Archive for the ‘Gabrielle Giffords’ Category

#WatchPaintDry

The past couple of weeks have seen my activism rise. Phone calls, emails, petitions, talking to other folks to learn about their views, searching out reliable news outlets – and I’m walking in the Women’s March in Montpelier, VT. just three months out of knee surgery – this is too important for me to miss.

But back to art. I am a strong believer in the power of art. On January 8, 2011, there was a mass shooting in the Safeway parking lot in Tucson. Six people died, including a 9-year-old girl, and 13 were wounded, including my Congresswoman, Gabby Giffords. The following week was very difficult; being a teacher means you are a “first responder” at times – Monday morning after the shooting, Wednesday when President Obama came to town for a memorial, and Friday when the Westboro Baptist Church threatened to boycott funerals. Try explaining to teenagers whose brains emotionally are not fully developed that responding to the hate of Westboro Baptist Church was not a healthy response. No time to process my own feelings, just to be there for kids who weren’t sure what was happening – and especially since so many of them had already seen violence up close and personal in an urban city.

With that background, I had to create something, so I made a small piece of quiltart that spoke to my feelings. The piece made itself…from the choice of background (chicken-wire for fencing) to the words printed on cotton. The local newspaper did a brief story, and in Arizona (as in many places now) the trolls came out and said “If only I’d been around to give Hitler a quilt, everything would have been better.” Others reacted to my premise: that words have power; a woman from Australia said the words weren’t the cause, the man was mentally ill. Yes, no question the shooter was mentally ill, and no help from a broken system (thank you Ronald Reagan)….but words can push a person over the edge, even in the best of times.

My original post is here. I just reread it – raw writing for me. Here is the piece – 8.5 x 11 inches.

Binding looks like bullet holes, as does the stitching around the holes. People objected to the words, felt they were inflammatory for someone who was mentally ill. This was after Sarah Palin had a page on her website with a gun sight right over Arizona and Giffords’ district. I believed then that words caused this man to lash out, that words triggered his mental illness to another step.

We see just how far we have come 5 years and 11 days later. We don’t even talk about mental illness, nothing happens at the state or federal level, the body count keeps growing, and we are entering dark days. Hard to believe we are only now recognizing the words of the past months as hate speech, as power, as darkness.

I will keep speaking out through my art. Predominantly I am working with environmental statements concerning climate change. My Wetlands piece is the first attempt to look at a vanishing resource. there are so many issues and problems ahead for us. As artists we must be active.

I welcome comments.

 

A Ramblin’ Kind of Day

It seems to be a good day for marbling, as we are nearly done today’s quota. It’s interesting, how we’ve been doing the marbling so consistently – like nearly three times a week (pretreat one day, alum one day, marble the next) – that we keep reinforcing to ourselves that we don’t want to do production. Getting to 400 fat quarters probably will not happen for the show in April, but….the pieces we are taking are gorgeous, we are trying lots of new patterns, and we are really enjoying ourselves. But we also know we need to have the periodic break from all the fabric….which will come the end of February when we head to Sedona for a few days for the film festival.

Had our second sojourn to the gem show. Every February Tucson gets “stoned,” with buyers and sellers from around the world. Yesterday we headed to the rooms off the interstate. There is a stretch of frontage road with nothing but rooms emptied of beds and vendor wares set up. Parking is minimal on the best of days, and it’s a nightmare during gem show. But we paid for parking, as we wanted to see a pretty cool woman, Rachel of Rayela Art and the TAFA List. You can see our TAFA profile here. If you want eye candy….oh my goodness. There are now 400 people from around the world who are TAFA members, and almost 200 of them have their new profiles up on the site. Use the search engine and you will be treated to amazing textile and fiber work from around the world.

Anyhoo, the hotel/motel set-up was interesting. Lots of people, but…not on the backside of the hotel. Very sparse for business. I cannot imagine making a living doing these kinds of shows every year, wondering about the impact of the economy. Lately I’m seeing “trickle-down economics” in some interesting forms. Not as many big wholesale buyers at the shows because they haven’t sold enough jewelry to need to buy more stones. Not as many retired folk in the RV section of the air base here, because their adult children have moved home due to the economy, and there is now no disposable income to travel. The Republicans would probably say, “See, trickle-down does work.” I have a totally different opinion about how this is not the way to have a healthy population, but I’ll try to not rant politically…….

