Monday, September 5, 2011

Promoting Silence

Should Freedom of Speech allow something like this to be published? Yes, but does that make it morally acceptable? Absolutely not.
There has been quite an influx of fashion articles promoting slavery and abuse, but this one particularly outrages me, partially because of the writer's opinion and because of the responses I read about this article.
I found this picture in an article from Yahoo's Shine. I completely agree with the author who feels this promotes domestic violence but differ in how it promotes abuse.
In the comments section, one user responded to the article as follows:
"Back to whether or not it promotes and/or glamorize domestic violence. I'm personally don't see it. offensive how? I think see people are that stupid to look at the pictures and go "wow i wanna be her, all beat up". who's going to go around sporting a black eye. maybe so dumb celeb always trying to set trends or blind to style like Lilo?" And this is where I think both the author and commentator got it wrong. (Wrong even beyond the outrageous number of grammatical errors and very likelihood that this person is no Einstein.)
No, most people are not that stupid to say, "I want to be like her, bruised and beat up." But what it does say is that it is acceptable, it is ok, to be beat up like that. It likely won't encourage younger girls, boys, and teenagers to want to be injured by family, friends, or boy/girlfriends. It tells them it's ok if you are. It promotes the idea that many people are hurt or injured in this way. And by doing so, it promotes silence. Silence from the young women and men subject to this type of behavior. Because if this is something that is "ok" or "common" in occurrence, why would someone speak up against it?
One of the biggest hurdles in domestic violence and abuse is the victim's silence. Their unwillingness, embarrassment, inability, and/or fear to speak up against what is done to them. And who blames them? In a society where victims cannot always be promised protection and face the disgusting potential to be called a liar for 'falsely' accusing their predators, why would a victim-especially younger adults and children-ever feel comfortable telling someone?
Most anti-abuse campaigns harp, and rightly so, about coming forward, speaking up-not ignoring, not silencing- the abuse they see/feel/hear. It is only through their ability to acknowledge and call out the abuse that it can be righted.
This picture doesn't invoke people to want to be abused, it rather hints that one should not say anything about abuse if they are subject to it or know of someone who is...because, "hey, it's ok. A lot of people are abused. It's no big deal. You can make it look cool."

This picture and photo-shoot promote the two biggest adversaries to abuse, silence and acceptance. And the fact that not enough people are acknowledging this is the problem with these photos, well, that is truly heart-breaking.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Poetry: A Bouquet

I read a poem.

"A Bouquet" by Bei Dao

(1) Between me and the world
You are a bay, a sail
The faithful ends of a rope
You are a fountain, a wind
A shrill childhood cry

(2) Between me and the world
You are a picture frame, a window
A field covered with wild flowers
You are a breath, a bed
A night that keeps the stars company

(3) Between me and the world
You are a calendar, a compass
A ray of light that slips through the gloom
You are a biographical sketch, a bookmark
A preface that comes at the end

(4) Between me and the world
You are a gauze curtain, a mist
A lamp shining into my dreams
You are a bamboo flute, a song without words
A closed eyelid carved in stone

(5) Between me and the world
You are a chasm, a pool
An abyss plunging down
You are a balustrade, a wall
A shield's eternal pattern

Now, my copy of this poem is filled with musings, wanderings and mark-ups that I made after and while reading this. Like, the first stanza- to be a sail, it is something that leads you and guides in the right direction. It is a slave to the wind, a roamer, traveler, yet is it forced and pushed to lead? Is it not put up by someone to help them on their right path?
In the 2nd stanza, the person is a picture frame, a window. This hints that there is something deeper, more meaningful even within. What picture does it frame? Is the poet attempting to find out?
Like these first two observations, there is so much in this poem that so ineptly hints at the darker mysteries, intricacies, insecurities, fears, worries, and unbeknownst qualities of a relationship. Though its hints do not detract from the positive, appreciative, and hopeful feelings the poet has towards its recipient. While each stanza may refer to a "gauze curtain," "chasm," "abyss plunging down," "a mist," each stanza ends with admiration and hope. I think this so truly portrays a relationship of love. Love is a plunge into another person's chasm; you cannot know the true depths of that person, cannot fathom how deep it truly is. You cannot know where all the cracks and crevices lie. You cannot know what secrets, treasures, or surprises you will find within them. But, you were not pushed begrudgingly into this unknowing abyss of another person- you plunged into it. There is both lightness and darkness in this person. You searched out the ray of light that dispels your gloom. You know, or at least hope, they are not only the fall but the faithful rope, sail, compass that guides you through it. You travel together; at times the leader and at times the follower.
Dao so cleverly implies the duality, complexity, jigsaw puzzle realities of love. And something that speaks the loudest to me are the last two lines: "You are a balustrade, a wall/A shield's eternal pattern." A wall has such double meanings. A wall must be climbed. It not only blocks out others, protects those behind it, but it needs, calls, to be climbed. It is intimidating, it hides something, it must be conquered. It was so strongly built with time and care, but there must be something on the other side. And if a person really loves someone, they should take the time and care to climb out and find out what is hidden behind.

