“It's Your Funeral”... and Thoughts on Humanity's Continued Search for Itself

I have never had any interest in westerns and the culture that surrounds them. In fact, I think I have only considered them something that might be worthwhile because my grandfather likes them. So when I discovered this film on the syllabus I didn’t really have much to look forward to. I recognized John Wayne from pictures and posters and country 'accents' that you can buy in stores and that's about it really. So I thought that the majority of my fun with the film happened with my experience of purchasing it. I must admit that I enjoyed my time at Bull Moose with the clerk who took me around the store looking for it. He walked me around while he wore a really crazy hat that flopped around and when any of his co-workers asked what we were doing he always answered with the same phrase, “Us? We're searching for the Searchers.” It was a bit funny :)

So I got it ordered, picked up and sat down to watch it with more than a little feelings of just blah. The first five minutes convinced me that I was in for a few hours of difficulty, maybe not boredom, but not really any interest either. I got a large glass of grapefruit juice and slouched down on the couch to keep watching but also so I could continue to watch the snow coming down outside the window and the sun slowly dissolving into the dark. I then spent two hours watching the saga of Ethan Edwards and his search for his missing niece named Debbie Edwards after she was stolen by a Comanche Indian raid. He traveled back and forth for over five years with a companion named Martin Pawley- an adopted young man who lived with and grew up with Debbie and her family.

“And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.” - Matthew 2:8

Ethan was a very interesting character. All of his opinions and thoughts bordered on arrogant and... for lack of a better word, macho. His obsession- the only word that makes sense in this case- with looking for his niece was confusing when you looked and comprehended his thinking of what makes family as well as his thoughts and anger towards the “Comanche' – anger that appears to come from past experience and dealings with some individuals from that Indian group. Family, or 'kin', to Ethan is a very simple thing. Blood and blood only makes family. He can't seem to see it any other way. His views on women are very stark as well – if you live with Indians or accept them, then you are damaged and shouldn't live. These stark, unbend-able views make his obsession with finding his niece even more challenging to understand... after all, why search for a girl for years and then wish to kill her when you discover a women who is married to an Indian chief? How can a man compartmentalize his feelings so clearly that he is unable to recognize the inherent clashes his own views will cause?

Martin - “They raised me”
Ethan - “That don't make you kin”

Funnily, enough... that does make you 'kin' in my book. I see family as those who stick by you, who love you, who look out for you and with whom your life would not be complete. I have many family members who share my blood, but I know people who share my blood and who really are not family. I have family in whom no related blood flows, but in all other ways they are my kin and I cannot see them as separate. I grew up with three grandfathers and while a child should never have a favorite, I did and still do to this day. Grandpa Carlile is the grandfather that I think about, I miss, and I know I will feel the loss keenly when he is no longer able to be a part of my earthly life. Sometimes, people remind me that he shares no blood with me- that he is my step-grandfather... but that label isn’t who he is and doesn't change who or what he is to me. If he had been kidnapped and lived in another culture for a while, I wouldn't hesitate to take him back... no matter what. As with all obsessions, Ethan puts everything he's got towards his plan and desire to find and rescue Debbie, but is unable to see the reality of what he wants. When he finds her, she can't live up to his expectations (can any obsession do that?) It takes more experiences and time before he is able to learn not only about how to understand and deal with the reality he faces, but also to actually understand himself. I would wish him happiness with his new understanding of humanity and even family, but as he is really a fictional character.... I will simply try to remember the lessons of the character.

Brad – “They gotta stop sometime. If they're human men at all they gotta stop.....”

Ethan - “No. A human rides a horse until it dies and then he goes on foot. Comanche comes along, gets that horse up... rides him twenty more miles... then eats him.”

Another problem that plagues Ethan is his discrimination and dislike of Native Americans... the Comanche in particular. He is unwilling for a great deal of the film to listen to or recognize Martin as being a human on the same plane as himself (Martin is one quarter Native American). His attitude of dehumanizing the Indians allowed him to see anyone who fit in with them as bad, not worthy of even living... damaged beyond repair. This movie was made over sixty years ago and this is a problem that we all still fight – as individuals and as a society. When someone angers us or does things that we do not approve of, we strip them of all the positive traits that they have... making them almost one dimensional with only negative qualities and stereotypes. This makes it easier for us to justify the poor treatment ans thoughts that we have toward them. It is this way of dehumanizing and 'othering' different people that has caused every genocide in this world. It is how we justify discrimination and violence towards others. And it is how Ethan justifies his attempt to kill Debbie when he finally finds her at the end of his quest. Sometimes I think what we are really looking for is to appease and justify our mistakes – by blaming others or hurting them. It is our search to understand and love ourselves that can be our way to peace... or the path to hatred and scapegoating. Martin Pawley finds himself unable to stop searching for his sister and follows Ethan over the country for years – sacrificing his potential wife Laura as well as good financial prospects- even when it is pointed out to him that is sister isn't his 'kin' because he is adopted. Even when he is told that the Comanche chief Scar murdered his mother, he is unwilling to focus solely on revenge... the life of Debbie is still more important. How many of us sacrifice so much for another person? For someone who many even today would say wasn't even family?