I’m taking private yoga lessons that I have been able to trade in exchange for art pieces. Good deal for both of us. My three lessons are already beginning to pay off with more calmness, strengthened feet and a corrected walking gait, more flexibility, and balance. I do think that this form of exercise is going to be what I’ve been looking for for a long time. No stress, no impact, no equipment, and I feel great.  I have been searching for something that will help me improve balance and flexibility. I thought it would take me probably three months to work into what Susan has me doing after three sessions. No pain, no sore muscles (not much, anyway), and I’m doing a lot of different work. Yay me!

I was going to do a post on the new mess in Tucson over our ethnic studies brouhaha, which is centered at the high school I worked at. I NEVER thought in my lifetime I would see books being banned in schools I worked in. This is totally unacceptable. If you don’t like a book, then don’t read it. Simple. Parents, do your job and work with your children if you don’t want them reading something. Smacks of the Catholic Legion of Decency from the early 60s that I remember and despised. I do cringe when I see some of the new books at the local bookstores. They preach hate and a serious distortion of the facts. I’m sad to see them there, but the books have every right according to our Constitution. It is sad to me, however, to see Jan Brewer’s book skip up the Amazon list because she was rude to President Obama. But I sure won’t be buying it.

There is much more to this whole mess. Supposedly teachers have been promoting resentment of other races in the Mexican American Studies program. I have had students who have been treated poorly in these classes because they were Anglo. Bottom line, not a reason to ban the program. This is an internal matter that should have been dealt with by administration. Teachers have a responsibility to all students in their classes. I’m not going to ban students with conservative leanings from my American History classes. I have a responsibility to teach critical thinking, as well as tolerance, to all my students….a lesson this country seems to be short on these days.

And Gabby Giffords has resigned from Congress and we are faced with more elections. It will get ugly. Komen Fund has stepped in it big time. Evidently a new movie is set to hit (or already has) about the foundation which will make more people question its motives. So it’s hard when you look at the big picture of this country to be positive; corporate money is controlling everything. Yet on an individual basis I know great people who are making their lives work and contributing to society. I sure never expected to be a little better off on retirement than when I was working full time. That has come as a shock….just need to be sure I stay healthy!

My big new art piece is almost done. Finished the machine quilting, blocked it yesterday, squared it off, and now I need to get the facings on so I can trim it, sew the facings, and then get the lichen set. (Sorry, Michelle, a bit of a run-on….) I still have until the 13th to get jpgs sent – need to set up the photography this week. And lots more art projects, this month’s new tutorial for the Free Motion quilting challenge…….microcosmically, life is good. Now to go balance on one leg…..

 

A Year Later

It has been a year. Gabby Giffords is back in town this weekend for remembrance ceremonies. She is quite the inspiration. I hoped by now to have more than 50 pieces on the Art from the Heart website, artwork devoted to promoting peace and nonviolence. But we don’t.

That’s not going to stop me.

Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see.”

Ben Franklin said, “There never was a good war or a bad peace.

From Publius Syrus: “We should provide in peace what we need in war.”

From Thomas Hardy:” My argument is that War makes rattling good history; but Peace is poor reading.”

From Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better.”

Also from Dr. King: “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

And from the Arizona Daily Star’s David Fitzsimmons: “We will remember. We will remember the victims of the Safeway horror, the pain, the heroism and the recovery. And we will forget. At election time we will not remember the names of the elected lawmakers who did nothing to close the gun check loopholes in Arizona. We will not remember the names of the lawmakers who did nothing to secure a modern mental health care system for our citizenry. We’ll forget the names of the lawmakers who could have affected positive change but did nothing. But we will remember. We’ll remember to mark our calendars and mourn and move on.”

We can’t continue on this course. I was struck by the number of quotes on peace that also involved being ready for war. That is a blending I do not want to see. I will continue to post about peace and nonviolence. I will continue to make art  that reflects peace. I will continue to call for others to make art that promotes peace and nonviolence. One small beacon.

Sometimes that’s all you can do.

 

To visit the prospectus, click here.

 

 

Reflections

It’s been an interesting time for reflection this last month, as it’s been an emotional roller coaster of a year. This time last year I was excited because I had decided to retire a year early, in May of 2012. Three semesters left felt do-able. However, I was also still stuck doing lesson plans every Sunday for most of the day. Yet I told myself it was better than the previous year, because I wasn’t spending as much time week nights marking papers, since I had an additional prep period each week.

