Friday, January 11, 2019

Heck With You and Anyone Who Looks Like You

Yeah, we laugh at shit.

At the Southbeach Casino in Brokenhead First Nation my cousins were playing the machines. An elderly lady fell down. So one of my cousins, went to give aide (most likely he was being nosy). As he was bending over to ask how the woman was doing, another cousin walked by and poked him in the arse. He screamed, fell backwards, flaying his arms all over the place and rolled around a little bit. He is kind of a big guy so he couldn't jump up and recover like a Ninja. Another cousin was sitting at a machine and witnessed the commotion. He did not tell the cousin on the floor who had poked his arse. The elderly lady was fine and same with my cousin who rolled around by the slot machines.

When my Dad started getting forgetful and on his way to having Alzheimer's, my brother Don and my brother-in-smiley visited him quite often. They also used to tease him. Dad was living alone after Mom had died. They would be sitting in the kitchen having tea with Dad. Some how my name would come up, with Don and Smiley saying "Steve's going to put you in the home".  Our Reserve has an old folks home, otherwise known as a Care Home. Dad would be asking "what for?"

My Dad was very much against using the same Funeral Home who did my Mom's services. He said Giesbrecht Funeral was a "rip-off." My Dad also didn't want to be buried with a casket. My brother Don and Smiley would tell my Dad, "Steve's going to use Giesbrecht for your service".  My Dad would get wild and swear about Giesbrecht and the funeral industry. "It's a scam. Big money for a box. If you put me in there I'll fucking kick myself out of that casket."  Dad was adamant about Geisbrecht being a crook. Turns out he was right. A few years later Geisbrecht was busted for defrauding dying people. We didn't end up using a casket for Dad and we didn't hire Geisbrecht.

My brother Pancho had a brain aneurysm. So he was rushed to the City hospital by ambulance. My brother and I met our sister-in-law Jeannie at the hospital. The doctor came and spoke to us and he was pretty grim about the whole picture. I tried to ask questions and Jeannie didn't say anything. So my brother told the Doctor to operate and give him a chance to live. We went to the waiting room after the discussion. We looked at our sister Jeannie and told her "geez, your already kicking dirt on his grave and he's not dead yet", as we laughed about the whole situation. Jeannie denied she was throwing mud on Pancho. She married into this family so she knows the price. So the teasing is constant. Pancho never did recover, he did end up dying.

The Vancouver Winter Olympics of 2010 was a mixed bag for the First Nation community; some welcomed the party while others resisted. In Manitoba there was a rally to bring a spotlight on the Indian situation in Canada. The Olympic flame was being driven through Manitoba. A few stops were scheduled on the route to give some locals the chance to carry the Olympic Torch. The Town of Richer was one of the stops. So a group of Indians, with their horses, a bus load from our Reserve and a number of individuals in their own vehicles drove up to the Trans Canada Highway. There at the cross roads near the town of Hadashville. Hadashville is on the Trans Canada Highway, (known as Number One Highway) and is 40 kilometers east of the town of Richer. So there are these Indians on their horses, a few Chiefs with their Headdresses, and some Indians with Eagle staffs, and some with signs.  I am there with my camera. The day was cold and windy. We stood at the side of the road. We waited for the Olympic Torch.  Finally, we were rewarded for our wait as a cascade of black SUV's drove by. You could see little Canada flags hooked onto windows. We all stood there.  We watched the cars carrying the Olympic flag drive by.   We wondered "Hey didn't they see us?" Nothing happened, they didn't stop, wave at us or even slow down?  So the Indians on horse back had nothing to do so they went up the road for a little ride, I took pictures. The people laughed and teased each other. They loaded up the horse trailers and the buses, and we got in our car and went back home. It was a good day.

I was a bar with some of my cousins. This was at least 39 or more years ago. My cousin and I were playing pool against his older brothers. We won the game, surprisingly because one of the brothers was a skilled pool player.  We won a buck each. So we teased and we teased the older cousins. The oldest cousin, didn't like to lose. He took out the dollar bill and wiped his arse with it. We let him have the dollar. I look at this as a teaching moment. I see people kissing money.

At a Band meeting (public meeting held with  the community and Chief and Council of our Reserve) the people were talking about what offices would be open during the holiday season. There were a number of old people there. My Dad said out loud "hey for those of us who don't work, do we get a holiday too?"  An old man who was known to never work said "Yeah, what about us?"

"Heck with you and anyone who looks like you. Never did like you anyway."  Words of endearment from the reserve. 

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Eve of Destruction

What do you think, are we experiencing an era of destruction?

We are so plugged into the world via the internet and other media that we see lots and lots of ugly. The ugly is right there for us to digest. Natural disasters becoming more frequently and in intensity.

