Turnarounds and Conundrums

5

January 22, 2020, Peach Springs-

A talk with my son, last night, underscored the perception, even sometimes in my own mind,  that my shelf life is getting limited.  When the changes in the social wind blow ill, as they did yesterday, I look towards a place of refuge.  Sometimes, it’s just as well that there is no refuge available, immediately.  Sometimes, the only way out is through.

Things went far better today, with my class. I took the step of streamlining the rules, which had been overly drawn up by one of the previous teachers.  I took the step of not tolerating foul language or harassment. I took the step of countering the inchoate misogyny that some of the boys have shown, already, in their very young lives.

We got quite a bit accomplished.  It is not a traditional classroom.  Many students don’t get to school until two hours after the opening bell.  I am not here to judge them, or their families, for that.  Everyone, eventually, makes it to school. Everyone does some work, and learns something.  That is part of the reality in a rural community, where many live far afield, and no buses serve the area.

I am still not sure what will happen with me, after tomorrow.  There is more of a bond with the people here-and there is a bond, and a need, with people back in Yavapai County.  It will end up being one of those measured, eleventh-hour decisions, and I have a sense that the right thing will happen, by all concerned.

When Sex Kills

4

January 21, 2020, Peach Springs-

There is no mincing words about this: In the name of freedom of speech, three generations of adults are poisoning the well of our children’s spirits-particularly in impoverished communities.  Nowhere is this more apparent, than in communities with a narrow economic base.

The phenomenon of children as young as seven, trading sexual epithets, the coarsest of profanity and actually mentioning pornographic websites, by name, is, to put it mildly, jarring to the spirit.  That they actually understand  what they are saying is even more disquieting.

This is a train of abuses, long in the running, and it is by no means limited to Native American communities.  Sexual deviance was graphically described to me by a very young neighbour, in 2002, in a Phoenix apartment complex. As far back as June, 1980, when I lived in a Flagstaff apartment complex, a band that had been hired to play at a birthday party, in a place where children were out and about, loudly screamed profanity in the course of their “presentation”.  It was viewed, by many of  those present, as “harmless”; “only words”.

I am no prude,  though I have long ago exiled the vernacular word for fornication to its proper place in the graveyard of misbegotten phrases.  I note that even the late, great George Carlin, a champion of adults’ free speech, when among other adults, drew the line at cursing in the presence of children.

Language, though, is not the most harmful aspect of the ongoing tailspin.  Sex education, still properly the purview of  parents, is increasingly becoming the province of the skeevy.  Applications like TikTok are being used by those who wish to prey upon young children.  Other social media sites, not well-monitored by responsible adults, are offering curious and precociously feisty youngsters a diet of unseemly fare that is well beyond their level of true understanding.  As one boy told me today, “it’s more exciting than what’s around here. ”  This is what we face, as communities and as a wider society.

So, the concerns that we educational professionals once had, with regard to teenagers, are now  applicable to kids in primary school.  This is one of America’s wake-up calls.

They Also Dream

10

January 20, 2020-

In marking the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Prescott-an essentially conservative and largely White community, has permitted and conducted a march for social justice, from Prescott College, on the Near West Side, to and around Yavapai County Courthouse and  thence to Prescott United Methodist Church, about midway between the two sites.

Today was the fifth time I participated in this march, and attended its subsequent non-denominational service, hosted jointly by the Methodists, the Unitarian-Universalist congregation, the Ebony Christian Church and Prescott Peace-builders.  The message is that of building harmony and co-operation, among the people of Prescott and Yavapai County.

There is also grave concern, especially among the young people present, for seeing that justice is served to those who are apprehended, whilst crossing our nation’s southern border.  There is a sense among many of the college-, and high school, age people, as well as the more actively liberal senior citizens, around the county, that there needs to be a greater effort towards humanitarian treatment of the undocumented.

I have a lot of empathy for anyone who is suffering.  Some, I can help; others, I defer to those who are better-suited for doing what is needed.  There is also the need, as I see it, to NOT HATE those whose viewpoints on this, and other subjects, is different.  Some people who were present today did not seem to hear the words  spoken by a reader of Dr. King’s words:  “Darkness cannot drive out darkness.  Only light can  do that.  Hatred cannot drive out hatred.  Only love can do that.”

I have spoken with several people who fear the young, the liberals, and above all, those who hail from Mexico and points further south.  Theirs, whether the plaints of long-term residents, who see their way of life eroding, or those of  first-generation immigrants, who came here for the benefits of an orderly society-or to escape authoritarian regimes, is the cry for moving cautiously.  I know of only a few, among them, whose underpinning is that of White Supremacy.

