Here’s my finished contribution to Mo’s “I Dream of a World Where Love is the Answer” project. I wish making this pennant had afforded some answers. Instead, the embroidery mostly forced one queasy question after another. How will we move past this riotously awful period of history? Why are we being so battered by destructive ‘policies’, nihilism, and retroactive social ideas? How can seemingly intractable differences in world views ever be reconciled? Why do we live in a country where a sizeable percent of the population doesn’t think fact matters? How much of our republic will survive the hate-fueled attacks on its very fiber? Just getting through a news cycle anymore is fucking exhausting.
Mine is a pretty solitary life in a town that is, for the most part, progressive (and unfortunately, almost exclusively white). My relatives, with one exception, do not drink the Kool Aid (and by ‘drinking the Kool Aid’, of course, I mean watching Fox News). Even my media contacts tend fairly uniformly toward the liberal.
So, if one healing route is to find others with opposing views and have conversations with them*, count me out. Not doing that. Nope.
(Honestly, even though I understand its instructive value, I cannot even watch Fox News now and again to get the lay of the land).
I read “Hillbilly Elegy” last year and yeah, it was somewhat instructive, but I still don’t have the time of day for Trump supporters, in this case specifically, for coal miners who condemn others for receiving state assistance when they themselves are doing the same. I don’t understand, nor want to understand, defending a dying, polluting industry at all costs. Nope. Not my conversation to have. (And by the way, if JD Vance ultimately runs for office as I suspect he might and chooses to make facile references to ‘East Coast elites’, I will be the first to remind him that he graduated from the same ivy league law school as Hillary Clinton).
I read “small great things” by Jodi Picoult this summer. The novel tells the story of an African American nurse banned from touching a white supremacist’s newborn baby. It doesn’t go well. It was really hard to find any measure of sympathy for the racist characters in this book and not just because I happened to be reading it the week of Charlottesville. It’s because I have no sympathy for Nazi’s or any other form of modern day racist. Why would I want to talk with them?
So, okay, skip dialogue. Prayer, then?
There’s also education.
The research I’ve done to set a novel in SC in the 1740’s has convinced me that without courageously facing our history, we are lost. We have to become aware of at least some of the gruesome details of American slavery. Then, we can acknowledge the lingering shadow and the ongoing harm. Otherwise, we will forever be torn apart by the history of human bondage’s after-effects.
Catch phrase: To deny racism is a form of racism.
The more I learn, the more convinced I am of this. In the introduction to “The New Jim Crow” Michelle Alexander makes the argument that white supremacy is a many-headed monster with regenerative power. When you cut one head off, another rears its ugly and savage face.
After education (and reflection), naturally, action must come*. Catch phrase (to quote Leslie Mac at an anti-racism training): “At some point, if you’re gonna dig a hole, someone’s gotta pick up the god-damned shovel.”
I used red seed beads to represent the blood of Africans who were kidnapped, transported and sold here. Their blood is a permanent feature of our landscape, as is the legacy of their labor. There is heft to this history. The fruits of enslaved labor are visible in many, many features of our built landscape, so it’s fitting that the lines of red beads are prominent and that they define whole areas.
The stitches took on the attributes of surgical repair in some places and of tailor-repair in others. I like how the stitched-down folds created texture when top lit and beautiful shadows when back lit. Imaginatively, the stitched repairs and the resultant shadows came to sometimes resemble a map and at other times, a scarred body. The act of integrating the dark cloth with the light cloth seemed at times to mimic the kind of healing process we all long for.
In two places, I carefully ripped open the top silk to more clearly represent injury. Like the blood-red beads, the bands that resulted from the long tears suggest that our wounds are a permanent part of the American psyche. Stitching the edges gave me the hands-on, hopeful sense that maybe there is some vantage from which our nation’s wounds show up as things of beauty. The spirals were inspired by the carved stones at Newgrange, which I have personally visited. They suggest reverence for the earth, awareness of our small place in the universe, and mystery. Surely, healing will not come strictly from the mind, much as I might try.
I cannot wait to see what Mo does with all of these — it’ll be extraordinary, that I know!
* Recent TED Talk called “Removing Your Filter Bubbles” by moveon.org founders made this very suggestion. Perhaps you need to be an extrovert and someone who moves in wider social circles than I do for this suggestion to have any possibility of success?
* On 2018’s To Do List: make sure none of our mutual funds invest in private prison corporations (if they do, shift money); offer frequent flier miles to a couple of Cambridge Black Lives Matter activists; continue to read black authors and buy their books; continue to follow and support criminal justice reforms here in Massachusetts; continue to oppose the totalitarian, racist regime in the White House with protests, calls to Congress, and more; learn more about the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute in Boston. Maybe (finally?) attend the Annual Slave Dwelling Project Conference. Continue with financial contributions to: the Southern Poverty Law Center, the NAACP, the Royall House and Slave Quarters (here in Mass.), the African American History Museum (in Washington, D.C.) Most importantly, to me personally: finish my novel featuring enslaved and elite characters to the best of my ability.
PS. I was reading Judy Martin’s blog this week and found a post full of so much process that I found familiar that it was almost spooky. Her poetic musings are wonderful and provocative.
PPS In my fabric win, Deb Lacativa included four bobbins of her specialty threads. I am enjoying using them in this piece.