Just looking on Twitter and we see two young girls in North Dakota age 11 killed themselves. How isolated or crushed must they have felt to do this. How ugly the world must have looked to them. Eleven years old can you imagine? Get this, a woman who has been in a coma for 14 years just gave birth. It's a page out of the Pulp Fiction movie; "My name is Buck and I'm here to fuck, hehehehe". How sick is that?

The amount of ugly is just coming into our homes. People are experiencing ugly in all sorts of situations. Politicians are appealing to the ugliness in society so they can get elected. People are using the rise of bigoted politicians as permission to openly attack ethnics, and minorities. Politicians are actively promoting fear as the driving force of their punishing and cruel policies. Governments are turning blind eyes to when an oppressive regime murders and chops up individuals. The divide between people making a living and the rich is beyond belief.  Politicians are using police forces as their enforcers rather than looking out for the safety of the public. Police Forces have transformed into military forces. Ultra Racists are being elected in to power.

In Canada the anger over oil Pipelines has the government using police to remove Indians from their home lands. The Canadian government is rolling out new changes which will undermine the Treaty promises. The RCMP are treating their own Female members with abuse and continue to abuse Indigenous people throughout the country. With the RCMP linked to deep seated racism.

The Middle East is still engaged in killing each other. Yemen's Children are caught in a war and are starving to death.  In China they are jailing Canadians due to the arrest of a Chinese business Woman. Russian is attacking the Ukraine territory and undermining it's sovereignty. While critics of Putin seem to end dying of radiation poisoning; other regimes like Israel are getting more and more ruthless. The Palestinians are systematically killed and forced out of their homes. In the United States, the government has separated children, infants toddlers from their parents and jailed the children. The people of South America are dying to get out of harms way. The amount of displaced and refugee people is in the millions.

The ugly the world is experiencing rises and subsides like a tsunami. Although it does subside, it is never to the same depths.

Although we see the rise ugly in the political realm  it is also in our homes, our schools, our police, our hospitals and in the streets. The tidal wave of ugly hurtful events seems to be the norm these days. There is the problem, we are believing the ugly to be normal. There my friends is where we come to the eve of destruction. When the ugly is just everyday part of living, we are truly fucked.

I rather walk in a garden where you are refreshed with the goodness of society rather than steamed over, crushed by the wave of ugly.

So my friends don't accept the ugly. Speak out against the man who is attacking a woman. Speak out to the teacher who is cutting hair of a student. Speak out against the ugly racism disguised as fear of your safety. Speak out against ugly even if it is uncomfortable.

* By the way many artists, writers have all seen this coming. Just see the books, movies, television shows. We all know how it ends with the government capitalizing on a made up fear and seizing absolute power.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Stick With Your Own

There is a beautiful song by Van Morrison called Irish Heartbeat. I listen to it but think Indian Heartbeat.  The song makes me think of our people, the Anishinaabe, the Indigenous relatives all over.

You see I have a love for many many people, all kinds of people. I hurt for those we see on the news, dying and starving. I laugh with those we see laughing, teasing and living a good life. At the same time I feel really bad.  I have many friends who are not Native and family who are not Native. They are very good people. Still I see the pain the majority of non-ethnic people do and cause. Is it not my friends fault their people cause and inflict so much damage. I don't need to outline the damage, we see it play out every single day.

It pains me but I have known this realization for a long time. We as Anishinaabe folk have to stay with our own ones.  I have a good friend  who is Portuguese. He told me sometime ago about how people stick together. We have a mutual friend who is Italian, a very good guy. My Portuguese friend told me that no matter what, we can marry an Italian but we will never be Italian. Meaning our Italian friend will always view as other than Italian. This is how the world is. We see people not like us but as  Others. Others can be good, special and all of that but we are never going to be them. Same with us as Indians, we have great Others but they will never be us. It is not wrong to be us. It is not wrong for Others to be themselves as well.

A friend of mine, Indian friend, had a White girlfriend. They were good together. It was like they fit like a hand and glove. She called his Mom, her Mom and his siblings her siblings. After many years they had a child together. They broke up. She stopped being his friend, and stopped being sibling and daughter to his family. Never reached out to his family.

My wife had these friends. One she treated like a sister. Even had her as the God-mother to our girl. The friend just stopped being a friend. Not a break up or anything. Just stopped. My wife used to reach out and try to maintain communication. The friend only reached out when she wanted to sell something.  Needless to say God-mother is no longer in our lives. Another friend of my Wife's was a younger girl. The younger girl did not have a good relationship with her own mother.  My wife took her as a daughter and when she had a child, we took him as our grandson. As time went on the young woman stopped being part of the family. No real reason. We went visit her when she had another son. The young woman showed us some family photo albums. I noticed of all the photos, there none of my wife and our daughter. Absent in family photos, but there were many of her mother. My wife didn't seem to notice. I noticed.  I know sometimes friendships just run their course and it's not bad or wrong. Still I have seen many other situations where Others have stopped being part.