In the end, I sat back on the couch and thought about Ethan and Martin. I thought about how Ethan feels like the side of us that is angry and fearful and courageous and doesn't really think... and Martin is the 'one who follows' and pure love... charity. He feels fear and he feels angry, but he channels it and uses it to try and do what he feels is right for others and not what is necessarily all right for himself. Like the Super- Ego and the Id, parts of the same consciousness fighting to be the dominant partner.... which part of us will win the battles that we chose? Will we approach those who believe or behave differently than us with curiosity and tolerance... or will we allow ourselves to act out our fear and hatred with ourselves and our behavior on others? We are given these choices everyday... sometimes several times a day.... how we act says a lot about us and our character. If nothing else, I learned that the struggle to be tolerant and open is a problem that we have struggled with for centuries and we do not appear to be any closer as a race to understanding. I believe that Heavenly Father gives us more information and knowledge when we are ready for it – both individually and collectively. No wonder so many people think that God has stopped talking to us... we as a race are really slow to learn so how can he give us more information? In the end, Ethan Edwards is right: it is our funeral. And how we chose to get there is our choice most of the time. So what choices are you making? Are you choosing love and tolerance... or are you choosing anger and fear? In what ways are you judging your fellow humans poorly? If you have seen this film, what are your thoughts? I probably won't watch it again... I will actually probably send it to my grandfather who will probably love it. But I am glad that I watched it. :)


Sideswipes of Ideals and the Clash of Life, Experience and Hope: Malcolm X

With the exception of knowing the name- having heard the title many times in my life, I knew almost nothing about Malcolm X. So as I sat in class and the lights were dimmed I was prepared (I thought) for learning and to discover more about the man that I knew so little about- a shame as a historian, but I will admit I am woefully inadequate on almost any topic on American history; that is semi intentional and a long story. I have seen a documentary by Spike Lee before and found it phenomenal. And each film that I have seen in class has provoked so much thought that I wondered what I would gain from this one besides a better understanding of the man's life. Here are my thoughts...

The start of the film with the burning flag was a really potent image. The flag- whether it is a stamp, a name, a picture, iron on art, etc... makes a very specific statement. It is a loaded image that creates a picture no matter who looks at it and in many cases makes a political statement as well. For some, the flag is a symbol of pure nationalism- some love America to the point of blindness and the flag symbolizes this feeling... the feeling of power and strength, the assumption of God's blessing on this, the best country. Even that God fits a profile- white, Christian, silent and unchanging through the years. For others the flag is a symbol of a country that they love and feel loyalty for, but they are also able to recognize that America and its flag can also be seen in very negative ways not only by some of those who are protected by its laws, but by many around the world. The image of the flag is seen for what many see as its true colors... the symbol of oppression towards many in the world... it's citizens, other states...anyone that isn't useful or in line with what 'America' wants. It's hard to attack these ideals and governmental policies, so people attack it's image... and that is the flag. There are many ways to insult or desecrate the flag, but burning appears to be one of the most popular. By total destruction as flames quickly like over the sewn threads and they vanish into smoke that is pulled up towards the sun. So, as I watched this image, I felt the pull of both sides of the argument.... those that I know who cannot see anything but their idealized vision of the world and those who have felt the pain and oppression that is the flip side of nationalism. And there is no middle ground- because individuals will force you be be part of one side or the other. I do not allow myself to use the flag or its images on anything. I do not use it on stamps, hang it on the wall, or even use decorations that use the colors or patterns that suggest or remind. I have been told by people that my dedication to that 'idea' is treasonous and that I am ashamed of my country, but I see a very fine distinction between love of my country and it's ideals... and the reality of what it truly is. What is truly does... and what it has done in the past. So I felt that pain and that anger as I watched the flag... and as it slowly began to burn, I didn't need to hear the world to feel the suffering, the pain and the anger. I could see it grow and build as the flag burned... a flame of heat that might never be extinguished...even though its object has vanished into smoke and ash.

