Wednesday, August 16, 2017

On history and reverence

I had planned to write a post questioning the wisdom of removing the statue of General Robert E. Lee from Charlottesville, Virginia. While I thought I understood the motives behind it, the whole enterprise struck me as wrong-headed; the energy could be better spent, was to be my sentiment. (Plus, I'd loved the Dukes of Hazzard as a kid!)

I've had a change of heart.

But a few hours' research has shown this latest effort by Charlottesville's City Council to be but one part of a groundswell across the American South, over many years, against all symbols of the Confederacy. I'd remembered that there was a lot of controversy around the Confederate flag about two years ago, but it was the many retailers' bans that stuck with me; and that, as erring on the safe side, for sales. What I didn't take in, at all, was the public sentiment against the flag, particularly amongst black, and more educated white, Americans in the South.1 And now reading about locals avoiding, not only the vicinity of these monuments, but also parks bearing the prominent names2... It strikes a chord.

The Mayor of New Orleans, Mitch Landrieu, was quoted referencing the decision to remove their statue of Lee:3
It's not good to continue to revere... [to] put the Confederacy on a pedestal... [And if critics of the removal don't believe that,] the people of New Orleans believe it and we don't want these statues in places of reverence, they need to be in places of remembrance.

Even if I had the hubris to rail against the wishes of the people who must live in the shadows of these monuments, that distinction -- history versus reverence -- has undone the last of my conviction. It isn't about sanitizing [America's] history,4 as Condoleeza Rice has been quoted, speaking against the removals and renamings in general: it's about acknowledgement and reconciliation, which Lee himself was a proponent of in the wake of the Civil War. In 1866, he was called to testify before the Joint Congressional Committee on Reconstruction:5

... [E]very one with whom I associate expresses kind feelings towards the freedmen. They wish to see them get on in the world, and particularly to take up some occupation for a living, and to turn their hands to some work.

It sounds to me like these communities need this.

1. Poll: Majority sees Confederate flag as Southern pride symbol, not racist, CNN, 02/07/2015.
2. People Show Support for, Opposition to Lee Statue in Charlottesville, NBC 29 WVIR, 22/03/2016.
3. New Orleans removes its final Confederate-era statue, The Guardian, 20/05/2017.
4. Condoleezza Rice on Removing Civil War Monuments: 'Sanitizing History to Make You Feel Better Is a Bad Thing', Independent Journal Review, 05/2017.
5. The Making of Robert E. Lee, Michael Fellman, 2000.

EDIT (28/08/2017): CBC published an analysis by Aaron Wherry a few days ago entitled, ANALYSIS: Should John A. Macdonald's name be removed from schools? It is at least a question worth asking: Confronting the good and the bad of Canada's first prime minister.

Initially, I'd planned to draw parallels to the situation in Canada in this post; these sentiments were similarly uninformed, unsurprisingly. I'd actually thought, while reading about what was happening to everything bearing Lee's name and image, that, by that rationale, Sir John A.'s got to go then, for what his government did to Riel alone, never mind those awful schools. It was a sarcastic thought.

In this too, I've had a change of heart.

Quoted by Wherry, Isadore Day, Regional Chief of Ontario, actually hit a note similar to Landrieu's when he questioned the wisdom of [e]levating people to that stature. And National Chief Perry Bellegarde, quoted in an article linked in the piece, really drives the point home, for me:

How would you feel if you were a young First Nations person going to that school, knowing full well that Sir John A. Macdonald was one of the architects behind the residential school system? ... You wouldn't want to feel good about attending that school, would you? Because I wouldn't.

Be sure to teach what both the government of the day, and its official opposition, advocated regarding the Indigenous population. But leave it off the outside of the building where it's done.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Feeling good

I'm starting to feel good again. For long stretches.

I haven't felt the need to take any Amitriptyline in a long time. (I was prescribed a low dose for anxiety back in April, and I honestly don't know what I would've done without it.) I have been a bit anxious at times recently, but knowing it's there has been enough to see me through.

My mom's visiting. Nothing phases her. (She'd probably laugh to read that.) That wasn't always the case, believe me. I don't know when that started to change, but I actually found it upsetting, initially. I would find myself goading her, trying to get a reaction. Psychotherapy helped me reframe that. Now I just ask more and more pointed questions. She'll probably tell me to piss off at some point, but, in the meantime, it's, well, very liberating, frankly.

I've been lucky enough to get a large chunk of psychotherapy sessions through the NHS. If I'm honest, I was more than a bit skeptical at the outset. But I gave it my best shot. Where I'd sunk to... Well, there'd be no getting out on my own, I knew that. And I think it was in the third session that I had what I'd legitimately call a break-through. Since then -- and that was probably almost two months ago now -- I've been able to think about my anxiety, my rage, my hurt, in a different way. And I know I'm fortunate, to have this opportunity, to be sharing my life with a woman whose vows have been sorely tested too soon.

Talking with both my parents has also really helped. I still find this so surprising. This can't be the first time their counsel has done so, but I'll be damned if I can remember anything like this, sitting here now. I'm lucky they're both still alive to give it.

I walked up to the Painswick Beacon today with a new meetup. The views were breathtaking. And having my boy warm against my chest made it so much more special, daydreaming of him running off ahead, like the other kids were. Two six-year-old girls caught my attention: they were thick as thieves; yet they'd only met an hour before. I had to ask one of the mums twice; I could hardly fathom it. I'm looking forward to that too.

I want to help people again. Not like I used to -- I doubt I'll ever be able to throw so much of me into that again -- but I do want to do it. I'm getting excited about Tandemonium again, where, six months ago I was a hair's breadth from adding it to the half dozen resignations of that awful, awful weekend.

That seems like a long time ago now.