That last is something I vehemently oppose.  There is no such thing as a superior race, or any race at all, for that matter, save the Human Race.  There is a key place in the world, for a sane and intelligent patriotism-which will acknowledge the legitimate rights of people in other nations to love their countries, without pitching for a jingoistic worldview, or for any nation’s hegemony over others.

With all that, I recognize that the vast majority of the world’s people have dreams-of a meaningful life, of being loved and appreciated and of finding a path to peace.  There are serious breakdowns in communication, in the distribution of resources and, for far too many-from the mentally ill to the chronically destitute- in the attainment of self-esteem. These issues will prove to have a variety of solutions, for which the prerequisite is the taking down of the walls of ideology-both on the Right and on the Left.

Those one fears, also have their legitimate dreams.

Self-Belief

7

January 19, 2020-

I set out for a trailhead,

this noon,

and didn’t find it.

I will, though,

having come back here,

and used my ruler,

to apply the scale of miles.

I was asked to return

to the school where I worked

last week.

I will be back there,

to offer at least some

continuity.

Belief in myself

has come late,

and come hard.

There are still critics,

but they barely know me.

They only know

their own frustration,

and own pain.

There are boosters,

who do know me,

and for whose

presence

I am supremely

grateful.

I think of this,

after a day

of floundering,

and of considering

the words of friend,

foe, and in-between,

alike.

I am not floundering,

now,

and look to tomorrow,

and the week ahead,

as acts of service await.

Loving, In The Face of Hatred

10

January 18, 2020-

Much of the past two decades has seen me fairly being fairly comforted by those around me.  Even two rather difficult people, with whom I had to interact for a time, in the mid-2010’s, were at least offering constructive criticism, rather than trying to see me on a path of destruction.

So, it was rather jarring, last night, to open a message feed and hear a slew of expletives, directed towards both me and my late wife (who has been gone for nearly nine years).  It thus became only the third time I have felt it necessary to block someone from access to my social media. While I can blow off people cussing at me, to a fair extent, I draw the line at my nearest and dearest-especially the departed.

I know that modern-day America behaves as if there are no sacred cows, or anything else that is sacrosanct.  This is the Age of Comedy Central, Cartoon Network and all manner of bottom feeders.

We Baha’is are taught that no one should be considered as a  desolate soul or beyond salvation.  It’s certainly reasonable to recognize that the Supreme Being has it in His power, to make gold out of mud, and thus we mortals are in no position to judge anyone, in perpetuity.  We are also taught, however, to guard ourselves from those who mean us harm.  A soul lasts for eternity and enabling someone, in his/her bad behaviour, is doing no one any favours.

It is entirely possible to love a person and take the steps needed to safeguard everyone involved.  I did so last night, and this morning.  The hate-filled individual cannot harm me, nor can he denigrate Penny, at any time in the foreseeable future.

Different Home Fronts

0

January 16, 2020-

It was a productive day, for me and my charges, at Peach Springs School.  I will go back, on Tuesday, for at least next week’s instructional days.  Whatever happens, I feel a strong bond with a few students, right out the gate.  The Hualapai remind me, strongly, of the Hopi and Dineh- and there are people in Peach Springs who have, and always will have, my heart.

This Home Base of mine is similar, in that I have bonds with people here, too.  Like me, though, most of them come from somewhere else.  That is the difference between Native American communities and larger, more recently-settled towns and cities.  The friends here are no less precious, but they know the reality of  moving.

I have been scolded, in the past, for being too often on the move.  None of that irritability, strangely, has come from my Native American friends.  They sense that what occurs naturally, organically, is for the best.  Indeed, several of the students spoke fondly, of their own family trips- to Las Vegas, primarily.  It’s the nearest large city, so they do their Mall visits in the area south of the Strip.

This weekend, prior to  my landing the present assignment, I had planned on going up to Valley of Fire, east of the entertainment mecca.  I have an inclination to put that excursion on hold, and head over to a closer hiking destination, on Sunday and Monday.  Some home fires just tend to burn more evenly, when left smoldering for a few days.

Selling Oneself Short

8

January 15, 2020, Peach Springs-

This day’s assignment is one which is not uncommon, in an understaffed, rural school:  I covered for a teacher who fell ill, of a sudden.  The class has bonded with this person, who is their second teacher in this academic year.  I was able to get the key activities of the day accomplished, and forged a fairly strong bond of my own with the kids, by day’s end.