Then came January 8 and the Tucson shootings. I had almost convinced hubby to go to the Congress on Your Corner, but by the time we were finished with his chiropractic appointment, it was too late to head over. There but for the grace of God…..Like most Tucsonans, we were glued to the television all day, through the NPR reports that Gabrielle Giffords had died to all the aftermath.

By Sunday afternoon I was working on the Art From the Heart website as a way of dealing with this tragedy. To date we’ve had artwork from 14 states, and some amazing artwork it is. President Obama came on Wednesday, and hubby and I sat transfixed in our living room, listening to his speech. On Friday I faced another challenge as a teacher – the Westboro Baptist Church had said it would boycott Christina Taylor-Green’s funeral, and then decided to boycott my high school instead for their ethnic studies program.

Here’s where I realized how much teachers are also first responders. It had been a hellish week, trying to get teenagers to understand what was going on, and how to respond in a nonviolent manner to a group like WBC. You can read about it here, here, here, and here.

Events like this make you really question so much about your life, especially when it appears to you to be a close call. The depression began to sneak up, slowly, and everything at school just became more intense. I began to think about leaving the classroom in May. After all, it had been 40 years. The end of February we attended some meetings with state retirement and made the decision that May 27 would be my last day as a teacher. That made me smile.

March and April are blurs pretty much, just existing and coping with the depression. I was reading on a blog by Dale Anne Potter about how positive she was and how many great things were happening to her. I emailed and got the information about Cocreating Our Reality and practicing the Law of Attraction. On May 1 I was determined to enter my first 100 days of this challenge being positive. You can read about that here. This really was the beginning of the turn-around for me. I finished school grinning from ear to ear during that last month, driving teachers I worked with crazy.

I wrote my Abundance checks with faith that everything would work. And it did. These seven months of retirement have been wonderful. Some health challenges, but hey, who hasn’t? The marbling business has picked up, great things are happening, and I’ve been able to create some new art. Two successful seasons of 100 days and working on the business – doing things – and creating art  that I hadn’t been able to do while teaching full time.

But December was a melancholy month for me, which was a change after the past six months. Some things weren’t right. The vision had gone in one eye, I had started a new set of 100-days, but the motivation wasn’t there. The weight issues got me down almost immediately. In retrospect I think it was the consumerism and blatant conspicuous consumption (yes, I know….redundancy….) that weighed on me. This led to some decisions to go a very different route next year with gifts – making donations in family’s names to nonprofits they support. Giving back, rather than giving to.

Along with that, the continued violence around us….it seemed like no matter where you turned or what you watched, there was violence all around. I can’t watch the news anymore, as I just get too upset. Movies and television shows are full of gratuitous violence. People are unkind, peace seems so far away, and our politicians – and those who are supposed to lead us – aren’t doing their jobs. I find everything about this country – and the world – to be so topsy-turvy. Nothing is right, we can’t seem to learn from our mistakes, and our country is lost in its original path. Part of me wishes to withdraw completely, and the other part of me wants to make the changes. I look ahead and see no hope…and 10 months of a VERY LONG election season.

So now it’s New Year’s Eve. I need to look ahead, as we are having some great things happen for us. We are making fabric like crazy, heading for an overnight at a king suite in a local hotel so we can do planning for the first quarter of 2012. Tutoring clients are coming in, finances seem to be assured, and we’re both feeling positive. I know there will be decisions ahead, as I think 2012 is going to be a pivotal year. But right now all I can do is all I can do.

Here’s wishing you and yours peace, happiness, and prosperity for this coming year – and whatever else you would like. Life is good, and we need to embrace it!

Day One, Season 3

  I chose my “Explosion” piece for today because that’s the kind of excitement I feel starting this new season three. Seasons one and two of Cocreating Our Reality were eye-opening and exciting, and for the last few days I have been building up to starting a new journey today. First, I am so blessed to be retired and able to work on art when and where I want to, for as long as I want to. I get to spend every day with my hubby, and life is pretty much wonderful. Health problems – of course, who doesn’t have them at our age. But – that’s not stopping me from living a great life.

I discovered over the last two seasons when it was time to evaluate my goals, that I hadn’t really stretched myself – or thought big enough. So I have been pondering that for the last week or so. What is it I actually want to do?

