The Circle of Words

We protest in this nation because it makes us stronger. . . We voice our hurts. We point out injustices. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be a democracy with a document that calls for us to hear each other, to work together to be strong in our diversity. When women were left out of the conversation and the voting process, people protested (some peacefully and some violently). Now women can vote, own property, and hold political office. When prohibition was debated, people on both sides voiced their opinions strongly. Many businessmen broke the law and served alcohol even when it was prohibited. Eventually the law banning the sale of alcohol was overturned. We fought to end slavery and are still fighting to end serious injustices plaguing our nation such as unnecessary brutality, child abuse, domestic violence, rape, sexual predators pursuing children and the cover ups of all of these crimes to protect those with power, wealth or influence.

I’m a history geek, a listener, and a life-long learner. I want to know where we came from—honestly, not just a cute story that makes us look good. I want to understand people and their perspectives. I take public transportation and listen on subways and buses. When I am at the store, I listen to people on the aisles with me. I listen to people sitting near me at public events. I tune in to podcasts on subjects I had never thought about before and read editorials from opposing viewpoints. I want to hear people so I can understand things from their lives and their experiences. That’s the only way I can write from the perspective of different characters, and the only way I can be in conversation with others in my daily life—people in my neighborhood, my community, my city, my state, my nation, and my larger global family.

Here’s what I hear from many acquaintances right now: “I’m angry because I love this country and someone else won’t stand for the anthem of my homeland.” You are hurt because something meaningful to you is not being respected. You are angry because your values and traditions are not being upheld by others. It’s easy to feel personally threatened by these actions because your values are a part of who you are. You have the right to be proud of this nation, it’s flag, and your own religious beliefs that you tie into your patriotism. You have used your right to call protestors SOBs and other names. You have called for them to be fired, signed petitions to force them to stand, etc.

But your words have come full circle, so you must hear your own voices: We are a strong nation because we can express our opinions and hold our own beliefs. You can call someone an SOB who disagrees with you. Oh, but wait, can’t they express their beliefs? Isn’t that what our Constitution says? If you can ask people to stand, can’t someone else ask others to kneel?

I hear some protestors say they are kneeling because this country has not protected the lives of their brothers and sisters, their cousins, their friends, their mothers and fathers. A deaf man was shot at his house with neighbors yelling that he was deaf. A man was shot for complying with the law and acknowledging he had a legally concealed weapon. An autistic man was shot for not understanding the instructions. Men with their hands up were shot. Teens were shot by police as they legally drove away from a party to head home. They had no weapons and were not drunk or high or in a stolen car. They were just going home to respect the values their parents taught them about leaving a place if you felt uncomfortable with what was going on. An innocent man was killed when the police burst into the wrong home because of their own error. The protestors are hurting and protesting out of their hurts and over these injustices. It’s their legal right as an American to find a way to shed light on social issues that are keeping us from truly being a nation where all people are free.

You are using your constitutional right to voice your opinion that you want the anthem respected. They are peacefully using their constitutional right to ask you to hear them. It’s a peaceful protest—a cry to this nation to try to find a solution to this crisis.

It’s what we do because we are Americans. We protest. We speak out. We cry out to others to hear us. On taxation issues. On women’s rights. On prohibition. On repealing prohibition. On the rights of children to be educated. On gun rights. On gun limits. On the rights of all people to be treated with respect. About the rights of all people to be safe in this nation, to be equal under the law and to be treated justly.

This will not be our last issue to protest. We are a nation of fallible humans who will keep hurting others as we try to force others to live by our own traditions and political and religious beliefs. We will cause harm. Someone will find their voice and bravely stand up for those being harmed. Someone will find the courage to hear and join the chorus calling for love and justice to prevail.

It’s what we do. It’s called growth, and it make us stronger when we listen and join the conversation. You can be heard and still hear others. You don’t lose your rights when you give rights to other. You don’t lose your nation—you watch it come to life even stronger than before.

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Fun Facts and Other Random Thoughts

Some days, life is just about the little things that make you smile…for me today it was about trivia that I found fascinating. Since my novel, Without a Voice, takes the characters from Memphis to Arrow Rock, Missouri, I thought I would give you some fun facts about Arrow Rock and the city’s famous painter who helps me tell the story:

Arrow Rock is a village in Saline County, Missouri. It is located near the Missouri River. The village has important historical significance related to the travelers who came through as they headed west on the Santa Fe Trail and related to one citizen—19th century artist George Caleb Bingham. The entire village of Arrow Rock has been designated a National Historic Landmark.

The Friends of Arrow Rock offers tram tours of village attractions, including the National Historic Landmark home of famous American painter citizen George Caleb Bingham, and the home and shop of renowned gunsmith John Sites. Visitors can still dine at the J. Huston Tavern, the oldest continuously operating restaurant west of the Mississippi. Characters in Without a Voice enjoyed the food here too.

George Caleb Bingham was an American artist whose paintings of American life in the frontier lands along the Missouri River still captivate viewers today. Many art critics credit Bingham with being the first outstanding American artist from the “West.”  Bingham’s paintings relate to life and commerce along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, and to the pioneer life of the people of Missouri in and around St. Louis, Columbia, Jefferson City, Arrow Rock, Boonville, and Kansas City. His most renowned works were completed between 1845 and 1855.

in 1820, when Bingham was nine, Missouri became the 24th state. Only five years before Bingham was born, Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery returned from their 1804-06 westward journey. It is possible that Bingham was Missouri’s first artist.

These facts may seem totally useless to some people. If you live in Arrow Rock or if you like art, however, you may find these facts fascinating. I remind myself that it’s all about perspective. As a mom, I have to remember to look at things from the perspective of my daughters. I remember when a certain band was all they could talk about or when they absolutely had to have silly bands to trade at school. That was what was important to them in their world of childhood and young friendships.

I often have to remind myself to remember that my perspective comes from my family, my friends, my work, my traditions, my race, my economic status, etc.…I can’t claim my perspective as an absolute truth for all people. I recently volunteered for a few hours to assist a group of people who moved here from another nation. Organizers of the event soon realized that we had set up everything from the perspective of our culture. The organizers had to make some quick changes to some foods and some signs in the bathrooms. Some basic things that we thought made sense didn’t make sense to all cultures.

So I’m trying to learn to look at things from different perspectives—from different cultures, to different time periods, to different towns. It’s making me a better me.