What concerns me about this group of children is what has concerned me about so many similar groups, both urban and rural, over the years.  So many young people cast aspersions on themselves,  by extension,  on their peers-and to some extent, on older family and community members.

A few of the more aware students, who are also the most meticulous and engaging members of the class, had mainly negative things to say about themselves.  I only saw quality work coming from those students-and I saw a very thick coating of self-doubt: The imposter syndrome, writ large.  Ten years of age is way too soon for such a mindset, so I see these, the best hope of the Hualapai Nation, being dragged down by the deep malaise-that infests Peach Springs- along with so many parts of Indian Country-and so much of the American Fabric.

I was told, later this afternoon, that it is likely that I will only actually be needed here for another week, that another round of permanent hires is expected, by the last week in January.  Permanent is better, so I can only feel more confident in the short term future at this school.  In any case, here is another group of children, another community, that has deeply embedded itself in my heart.

Fleeting Power

6

January 14, 2020, Peach Springs-

The Colorado River flows, past a point about ten miles from where I sit.  If I were to follow Diamond Springs Road to its terminus, I would be able to stand and witness the power of this still mighty flow.  The Colorado’s power helped to carve out the massive series of gorges that envelop it.  The Grand Canyon itself has an intense set of powers, all its own.

So, it is ironic, to the nth degree, that the people living in its midst have come to feel powerless, for much of their existence within the framework of the most powerful country of the past 1 1/4 centuries.  The Hualapai and their near neighbours, the Havasupai, know the Canyon more intimately than anyone, with the possible exception of the Dineh (Navajo).  Until about ten years ago, though, the Hualapai enjoyed very little of the economic benefits of the Grand Canyon’s drawing power.  The tribe has established a set of West Rim attractions-a Sky Walk, Eagle Point, and a rafting enterprise, as the Colorado can be accessed from a point on the Reservation.  There is also the comfortable Hualapai Lodge and a fairly well-stocked, if somewhat pricey Walapai Market.

I can tell people who feel powerless, from their language- an inordinate reliance on profanity and pejoratives as their means of projecting force.  The louder and more frequently a person curses; the more often someone is dismissive of people who are different from self, the more there is compensation for one’s own perceived irrelevance.

I’ve seen that, in many places-and I see it with several of the children with whom I’m working here.   That, alone, makes the 1 1/2 months I am likely to spend here, extremely urgent.  Not only building them up, but helping to establish a framework for long-term success, have to be primary goals.

Power derived from deception and intimidation is fleeting.  The Hualapai can no longer afford to rely on this means to power.

Coercion

6

January 12, 2020-

It’s easy to imagine

that one is on the right track,

and that everyone ought

follow suit.

The Jesuits and Dominicans

thought the use of force

would make the world Catholic.

The Umayyads felt the same

would work for Islam.

Conquerors of legend,

and of infamy,

swore they would

either rule the Earth

or scorch it.

Where are they now?

Remember,

when an idea of yours,

of ours,

sounds like an absolute must,

for all to follow:

What if it strikes some as

inappropriate,

irrelevant,

or just beyond their understanding?

Coercion,

pressure,

shaming

belong in the past.

 

 

On They Go

8

January 9, 2020-

My son, Aram, and daughter-in-law, Yunhee, have arrived, by now, in Boston.  They left here, early this morning, on the second leg of their family visits, after three days at Home Base.  We visited long-time family friends.  I was able to introduce Aram to several friends, whom Yunhee had met over the Christmas season:  The owner-proprietor at Ms. Natural’s; the cacao products maker, and her tea-crafter associate, at Synergy (Sedona natural coffee and tea shop); a local cosmetics distributor, and her sister, my dearest friend, of whom I can truthfully say that I am as close or as distant, as she wants  me to be.

We enjoyed fine dining and casual meals- and improvised meals at home.  We hiked a bit, in Sedona.  Mostly though, they had the safe space they needed, to process their respective paperwork and to make their calls, in a warm and comfortable house.  They left in good position, for the life that awaits them, when the family visits are over and establishing a household takes center stage.

The rising generations are doing just fine, from where I sit.   Their world view is measured, their choices informed and their dreams are grounded.  I have watched my little family work together, to solve serious matters and routine tasks which would be vexing for one person to do alone.  I see others who are struggling,  and keep them in prayer, daily, that they may get past their anger and resentment.  Learning to trust is probably one of the strongest skills I was able to impart to my son-especially learning to trust himself.

I know “the kids” will serve the world, and humanity, just fine.  They go on, with the vision and drive that will not ignore, or sweep aside, the major concerns which some currently in power find too complex for resolution.