My poem was a reaction to not only the exhibit, but to the dichotomy between the Dia De Los Muertos event and the AAA exhibit.
Here are the words I shared tonight…
She watched as a woman lovingly created an altar honoring her departed loved ones, who shared stories of her father and mother’s love, of happy memories with her brother…
Then… how quickly the cancer took her aunt’s life and how she had not yet had time to recover from the sudden loss. She continued placing photographs of her loved ones on the altar and returned to her stories of happiness, love and tradition…
Colorful costumes, flowers, candles and ornately decorated offerendas filled with items important to those they were created for graced multiple levels of the museum, all in honor of the dead…
Music played and dancers performed for the beloved dead as children created bright paper flowers, skull masks and participated in other art and craft projects…
It was a Fiesta… for death is part of life and all stages of life are to be celebrated…
She met and spoke to people of many different cultures, some of whom shared traditions of honoring departed loved ones and ancestors…
“How odd”, she thought, that white culture in the Untied States fears death, and does not want to speak of it, more or less celebrate it and those who have passed…
Love was in the air, it was palpable as the love for the ancestors pulsed through the building and out into the world. She could sense that the ancestors knew they were loved and sent their love back in return…
She was so happy she had come as she floated through the event in her ornate costume planning her own night of remembrance in the ancient tradition of her Irish ancestors…
Then she walked down the hall…
Where she was reminded of the stores of the forgotten…
Those who died alone, in agony and unnecessary shame…
Estranged from family and loved ones because of a diagnosis…
She saw graphic depictions of the disease, the suffering, the stigma which was, which is AIDS…
“They are dirty…. sinners…. brought it upon themselves…”
No compassion, no love, only ignorance, hatred and ostracizing those who needed compassion the most…
Forgotten as friends, lovers, parents, children, cast aside as “damaged”, “dirty” and “shameful” treated as less than human for perceived transgressions…
Gallery by gallery, the pain was exposed, stripped down to raw agony of the mind, body and spirit…
Stripped of dignity…
Denied celebration of life, and death…
In a dark corner, she leaned against the wall, weary, from a heavy heart…
She remembered friends waiting for test results and receiving what at the time was a death sentence, a mark of shame…
A single tear ran down her cheek, smearing her ornate calavera makeup as she walked back down the hall, and out into the world, determined to remember.”
This exhibit will only be shown at three museums nationwide.
I’m seeing a lot of posts, as I have over the last several months pitting groups against each other.
It seems that in the small and narrow minds of some that compassion for one group of people is seen as not caring about others.
People who were outraged about Cecil the Lion were vilified and accused of not caring about starving children in Africa or whatever cause internet trolls wanted to throw out there.
Guess what folks, we can all care about more than one cause at once.
The statement that Black Lives Matter is twisted and co-opted by those who don’t understand that yes, all lives do matter, but black lives are being unnecessarily taken at alarming rates and that the underlying causes need to be addressed for the good of humanity.
And now the Syrian refugee crisis.
Islamophobia aside (don’t get me started) many are outraged that we still have homeless veterans (or homeless at all) and say that no refugee should be accepted until all of our veterans/other homeless are taken care of.
And you know what? We should be outraged that veterans (or anyone) is on the street in this country while corporate CEOs make obscene amounts of money poisoning our environment, and others grow wealthier by the day on the backs of our soldiers sent off to fight wars for profit.
Does that mean we should pit one group against another?
It means that we should try to help EVERYONE.
Rather than using this crisis to “take sides” and pit groups against one another, how about we try to find a better way to think and to act.
Instead of creating more hurt and anger, how about you think of actual solutions that will help everyone?
Could the homeless and veterans be sheltered and put to work helping the refugees assimilate? We won’t know unless we try, until we propose solutions, when we vote and demand that our alleged “leaders” are accountable (and stop with the partisan bickering from the far sides of the spectrum, that helps no one)
Before you post that next inflammatory meme to social media which does nothing but divide people further, how about taking some real action and calling/writing/faxing your congress critter and demanding that we take care of our veterans, the homeless AND the refugees who did not ask to be bombed out of their country.
Dia De Los Muertos, translates to Day of the Dead.
Once a little known (to us) observance celebrated in Mexico and Latin America, it has become more prevalent in our society, the predominant culture of which is taught to fear death and the dead.
The closest festival that those of us with Northern European/Gaelic/Celtic ancestry once had is Samhain, which was eventually assimilated by our culture and turned into the modern Halloween which has nothing to do with honoring our ancestors and departed loved ones and everything to do with commercial profit.