I see this quite a bit in the Ceremony community. Others come in and become part of the community and then they stop.

The point is we are who we are. We can have many friends who are Other but they will never be us. Not wrong but it tells us to remember who to stick with. Just remember we are different and we should celebrate and embrace those differences or better yet, love the sameness we have.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Decolonizing Christmas?

The month of December is a good month where many faith based celebrations take place. Just before December is to begin a few celebrations and actions take place: Mawlid el-Nabi, the celebration the Prophets birthday.  Advent Fast also starts a couple days before December. In December we have Saint Nicholas Day, the Fiesta of Our Lady Guadalupe, S. Lucia Day, Hanukkah, Christmas Day, Three Kings Day, Kwanzaa, Omisoka, Yule, Saturanalia, Solstice,

For many December, specifically the holiday celebrations bring mixed feelings and in some cases dread. For many Indigenous folk around the world it is an acknowledgement their Belief system was attacked, was changed and no longer part of their life. So December brings out some heartache. It is either a day of a reminder of suppression of your beliefs and people or it is a struggle to buy things you can't afford.

I see many of the Indigenous folk who really despise the "Christmas season" in all its flashing lights and candy canes. They have every reason to not want to celebrate Christmas. What the hell for? Its like celebrating Columbus Day: remembering a raving madman monster.

Me, I have conflicted feelings about the whole Christmas celebrations. I mean I know what it is suppose to represent but I also realize its a commercial holiday tied to an institution which has caused so much horror throughout the world. So no I won't be raising a glass of wine to the New Born Son come this December 25th. Instead it is about a day to see the kids smile, be happy and have a meal with family. Still there is a nostalgia which I can't help ut think about this time of year. It reminds me of being a little kid, growing up with bunch of brothers and sisters with Mom and Dad. Mom would use lunch bags and fill them with Japanese Oranges (that is what we knew them as kids), with hard candies, a few chocolates. Each bag would have our names written on them in my Moms beautiful handwriting. We would go to mid-night mass at the church because it was you did. Our home was Catholic. We all have the Church imprint on us. It is about the feeling I had for my family in  those young years.

Today the notion of Christmas in our household is about the family and nothing more. Still the underlining reasons for Christmas will always be there. And until we finally stop the celebrating it in our home, the imprint will be there. Wrong but there it is. Its like many things rooted in colonial acts, we do them but the foundations of what was wrong is still there.

I read this Christian Pastor who does not celebrate Christmas and he says it for the reason that it is not about Christ. He says no where in the Book does it say anything about Christmas.

For me I'm not Christian and no longer Catholic (is hard to get rid of the indoctrination from Fort Alexander Boarding School and  the Reserve) so Christmas is the buying gifts day. I have always really like the act of giving. Give-Aways are part of  our life. We celebrate, we remember, and the Give-Away Ceremony is a means to doing that. The gifting of presents is how I reconcile the December holiday. It works for me.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Just Following Orders. Not Right Then and Not Right Now.

Befehl ist Befehl ("an order is an order") is the famous defense during the Nuremberg Trials. There is the "I was just following orders" excuse for doing ugly things. Today our society is really doing ugly things. We are seeing people who are loyal to ugly leaders, governments, and corporations. So why is it we don't see people questioning the wrong happening in their circle? Look at Florida police force who were told to frame Black people, the officers just followed orders. The United States have a White House staff who are actively lying to the public. The World is going through a climate crisis and people are just following the same route of adding to the crisis. 
Migrant Babies running from Military

A number migrants, refugees from Central America marched towards the US through Mexico seeking to find a safe haven from the horrors of their country. The President of the United States  and numerous politicians screamed about criminals coming to the US. The US President sent Army Troops to the border with the intent to stop the migrants. The US Army were geared up for a war. The first wave of migrants were shot at. The Army shut down the border in California and shot tear gas at people trying to run into the US. There are so many ugly situations happening all over the world. We think it can't happen to us. It is a thing happening far away.  

As we see the ugly is not always far away. it happens in our lives as well. Maybe not in a grand scale but still an ugly event. It can be a very personal action. The police officer who will use the baton on a person exercising Rights to question the powers. The border agent who empties all the water containers left for people crossing the desert. The manager in the office who follows the lead of the company to terrorize the staff into compliance. The leaders who get their colleagues to follow their every decision, whether the colleague thinks it is the right thing to do. 

It is baffling to see how people justify the actions of their leaders. 

The excuse of "just following orders" was not a get out of jail card for Nazis. Nor was it a cleaning cloth for the absence of morals and human decency. The just following orders or just following our leader, does not excuse any of us from our misdeeds and wrongs today. The Nazi situation is of course the extreme but the use of "just following orders" is still wrong today as it was then. 

