It’s a Helluva Place

Thoughts at home…
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visions
Sort of having this vision of the sixteen acres of my parents’ home becoming a retreat/healing center (as my father works to complete the sauna he started years ago). A place for intentional community for people of many faiths.
This is some sort of variation of a pipe dream to start a school or to start an organic farm we bring up now and then.
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I find this deep respect for my family as they are spending chunks of their retirement tending to our property as well as volunteering for a Christian mission group that works to bring Syrian refugees to the US/Canada. As liberal urbanite who seems to be surrounded by lots of fellow Trump-bashers seemingly “woke” folks, I can kind of think “well duh” but I forget all of the fraught biased politics surrounding this as they live in the middle Trump country (1)
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Driving home I see a truck that says TUMP 2020 in 10 ft tall letters sitting across from an elementary school where I used to shadow ESL classes. I remember meeting kids from Mexico…China..Thailand…etc. Sort of makes me think the Latino children I worked with at least had each other and their communities to fall back on emotionally when the hate speech started to spew from the mouth of the ‘most high,’ but these kids are alone, maybe the only one of their countrymen in that town and having to see that propaganda every day on their walk to school.
(1) Ryan Dueck, “I’m Sorry, Christian, but you Don’t Get To Make That Move”  https://ryandueck.com/2015/09/16/im-sorry-christian-but-you-dont-get-to-make-that-move/       
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football and crybabies 
My friend reads my blog and sends me a wonderful meditation by a Lakota grandmother but I do not play it at the dinner table. Shortly before our family prayer, I hear my father saying to my uncle and brother “I don’t get why people are such babies these days, wanting to be so politically correct, crying about how the name of the football team is the Redskins, give me a break.”
I keep a lot of thoughts in my head. It takes me some time to process things I find, and I am already conditioned to keep my mouth quiet. Maybe why I’ve turned to writing as a means to expression, as what I usually want to say is not understood, or received well, by the people around me. It’s a gift and a curse, sometimes, I’m sure.
So I’m silently replying … “Maybe they are ‘crybabies’ because of genocide..then suffered centuries of conquest, relocation, boarding schools, etc. etc. and peoples and now have to be reminded of it by it everytime they see the logo that perpetuates stereotypes (1)…not to mention it harms the brains of men, maybe even men who have DNA of their descendants with concussions (2-3)…and not to mention the ones at said sporting events refusing to stand for the anthem in act of protest and to stand in solidarity with opressed peoples.(3)”
But then again, what would a girl like me really know about football.
(3) Antonia Moore, Vice, “Footballs War on the Minds of Black Men” https://sports.vice.com/en_us/article/eze4gj/footballs-war-on-the-minds-of-black-men 
(4) Edmund DeMarche, CNN, “Kaepernick Participates in Unthanksgiving Day on Alcatraz” http://www.foxnews.com/us/2017/11/24/kaepernick-participates-in-unthanksgiving-day-on-alcatraz.html
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social consciousness and the children and the generations and the going on 
Question: Does our social consciousness shift as we age to find “belonging” within the political consciousness of our peers the current trends of politics? (My dad going from sweat lodge builder to a more conservative view on ‘political correctness’?)
Question: Or do those remaining bits of what was not understood or manifested by the previous generation pass on to their children – like me, now caught up in my own research and my own life-playing out in some spirit lotus wrapped up in healing ‘whiteness’ as an identity and how it can be healed in order to seek more expansion and freedom for all peoples. Are we the ones left trying to sort out the parts of us we left behind in previous generations?
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ancestral dreaming
We played a game at the dinner table that my mother and I made with creative self-reflection questions and the first one my grandfather picks up.
Describe heaven.
“It’s a helluva a place,” he says.
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Today I’m talking to my mother about my previous school year as a teacher in urban DC, fraught with all kinds of things I can’t even begin to explain in a simple post. My mother was a teacher and so was I.
I show her the slideshow I made for a project I did with a colleague in the music-biz to try and get statues erected in DC of local women and people of color who made an impact on the city’s history. She’s editing my work. I’m showing her the slides of a local DC artist who played with folk musicians of the 60s and participated in the Civil Rights movement. “You spelled Pete Siger wrong…It’s Pete Seeger.” I know mom, I know. Typos are inevitable.
Then I show her videos from the poetry slam I attended of my old students, Latino kids who wrote poems of unity,  dreaming, how hard their parents paved the way for their world of success. One of my best friends from my old school coached the team and wrote the culminating poem. I helped her edit it.
The kids stand up and say “Unity, we stand for a better tomorrow, but now you tell me no more dreamers?”- these children descendants of a generation of immigrants denied access to opportunities before the DREAM Act and DACA. The stuff the Puppet and his minions are working to overturn. Now the bilingual children of the ancestors are on stage shouting out what their parents are still denied from saying in the public space.
Note from self: Remember this isn’t the conditioning of your white savior complex or need to prove your worthiness shown through your dedication to the children of color over other children because that is still a manifestation of racism.  This is trust that individuals will free themselves as individuals communities will free themselves as communities and this is the healing of our century that we all must take part in as a whole. I have called you to participate.
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We watch old home movies of my grandparents on my father’s side. My father’s baba, who didn’t really speak English at all but he and my uncle remember telling them to eat. Standing next to beautiful flowers in her garden. Chickens running around the backyard in front of the outhouse. Always wore a babushka and a dress, they said. It’s all that they’ve remembered, they said.
I sit to wonder. What the ancestors have asked us to carry on. What they have asked us to change. What they have asked us to heal. What they are watching us be.