So many times I heard the word 'boy'... and finally I got it. When I was in high school I used to call male classmates 'boys' if I thought they were immature or acting that way. One of them was black and the few times I called him a boy, my kind teacher would pull me aside and tell me I couldn't do that because it was racist. And I would walk away really confused and frustrated. I have never considered myself a racist and I couldn't see how the word boy could be racist... The N word, yes... but boy no. I see it now. More than twenty years later I understand and I am really horrified by my lack of understanding. As a silly white girl, I didn't get it and as an older but still silly white women I know see a glimmer of understanding and I am filled with the shame and remorse. Tyler, I never meant to really hurt you. I never saw myself as being racist or making any comment about your skin at all. I saw myself standing up for myself and calling out immaturity when I saw it. I am truly sorry. I wish I could take those words back and I will admit I do not use them anymore. Since I couldn't understand why they were racially offensive, I just didn't use them anymore. I learned new words that were probably more effective and I still use those. I know of no way to make amends for my ignorance and foolishness; in fact, I suspect that my new understanding shows how immature I was and what a small child mentally. I ask for your forgiveness and hope that whatever pain I caused was small and hopefully gone.

Elijah Mohammed : The question is -who are you?

All of us ask this question to ourselves at some point in our lives... and how we answer it determines our whole lives. His choices changed his life and the lives of many. Just as our choices change our lives. I know a few people who seem lost and I am unclear if they can answer the question that Elijah Mohammed asked. Sometimes I am not sure that I can honesty answer that question. There are times when I feel very confident of the answer, but the jargon that spews forth from my mind is a list of labels and if you think about it.... no person can be summed up in labels nor should they. Aren't labels really a way of wording or acknowledging a trait; a piece of the whole, but how can a label or lots of labels encompass the whole? I am a woman, used to be a wife, a religious observer, a writer, a mother, a celiac... and yet, none of those labels tell you much or give you a clear image of who I am, what is important to me.... anything. What a powerful individual Malcolm X was... to question and question and to work to really understand himself and develop his ideas. The self awareness and control that requires is something that many people never develop- it is certainly not one of my strong suits.

"Whites can help us, but they can't join us. There can be no black/white unity until there's first some black unity. We can not think of uniting with others until we have first learned to unite with ourselves. We can think of being acceptable to others until we have first proven acceptable to ourselves..."

This is a really strong statement and a hard reality. Back at the beginnings of the women's movement, many of the leaders that we are able to look back to realized that women would never be able to get any rights as long as any men were also denied rights. That is one reason that many feminists worked and fought for civil rights for African Americans. Malcolm X understood something very essential. Until we can look and work together in our smaller groups, we can easily be divided. Look at any group of people – your church congregations, family, school mates, etc... How easily they are challenged and develop divisions, cliques, and outcasts. Look how easily the American government talked the country into going to war with Iraq – You're with us or against us, patriot or traitor, etc... no middle ground. When those that are in power want something, it is easier to distract and the less powerful majority with other things and such definitive statements. It crushes dissent, freedom of expression and gets many of us to focus on things that are not really important. It's how many of us use our votes to help people enter government who will actually make choices that hurt us and our families... we are distracted by other things and issues that keep us chasing our own tails. We can see this disunity now between not only the races and genders, but between those with economic disparity, health issues, religion, etc...

"I told you to look behind the words and dig out the truth...locked us in chains, 100 million of us, broke up our families, cut us off from our language, our religion, our history.... "