First and foremost, kind of came to me last night in the moments before sleep, is probably the one most on my mind. I need to take this season and concentrate on me. It sounds selfish, but it isn’t. I have health issues that really need to be addressed, and for so many years they went to the side as other things – students, work, hubby – took their place. If I expect to be as creative for as long as I want, and get out and be politically active, and write – do all the things I want to – than I need to focus on my health. So that is goal number one for this season: take the cholesterol medicine, take my vitamins, watch what I eat, get out regularly and exercise, track my food intake, get some yoga teachings, get my blood readings where they need to be. I actually started thinking this way a few days ago, and I’m pleased to say the exercise has already increased, as well as having a bit more control over appetite.

A second goal is tied in to all this. I am getting a second opinion on my vision issues and will work to find strategies to help with the depth perception and balance issues. A new doctor’s appointment is scheduled for next week Thursday, and I have a teacher friend to talk to about some basic yoga stretches. I always knew this day was coming, and now that it’s here, I need to learn to work with the new limitations.

Overall, for the first time, these two goals seem very positive. One hundred days from now, March 10, I expect that I will have been enormously successful at these first two. That statement alone is a major change for me. It’s very positive, rather than using the word “try.”

Business-wise I have some very specific goals.

Number three in my list is to solve the newsletter/collectors’ information issue. I am, as was said to a friend of mine, “leaving money on the table.” This has to be a regular business goal. I am considering taking Alyson Stanfield’s “Cultivating Your Collectors” class in February. That will depend on a number of things, primarily finances. I am good at reading and implementing, and since I accomplished four of Alyson’s goals in I’d Rather Be in the Studio!, I should be able to accomplish at least three this new season. So: newsletter, portfolio (which we will need for a major event the end of March), and I will look through the list for at least one other. Newsletter once a month should be definitely do-able. A collectors’ newsletter once a quarter should be reasonable. I’m sure there will be others to add here.

Number four is searching out wholesale suppliers for cutting back basic costs of making marbled fabric. As of yesterday I have a new wholesale account with Kona Bay fabrics, as we use their colored cotton quite successfully. We are looking for wholesale sources for premium white cotton, silk/satin ribbon (like Offray), and probably some other materials.

Number five is ramping up our Etsy shop, our Fine Art America galleries, Cafe Press, and looking in to Red Bubble, Three Sisters, and at least one other online selling site. My overall goal in all this is to be able to update these sites once a week, as well as include items from these sites in our soon-to-happen newsletters. I’ve tried setting monetary goals for Etsy and Ebay, and they are very fickle, depending on the economy. I do tweet my Etsy and Ebay offerings once a week, which certainly drives traffic to the site, but I don’t see it converting. However, I know that it is only a matter of time, as is the case with this blog. I am about to hit 1500 viewers per month, so I know it is consistency. (Concerning the blog…when Facebook changed its latest set of operating, my blog numbers dropped. Turns out, on exploration, Networked Blogs was a casualty and needed to be reactivated. Once that happened, I saw numbers increase again…..I am amazed at how net-savvy we need to be these days!)

Art-wise I also have some very specific goals.

Number six is to enter a major show with new work. The deadline for this is mid-February, and I am already hard at work on the first of two pieces. The fabric has been created, and the ideas are flowing. Here’s just some of the fabric…..

Unpolished red satin

If I get accepted, great. If not, I will have two new lovely large art pieces for our body of work. But I am putting out to the Universe that this will be show-worthy art.

Number seven is to create the kit for Marbled Seasons. Yesterday’s blog post showed the first of the four small quilts/table runners. I used to have several patterns, all of which I sold the rights to. So I just need to make more. For this goal I want this set of kits completed, and two new ideas for pattern kits, plus a rewrite of my Polynomial Quilt pattern – which I used the quilts for that very successfully in an adult algebra class to teach multiplying, and it was highly successful.

Number eight is to be completely prepared – except for minor loose ends – by March 10, for StashFest at the La Conner Quilt Museum in La Conner, Washington. We have been invited to participate, and it means marbling about 400 fat quarters in the next three months…..another reason for looking carefully at wholesale outlets! This is an interesting goal, because after our last guild presentation, I put out to the universe that it would be fun to travel and do demos in the Southern Arizona, southern New Mexico area. Well, two days later I had this email…..as Dale Anne Potter, my muse with Law of Attraction said, I was open to the possibilities.

Number nine will build on the previous. Develop a letter/sample to go to local guilds for demos and classes. I think just the development at this stage, because we will be focused on making fabric for Washington.

