~ from cats, dogs and nature to the flowering of body, mind and spirit ~

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Leave or Remove?

Even prior to the tragedy in Charlottesville, Virginia, where Heather Heyer was killed by a domestic terrorist, Americans had been arguing over whether Confederate statues ought to be removed. Like many of us, I have done a lot of reflection about this issue, getting emotional while also thinking it out, combining heart and mind.
I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s unlikely removal will solve anything. The divide in our country right now will only become more inflamed when a portion of our citizens feel that even more is being taken away from them than before. Even if people on the other side (and it feels wrong to keep putting us on opposing “sides” -- we're all Americans here) feel it is the right thing to do, the very action of taking away only adds to a mental anguish around scarcity. We need to encourage conversation around these memorials by perhaps adding statues and plaques that represent why the Confederate statues are there, how they came to be there, and also why they need to be symbols of a history we are moving beyond. When we finally reach the point where we can discuss putting them in an historical museum without violence and strident protests, then we will know it is time to do so.

The following are four recent articles that were an additional influence on my coming to the above conclusion, and show some of my thought process.
The author (an ecofeminist and lawyer) of the blog post Southern Pride in a Time of Terror begins by citing all the things and qualities that give her pride in being a Southerner, from food to music to storytelling to resilience. Through her words, I felt a true appreciation for my own ancestors who were co-creators in building these southern traditions through their courage and strength. The author then went on to cite the aspects that are embarrassing or shameful, such as continued demands for slavery that contributed to the Civil War, and the later Jim Crow resistance to emancipation. I must own the fact that I also have ancestors who participated in that awful period of American history. Where I parted ways with the author, however, was in her vehemence to: “Tear down the Confederate flags and pull down each and every statue of Confederate soldiers on public land.” No, we shouldn’t be flying the flag of a group of people who were so caught up in their demands to be independent states (and maintain slavery as a way of life) that they lost sight of the goal for Union; but having a war against the symbols won’t change people’s mindsets. 
The author (a teacher of theology, psychology, and philosophy) of the essay On the Removal of the Confederate Statues cites a southern mayor and an historian with conflicting views; she comes to the conclusion that: “Keeping the statues in place supports rather than dissembles the power structure(s) the statues represent.” She would encourage that the statues be removed to historical museums; maybe that would be fine at some point, but not when we are in an inflammatory situation already because it is coming from a place of power, control over, and warrior ethic, rather than a public conversation. That’s why I appreciated a commenter who said that: “What if the statues to confederate leaders were not removed but monuments that tell the other side of the story were erected alongside them? … What if our whole denied and suppressed history was on display in the public square, the genocide of native peoples as well as slavery?” And that is where my own thoughts reside; we need the whole story out in public, not in museums (not yet anyway), but instead encouraging at the very least a visual dialogue in public spaces. We cannot skip steps in the healing of our Nation.
The author (a professor of anthropology) of the article I detest our Confederate monuments. But they should remain., provides another perspective. He comments on the terrible destruction of statues and relics throughout world history, how it solves nothing. He says that, “People effectively act as though destruction of a monument exorcises its power and removal banishes the power from their midst. But these pieces of metal and stone only have the meaning we assign to them, and that meaning can take any form we like. They can be revered or reviled; honored or ridiculed; or co-opted for a new purpose.” This is vital to realize, and he continues with stating that, “destroying monuments takes a page out of the playbook of mobs across the centuries, lowering one’s self to that moral plane.” He continues: “When racists revere these monuments, those of us who oppose racism should double our efforts to use these monuments as tools for education.” He finishes with what I consider to be a powerful statement: “Destroying or removing monuments is the easy way out of our obligation to understand our past and improve our future. Monuments to our nation’s racism can be as much a tool to counter it as they can be a tool to foment it. The choice and obligation is ours.” 
Lastly, there are multiple web sites posting the same article, but claiming authorship for the article titled: “Here's what Robert E. Lee thought about Confederate monuments.” I’ve no idea which one is the original source, but all use what are apparently comments in Lee’s letters to various people after the Civil War. Lee apparently wrote that Confederate monuments would retard the ability of the country to recover, he wished that battlefields be “erased from the landscape altogether” (according to biographer Horn), and he didn’t want the flag flying at the college where he taught; it seemed Lee felt these would remain “divisive symbols” and wanted nothing to do with them. Unfortunately, the symbols are still standing and flying, so we have to find a way to deal with them — and learn from our mistakes — without in-fighting and tearing each other apart.
I happen to believe that all memorials to wars in any shape or form need to be done away with eventually, that all they seem to do is promote the celebration of aggression and make heroes and/or martyrs or those who killed and died, with a focus on nationalism, disregarding the rest of humanity that suffered or is suffering. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Solar Eclipse

I chose to observe the dancing crescent patterns rather than gaze through anything directly at the sun. I'm happy with my choice to feel the energy, listen to the growing silence, and experience Nature similar to all other animals. It was cool.

Okay, in addition, best movie ever that includes a solar eclipse? Ladyhawke. Yup. One of the greats, IMHO. Because of the eclipse, the curse is broken and love wins the day!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Equality and Paradox

One of the things I find great about British moral philosopher Mary Midgley’s books (so far) is that, although each focuses upon a topic to consider philosophically, the concepts and principles used can be widely applied. Take, for example, the book Animals and Why They Matter (1983).
In the chapter “Equality and Outer Darkness,” Midgley states in subsection “2 The Problem of Extent” that, “the notion of equality is a tool for rectifying injustices within a given group, not for widening that group or deciding how it ought to treat those outside it. As is often necessary for reform, it works on a limited scale.” (P. 67) This notion of “within a certain group” is what caught my attention. Midgley writes at length about the different groups and their objectives for reform, including the political difficulties if the social contract circle is expanded too much — which is when the movement can easily fall apart. 
Extension links to the comments in subsection “6 The Difficulty of Looking Downwards,” which point to a more linear view, rather than a circular one of inner and outer group. Midgley calls this the Paradox of One-Way Equality and states that, “inequalities above one’s own level tend to be visible: those below it to be hidden,” which reveals a “real conceptual difficulty.” This principle was “at work throughout the liberation movements of the sixties; each group of oppressed people, on sighting another, tended at once to see it as a distracting competitor, not as a friend and ally,” and, unfortunately, we can find this across history and in our present time, revealed in many examples.
Most of us are, I think, now aware of these propensities. Nevertheless, continued reflection and awareness is called for because it creeps in when we aren’t looking. Aren’t some of these difficult principles what we see happening right now as the various activist groups clash?

Midgley ends the chapter by stating that, “when a privileged group tries to consider extensions of privilege, quite special difficulties arise about being sharp-sighted. The notion that one has already drawn a correct and final line at which such extensions must end cannot be trusted at all.” Thus, I find myself asking: how are we being obtuse? How can we address our moral concerns amicably?
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