous liquid and a swab. She cleans the dust from the plastic cog with the swab to sterilize it and inserts her syringe into the cog’s mechanism. She pulls back the plunger on the syringe and then pushes it into the cog. A little dust cloud from the inner mechanism is blown by the liquified gas in the syringe, and the cog is unlocked, free to go to war. Then, she recaps the end of the syringe, removes her latex gloves, and returns to her colleagues.

 Their leader calls the Minister of Agriculture, “Is the Ministry of Agriculture with us?” she asks. A man clears his throat and comes to the podium. He wears high rubber boots and suspenders under a plaid sport coat. He appears nervous in front of so many, but answers simply, “Yes we are. We have many fields to cultivate and many domesticated animals to raise for many years. We can feed the war for as long as you need us.” His secret cog tool is made up of wood and animal bone, the ancient foundations of his livelihood. A very intricate maze pattern is cut into the iron cog of Agriculture; iron represents the plow of his ministry. But, the farmer seems confused by the pattern on the cog. He has forgotten so much of the natural way of doing things that it seems foreign to him. However, he inserts the bone and wooden tool and tries to follow the pattern anyway. But, the tool becomes jammed into a tight space on the cog, and will not go forward or backward; and he cannot remove it. He pulls hard and strains against the tool. Sweat drips down his balding pate and into his eyes. But the cog is stuck and he has forgotten the secret pattern. So, embarrassed, he breaks off the tool in the cog, hoping no one notices. The cog is now free to go to war. But the pattern and the old tool is destroyed. He hides the tool in his sport coat, clears his throat, and takes his seat.

 Finally, the woman asks, “Is the Ministry of Education with us?”  and a woman answers precisely, “Yes, we are with you. Our people are the best-educated and we can all read and learn. We have the best academic minds in the world. All our children can pass all the tests. We can rule the world and win this war with our minds.” Her cog is made of slate. She is dressed in a plain grey suit and skirt, with low, practical shoes. A pair of thick glasses hang from a fine chain on her neck. She ascends to the podium and places the glasses on her face. She looks closely at the slate cog. With her sleeve, she wipes the dust and grime from it and stares at it for a very long time. Her nose almost touches the cold slate, and she squints her eyes at it. Finally, an unseen mechanism moves behind the slate, and the cog is free. She steps back, removes her thick glasses, smiles, and takes her seat.

All the ministers and all the cogs have now declared for war. A great cheer goes up in the crowd and the counselors leap to their feet applauding all the Ministers and their fearless leader. But the woman holds up her hands for silence. There is one more cog—the largest cog of wood, the one locked by the great roots of the ancient tree.  Who will speak for that one? She knows she must ask the right questions even if she does not like the answers. Everyone hushes and regains their seats with a slight murmur. Will she really ask it?

 She takes a deep breath and very quietly asks that which must be asked, “Is there a representative from the Earth here?” Silence. No man comes forward from the Earth. No woman unlocks the great cog, held in place not by lock or by mechanism; but by the very roots of Earth itself. The crowd murmurs and each Minister looks from one to the other, confused. She asks again, louder, “Is there a representative from the Earth here?” Suddenly, the six Ministers jump to their feet in protest, and the chamber is full of uproar and clamor. The Ministers protest the question, knowing they cannot ask the Earth. There is no representative among the Ministers of men for the Earth! It is not done! They do not even speak the same language as the Earth!

 But, there is one here who does speak for the Earth, even if the humans do not see them. A small child has sneaked into the chambers. It hides behind the chairs. It is the watcher, the guardian, the keeper of the Earth. It is Changing Child. Its hair is tangled with brush, seeds, and birds’ nests. It walks with a staff and a limp, having been trodden on for many years by the humans it watches over. It is covered in greenery, animal hides, and dirt. From one moment to the next, it changes. One cannot ever be sure what the child is wearing; a loincloth? An apron? A kilt or a dress? Shrubbery? Or if it is a boy or a girl. Its face is doe-like and feminine, but deeply lined in places with the worry of the Earth. Its chest is flat and thin. It could be a boy or a girl, maybe seven years old; maybe seventy years old. It is as ephemeral and undefined as mist. And it is ageless and ancient, as old as the world. Changing Child changes.

 Now, Changing Child comes forward from hiding and approaches the woman and the counsel. But not one of them sees it. It speaks but not one of them hears, or listens, or understands the words. It screams at the top of its voice for them to listen! But, they have quit speaking Earth-language long ago. It is like the child is not even there anymore. Changing Child runs up to the woman and begs her for peace. It grabs her skirt and cries for peace but she cannot feel or see or hear the child either. She is too far removed from her own Mother, the Earth; she barely resembles Her anymore. She never receives an answer to her question, “Who will speak for the Earth?” and so, she continues the plans for war.

