Violence after violence impacted my development. Those episodes developed defenses in me and impacted the ways I think and feel and act. Why? Who benefited by the violence? Who paid the price for each experience? Do other families have such memories? What makes a family healthy?
I am a citizen of the United States of America, a questioner, doubter, thinker, dreamer, visionary. I know the feeling of fear and helplessness. Those feelings act like scar tissue, toughening skin that heals even as it hardens. How does one restore innocence once it is lost?
Learning has been my refuge, from infancy to this 78th year of my life. I escaped to the buildings that held teachers and students, learning new things, exploring ideas, experimenting with behaviors, seeking understanding of those factors that make one healthy. I taught high school students and then college students and found that much of what I was expected to teach were distortions, delusions, denial of reality. I taught Native-American kids in Alaska and Washington State, African-American kids in the projects in Washington, DC., military dependent kids from Alaska to Washington, DC and to Texas, I taught Mexican kids in Texas.
I worked in public school systems, taught students at federal, state, county and city prisons and jails through the Community College system as well as Displaced Homemakers, Native American women on reservations, and college students. I taught parents and boys at ranches where boys were sent by the courts.
The narratives written by people from these many different cultures were part of my seeking understanding. The writings of kids and adults from these various clans informed me of a different USA than about which I had learned in school or from my culture. So much of what I discovered was the role of institutions in shaping attitudes, beliefs, customs, traditions and values. By institutions I mean family, religion, education, mental and physical health delivery systems, law and law enforcement.
My task as a teacher was to provide the training each individual needed to live a healthy, happy, productive life in a society that treated them as pawns to be exploited and manipulated for the benefit of others. Notions of obedience, submission, yielding, turning the other cheek, dependency, subordination, helplessness, self-sacrifice, and forgiveness keep individuals in a passive dependency on others for how to think and feel and act. I call this, “The Passive Gospel”!
I did not learn all that I needed to learn through books and lectures and seminars. My education came to me through my students. I learned what it was like to be Native-American, African-American, Mexican-American, or a woman or a man, or a homosexual, or a small business owner. These educations taught me to use my whole capacity as a human being, to see, hear, smell, taste, feel with my heart and gut, and feel with tactile senses. I learned to hear the cries of the world, and feel the pains of others. Even more important was the necessity to use my mind and my whole body as an instrument of perceiving what is real, not what is taught sitting in a classroom or listening to imperative from family, and community.
Dream! Dream big! By dreaming, we develop a vision of the possibilities that lie dormant within us.
Think! Think hard! By thinking, we advance beyond the status quo into the full potential of our natural selves and our ability to move out of the jungle into the light of enlightenment.
Cast off superstitions, delusions, denial of reality and face, head on, what is actually possible. It is amazing what can happen when one learns how to do this. We often have to stand in opposition to the institutions of our various cultures. We can stand on principles, with an internal moral guide with which each of us is endowed.