 

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On Native American History, Cultural Appropriation and Facing Our Work Today

books
I sit and write this post from my childhood bedroom, where there are Native American literature book lining the walls of what is now my parents’ library.
I’m sure this post is preaching to the choir a bit, seeing the friends who follow my feeds – but let’s just remind everyone – it’s that time of year! Time to remind everyone in our lives about the destruction of Native communities in the Americas. To celebrate your holiday with gratitude for your loved ones, while simultaneously disassociating from the traumatic history of our very blood and soil!
“History is not the past, it is the present. We carry our history with us. We are our history.” Thank you Baldwin!
This November the Keystone oil pipeline has already leaked 210,000 gallons of oil in South Dakota into the Lake Traverse Reservation. Last month we had the “largest massacre in U.S. history” in Vegas, but what they forgot to say is that it was the largest in recent history. Least not to forget the massacres at Sand Creek and Wounded Knee.
Now let me say this I have found in the past several years of my development that my experience serves as an excellent case study of an individual and a family unit that benefits from white privilege and all the shit that it causes under a country founded on the notion of white supremacy. (Yes, thank you 2017). My personal self-work has involved healing from “whiteness” in an era where we see the dark manifestations of this around us in our everyday activities and speak.
At the same time, I am also thankful I grew up in a household where I felt educated about cultures outside of my own, where many of my peers did not have this experience whatsoever and stayed inside a very narrow bubble of understanding.This encouraged me to dutifully and in intentionally interact with people who may have lived a different experience or hold a different perspective than myself, and proceed with respect and understanding. With a hold shit ton of mistakes. I have also been encouraged to live a life of service towards others.
(Not that there are problems with that as well, but more on that at a later date)
I would like to examine myself as a case study.
I writing this objectively, the history as I remember it.
I do not claim to be an expert in identity politics, a only my experience as I see it playing out today.
Some of these experiences may be problematic. They may be totally a manifestation of human curiosity and cultural exchange in the global era. It’s perspective.
I wrote this a few weeks ago, and I’m still exploring the idea. So bear with me.
Let me see…
childhood
My father used to teach Native American literature as a high school teacher. I don’t know where his passion for it came from, but I remember participating in it. I remember hiding under a teepee in my backyard. Doing a sweat-lodge and then immediately running around in my sprinkler outside. Taking trips on the river in a canoe. I remember asking my father about the lines on the faces of the Natives in the books he had, black and white photography. “Why do they look so old?” I asked. “Those are their wisdom lines,” he said. I remember my father reading books to me before I went to sleep. There was a fictional book with Native woman protagonist who had a baby with blue eyes not long after she had a visit from a Nordic man. I started understanding how gene expression worked before I had an understanding of how babies were made.
I also remember Pocahontas coming out around 1996. Then dressing up as her for Halloween.
Let me see…
high school and college
It actually crossed my mind once as a naive freshman in college that I would “dress up like an Indian” and put on a lot of makeup. Yes. Literally, brown face. (It never happened, thank god.) I remember seeing an indie singer-song writer I knew wearing headdress at one of a show. And despite my healthy dose of literature as a child, I don’t think I read a single book about Native American history during college. Except perhaps, the Chicana writer Gloria E. Anzaldúa, who blew my mind and stole my poet’s heart, in Borderlands/La Frontera. And then, I remember a student in that class saying “I like her writing, but why does she have to be so angry?’
