Posts Tagged ‘Tucson shootings’
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.
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.
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!