The government bodies who make decisions which hurt the public are followed out by the numerous politicians, bureaucrats, police/military folk.  I always wonder when they put on their suits and tie, power woman blazers, uniforms if they lose the ability to have decency? 

There is a photo of a police officer spraying a young child with pepper spray. The picture is real and the incident happened in Brazil in 2011. Another 15 year old girl was pepper sprayed by a police officer while in a car and they shut the door on her. There are so many  instances of a public official some how losing their control on the public.  The instances seem to be all to common, with some incidents resulting in death. 

We are in an era of ugly incidents, ugly policies, ugly laws, ugly politics, ugly encounters and a very ugly atmosphere. Big Money and Nations are ignoring the signs of a climate catastrophe. 
People are being attacked just for being who they are.  The attackers are being instructed to do harm, being congratulated on the harm they do and are unrepentant for their actions. After all they are just following orders. 

We all follow orders in our actions. Still we must be held accountable for our actions. The ugly must be held accountable.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

No Promise of Tomorrow to Come

When I go from this life, let me go in peace
Don?t want your marble at my head and feet
Don?t gather round me oh just to weep and moan
Where that I?m going I won?t be alone
The flowers you give, please give them today
Don?t waste their beauty on cold lifeless clay
One rose with love could do so much good
And I think all would give it if they just understood
Now God gives life freely, then he takes away
What we do for eachother let us do it today
For we have no promise that tomorrow will come
Don?t sing my praises lord after I?m gone
When life has departed it?s not me any more
Just a form that has suffered, A still heart that was sore
For the soul that has blossomed, it don?t need you anymore
So let it freely to God?s evermore

Friday, November 9, 2018

I'm not Good, I'm not bad, I am Me.

I have always said "Be Kind" but have come to know kindness is very hard to achieve. I like to think I am aiming to be kind. It hasn't found me yet. Sure there are moments, many moments actually of doing kind things or just being nice to people. However there are times when I am mean and in one case violent to people. This is the struggle for me. I am considerate and think of others and their well-being but there is a side of me which can be cruel, mean. Does it mean I am a person who is bad? Can I ever say I am a good person?

A friend of mine gave me this book to read: Sacred Contact by Caroline Myss. The jacket of the book says it is a "powerful program for discovering one's purpose in life". Started reading it and thinking this is going to be a chore. Actually finding gems for the mind and heart in this book so far. I understand in many discussions surrounding Spirituality and Enlightenment there is the notion of bringing in various Religious ideologies into the mix. I have to make sure to keep an open mind and not close off  what is being said when Christianity enters the discussion. It is a task to be aware of our bias. In any case this book about becoming aware of the Divine and your own path. It has me thinking about me and my journey so far in life.

There is a past we all have, the hidden secrets, the mistakes, the embarrassment, the kind deeds, the generosity and everything else. If truth be known I should have been locked up for my actions. On the other hand I know I have done very nice things, very generous and thoughtful actions. Its a difficult thing to really look at who we are and what we do. I listened to CBC Radio - Out in the Open show. It was about how people responded to a Crisis (Crisis Reactors). The show examines how people reacted to situations and what they thought they would have done. Some stepped up in Crisis while others froze. "We all want to believe we would be the hero".

I joke and tease quite a bit, some of the teasing is quite mean, and I can do mean things as well, I have been told. I also am very generous and thoughtful, I have been told. Without going to examples of my bad actions and my good actions, lets just say its true, I am very good and also bad. 

So how do I reconcile with the two me's? The ugly mean bad person and the very good nice guy?

I think we are not on a linear plane. I mean things are not like a time line. We don't just go from one thing to another, one day to another day.  I understand as we age we become more experienced and therefore should be more wiser and not make the same mistakes again. Or we know what is good and should continue with those actions we know have good outcomes. It doesn't really work that way. We are a number of things; from the nice person to the ugly and all that in between. Its funny in some ways we are very critical of ourselves; coward, selfish, lazy, rude, mean. We also overvalue our character; super kind, generous, humble, intelligent, attractive, intuitive.

So how would I categorize myself? A good guy? A bad guy? A regular fella?

I like to tease and say I am a "god" (Not thee God of course). 

I think we can get wrapped up in labels. We can be very hard on ourselves for our many mistakes. We down play the good things we have done for others. I want really hard to be able to say, "yeah the Steve is a pretty damn good guy" as opposed to saying "what an arsehole Steve is".

So I will just play it by ear from here on. I am on journey and my journey is about doing things, and the spectrum of those things have yet to be determined. If I have some influence on those things, well maybe most of them will be nice. Funny our vision of who we are and the view of who we are by others are quite different.

At the end of the day if we are keeping score, I think I'm in the pretty damn good column.

As one homicidal manic once said "Its not the people who vote that count, it's the people who count the votes".  So its me counting the score and that is what counts.

So regardless of who scores you (judges you), its your score which counts.