Monday, December 17, 2012

Time for a Change

Just out of the kiln, column vessels inspired by Lubec factory remnants.
Shanna Wheelock, 2012
Chris and I were judges once again for the Annual International Gingerbread House Contest that was held at Lubec Memorial Library. There were lots of great entries from all ages and the sweet confections provided a festive, sugary smell throughout the room.

Shanna with librarian John Leavitt and President Bill Cassidy of Washington County Community College
We enjoyed the reception for my Woven Works exhibit at WCCC. Thanks to John, James, and Lauren for doing a fabulous job hanging the show, and thank you to President Cassidy for recognizing the value of the arts in our lives.

It was a super busy week with two pottery vending engagements. Both venues offered up phenomenal music which is always a plus. Friday night I set up shop in Machias at the First Friday Art Walk, and on Saturday, I traveled to Eastport for the Winter Holiday Market at the Eastport Arts Center. Amy Zipperer did a fantastic job organizing. Thanks, Amy!
These fellas (above) performed upstairs at the gorgeous Machias Grange. That's Duane Ingalls on the far right (former Lubec music teacher) but I don't know the other guys. I think they were playing "Grateful Dead" here. Much appreciated!

The Beehive Design Collective premiered their latest project, "Mesoamerica Resiste", which has been nine years in the making. I had the opportunity to speak with worker bee Kehben about her amazing experiences while being with the project since its earliest beginnings. Her story really touched me. She, and all involved, should be so proud of their accomplishment. The city of Machias certainly is all the better for the presence of the Beehive in their community. Be sure to check out the article from the Bangor Daily News, which includes a short video of the two-piece mural.

Like most people, I am in shock and deeply saddened, frustrated, fearful, and angry over last Friday's elementary school massacre in Connecticut. Every mass killing pulls at my soul, be it war-related, genocide, or tragedy at the hands of a single person, but for some reason, this most recent rampage has gone more fully to my core. When I first heard the news, I wept. Each time I think of of the children and the families, I weep again. I think of my former students and fellow co-teachers and wonder how they are coping. I think of the parents whose lives will never be the same, or the community that will forever be known as "that town where..."

Even with joyous events all around us as we prepare for the upcoming holiday, the horror flashes through my mind and won't let me free.

And it shouldn't.

None of us should be able to ever think that we can go back to "normal" (whatever that is) and forget or think that this was an anomaly, that something like this will never happen again. Or, that it can't happen in our own town. We have been watching events like this unfold with what seems like greater and greater frequency.

I had just began my first teaching job in central Maine when the Columbine shooting occurred. I remember it as being surreal. I was young and innocent, and things like this just didn't happen...except in the movies. Right? I remember being prepped on how to handle it in the classroom should students bring it up. I recall only one comment being made by a student, and clearly this particular second grader was impressed, smiling ear to ear as he raised his hand and recited details of the event in front of his classmates as if he were explaining his Saturday morning cartoon.

We read the news or watch it on TV and we blame this one particular person for carrying out the event, but the truth of it is, we are all responsible.

As a society, we have allowed this to happen. We live steeped in a culture where violence is glorified, from the movies that we pay big bucks to see to the news programming that feeds us the dirty laundry we so badly crave. We kill hundreds of thousands in the name of "freedom", buy our children violent video games, and turn a blind eye to those in need.

Intense sorrow emanates from Newtown, Connecticut and it is reaching across the lands, across the oceans. We are collectively feeling that sorrow. This is as it should be. As human beings, we have the capacity to be empathic, and when we are not, that is a greater tragedy. And it would be an even greater tragedy if we were to not demand that this never happen again.

Realistically, can such violent rampages be stopped?

Maybe there is no one cure-all answer, but there is some logic that perhaps can be applied. I wonder, what would it take to change our course from one that is violent and destructive to a society that is peaceful and healthy?

So, here are a few ideas, many of which you have probably already heard.

Disclaimer: I am pissed. These views are very much mine, I'm being honest, and I am not holding back. So, yes, some may be offended. No apologies this time.

Compassion over Competition
It starts at birth. Every child needs, and deserves, to feel loved, safe, and taken care-of. This means responsible, mature parenting. Why are there no mandatory classes in how to parent? Every child should have adequate food, shelter, and healthcare. That means that the adult needs the same as well. The attitude of "every man for himself" is bullshit. That attitude sets us up on a competitive stage rather than one of compassion. We need to learn the skill of listening to one another and we need to create an environment where compassionate nurturing is the most valuable trait. The saying "it takes a whole village to raise a child" is true. It does. Consequently, when that village is unhealthy and violent, we are still all raising that child. The children are our mirror of who we are. Think about the best "village" scenario and create it.