Number ten, under the category of Miscellaneous, comes continuing to work on Art From the Heart, a site devoted to spreading peace and nonviolence in the aftermath of the Gabrielle Giffords shooting. We had two new entries this last month, and I am hopeful for more.

Now that I have these written, I have to chuckle in that I was concerned about trying to get my goals coherent for this season. These are more detailed than the past two seasons, and they will certainly stretch me.

So Day One – I’m going to sew, work on some lists, and get ready for a small craft event on Saturday. Plus, it’s the holidays, and I want to “do more good” this year on a daily basis. May you have a really awesome day!

Thursday Thoughts

As I have written over the last month or so, the shootings in Tucson really affected me, especially the fact that we had almost headed over to the Congress on Your Corner but we had a doctor’s appointment instead and decided to do the next one. I wrote here about what it was like for that following week at school, helping kids process the shootings and the hate from the Westboro Baptist Church directed toward our school.

I studied history and political science in college, at the height of the Vietnam War. I was a drug-free hippie who believed in freedom of expression and the peace movement. I loved seeing trends and themes in history, and then when I taught Advanced Placement US History, I kept discovering things I hadn’t known about our country. I followed that up with reading Howard Zinn’s A History of the American People. That is a pretty amazing book. You can follow The Zinn Education Project on Facebook.

Throughout January, into February, and particularly March and April I sank into a real morass of despair, looking at everything going on in this country and the lack of civility in understanding. I “unfriended” some folks who’s attitudes I felt were very destructive. I would listen to the news and start yelling at the television, reminding the screen about all that came before. Needless to say, I accomplished very little….

I have since gotten myself on track with enjoying life through a couple of – what turned out to be major – changes. No more news. I read the headlines each morning from the local paper on line, and I read the headlines from Al Jazeera English, each time amazed at what is going on in the world that we have no idea about in this country.

Stay away from movies that will P*** me off, like Sicko. There is nothing I can do. I understand the situation, and I cope as I can, but there’s no point getting upset.

Stay positive. I am working with the Co-creating Our Reality site, and I am amazed at just how happy and relaxed I am becoming, Of course, retiring from teaching didn’t hurt…..

Create art. I am finally getting back into the creative spirit, and I think as I create more, not only will I feel better, but I will begin to get some of my frustrations out into art work.

Enjoy people. Given my background and being very shy, I tend to stay away from a lot of socializing. That is changing. I am meeting more people, going out with friends more, having people over, and the like. I’m enjoying sitting on the couch in the afternoon with hubby (35 years this Saturday), streaming something from Netflix that we can enjoy together, and not hve to worry about marking papers or doing lesson plans!

Ooooh yeah, I’m gonna love retirement!

The Events in Tucson, Part 4

We made it through the week, but not without a lot of extra angst. We planned on Thursday what we would do to keep the kids save if the WBC protested outside out school. It is not easy trying to convince teenagers that doing nothing is the best course of action.

I got to school on Friday at 6:45 AM to find several police cars already in front of the school. That was a comforting sight. Those of us volunteering met in front of the school, only to hear that the WBC members hadn’t gotten on the plane to leave Kansas, so good news for us. The police wanted us to stay through the next half hour to help students enter in case others decided to show and protest.

When we went back out, the Angels were across the street. This is a group of people who show to protect groups from the WBC protests. They do this around the country, and specifically in Tucson to keep the families of shooting victims from having to see the hate.

I got tears in my eyes. It was a beautiful site, these people who don’t know us who came to protect our students from these hate-filled people. The kids thought they were the “bad guys,” and so we were explaining to them this whole situation. A lot of students were convinced they were the KKK, so yet again we had interesting discussions in class, rather than doing a lot of math.

Everyone was tired, and it was certainly difficult maintaining the usual classroom decorum, but as I’ve said, sometimes systems of equations take a backseat to life. I’m still feeling very raw about everything, but I’ve been getting good feedback for the Art from the Heart project. I spent a few hours today working on my piece, and I should be able to finish it up tomorrow. It is raw, like my emotions, but I think it conveys a powerful message. I’ll have more on that tomorrow.

The Events in Tucson, Part 3

Being a teacher is hard work at the best of times, but this week is definitely one for the books. Dealing with your own emotions in a time like this is hard, but trying to help teenagers understand the ramifications of their own actions as well as trying to understand the motivations of groups like the Westboro Baptist Church – well, it’s a supreme challenge.