Sadly, this is beginning to happen to Dia De Los Muertos as is evidenced by incredibly tacky Halloween costumes on sale, and other misappropriations.
Make no mistake, Dia De Los Muertos is not “Mexican Halloween” just like Cinco De Mayo is not “Mexican Independence Day” (it commemorates the battle of Pueblo and achieving victory over French forces against all odds, but that’s a conversation for another day) nor is it about drinking tequila until you puke.
This Huffington Post article speaks to appropriation and misrepresentation of the observance, so rather than wax poetic from upon my soapbox, I shall link it here.
While appropriation and colonization are very real and serious issues based in devaluing and disrespecting other cultures, the United States has always been known as the “Great American Melting Pot” in which many generations of immigrants from different cultures brought some of their own traditions.
We can learn a lot from other cultures and regain some of the connections to the earth and our ancestors we lost when we all melded into a homogenous culture if we approach it with respect and a desire to learn.
This short video explains the basics of the observance…
Today, an example of respectful learning and celebration occurred at the Tacoma Art Museum for Dia De Los Muertos.
A colorful event that included education, entertainment, music, activities for children and sacred spaces created for departed loves ones drew people from all over Tacoma and beyond in the spirit of community.
Offerendas (altars built to honor departed loves ones and ancestors) lined hallways on multiple levels of the museum. Filled with photographs, decorations, memorabilia and often, written explanations about the symbolism and people involved were lovingly built by individuals, families and community groups who took workshops to understand their significance so that they could be created out of love and respect.
I spoke with a Latina woman who was laying out a lovely offerenda she was decorating with feather headdresses, photographs and items of significance or that were favorite things of her departed loved ones. She told me about her father who had passed only one year ago, and her grandmother and aunt. She sadly told of how quickly “the cancer” took one of her relatives and smiled sharing fond memories others.
I then spoke with a Chinese American woman who wanted to take my photograph since I was in costume and we shared stories of observances in our own pre-United States cultures (in my case, Irish) that were similar to Dia De Los Muertos,
I saw people of all ages, classes, cultures and ethnicities come together to learn, share and remember their departed loves one who live in our hearts and stories. I watched people of diverse political leanings learn about another culture at a deeper and more personal level than before. I witnessed healing.
If you didn’t make it this year, you need to put it on your calendar for next year. I certainly hope that the museum will continue to provide this amazing, free event to the community.
There is still time to “get your dead on”. Tonight, on 6th Avenue there is a Dia De Los Muertos
Doors will open at the Studio 6 Ballroom Event space, 2610 6th Avenue, at 4:00 PM for face painting, creating and local vendor setup.
At 6:00 PM a procession will move down 6th Ave, many participants carrying paper mache figures they created in workshops.
At 7:00 PM, there will be live music, celebration and activities back at the event space lasting until 9:00 PM.
Come join your community and departed loves ones, for death is not to be feared, it is part of life and the end, is just the beginning.
I leave you with a charming short film showing a little girl discovering Dia De Los Muertos
I’ve remained silent on the issue of gun control for some time now.
This is not because I don’t care or don’t have an opinion (I have lots of them) it’s because I see too much emotion, hysteria, knee jerk reactions, use of tragedy to promote a political agenda and unreasonableness on both sides of the issue, and I prefer to wait until a calm, reasonable discussion can be had when topics are this important.
I have opinions that support both sides of the issue, so this post is likely to piss off everyone who has a strong opinion, but such is life.
Most important, I have professional training and experience that may help clear up some misinformation about the use of firearms.
I am a gun owner. My weapons are registered and I have a concealed carry permit.
I am well trained in not only their use, but in the ethical implications of their use because I am a former federal law enforcement officer.
No matter what a lay person sees on television, you do not “shoot someone in the leg to wound/stop them” or brandish a weapon in an attempt to “scare” them. Pulling a gun ALWAYS escalates a situation.
The ONLY reason to pull a weapon is to STOP the threat (here’s a hint, “shoot to stop” is the phrase that replaced “shoot to kill”) because you believe your life or the life of someone in your care is in imminent danger (and you better be able to articulate that in a court of law)
If someone who is amped up on enough adrenaline to need to pull a weapon in the first place tired to hit an arm or a leg, it’s not going to work; the only safe shot to take in order to hit anything is center of mass (go through some professional tactical training if you don’t believe me)
Even if someone could “shoot to wound” you know what happens? The arm or leg will be missed multiple times before it is hit (if it is ever hit) putting everyone else in the area in danger and creating more victims.
