Archive for the ‘Tucson Shootings’ Category
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.
…and we have learned nothing. We still kill with guns, we don’t deal with mental health issues. Four years ago three of us set up a website to look at the Tucson shootings. Suzan Drury, Anne Lockard (who is gone, but her indomitable spirit is with us every day), and myself to showcase healing art. You can name a hiking trail, a playground, or a new courthouse for one of the victims, but that doesn’t bring them back. What happened will always hurt. I have lost customers for Marble-T Design because of my stand on gun control. I am a firm believer in the Constitution – it is a remarkable document. But I also firmly believe that the National Rifle Association has co-opted rationality concerning guns and background checks. Just because “criminals will find a way to get guns anyway” doesn’t mean we don’t have background checks. And we are so far away from any rational dialogue on this.
But this isn’t a rant about gun control, although it very easily could be. Sarah Garrecht Gassen wrote an editorial today in the Arizona Daily Star that talks about how we refer to the victims of the shootings. They are not “lost,” they are “taken.” Here’s an excerpt:
So let’s follow Patricia Maisch’s lead and be more honest with our language in how we talk about guns. She’s the person who got the second clip away from the Tucson shooter before he could reload. She’s fought for gun law reform and watched as politicians have failed to stand up to the gun lobby. She hasn’t been shy in her disgust, and she speaks for a lot of us.
We talked on Tuesday afternoon. “Time flies whether you’re having fun or not. It’s always an emotional time of the year. I just think, how unforgivable it is that this could have happened,” she said.
Maisch doesn’t sugarcoat. She’s working diligently for law reforms. But four years in, something that’s fused into the sorrow and the anger gnaws at her: how we talk about gun violence.
She’s on a mission to change the words. “The horrible takings,” is how she talks about the people who have been killed with a gun.
“These people aren’t ‘lost.’ They’re never going to be found. They’ve been taken.”
If you would like to see artwork focused on healing, you can visit Art from the Heart. Here’s my piece, again controversial. Most of the comments I had was that the shooter was mentally ill, that it wasn’t politics that caused him to kill. And thus was ended what could have been a productive dialogue about the state of mental illness and access to guns. I already know some of you will stop becoming readers and customers. Because of this wonderful Constitution of ours, I support your right to do that.
You can read about my thoughts constructing the piece here. Ultimately the processing from the shootings has led to me pondering our lack of ability to discuss issues calmly, and now I have based the first in a series of novels on what happens when we can’t – or won’t – talk to each other.