We are still discussing the Confederate battle flag and what it means to be Southern an what it means to be a Black Southerner. All of this over on the Facebookery. My friend Literata posted a meme about the Confederate flag and the swastika. My responses were these…
And yet–at least for the first one–there are other meanings to a different group of people. A symbol with power can have many meanings, not all of them conflicting.
I am saying it isn’t a binary, neither the one thing nor the other. It would be healthiest for the communities genuinely impacted by any symbol (as opposed to the social media juggernaut that has silenced many voices on all sides of these issues) to sit together in deep listening and sharing and see what comes of that. That is a healing way, though terribly difficult. Memes are easier, for sure. It is so much easier to shut one group down and raise another up but that usually doesn’t lead to reweaving the shredded fabric on community. So much easier to point and judge without getting into the messiness of justice within culture.
I am asking for the parties involved to come together so that oppressions can be truly accounted for and work begun toward eliminating them. Instead, we manage a number of feel-good gestures that–while important as gestures–may not move us forward to actual elimination of the horrific ill of racism. Ditto sexism. We can’t simply concur on what feels like a meaningful platitude without actually working–day by day, year by year–to take these toxic systems down.
I am saying it isn’t enough (to remove the flag) and now isn’t the place to stop and think we’ve fixed something. If we are truly interested in fixing the problem, of bringing healing all around, we have to do more than gestures. They aren’t empty–symbols are potent, which is how this conversation began. But gestures aren’t enough to ratify problems. That takes ugly, painful and messy work and a kind of endurance that most Americans don’t understand.
As a multi-generational Appalachian woman and a Pisces, it helps me to see all the sides of an issue and to get to the meat of it. My outlook tends to belt-and-suspenders and looking in the shady corners. I appreciate the gestures, truly. But what we really need–in my opinion–is the sort of process that South Africa went through–truth and reconciliation. And, frankly, that should have been done in 1875.
I encourage all Southerners, who love the South and hate the stereotypes and bashing, to fly the Bonnie Blue as a sign of cultural solidarity.
(I posted this to Facebook today and got a wonderful, thoughtful response from a great many people. I am reposting it here with links to some of the references they suggested.)
The Alewives discussed equity and justice and agency last night. No, we did not have a fire. We did sit around the fire bowl in the muddy air of a mountain gloaming, however, which could have influenced our thinking about patriarchy’s decline and voodoo lilies and Tower Time. And we talked about outgoing Chief Michell Hicks and how things have changed out on Qualla Boundary. Which got us thinking about this–why isn’t there more talk about the First Nations peoples and their struggles and challenges? When we are talking about injustice in America, surely we must open that wound and look hard at it. Why are we not? Why do we honor some groups but not others? Why is a confederate battle flag more compelling than the grinding poverty in Native communities? So I found this, which is from 2012 but readable. The author is Jennifer Thomalla.
Poverty Across America: American Indian Reservations
My sister and friend Venice suggested I acquaint myself with the work of Katsi Cook and posted a link to this article–
So I am reposting this here to see what your thoughts are about this issue. I am still meditating on mine.
These are fraught times for many of us. Yes, of course I’m going to advise you to ground and put up shields but I am also going to ask you to be really strong and to reach out to your community–however you define that–and to see who can’t be strong right now. There is a river of grief around us and this is the time for the strong to be there in the midst of the waters. Hold out your hand and lend yourself to the cause that is your cause. Love it fiercely, ferociously. Be the strength, if you can.
Strength of oak and stone and mountain be thine.
Chopping apples became a meditation for me today. The kitchen was set up with various cutting boards, colanders and stainless steel bowls, and a large pot in the sink held water to wash the apples. I started this morning by sharpening two of my favorite knives. Porch to kitchen. Wash and drain. Chopchopchop. Refuse to the compost tub. Chops into bags. Repeat.
It gave me time to clear the noise of this past couple of weeks out of my head. Chopchopchop. I was standing at my kitchen work station and began to wiggle my feet and sway as I chopped. A little tune came into my head and I hummed as I worked.
And because I was standing, I took time to do a good deep and grounding and check in with the good Earth. A cool breeze–and damp–drifted in the open window. I let the feel of it cool my back and my soul a bit, too. These are complicated days to try to think through and impossible days to try to sort out feelings in. So I let my heart drift, too–I left Charleston behind and Sudan and Greece and the red wolves and the damaged Gulf. I felt it flow down into the good Earth to become compost for this new world we’re building.
I think about–too much about–resilience these days. As all these systems collapse, as we learn to navigate by the stars and the Sun in Tower Time, what does it mean to love the land while looking askance at the people–my species–who inhabit it. Resilience, survival. Community and food and caring and love.
There is so much visible pain, so many angry fearful people–and I have been angry and frustrated and fearful myself in these days. But this day of simple, monotonous work and the gift of grounding have brought me some healing, I think. And some re-membering of who I am and where I am.
As we approach this flawed nation’s birthday, what are you re-membering? How are you healing yourself, your community and the souls you hold dear.
May we all re-member well, friends. Even those of us who have named it are not immune to the stresses and chaos of Tower Time.
Lawsy, Facebook is full of finger-pointing and blaming. Certainly those of us with thick skins and a few brain cells to rub together are capable of determining whether we currently actually own slaves and how to feel about it if it’s “only” something our Ancestors did.
What started out as a concern and is rapidly becoming a point of fury is the constant drumbeat that somehow all of those superior beings have a more nuanced and authentic understanding of the Civil War (and frankly of anything they care to argue about) and the rest of us romantic dullards need to See The Light.
We all know that history is a slippery and subtle study, it isn’t as clear as we’d like for it to be and there can be many understandings of the same set of events. Continuing to browbeat and belittle people who are merely suggesting that we look a little more deeply into the cause and effect of a difficult part of American history does not prove your point.
The constant tone of shaming rhetoric is both wearying and disheartening. And this doesn’t begin to touch on the private messages and small in-person conversations that take up space in my heart and time in my day.
I have even coined a phrase for all this–Yanksplaining.