 She calls one of her footmen to bring her the war-maker, the instrument of government. A slimy, thin man in a shabby coat, carries a locked case to podium. His smile is too bright and too wide and he is too anxious. He lays the case at her feet, obsequiously bowing away. She picks it up and places it on the stand in front of her. Another footman gives her a key and she opens the case. Inside, pillowed on silk and velvet, is the handle of government, made for moving the cogs of war. It is made of all the materials of the seven cogs: a foundation of wood, covered by the metals and plastics; engraved with gold; held together by stone and slate. It fits on a peg in the central, wooden cog, the greatest cog of all. The whole chamber is hushed and silent as she fits the peg into the socket, and turns it. It creaks and groans and strains; the roots of the tree holding it fast. It shudders, and the chamber is certain that the old, wooden cog will surely break under the pressure. But, slowly, it begins to turn; and the six others turn with it. The cogs of war are turning! The ancient roots shear off and pull out of the wall, the great wheel turns, and the single, last leaf clinging to the single, last branch, falls from the tree and is crushed under foot with the others. At last all the cogs turn smoothly together and war is made again!

 Changing Child runs from the chamber, screaming in terror. The counselors and ministers and the woman hear this scream at last; but they do not know its source. Changing Child has seen war seven and seventy-times-seven times! The roots of the great tree of peace have been broken again and it is like the child’s own back has broken with it, again! Changing Child flees to the last wild places on Earth while men and sons-of-men fight their wars again. There, in the secret place, Changing Child lives while the wars poison the Earth.

 Many years and many wars come and go. Many leaders come and go among man. Much is lost. Resources cannot keep up with Industry; Finance cannot finance Agriculture; Education cannot heal Health. All is destroyed. The Resources run out. There are no more to find. Dust blows across the mines and the waters are poisoned. The fish and animals die. Nothing will grow. Agriculture cannot happen. There are no more seeds to grow or animals to raise. The people starve. Industry ends. Veterans come back from the wars with minds and bodies which cannot no longer be healed by Health; injured by weapons they could never have imagined a cure for. The children run and loot in the streets. There are no more tests and no more Education. And Finance collapses from it all. Government disappears.

 Meanwhile, Changing Child shakes seeds and seedlings from its tangled hair, and nurtures them in the secret place. It takes baby wild animals from the wombs of their poisoned mothers and eggs from the poisoned birds. These it keeps in secret, frozen caves, safe from the wars of man. Even a man and a woman seed Changing Child keeps and nourishes in the back of the caves. It will raise these as it has done seven and seventy-times-seven times before. They will be raised as brothers again—the man and woman with the wild animals and fish and birds. They will live again with one another. They will be as one again. And again. And again. For seven generations Changing Child will keep them; until they populate the Earth again. Then, maybe, maybe, just maybe this time, the wars will not happen and the cogs will not be moved and they will have peace. For seven generations. Again. And, Changing Child will change again.

(C)henry francis redhouse, 2012. Artwork is property of its respective owners.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 





free speech; not free of consequences

25 10 2016

 

confederate-flag

(I have to stop listening to morning talk call-in programs. It is robbing me of my sleep; it is 2:15AM right now and all I can think of is my response to the morning’s topic. However, in this town, there are no morning-show-free radio stations; and I suppose they are doing their jobs, because I am responding and thinking.)

The recent topic of discussion on this particular radio station was from a neighboring town. The Police Sargent in that town was displaying a Confederate flag (mind you, this town is in the deep, liberal north) inside his garage, and when he opened the door, or left it open, the flag was highly visible. His neighbors are a (gay) couple whose son is black. They were concerned about the message that this flag was giving to their son, especially in these times of battered police-minority relations. Well, the Human Rights Committee in the town concluded that, “The Confederate flag is a generally-accepted symbol of racial oppression…and should not be displayed by public officials…” The Sargent has since removed the flag.

Oh the overwhelmingly-white responses!

Most of the callers and the hostess herself agreed that the Police Sargent had a right to display the flag in his garage and should not have been asked by the HR Committee to remove it.

The hostess asked what the flag means to callers when they see it displayed on the back of a truck or on a home. They said that the Confederate flag does not mean racism anymore, but they think it means just that the person is a Redneck or likes the Dukes of Hazard (a show from the 1980s that used the symbol on a car, in the South). Many say that the Confederate flag is a heritage of their ancestors and a symbol of “Southern pride.” I would like to know what exactly it means for a white, Northerner like the Police Sargent, to own and carry a flag like that in his home? He cannot claim it is “Southern Pride” or a “heritage” of his ancestors; he is a northerner! And as far as being just a “good ole boy” or “Redneck” symbol, that may not be the message he wishes to communicate either; Redneck generally means offish, ignorant, or subtly racist disguised as Patriotism. I know; that is how my family (of Northerners) is.