At 7:30  this morning is news that the WBC will be picketing my high school on Friday to protest our ethnic studies programs. Oh, good. How do you explain to young people whose brains are not yet fully developed to make good choices that they will be confronted with hateful messages and they shouldn’t respond? In my classes, after managing to get some math accomplished, the questions just kept coming. Why are these people coming to our school? Do they hate us? Why do they say that God is glad little Christina is dead? Can we protest? Why do these people hate Mexicans? Are they really Christians?

Wow. Makes finding the equation of a line using only two points pretty insignificant. How do you get kids this age to understand the wackos who spew hatred deliberately to inflame and sue and collect damages, regardless of whom they hurt. My high school has amazing students within such incredible diversity: we have a support group for homosexual students, we have strong ethnic studies classes that help students understand their own diverse cultural backgrounds, we have fine arts programs to rival small colleges, and we have students who are organizing to present a calm, peaceful face to these protestors.

But we also have kids for whom violence is a fact of life. Too many students here have lost loved ones through acts of violence. You tell them someone wants to cancel their classes because they’re a minority, and they want to lash out. It is so difficult – and so needed – to get the kids to listen to your message that what these people want is to have you react, to mess with you, to get you upset, and that the best way to cope and make a statement is to stay silent. They lose when you don’t respond.

So they leave my class after 30 minutes of intense discussion and historical background, and you wonder how much made sense, how many would reflect on this evil that will take over our sidewalks on Friday, and how much more can you as their teacher take? This has been a very hard week. So many questions, so few answers, so much hate.

I’m going to sit and watch the President. I need this.

The Events in Tucson, Part 2

This has been a long, hard day at school. My high school made the New York Times this weekend about our ethnic studies program being in violation of state guidelines, according to our state attorney general. He has  been after the high school for what he calls subversive teaching, that the Hispanic studies program encourages students to question the actions of our government, and the program also builds unnecessary ethnic pride.

I am trying to be as unbiased as possible here and just state the facts. This specific action is targeting only our Raza Studies, not Native American programs or African American programs. Well, let’s face it, if any groups should question the actions of our government throughout history, it should be these two groups. With the presence of the national media in Tucson this week, I am sure they will descend on the high school for more information.

Our staff meeting this morning dealt with registration issues, as well as with the moment of silence. I was ready for the moment of silence, but there was so much laughing and snickering about being quiet. I wanted to get so angry, but too often laughter is a response to events that make you uncomfortable. The kids in all my classes had questions, from “what happened this weekend that’s got everyone so upset?” “what’s bigotry?” “who’s Gabrielle Giffords?” and “he should get the death penalty,” just to name a few. Rumors abounded, many from news stations outside of Tucson, as well as off MySpace and Twitter. The adults were somber, but the students pretty much accepted it as just another act of violence from so many they have already witnessed or been exposed to. That’s also a very sad commentary on what our inner city students have to deal with on a daily basis.

I’m still stunned, and last night I just felt I had to do some kind of positive action. I had been sewing a piece during the day to represent all the vitriol I see around us. This has morphed into plans for a website to host artwork that carries a message of peace. I plan to unveil the website on Monday, January 17, the anniversary of the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr. There will be more to follow in the next days.

This involvement with peace goes back to college days, advocating against the Vietnam war, and World Peace Day, an activity sponsored by the high school chapter of the Pacific and Asian Affairs Council of the high school I taught in on Maui. Students wanted to do some type of activity to promote peace in 1972, and that morphed into a student-run day-long look at peace activities. This was an eye-opener for me, as I was followed, called a Communist, and questioned constantly on the purpose of this day-long activity.

What is it about peace that is so controversial? What is it about nonviolence that is so controversial? Through this art website, with Art from the Heart: Healing Hatred in America, I am hoping we can shed some light on these issues through personal stories and artwork.

If you need to express yourself about the tragedy here in Tucson, about the need for rationale discourse in this country, or about the need for peace, start thinking about how you would express yourself in art.

The Events in Tucson….

The cosmos is seriously out of whack and crying today.

I got home from school on Friday and sat down to read my email and Facebook, the daily practice in this computer age. I had an email from Gabrielle Giffords inviting me to an even called Congress on Your Corner. During this past election season I had helped walk the streets for our Democratic candidates, especially a new School Superintendent, passing out literature for Gabby, as she’s known to supporters here. I looked at this email, and the political science person in me said, cool. This is the way we are supposed to meet and talk to our congress-persons.