Now, all of my musings are just that- my musings. This poem originally being written in Chinese further clouds my findings, because who knows what was lost in translation? What words are not exactly what the author really meant?
And what used to bother me, drive me crazy, about poetry I am now actually finding to be poetry's true beauty. I used to think that poetry was bull. Everything and every word was over analyzed, construed to be something not originally intended by the poet- because how can we know what the poet actually meant by their specific word choice and imagery?
So why did I have to waste so many hours analyzing its meaning which was so clouded in personification or vague language? There are so many countless, potential meanings of a poem. It could mean anything, everything, or nothing, all of which depended on the reader. The reader, an ever-changing human being whose thoughts and feelings and knowledge are so constantly changing and evolving, that how could a poem ever ALWAYS mean one, same thing to such an inconstant being?

And now, I think I am realizing that that is the true beauty of good poetry. When a poem can speak to so many different people, on so many different levels and meanings, and show such breadth and universality and timelessness, when a poem can change its meaning to the same person depending on the time of day and year that it is read, when a poem helps someone discover something about themselves or the world- THAT is great poetry.
And maybe it's not what the poet had intended its meaning to be, but that's the point. If the poet wanted the readers to only feel one way about his subject, if he wanted the readers to know certain things- he would not be a poet. He would be a lawyer or judge. He would write HOW-TO books or write philosophy. He would come right out and say it!
The poet does not. The poet takes the reader through a maze of words and lines, a jigsaw puzzle of images, a smattering of pictures to create a piece of work that is blissfully vague, peacefully puzzling. It is not math where there is one correct answer; there isn't a right or wrong way to read it. It is supposed to be analyzed a million different ways, and it supposed to have a million right answers, and it is supposed to be analyzed uniquely to the reader.
Between me and the world, poetry is a bouquet. It is a mix of emotions, feelings, meanings, analyses, words, images, puzzles, pictures, metaphors, similes, cloudy mists, colors, languages, snapshots, and mysteries. Between me and the world, poetry is an abyss plunging down- I don't know where it will take me, what lies within, or how long I will fall, but I will plunge into it.

Monday, May 9, 2011

"Okay," Cameron sighed.

So, I had one of those awesome-I-feel-like-a-making-a-small-difference teacher moments today.

To practice accurate dialogue punctuation, I had my students write a fictional conversation that they had with me in their Writer's Notebooks.

One of my students, Cameron, was having a particularly bad day. He had just broken down in tears moments before because he didn't earn his day. He is on RISE, our in-school disciplinary system, where students must earn their days by getting high scores from their teachers in all of their classes for their participation, staying on task, remaining focused, and coming to class prepared.
He has ADD, and so it's very easy for Cameron to get off-task, or start humming/drumming his fingers too loudly, get a little too distracted maybe, but he's ultimately a really great kid.

He wrote in his notebook:
"You're going to be ok," said Ms. Haseltine.
"But it's so hard when something completely destroys your self-esteem like this does," Cameron said.

...He then sat there for a while, not knowing what to write next. I was standing next to him, reading his paper over his shoulder. So, I grabbed my pen and wrote in his book:
"Cameron, you're awesome. And I know you can overcome anything!" exclaimed Ms. Haseltine.

...He wrote back in his book:

...Then I heard a sigh, and he gave me the tiniest smile.

World changing? No. Life changing? No. Day changing? Probably not.
Nonetheless, it was a small victory. Because for that 2 or 3 minutes, (I can hope a lot more) he knew someone believed in him. His Writing teacher knew he could overcome anything, and by his sigh and smile, I know we both believe it.

If I were to create a fictional dialogue from this, it'd go something like this:

Cameron's pencil stopped. He looked up, not knowing what to say next.
As I read the words over his shoulder, I frowned to see such sadness from a usually chipper author.

"But it's so hard when something completely destroys your self-esteem like this does," Cameron said. His words loomed on the page. Completely destroys.
I hesitated. How do I let him know that it really will be ok? He's just having a bad day. It'll get better, I promise.

I grabbed my pen from the stand, swiveled his notebook and furiously began to write my response.
"Cameron, you're awesome. And I know you can overcome anything!" exclaimed Ms. Haseltine.

Cameron re-read the new words placed before him.
"Okay," Cameron sighed. And a smile. The tiniest, little smile creeped up from the corners of his mouth. He did not look up, but only picked up his pencil and kept writing his new story.

The feeling may not have stuck, but for a short moment, Cameron could sigh with relief that his teacher believed in him. Really, truly did. And that made his day just a teeny bit more livable.