Peace as a Goal
When did "Peace" become a dirty word? It is beyond me that anyone would fight the concept of living in a peaceful society. The argument that one does not think it is possible is not enough. Whether or not you feel it is possible, why would you not want to work toward it? Start today with acknowledging that war is not the appropriate response to any situation. Nor is hitting a child, supporting sports that are violent in nature, or condoning the death penalty. It is never okay to justify violence such as rape or domestic abuse or to not fully prosecute those who are guilty of it. Actions speak louder than words. If you think it is wrong to kill or injure, then put your money where your mouth is.

End the Desensitization
We are inundated with images of violence from a young age. Sure, those video games, music, and movies come with a stated restricted age, but we all know that doesn't really deter a young person's access, it only makes the product more appealing. The movie industry knows this. They want that R rating. The video games know it too. The more realistic the bloodshed, the more titillating the game. Young minds are not yet developed enough to understand the consequences of such real life situations. Violence is not, and should not, be a game. Parents who watch these movies or play these games should be responsible in their use and keep it from their young child's sight.

Restore Social Services
Some people have responded to this most recent tragedy as a result of a "Godless Society". This sure flares me. Do you know what else is missing from society? Necessary social services. Has anyone stopped to think that perhaps this increase in desperate violent acts is the result of years of cutting humanitarian services like mental health and human resources, education, and welfare? Again, this "each for their own" thinking is not working. And if anything is an indication of a "Godless Society" it is this: taking away from those in need. People who covet their extreme wealth at the expense of others' well being should be ashamed of themselves. I know so many who have so little and still go above and beyond to help others, and THAT is the authentic way of living within the principles of a meaningful and spiritual life.
Study and Understand
For every mass murder that is taking place, there are other such plots being made. There are are at least two stories in this past week's U.S. news that were of foiled plans to kill mass numbers of school children and a carried-out mass victim knife attack in China. The culprits should be studied and understood. Know every detail of their life and what led them to such extreme behaviors. Knowing what prompts someone to do such things could be helpful in recognizing what we as a society need to change, whether that be access to weapons, healthcare, different home environemnts, etc. I think there is no one thing that makes such a person, but it would be immoral to not take steps toward change to improve our chances of this not happening again.

Gun Restrictions
When the second amendment was written, there did not exist automatic weapons that kill dozens of children in a matter of seconds. What need is there for a gun that does such a thing other than to kill mass numbers of innocents? I know many people with guns, most of them used for hunting, some for a sense of self-protection. And of those people who own these guns, most have no intention or desire to kill other human beings. We can go back and forth on this, the right to bear arms, and what it means. For me, an ideal society would have zero guns. Zero guns in the entire world. Yes, I like the sound of that. And while we're at it, zero weapons that are made with the intention of harming another being.

That being said, I know that this realistically will not fly given the current gun-toting culture. However, something does need to change. It needs to happen immediately and it needs to be enforced. Automatic weapons should not be in the hands of the lay person. As well, it should be more difficult to attain any kind of gun. We don't allow a person to just jump in a car and start driving without taking an exam. Nor should anyone who has a history of violence or extreme mental issues be allowed to purchase a gun. Guns in the household where someone is suicidal or delusional is not prudent. People need to be honest with themselves. There are too many tragedies. We need to change course and do not what we greedily want to do, but what we feel to be in the best interest of the whole.

Click the link below to watch a Youtube video of Cheryl Wheeler's song "If It Were Up To Me". Powerful. Something to think about.


Owl Who Laughs said...

An intense and moving statement. Thank you for sharing your heart. We live in bizarre and violence-infested times, and yet most of us hardly seem to even notice. You've dared to remind us that much change is necessary, and that our society's collective denial needs to be challenged--over and over, until it yields to wisdom such as yours.


artistinthewild said...


A well written and heart felt statement about our violent gun-filled society. Zero guns...I like the sound of that as a societal principal. The legitimate animal hunters could use bow and arrow as long as they actually didn't kill just for sport. Of course, vegetarianism works for many people and many more of the world's population could be fed if more of us adopted even a modified vegetarian diet.


Ham Robbins said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. You have identifies the core problems and made good points and suggestions.
Even as a gun-toter, all of my life, I find nothing offensive here.
Thank you Shanna, Ham