I contemplated getting hubby to go over, as I would like to meet Gabrielle Giffords some day. I wanted to tell her to hold strong against the rhetoric that is coming from the new Congress and for her to continue to represent us as best as she could, while maintaining her values. I also wanted to tell her I was disappointed that some of her ads in the last campaign were objectionable. I wanted her to be above the mud-slinging, but I recognize the inevitability of having to counter her opponent. Still, the idealistic part of me that worships this flag and Constitution want our public servants to be that and not politicians.

The time frame of the event just wasn’t going to work for us. Doctor appointment in the morning, weekend errands to run, and the event was on the other side of the city. We got home for lunch and checked Facebook to find Tucson was now right up there with Columbine, Ft. Hood, Oklahoma City and Dallas. We were glued to the television set for the rest of the day. Friends from Vermont who know me and know I do tend to be politically active called to make sure I hadn’t gone grocery shopping. Ironically when we moved to Tucson, that had been our grocery, we had banked there, and now one of our favorite restaurants, Beyond Bread, had opened up on that corner. We wondered how they would handle the increase in traffic.

The social media aspect was very evident to me. I was watching the news channels, and two hours after the shooting there didn’t seem to be enough information. I was hungry for more. What was her condition? Who was the shooter? Who else was hurt? I even turned to Fox News to see what I could hear. And then I remembered I was on Twitter, although not regularly.

Twitter was certainly active. To my amazement I saw how quickly news could travel. I read that Gabrielle Giffords had died, and I felt a punch to the stomach. Why did this keep  happening in this country? Then I read about Sarah Palin’s “gun sights” on her webpage that had suddenly disappeared from cyberspace. I posted on Facebook that there had been tweets she had died. I was frustrated with the local stations for not confirming, for not giving us more information.After all, it had been on Twitter…how could we not know? Then I stopped reading Twitter, concentrated on Facebook, and channel-surfed for information.

The difference between now and 1963 with the media is dramatic. Then we waited patiently for news. We were glued to our TV sets as long as possible. It was the first assassination to be televised. We as a nation were stunned, regardless of our political leanings. Then when Jack Ruby was murdered live before our eyes, we wondered what else could possibly happen to us as a nation. Now we watch scenes over and over, becoming immune to the shock visually, but still heart-stunned.

All this time I’m thinking, this was only a matter of time before some nutcase pulled a gun and started firing. I hoped whomever it was wasn’t Hispanic. That would have been the match to the fuse here in Tucson. I must congratulate the news outlets here in Tucson. As much as I was frustrated, they held the course, let us know only when things were confirmed, kept their cool, no rhetoric beyond their own sadness. They cautioned us to listen closely for confirmed reports. NRP had to retract that Giffords was dead. The news conference at the hospital gave us hope, and at the same time sucker-punched us again when we heard a nine-year-old girl had died.

All of this is inexcusable, but that was a very cruel joke. Then later in the evening we learn Christine-Taylor Green was a 9/11 baby, interested in politics, and had just been elected to her student council. She was there with a neighbor to meet the Congresswoman. At times like this you wonder about God.

One of our most respected judges in this crazy state died. Judge Roll went to mass as he usually did and then decided to stop by to say hi to his friend the Congresswoman. At times like this you wonder about God.

An up-and-coming congressional aide trying to bring democracy to the streets and people of Tucson was doing his job and was gunned down. He was 30. At times like this you wonder about God.

Three others are dead, names and no background. Six are still injured. Who are they, what about their lives? And what about the “second gunman,” another person of interest? Is he a second gunman? Was he the mastermind? So many questions and no answers….

Tomorrow will be an interesting day at my high school, the flash-point for an Arizona state bill on ethnic studies, targeting a program at my specific high school. How will the students react to all this? I know many will say “let’s just shoot the bastard.” And it will be up to me and the other educators to convince them that violence doesn’t solve anything – to students who already live with violence in their lives as they cope with an inner city environment. It will be up to me to get them to listen to facts before they make judgments, to try and listen to all sides before they jump to conclusions. It will be up to me to convince them that they really do need algebra in their lives, in the midst of all this tragedy.

And it will be up to me to show them sadness and coping. That I can cry, not because I knew them, but because this hurts us all. Not because I dislike what is happening to the United States, but because I know the amazing potential that we can be if we work at it together, unified in heart and soul.

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