Blog 2017

Radio Leigh: Proposal for Charlottesville, Part 2, with Flash Mob Suggestions




Proposal for Charlottesville, Part 2, with Flash Mob Suggestions    


August 20, 2017


Meeting hate with hate doesn’t work.  It simply doesn’t.  Meeting hate with hate feeds hate and leads to war.  Meeting anger with anger is okay, but a brief study of Gandhi or Martin Luther King will teach that to exert positive outcome the energy of anger must be transformed into that which is constructive.  That is hard to do.  When I was protesting the invasion of Iraq under Bush II I was certain the war could be stopped.  I was very upset about the presumption of its inevitability, and focused all my energy on how mad I was that Bush would consider yet another war, especially when the non-fake news reports were clear that there were no WMDs.   


When the war started, I took it as a failure and fell into despair.  That is the only word for it.  Despair.  I had to regroup.  I picked up Gandhi’s autobiography again and read his words about conserving the energy of anger and transforming it for constructive use.  I conserved, and continued to focus all my efforts on finishing both HOME FRONT and my JUST WAR CD.


I have since internalized Gandhi’s lesson, and I am slower at allowing my negative emotions to move unchecked, if at all.  I have learned not to freely give all my best energy to the near-daily crises that are upon us now as a country.  This does not mean I don’t respond.  Obviously, I do.  I’m responding right now.  I am a poet, after all, and poets almost always respond.  I may not always get it right in the eyes of some, but I always attempt my best reasoning under straining circumstance.


I read once that the Japanese believe the walls of all houses retain the energies of past inhabitants.  I have always liked this belief for its sense of warning regarding taking care over our energy.  I recall this now because the energies of malice have come to the surface of our nation; energies that are nothing new, but are now quite visible and vocal.  I think this is a good thing in that it provides us who are in disagreement the solid opportunity to respond in ways that could provide mutual benefit, or at least diffuse the tensions.


I think it doesn’t help to confront this malice of Nazism and White Supremacy by matching it, regardless of intent.  Yet it must be confronted and countered, there is no doubt.  It must be offered an alternative, and that alternative would do well to include a welcome mat for those who are trapped in such negative, hateful groups, but might also be seeking a chance to leave.


I have heard, since my first Charlottesville writing, more and more people talk about the need for education.  This is helpful, and necessary.  I would like to reiterate my concept behind leaving some of the Confederate statues in place.  My argument is simple.  I suggest by eliminating all of them, or relegating them to Statue Gardens, we will eliminate the chance to educate the everyday person and especially the young about what happened.  By removing the statues we do not remove their power and I would suggest such psychology would only reinforce that symbolic if now false power.  Suppression doesn’t work.  Suppression encourages people to resist.  


I heard a UVA student just this morning (August 19) talk about a ring of students surrounding Jefferson’s statue on campus to protect it from vandals.  She said she understood this and that even as a black student she recognized the situation as difficult and complicated.  I have heard other black women in leadership roles say the same, and offer suggestions toward education, along with calls for removal to be determined by the varying states and cities. 


For people who want to argue no one would put up a statue of Hitler, I will say, true, but they saved Auschwitz, and the public can go there to see it, even visit it, virtually.  In fact there is more than one preserved site, including Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald, Dachau, and quite a few others.  The Nazi Enclave at Obersalzberg is an example of transforming horror-imbued landscape while retaining Holocaust History.  These places are saved in the interest of education that would prevent repetition, repetition that people like Steve Bannon believe is part of a natural order of civil society that in fact has nothing to do with civility or social order and more to do with a theory of cyclical history known as “reenactments”.  All this is searchable on the web through reputable sources.   