If you can not articulate in a court of law why your life or the life of someone else was in immediate danger and lethal force was the only (last) option, then you have no business pulling a gun out of it’s holster.
There is ONE reason to pull a weapon and that is to kill someone.
If someone is not mentally, physically and emotionally prepared to do that, a gun is not for them and will most likely hurt or kill them or someone else who is not the intended target. They should not own, carry nor keep one in their home.
The first day of my law enforcement academy, our RTO asked us a question. “How many of you could take a human life?”
Half of the class either didn’t raise their hands at all or hesitated so long that it was a moot point. Only a handful of the other half, myself included put our hands up without hesitation.
“All of you that hesitated… You’re DEAD… Because the time it took you to decide that, gave someone else the time they needed to kill you.” He chastised.
Why did I not hesitate? Because I’ve seen what humans are capable of doing to one another. As a paramedic and one who had already worked in field law enforcement, I saw things I can’t tell regular people about at all. In addition to the horrendous things I’ve seen done to others, I’ve had people try to kill me.
Yes, given the right circumstances, I am capable of it.
With that said, I’m grateful that in my years working law enforcement, that I never had to un holster my weapon anywhere but on the range (I’ve had my holster unsnapped and had my hand on it however) Thankfully, I have been able to defend myself with a baton and/or my hands.
Despite what those who hate police like to think/espouse no one (barring mental illness/hatred bordering on mental illness) wants to take a human life in that manner. Those I have known who have had to make that choice are forever changed, forever haunted and damaged by the most terrible (and split second) decision one can be required to make.
The first thing that the self proclaimed constitutional scholars throw out there is the second amendment to the constitution.
Let’s take a look at it, shall we?
A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed
The words that so many zealots find inconvenient is the part about the “well regulated militia”. This does not appear to give everyone the right to an insane arsenal of assault weapons.
With that said, there are many texts that list the following pre constitution reasons for the right to bear arms (sorry, if it’s not getting graded or paid for, I’m not citing multiple sources on my lunch break… you all know how to use the internet)
• Enabling the people to organize a militia system
• participating in law enforcement;
• deterring tyrannical government;
• repelling invasion;
• suppressing insurrection, allegedly including slave revolts;
• facilitating a natural right of self-defense;
I didn’t see hunting on that list, but I would add it myself.
Sorry folks, but cruelly treated factory farmed meat is much less humane and healthy than hunting.
But in the name of brevity (and to illustrate my point), let’s just say that we have no right to bear arms except as part of a “well organized militia”.
Let’s say that “guns are banned”.
I ask those who want “all guns off the street” how exactly they plan on facilitating that plan of action?
The guns are already out there; the genie is out of the bottle people… and there is no way of getting it back in.
Should the military go door to door and search every home, every car, go through every back alley and dig holes in people’s back yards?
There’s another “pesky” little constitutional issue there; it’s called the 4th amendment which protects us from unreasonable search and seizure.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
As much as I hate to say it, “If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.” it’s true.
Yes, horrific incidents occur when legally purchased guns are stolen/not secured, but in my opinion, the answer to that is education and to enforce the laws that we already have and to close loopholes.
All you’re going to have by pushing for a total gun ban is unarmed innocent people who are easy prey for the criminals, who do not acquire their weaponry through legal channels in the first place and have already shown blatant disregard for the law.
The whole idea of “arming teachers” is ludicrous at best; dangerous and negligent in common practice and criminal at worst.
The fact is, that not everyone is cut out to safely and responsibly carry/handle/use a firearm. Putting them in the hands of people who are not is no solution, it just exacerbates the problem.
I have mixed feelings on gun registration. On one hand, we have to register our cars; on the other, it’s an expensive program, another layer of government and will have no effect on criminals.
I wish I had an “easy” solution for all of this, but I don’t believe there is one.
So here are a few ideas I have floating around in my head.
* Teaching our children to value human life
* Better mental health care for EVERYONE
* Enforce the laws we already have on the books
* Hold people responsible for their weapons/choices
* Stop glorifying “thug life”
I’m sure I’ve pissed everyone on both sides off with this post.
GOOD! That means I’ve made you think.
We have a problem with gun violence in this country. To believe or say otherwise is naive at bests. I won’t bore you with statistics; they are readily available and all show one thing, the United States has a outrageously higher rate of gun violence than any other developed country.
The question at hand is “How do we deal with it?”