My last thought is not a comfortable one. As I sat and watched the life of Malcolm Little unfold to the adult Malcolm X to the close of his mortality, I found the same question running through my mind. Martin Luther King Jr. was a wonderful man and did some great things. I mean no disrespect to him by my next question. I wonder why we as a nation celebrate Martin Luther King and his achievement... and gloss over Malcolm X. My thoughts as to why we as a nation do that are not very polite or politically correct. I wonder if we celebrate King because we feel more 'comfortable' with him. He is easy to like and his message while hard came through a man who in many ways was nice and easy.... Malcolm X can not be seen in rose colored glasses very well. If you put both the men side by side, Martin Luther King is much more palatable for a white audience- he was Christian to boot. And so we celebrate him and what he stood for and forget some of the things that he did that we wouldn't find acceptable such as his womanizing. (Malcolm X was clearly a more responsible and focused family man.) I guess I wonder if we accept him more because we are trying to turn MLK into a 'good black person' or make him more 'white'. That is not possible to do with Malcolm X... and so as a culture we push him aside. I wish I knew more people of color so that I could ask them: What are their feelings on both men and which one do they feel more comfortable with? Which one matters more when they look at history? And which man do they think was right? A long time ago, I heard the story of the first black mayor of some city whose surname if I recall was Ford. He said that in his job, he had to be 'fairer than fair' and couldn't just try to balance things. He had to always make sure that the balance card leaned more towards his 'white' voters so that they didn't feel he wasn't caring for them and choosing the 'black' population only. How many of our politicians (mostly white) worry about that? Malcolm X was accused of being a black supremacist and a racist and I cannot agree with those labels- He didn't want to destroy or damage the white race... he only wants the black race to have the same choices as the white race.... and the same consequences. It seems that even in our modern, tolerant world.... we haven't changed as much as we would like to think. I feel a bit like a small child again and the world looks different and stark and harsh. I wonder if we will ever be able to get past race in America.... I wonder...


Merry Christmas to All!

I am not sure how I feel about Christmas this year. I certainly haven't gotten myself in the right frame of mind with all the schooling and everything. I haven't even gotten the cards out yet.... crap! So expect them late :) I did want to wish everyone a great Christmas though. I hope that during this season that you are able to bring the things that matter to you closer to your heart. That you will feel peace and some rest and be able to enjoy the blessings that you do have... even if you wish or need to have more. I ask that you take the time to pray (or have a minute of silence) for your family and those you know that struggle and who may not feel the love and peace of the season that many of us take for granted. And smile, for the solstice is past and the days are lengthening. Spring is coming. Remember the reason for the season. Both as a time of new hope for the warmth will return and as the chosen time to remember the birth of Jesus Christ and the teachings and hope he gives to so many of us. I plan on spending the day with Bug and in contemplation... and in the pile of schoolwork that I still have. May you have a great day as well. :)


2013 Poetry Corner #9 - "Night Swimming"

A click and the darkness flows
quickly to fill all space
cool sheets press against my cheek
arms flayed, spread out
feet dangling in the air

a slight breeze moves the air
leaving ripples of breath and hair
floating, gliding, sinking in the deep
and even though my physical sense hasn't moved
hasn't budged, hasn't twitched

I sense the waves of exhaustion flow in
the riptide of need to rest, to forget, to lessen
A whirlpool of darkness, soft voices and purring
And you sink down, down into the abyss
the light patterns on your lids begin to fade
from white to green and blue
and suddenly you're gone and only spiritual remains

The tide flows by and pulls you in.....
… the hamster on the wheel
… the fears of your heart
… the images of film explored
… the joy of memories relived
… the revelation of things to come
together they flow, merge and tug your mind

As they merge, your breathing slows
yet your mind is full of visions
sometimes you backstroke and float unaided
and sometimes your fears win

Suddenly, the blue turns light
the darkness quickly fading
the movies gone, the images dissolve
only the emotions remain, dripping off
My eyes crash open, appendages start to twitch
consciousness and self break free

A stretch, a yawn... and the images are gone
A day of possibilities beyond
and yet I smile and think of evening
for the joys of night swimming


An Official Welcome to Bear and Mina :)

So it's time for an official introduction to the new – well, newer to me at any rate- cat siblings that I have adopted. I mentioned them in a previous post, but they are now settled in and even have names. As such, I am ready to give them a short and proper introduction.

It is certain that I didn't need any more cats at the time that they entered my life. I had Morianna- a good and deserving stray that spent most of her time hiding in my kitchen drawer. Bella the stray is thin, but pleasing and has a quite a personality. And I had also agreed to allow a few people and their cat to move in with me temporarily so I figured that was enough on top of everything else going on. But an outing with a friend and a few machinations... and I came home with two eight month old cats. Black and white and obviously devoted to each other, they can sit looking like the most serious bookends at each end of the couch... or they lay intertwined like the most exhausted and obsessed lovers caught in the wee hours of the dawn. When they first came in, both of them immediately investigated the other inhabitants of the house- Morianna was frankly a bit appalled- and then settled in. Unlike other cats that I have known, I found it challenging to come up with names for them. Their personalities are very different and didn't easily come out with a name. Also, still being quite kitteny- and I'm not really fond of kittens- I found getting close to them really challenging. It has taken a few months for all of us to really settle in.

