who knew that 15 was such a difficult number? I am trying to bring another habit in to my life and all it requires is that I spend 15 minutes a day doing something. I can do it at any point during the day. I have…scheduled it, drawn graphs of it, written about it, moved little objects around to get ready for it – but have I done it? No.
My promise to myself is to do it after I write this blog. Although…I may stop in mid stream and do it because that seems ot be working with other things (ie my violin playing when from sporadic and spastic to concentrated and consistent when I recognized that the time to do it was the time of day I started bitching about never doing it).
Columbus day is Monday, and this gives rise to many debates about the day. Part of the difficulty in unraveling the meaning and appropriateness of this day is that for the majority of the population it means nothing. It is a day off. There is no sense of connectedness to it. And a lot of that comes not from a deeply entrenched institutional racism or sense of entitlement but a simple fact that people don’t care because their families came here so recently that who discovered and took over a place doesn’t really matter because someone would have eventually (the way things have gone in history) and their families sense of history as to why they had to flee their homelands is more prominent.
For Native Americans the day is an insult, plain and simple.
In Rhode Island we still celebrate V-J day. That is victory over japan day and that day is just…an insult to humanity.
The problem, to me, is not that we are celebrating screwed up days, but the fact that we celebrate war, violence and oppression more then we celebrate creation and peace. Even Labor day, think about it, its really kind of a huge thumbing of the nose at workers to say “here is a day for you, most of you will not get paid for taking it off, some of you will be threatened with losing your job if you do not show up and there is something wrong with you if you do not go out and spend more money then you earn on things you really do not need” then everyone is packed off to work again in industries that have stripped society of meaningfullness and individual value.
What days should we celebrate? Should we mark days in history that invariably include the oppression of someone and most likely violence against many? Maybe we should adopt national days of forgiveness, rest, value and love. A day for each season. And on those days we can include our histories, all of our histories because for some reason still (I am being facetious here) we have many different histories in this country that are not seen as related…much less happening at the same time.
I am an educated person. But I remember in the early 90s seeing that first graphic novel (done after Maus) about the history of Black Americans and being absolutely shocked at my lack of knowledge about who made this country possible in so many ways and with so many key inventions and discoveries.
I am an educated person and I remember when I went to college that the only available course that presented the role of women in the arts was offered late at night, during a short “fun” semester, from a women recognized as an academic world expert who they refused to hire because her work undermined the canonical book (the 150 dollar canonical book all freshman had to buy) written by another professor on the history of western art that barely listed women as existing.
One of the places I hang out some times is on the national archives website. For decades the government has employed photographers to travel around and document this country and the people in it. It never ceases to amaze me that we have these histories preserved and yet do not teach them.
And it is an oversimplification to blame it on race. There are far more races in the world then we have primary colors for and yet we insist on using this very limited perception of society in trying to understand its ills.
Its like trying to understand sexuality. There are three aspects to each persons sexuality that so far has only been taken account for in one survey that is not used anywhere (yet all researchers agree it is the proper way to do it but that it will destroy our neat categories) and that is what you are attracted to, what you have done, and how you live.
Not one problem in this world can be defined in simplistic terms and the more we attempt to do that the more divisions we create that solidify rifts and allow for oppression.
Power, control and preference are the three things that have defined all of history for all nations and races. And, unfortunately, it also defines almost all of our relationships with others. When we celebrate single moments in the way that we do, the day is not about the celebration but in allowing one group to literally have power, control and preference over that day. The only thing that will happen if we change the nature or the day and what it recognizes is that now a different group has power, control and preference over that one day.
Last I checked nobody I know is in the habit of being able to suspend their life for a day. We share everything, like it or not. Maybe the emphasis should be on building a society that recognizes our universal connections and leaves our celebrations of our identities within our smaller communities rather then try to impose them on the national or global ones we share.
c.2010. Cassandra Tribe. All Rights Reserved.