Let me see…
last year
I did sweat lodge again in upstate New York with one of my best friends. We had been wanting to try the experience, on the night of the full moon at that. The crowd, however, did not comprise of any Native participants or leaders. There were people from the community who had studied with Lakotas, but were not of Lakota origin themselves. There was a river, and we all felt it was too cold to jump in. It was a beautiful experience, but a few weeks later, the actual spiritual experience really hit me in the head with this insight:
Merritt, give up the yoga. Give up the Native American ritual. You need to start writing again.
And in many ways, telling me to look at, this very thing.
Let me see…
So what’s coming up now. 
I’ve participated in some spiritual communities in the past few years and here is something I am really curious about.
I don’t see an overwhelming amount of Native appropriation, although I imagine it’s in there, hiding in the dark.
I’m sort of just putting this out there as a question, from a place of curiosity for other people who may participate in other religious/spiritual offerings from cultures that have been historically and presently oppressed in the Americas.
Have you had your mini-Rachel Dolezal moment where you find yourself going to “take the ‘good’ parts, leave the rest behind”? Like, you want to participate in a Native American ceremony, but do you want the high rate of suicide and depression? Sexual assault and rape? The alcoholism? Contaminated water?  Poor rates of education for your children?
I have been writing and researching a lot about shamanism lately, from a multi-cultural perspective. While the word “shamanism” might bring up the image of someone of a Native American culture, the practice is seen all over the world. I know there is history from my own heritage in Western and Eastern Europe, and yes, I’m really sad that that’s been lost over time through my ancestry to my own present.
As I imagine, there are people in any community who know about their own culture, but who are too ashamed, scared, feeling low-self worth, to stand up and share about it.
And it gets lost…and lost…and lost…until it becomes invisible.
….
Let me see…
What would the healing of this look like from a perspective of exchange? 
We need to be in community with other communities, otherwise, I fear the resurgence of a colonial complex (” I/my ancestors took your culture, now let me teach it back you you) and we will see another disappearance of marginalized people all over the world under this umbrella of white supremacy.
A few weeks ago, I attended an online conference on called “Grounding in Life” work hosted by the modern mystic, Thomas Hübl. Through events of dialogue and exchange, he has worked at healing the Holocaust’s cultural shadows, bringing together thousands of Israelis and Germans in the process.
So now I sit wondering, who is going to bring this type of work to the Americas? When it is so very traumatized at its core over so many things.
A few things that stood out to me from his talk:
  • “The body of the human being around the world has deep scars”
  • “Whole societies are built on dark lakes of the unconscious”
  • “Stream of conscious awareness runs throughout the generations “
  • “We recreate the same structures again and again”
There’s this sort of sick pressure I find in the spiritual/self-help world of an individualistic nation that thinks you are going to accomplish all of this healing work on your own. Not really possible. Especially with the wounds we have inflicted and have to carry.
So! In gathering in “We-Spaces” (or places where there is not a ‘me’ or ‘you’ but rather a ‘we’ in the gathering) this can be accomplished:
  • “When there is a coherence and intimacy in a We-Space, big eruptions of collective unconscious comes up, waiting to come back into the conscious awareness”
  • “Coming together in intentional We pace, something about the greater field that allows us to work with material that would be overwhelming for us if we were just trying to do that on our own..”
I could see the work being much more fruitful towards a healing discussion for both parties across racial and cultural lines.

airpoem