My call is to leave many of the statues where they are but to disassemble them of their power.  This is a suggestion, not absolutism.  But with Gandhi in mind, I think restitution might include a counter-narrative made manifest in the very spaces the adherents to the Jim Crow era wished to dominate with fear and intimidation.  I envision that counter-narrative as one that lets be the Confederate statue of choice, but reclaims that space with other statues made up of Women Resistors, say, or Heroes of the Underground Railway, many of whom live in the underrepresented totality of story here, which is a story of survival and ultimate victory over oppression and murder.  I suggest peace gardens be inserted into these areas by, for example, both Confederate and Slave ancestors.  Making visible acts of reconstructing the narrative to its more truthful reality of the U.S. Constitutional guarantee of life, liberty, and happiness is a powerful counter to groups that want to cling to a narrative of hate, oppression, and murder.  It strikes me as most powerful to imbue these places that would attract Oppressors with healing actions, with actions of peace, with further history and storytelling that any person walking by could be witness to.  After all, if all statues are relegated to museums who will see them?  This is public space.  It strikes me as ultimately lasting if the larger public were to actually take power over these spaces, turn out for them and assert the narrative that would reclaim these spaces entirely with an alternative energy; the energy of compassion; the energy of empathy, the energy of understanding what really happened.  That is just called Truth.  For when two sides are at war, two belief systems are also at war.  And to deeply change the impact of one belief system’s use of murder and terror we must visually, not just intellectually, but visually show its alternative.  That would be Gandhi’s teaching.  That would be Martin Luther King’s vision.


Now: About the false equivalency of my remark that no one would want to see the Vietnam Memorial taken down.  Yes, I immediately thought of this.  Of course it’s more than significant that Confederate symbols overwhelmingly signify White Supremacy.  And in my twenties, while visiting a family member in Georgia, I had the most important and fastest education about Civil War Attitude in the Deep South: “Y’all sure’re not from around here are you?  (“No; how can you tell?”) “’Cause y’all sure do have an accent.”  Laughter and smiling faces hid the real danger for me in an isolated warehouse that served as an antiques store where I bought Mrs. Heman’s Poetical Works in 1981 from two White Men that instinct taught me not to challenge in any way.  So I am not under any illusion about the overwhelming realities here.  But my point about war memorials in general has to do with the paradigmatic problem overall, and I would like to see a deeper, more meaningful consideration of the dominant paradigm’s addiction to war, hatred, and anger for dispute settlement and biologically-based male posturing, a point I think is often overlooked.  In the end, for me, every memorial to war is equivalent as both a lesson in history and an ultimate failure to change that kind of history.  War and hatred are beneath our potential as human beings; a potential that comes with consciousness.  But if we don’t get it right, the other truth is, in 2000 years all such markers will be viewed as Anthropocentric Iconography.  The only problem is, if we do not pull ourselves into serious check right now, they will, most of them, be under floodwaters with no hands to remove, deface, or defend them.    


Finally, spurred by Tina Fey’s brilliant skit last Thursday night (a skit so wonderfully satirical in nature it is lost in the land of literalists prone to misunderstanding satire’s function), I have thought of some flash mob suggestions to counter the pro-Nazi, White Supremacy movement.  The idea is for these mobs to be as organized and ready to mobilize as any militia group or even Antifa.  There is to be singing, dancing, and overwhelming joy to overcome the energy of the hate groups.  There is refusal to engage them but to adopt Michelle Obama’s reality: Go high.  Do not engage them, but counter the energy of hatred.  I don’t believe in shutting down speech.  I believe in offering a counter-narrative.  Suppression never works.  And if we want to keep the metaphorical walls of our country clear of the new ghosts now tempting to charge them with yet more horror, we might consider how we arrange ourselves around the old ones.    


Below is a sample list of Flash Mobs that could be possible.  Make up your own. Show up.  Be present at every moment in your life to say yes to compassion and empathy and no to those things that would ask us to destroy these aspects of our true nature.


ACT: Ancestors Changing Tyranny


CAKE: Chicks Altering Karmic Energies


HOT DAMN: Hot Drummers Against Madness and Negativity


MATCH: Mamas Against Terrorists, Chauvinists and Haters


MUSCLE: Musicians Using Scale and Chords to Laud Equality  


POETS: People Opting to Engage in the Transformation of Sorrows


SCIENCE: Standing for Commitment to Integrity and Exercising Nuance for the Climate and Environment