We need people to calm the heck down (the hysterical partisan BS I’ve seen from both sides doesn’t do anyone any good), think rationally and work cooperatively together for solutions.
I do NOT want to hear any more of your bogus apologies.
EIGHT times I have used your useless opt out system and still have to deal with this crap, and I am not the only one (our numbers are growing as is our anger)
Last time, it took almost three weeks for you to come pick up your rotting trash out of the gutter in front of my house.
I WILL be notifying the State Attorney General and BBB of your continued VIOLATION of the agreement and I will be encouraging everyone else to as well. We have an attorney looking into that agreement and your liability for continually violating it. Your trash blights our communities, poisons the environment, is a burden on the elderly and disabled, is a slip and fall hazard, and targets homes for burglary.
We will also continue to boycott, picket and give negative reviews on Yelp, Google + and Facebook to any business that advertises in your trash..
We will call the police on any of your below minimum wage, non local (I’ve seen Oregon plates), desperate Craigslist contractors driving down the road throwing things out windows and/or anyone who trespasses on our property.
We will continue to fight the re-election of any member of the current city council until they take a stand against you.
This is not an exercise of your “1st Amendment rights”. This is littering, trespass, poisoning the environment, endangering the elderly, disabled and those who travel for work, can’t get out to clean up your trash every day.
This is you, disrespecting and trashing your community.
I used to care that you stayed in business.
I no longer do. (and neither does a large percentage of this community)
We will not stop our fight against you, until you stop.
or cease to exist.
I really don’t care which at this point and neither does anyone else I know.
Hey… Remember the Seattle PI? The Seattle Times?
Neither does anyone else.
Have a nice day. Sir. (if you need a translation for that, ask any law enforcement officer or military personnel)
I would explain it to you myself, but you are not worth the profanity.
Even a pig is smart enough not to poop where it sleeps and eats; apparently you are not.
Well over a year later, the McClatchy Corporation who bought out the (formerly Tacoma) News Tribune and has ZERO interest in Tacoma or being a good corporate citizen is still trashing our city.
Despite multiple complaints to their offices, the BBB, the State Attorney General and our City Council, they have increased their trashing of our community to throwing 50,000 toxic plastic wrapped bags of trash onto our streets, sidewalks, yards, parking strips and gutters, washing into the Sound claiming bogus 1st amendment rights, often, dangerously out of moving vehicles.
This is all about money, revenue, advertising dollars. It is NOT about free speech and is an affront to the 1st amendment which they are citing.
Our current city council members: Marilyn Strickland, Anders Ibsen, Robert Thoms, Lauren Walker, Marty Campbell, Joe Lonergan, Victoria Woodards, David Boe and Ryan Mello refuse to take a stand. As a matter of fact, at a recent citizens forum at a regularly scheduled city council meeting our mayor could not be bothered to stay because she had something “more important” to do than listen to citizens and left to introduce a book author. Deputy Mayor Boe chastised the audience for applauding when citizens spoke out against this trashing of our city. (but it’s perfectly OK to applaud any action the council takes)
Plastic is a HUGE threat to our oceans and beloved Salish Sea and is of increasing concern.
Don’t forget to EMAIL (don’t call) the TNT (email provides a “paper trail” to support how often they violate their own opt out program) to let them know you that you aren’t going to tolerate this and to insist that they come pick up their trash at your opted out home as well as from in front of vacant homes. firstname.lastname@example.org
Another option being researched is a “No Trespass” order. These are used by retail outlets when they have known loiterers/shoplifters frequenting their establishment. Once the order is received; the police can be called to make an arrest for trespassing. They send/give the form to the offender (In this case we’d take it/send registered mail to the TNT offices) If this can be done for “any representative of the TNT or their affiliates” we should be able to charge them when they violate the order (which their craigs list contractors will continue to do)
Most important, continue to target the advertisers in this trash.
Be polite, ask them if they know that their advertising dollars are going towards this practice. Many local businesses have been appalled and demanded a stop be put to it.
Others, like Safeway and Puget Sound Audiology and Hearing Aid don’t care and refuse to stop the practice.
Call, write, email, picket, give negative Facebook, Yelp and Google + reviews to those who knowingly and unapologetically trash our city.
Many (far too many this year) are spending their first holiday without a parent, loved one, beloved pet or child who has passed from this earth (losing a child to an early, unfair death or suicide… I can’t even imagine)
I was reading a Facebook post of a friend of mine today who asked if she was the only one who felt melancholy at this time of year.