I find the defense of the Confederate flag as a harmless symbol laughable. Would the same defense be used if the flag was a Nazi Swastika and the neighbors Jewish? Not everyone who sees the Confederate flag openly displayed thinks it is harmless. Sometimes I am working in front of a home where they have that flag hung outside or I see it flown in the back of a truck. My visceral reaction is not that they are “good ole boys” or that they must be “Southern gentlemen”; but I feel fear as a minority in this country. I just want to get my work done in front of that house and not get shot at. It is not a harmless symbol and I can well-imagine the message that the black boy next door was perceiving.

One man called-in and asked how could that young boy know anything about racism at his age? I shouted out loud, “It is passed down in his very DNA! It is called historical trauma!” No white man can say that black child does not know what racism is; he lives it every day! This country was founded on the oppression and slavery of one race; and the genocide of another! We know our histories much better than any white man; we lived them, and we continue to live them!

A caller said that as a white woman, she had the right to display anything in her home and to do anything in this country; that is why her ancestors came here, to escape oppression. She called it “reverse racism” that the Police Sargent was asked to remove the Confederate flag from his garage. First off, there is no such thing as reverse racism. What you are perceiving as reverse racism is in fact, a minority group saying “enough is enough” and exerting the same rights that you have enjoyed all along—the freedom from fear, the freedom of expression, and the freedom from oppression you so dearly hold already. And yes, the Constitution does allow you to display a “generally-accepted symbol of racial oppression” in your home. You have that freedom of speech; but not the freedom from consequences of your free speech. And the consequence is that your neighbors think you are racist. And you need to own those consequences; or get over it; like white people have been telling black and Native Americans for hundreds of years.

One man said that since the couple who lived next door were gay, that they can display the rainbow flag outside their home; so the Police Sargent had the right to display the flag of his choice as well. Well, I do not think that the rainbow flag has ever been used as a symbol of succession from the Union, nor did it cause a Civil War; and nor is a “generally-accepted symbol of racial oppression.” However, if displaying the rainbow flag is an offense to this man’s fragile heterosexual privilege, he has a right to be offended as well. But, really, that argument is cracked; and speaks more to the man’s internal homophobia than his intelligence. When all else fails, attack what you fear most, that gay people (or brown people) will have the same rights and freedom from fear and oppression that you already enjoy.

All these arguments aside, the Police Sargent did remove the flag at the suggestion of the Human Rights Committee in the town. It was, notably, a suggestion. The HR Committee does not have the right to make laws or enforce them in this town; they were merely consulted on the subject and their statement was solicited. The Police Sargent could have continued displaying his Confederate flag and he could have gone to court to fight for his freedom of expression. But, I think he began to actually consider how his actions could be perceived; not merely that he had a right to those actions; but owning the greater community consequences of those actions. He discontinued displaying the Confederate flag in his home. He was the better man. The Police Sargent did the right thing.

I understand that many people have many ideas about what the Confederate flag means, who should display it and where, and if that is a good idea or not. Several states in the South have recently come under fire from Human Rights advocates for displaying the Confederate flag at government buildings. But, not-with-standing, this Police Sargent is a public official. And as such, he should be held to a higher moral and personal standard than other people who do not hold an office. We have failed to reform the government from the top-down; that is clear by the number of police shootings that go un-punished, by the number of election frauds in many states, and the current set of laughable Presidential candidates. Perhaps if that were true that public officials in our governments were held to a higher standard, than there would be less corruption and less angry, controlling Rednecks masquerading as law enforcement officers killing black boys.

(C)henry francis redhouse, 2016. Artwork is property of its respective owners.





the consequences of “locker room talk”

16 10 2016

 

grab-a-pussy

I was listening to the radio (morning talk show; I generally dislike morning show talk because I am like, “Stop talking! Play music! It is the morning! All this talk is putting me back to sleep!”) while driving to work the other day. The hostess told a story about how a man was kicked off a plane for being disrespectful to the female flight attendant. The attendent was giving the safety talk and demonstrating how to put on a life jacket to the people on the plane. This man blurted out when she put the life jacket on, “Sexy!” And the woman said to him, “Sir, you have to be respectful.” But the man argued with her and said he was “just joking” and not being disrespectful. She asked security to remove the man from the flight and they did.

The radio hostess was soliciting listener responses on whether this was appropriate action to remove the man from the plane for being disrespectful to the attendant. Most of the call-ins said that it was over-reacting to boot him off the plane, both female and male callers saying that he was just making a joke and she over-reacted. The radio hostess herself thought it was over-reacting. A female caller said that the man was not harassing or assaulting the attendant, so he should not have been removed from the plane. A male caller said that the attendant should have been “flattered” that the man said the life jacket was “sexy” on her. I think only one caller said that the actions of the airline to remove the man were justified.

