Thursday, May 12, 2022

Songs Which Turned Me Into My Dad

 As a young kid I remember hearing Eve of Destruction song by Barry McGuire. The song had a great sound with a raspy harsh voice and cool rhymes.  There was no way to really appreciate the gravity of the situation in the world and the song's strong message. I listen to it today and I feel it still resonates in our political climate. Growing up I was aware of politics. My Dad was involved in local politics. He was a Band Councilor in our Reserve and he was also a Vice-president in the Manitoba Indian Brotherhood under the late Dave Courchene. My Dad was a staunch advocate of Indian Rights and Treaty Rights. My Dad was also anti-British, and despised their rule of the world. Today there are many who fall into this point of view but have wrapped those feelings in a new name and called it de-colonization. As a kid hearing the voice of my Dad and his view of government control has not been lost on deaf ears. I have become my Dad in many ways. Funny how listening to a song can take you to a place in your thoughts of childhood, the formation of your own attitudes and values. I realize I am my Dad. I have the same shuffle as I walk around the house in slippers. There is the scrapping sound going on when I walk; shhhhttt, shhhttt. I can hear my wife saying "lift up your feet." I tease a lot but I don't feel I have my Dad's wit. He could be real cheeky without being cruel and many times folks did not realize what went on. I like to think I have a bit of my Dad's intellect. He was an intelligent man, a man who was also knowledgeable in practical matters. 

When I was younger I vowed never to become like my Dad. I wouldn't be angry, I wouldn't be a slave to the drink. I wouldn't let other's use me. I wouldn't be a jealous raging lunatic. I guess I had some issues with my Dad. I did go into the drink and it was ugly. I didn't drink long, I stopped when I was 20 years old. I did pick up my Dad's ways of being generous to a fault. I also had loyalty to folks who had no loyalty to me. I went willingly into being used by others, who had no thought of my well being. I endured abusive relationships with bullies. I was loyal and befriended bullies. Their actions towards me affected me. I made excuses for their behavior and rationalized it. I turned the pain of being bullied into anger at those who loved me. It is quite funny what we accept in relationships. We will live with people, maintain friendships with people, and accept abuse directed at us because we care for them deeply. 

With the pain of life there is also the joy which comes along as well. There are songs which remind of us those times. The song can really take you places. The song can provide a snap-shot of the political climate, the good in society and the bad. The song can provide a voice to your thoughts and feelings. The song can open your eyes to a new point of view. The song can be profound and can be whimsical. The song is important. I can still see my Dad enjoying the big wooden cabinet record player. I hear a Hank Williams wanting you to see the light; Charlie Pride kissing an angle good morning; while Charlie Rich asking if you saw the most beautiful girl in the world. I see my Dad reading everything he could on the news about Indian people. So I did get my love of the song from my Dad and from my Mom. Although it was my Dad's choice of music we listened to as kids. My Mom had other tastes as she like Cat Stevens' Morning Has Broken and Mungo Jerry's In The Summer Time

I still enjoy the songs. Today I tend to listen to the words and message along with the melody. I like how songs can encapsulate events, social interactions and society. There are two songs I believe tell us the world of men and the world of Women.  Runaround Sue and The Wanderer sung by Dion, just tells us exactly the relationship, the standings of Men and Women in society. Can you think of a song or songs which capture a subject, event, time, or a statement? There are so many. Like my Dad I enjoy the song, but I also experience the message. Stevie Wonder's Big Brother warned us years ago about the system which Edward Snowden exposed. So go enjoy the messages while listening to the song and think about Iris DeMent says about what happens after: Let The Mystery Be

Monday, May 2, 2022

Just A Person Standing In Front Of Family

 "I come to you from a good place in my Heart." The other day I went for dinner to celebrate the 75th birthday of my sister-in-law. Family came from different parts of Canada to visit as well. The dinner was very nice. For me an impressive part of the dinner was not that she made it 75 (she is quite healthy and no doubt be healthy for some time to come), but it was the visiting; sharing smiles, sharing laughs and hugs. They are a huggie bunch my in-law family. I always tell my wife it was the best thing for me to become part of her family, they are some of the bestest nicest people I have ever met, and I have met loads of folks. 

It never ceases to touch my heart and amaze me when someone can stand up and say good things to their family member. This was alien to my family. Not saying my family was not good or nice, just saying there was no outward expression of love. My family did love us, no doubt. Their way of showing love was feeding you, housing you, clothing you, protecting you and doing activities with you. They just never voiced it. Of course hugs, kisses were there for the babies but not for the bigger kids. I know it was the experiences of being taken away from family and growing up in an institution of the Residential School. It is funny because a place that preaches love, kindness, charity had broken those ideals from the children they were in charge of. Those same children grew up not knowing the hug, the praise, the love they were suppose to have from their parents. Of course they are going to be a product of their environment. So the good things a family member says about another family member is heard mainly at the funeral service of the person.  And usually it is only one or two voices which are chosen to speak at the funeral. I wonder if those life-less-shells can hear the good words being said about and to them?  

At the dinner my nephew got up and spoke to the family. He spoke of family and he spoke of, and to his mother. It was so heartfelt without being mushy or over the top. His older brother got up and spoke as well. It was so uplifting to hear the feelings they shared publicly. I often think about this Elder who said to me: "The hardest thing is to pick up a Pipe in front of your family." I know now, what the Elder was telling me and there is a lot to unpack there. My nephews got up and spoke with open hearts. They shared their wisdom, their beliefs, their feelings, their love in the moment. Usually those moments of public sharing is left to the "experts." We tend to look at strangers publicly speaking as the experts, the sincere ones. Why do we do this, accept words from the stranger rather than the known one, our own? The old "can't be a prophet in your hometown" axiom, I guess.

There are some traditions we should break. One of them is not being able to say good things from our heart to our family members. We shouldn't have to wait for them to be a lifeless corpse. Still even doing that is hard for many of us. I am sure there are many families who can sit together praise each other openly, pray aloud in front of each other, but for some this is alien. That is the weird part, the Traditional way of life, the Spiritual practices were not in secret. Well not until it became against the law and for the forced Christian conversion. This is where things got weird. You see, in the Sweat Lodge Ceremony and many other Ceremonies, words are shared openly. This means your heart, whether it is broken, hurting is shared with everyone. Your life is in the open. Unlike the confines of a Church Confessional  booth, where your heart sharing is in secret. Now that is wild eh? With the resurgence of Traditional Spiritual practices taking place in Indian country, there are more and more breaking the norms of secrecy. So what you see is more individuals willing to stand in front of family members, in front of community to share and open their heart. For many openly speaking in front of family and sharing their heart is normal but for many it is a new experience. It is not due to them not having an open heart but due to the normalization of being shut down. We are voicing our open hearts and our children will hear it. 

"They who shall not be Named"

 Been watching news a bit too much these days. Carnage is happening everywhere and everywhere day. A relatively young Indian guy murdered f...