She mentioned that she wished she had known as a child how precious those holidays with family were despite the fact that even though they were Jewish, they gathered at Christmas when they were free from work and school obligations and spent quality time together.
As many of us are wont to say, “Hug your loved ones; tell them that you love them, for you never know when it will be the very last time.”
Truer words were never spoken.
I do my best to distract myself from the fact that I have no immediate family (I do have some cousins in other states) and that due to my own abusive, dysfunctional, upbringing in an alcoholic household, I have been unable, as an adult to form a lasting functional romantic relationship/partnership (Wow, do I ever “pick wrong”)
I host holiday gatherings with chosen family (which in cases of severe dysfunction, neglect or abuse can be preferable to and healthier/safer than blood family)
I try to make sure that anyone who finds themselves alone at this often emotionally challenging time of year for whatever reason, knows that they have somewhere to go.
I cook, bake, decorate, send out cards and letters and try to give back to my community.
But in the end, there is still, always, that sense of aloneness, of being different-not in that cool, quirky, creative way, but in that “there is something wrong with me kind of way”.
Tonight, I will be cooking a holiday feast for friends/chosen from all walks of life, relationship statuses and faiths (or lack thereof)
I am going to hug them and let them know that I love and appreciate them, because we never know what someone else may be going through inside and because we never know when it will be the last time we have the chance.
I encourage everyone to do the same.
And just to end this rather serious reflection on a positive note, I offer up one of my favorite, past Christmas experiences.
“One Perfect Christmas Moment in Tacoma”
Sometimes when we least expect it, something amazing and profound hits us out of the blue, more often than not, it comes from a source that we least expect.
I am one of “those people” who prefers to use the words “Happy Holidays” to greet people during the winter holiday season in order to respect and acknowledge the fact that the season is shared by many faiths and traditions. It’s not a “war on Christmas”, it’s merely being inclusive and respectful.
I am not a Christian, but I do celebrate Christmas as a holiday of shared seasonal traditions. I celebrate it as a season of light, hope and ideally, peace on earth. To me, rebirth and renewal is a universal concept.
One Christmas morning, many years ago whilst living in Tacoma’s Stadium District, I walked to my neighborhood corner market to pick up something for a celebration that I was going to attend later in the day. The weather was beautiful, the air was crisp and clean, and I was still enjoying fond memories of a celebration with good friends the night before.
As I looked out on to the deep blue waters of Commencement Bay, I also contemplated all the stress and depression that many people feel at this time of year, and how truly sad that is. I thought of all the pressure that our society puts on people to be happy and have the “perfect” holiday, and how many end up disappointed and frustrated. I thought of those who have lost loved ones, and for whom this time of year brings only painful memories of loss.; and as I watched a homeless man digging in the trash, I thought sadly of those who don’t even have a home and a hot meal. It seemed so wrong to me that a season that is supposed to be about happiness and joy brings stress, depression and sadness to so many. I was feeling pretty darn jaded.
I was distracted from my train of thought when I stopped to chat with a friend from work at the little coffee shop on the corner, and was then greeted by familiar faces and smiles at our little neighborhood market. I made my purchases and began my walk back home, my mind drifting back to the sadness I was thinking about earlier..
And then, I heard it on the air.
At first it was faint and distant; then it began go gain strength and seemed to be coming from all around me.
Music, bells, magic.
Stadium is an historic neighborhood where most of the buildings are at least 100 years old. It contains several beautiful old churches.
Resounding across the waters of Commencement Bay, the castle that is now Stadium High School and the old brick buildings filled with history, was “Gloria, In Excelious Deo…” coming from real bells in an old church (I don’t know which one) that has an organ controlling the bells. Next I heard, “Joy to the World” and was reminded that this indeed is a season of hope for many traditions.
I stopped walking and just stood there to listen, appreciate the world around me and experience something that was very powerful. It was then that I noticed other people stopped on the streets, also mesmerized by the magical sounds. They came out of their businesses and homes to sit on the stoops and listen, some even pulled their cars to the side of the road and turned off their engines. Everyone, regardless of their religious upbringing, traditions or even current life circumstances was smiling in shared joy for the beauty in the air surrounding us. Most of us did not know nor had even seen each other before that moment; yet we felt an undeniable connection of the spirit.
For one brief moment, the world stood still, filled with peace, love and joy.
It doesn’t matter which church, religion, tradition or building that joyful sound came from. There are certain messages in this world that are universal.
If only we could all share more moments like the one I experienced Christmas morning in a tiny Tacoma neighborhood.