I was literally shouting at the radio (why do we do that anyway?) that all these people were wrong and the man was a douche-nozzle and yes, he should have been removed from the plane! It is time that men and boys learn that there are direct consequences to “locker room talk”, that is it not funny, and that no woman is ever “flattered” by being cat-called and having her body constantly (and I mean, constantly) sexualized by the men all around her!

But, first, let us deconstruct the story. The flight attendant said the man was being “disrespectful”; probably because he was interrupting her safety demonstration and probably because his comment was sexually inappropriate. He argued that it was not “disrespectful”, but funny, just a joke. Well, guess what? You know who gets to decide what is and is not “respectful”; not the one whose actions were called out, but the one who felt disrespected. That is right; if she said the comment, whatever the content, was disrespectful, it was disrespectful. He interrupted her and he was disrepectful. If he had listened to the flight attendant’s warning and then just shut his mouth right-then-and-there, instead of arguing, he would have still been on that plane. But he argued with her and she just had enough and had him removed. He just needed to shut up!

Next, the female caller who said that because he was not assaulting or “technically harassing” her, but clearly “only being disrespectful”, that he should not have been kicked off the plane: are you gonna wait until this man’s lack of consequences for his actions turn to assault or harassment?  Lack of real consequences for small actions and lewd language is exactly how “rape culture” is ingrained into the minds of boys and men; that it is okay to talk dirty to women, that they like it or are flattered, that they can make lewd jokes and have no consequences. These actions clearly lead to assault, harassment, and general disrespect of females. Men see it as an “entitled” right to leer and to joke about women; as long as they themselves find it funny. This is exactly the same train of thought that Presidential Candidate Trump uses to justify his “locker room talk” (“You can grab them by the pussy…”) and THIS. IS. NOT. OKAY. EVER.

I come from a culture that historically had no “punishment” system, no courts, no jails. The consequences of a person’s actions were entirely social. There were natural, social consequences to inappropriate behavior. It could be as simple as earning the ire of your parents or the Sachem, or losing their trust; or be severe like banishment from the tribe or band or from your clan. It also involved retribution: a death for a death, or kidnapping someone from those who took someone from your family. This system served us well until we were introduced to the idea of punishment by missionaries and Europeans; and that system did not work well for a people who had no concept of “sin”. The man who was removed from the plane faced no legal punishment; his consequences (being kicked off the flight and made to feel ashamed of his actions) were entirely social; and that is where reform needs to take place today.

Courts have failed sexual assault victims over and over again: most recently, a young man who raped his unconscious female roommate was given only three months’ parole by a judge who thought that the legal consequences of imprisoning the man for rape would “interfere with his opportunities for advancement” in his career and enjoyment of being on his college swim team. Well, what about how being raped will interfere with her opportunities for advancement and enjoyment (her loss of self-esteem, PTSD, the way she was shamed in public and in the courts)?! Since when does the court protect rapists from the consequences of their actions; and not protect an unconscious victim?! The message is clear: men are not held accountable for their actions and women are not protected or valued in this “justice” system.

However, social consequences can and will be the new (old?) justice system that will bring reform. Yes, this young man got away with raping his roommate. But, he can no longer safely go outside his house today. Other, angry men and women picketed outside his home with signs that said things like, “If I rape him will I only get 3-months’ parole?” Now, he is publicly shamed everywhere he goes; that is his very real, social consequence. Is it enough? We shall see when he re-joins his swim team again and everywhere he goes, women and men harass him with signs reminding him that he raped a woman and should be ashamed over and over again!

It is time that we taught our boys and our men that it is never okay to sexualize or shame females in public, in the locker room, on planes, or at a Presidential platform! It is time to teach boys that there are real consequences to their words, that making lewd comments and jokes is inappropriate, and that females deserve our respect, protection, and love. Before it turns into sexual assault! One out of four women and girls will be sexually-assaulted or abused in their lives; and three out of four women of color will be too! The female callers who said that the airline over-reacted must be the one-quarter of the female population that have never been sexually assaulted or they would find nothing funny or flattering about the man’s comment; or about Donald Trump’s “braggadocious” pussy talk. Stop pretending that boys-will-be-boys and stop accepting sexualized jokes in your social circle because “that is how men are.” This is not how men are; this is how men think that they are okay. And that is not okay. There must be direct, social consequences. We have to say, “that is not okay”, and throw those men off planes if we need to!

(C)henry francis redhouse, 2016. Artwork is property of its respective owners.

 








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