So the male... older by a few minutes is named Bear. He is an exuberant soul and feels joy in almost everything! He is the first to reach the door when I come home at night and tends to be the first in everything; he is first to the food bowl, first to pat my face awake and first to be found stretched across my bed like a small happy pelt with a loud purr to match in the early afternoon hours. He is also the first to come and hop onto my lap... or sometimes even my homework. It has been a long time since I have any cats in my household that have had the exuberance and desire to stampede over the home and I will admit that I have missed it. A few times a week, I have taken the opportunity to sit and just watch as the whole household of cats run and leap and jump and dash through the house. Once I was accidentally hurt as Bear leaped down from the lamp onto the top of the bed and landed on my face with one paw landing directly on my left eye – it felt bruised for days. But I couldn't be angry for long, he was so happy and quickly exuberant again. Bear is very much Brock's favorite and they can be seen snuggling and tussling as often as they can. In fact, I have never seen a cat that 'needs' to be part of the action so much. I'm looking forward to more fun for many years.

His sister, a smaller and more delicately framed little one, is named Mina. I have no idea where the name came from... I just know that it popped out one day and it stuck. She answers to it and can quickly be seen running up or lounging around to watch the action. She is more reserved and her brother, but absolutely dotes on him and has also become Bella's shadow as well. I have caught Bella forcibly washing Mina as well if her 'toilette' doesn't meet with Bella's strict approval. She is also happy to curl up into my lap and then sit and stretch- purring and pliant while I read a book and I feel so full and peaceful in those moments. She reminds me of Miagray- a Miagray that I once knew except that she isn't so afraid to feel and show it. It's quite wonderful actually.

They still help me sleep and together they are quite a formidable and fun pair. With the addition of Finny- another story that I may tell one day- my household is full and complete. Even now as the night comes in, I sit surrounded by purring friends. I have a good book and a warm stove and everything may still be in slight disarray from moving but everything feels orderly and peaceful. So a hearty welcome to my new housemates and friends! :)


A Little Bit on the New Place

So, I have finished moving into my new place! I am really excited about it for so many reasons and even though I still have some unpacking and arranging to do, I feel more comfortable than I have in a long time. It doesn't look like much- it's just a small cabin, yet its so much some comfortable and I feel more free than I did in my two bedroom apartment. It's funny how having less makes some things harder, but many important things easier.

I love having land to hang out on again. I have already started imagining and planning for a small garden in the spring and I am wondering if maybe having ducks would be a possibility again- not wondering too much because I will be working so much so I wouldn't be able to enjoy them or keep them safe. I have already tried to enjoy some time sitting outside looking at the stars – feels too cold to do for long right now- but I am looking forward to it in the spring evenings. I love having wood heat again... its a more comfortable heat and while I am still getting used to the rhythm of starting and keeping the stove lit and fired up again, its wonderful. It is so much more comforting and feels more right than a thermostat does. I have to pay attention to the weather, to how I feel, to the air around me... and as such I think I get a better appreciation of it.

I love the huge amount of windows- boy the cats do as well. When I am working outside, I will see them sitting on the sills enjoying the rays of sun that come through the pains. I love that it is within the living boundaries of the church I need to attend and so I no longer have to worry about difficulties there. I love the rustic look of the place itself and even some of the problems- I find myself thinking of ways to fix or modify them. I love the size of it and how it is pretty darn cozy. How many people live in places that they really feel are great places to live for all parts of them. I suspect that not many people do as otherwise, home décor wouldn't be such a popular thing as we try to turn our homes into things that we like to look at and let others look at instead of enjoying the place for the environment it provides. (I recognize that I have over simplified that idea.) It feels like a place to be happy and to grow in.

So here is a picture. Like I said, not fancy... but perfect all the same. :)


Term Post #3 : The Holomodor of Ukraine

“The aim of censoring regimes is to purge historiography in order to make it a tool of the ideology justifying the rulers' position of power”

The Holodomor is the name given to the famine in the Ukraine in 1932-1933. The name means 'Hunger Extermination' and even today, it is not lawful to use certain words when describing it inside Russia – it's very existence was denied by the Soviet Union until a few years before the collapse of the government in the late 1980's. Estimates of the numbers of dead are variable due to the suppression of information available from the Soviet government and accessible to study, but a general consensus is guessed at around three million people. Adam Ulan, the director of the Russian research center at Harvard, estimates the loss of life at 5-7 million Ukrainians while other sources suggest that up to fourteen million may have died. (Clearly without more information that is unknown at this time, a more specific and appropriate number can not be defined.) Before this time, Ukraine was considered a part of the Soviet Union and was also starting to have a strong nationalist movement forming that was hopeful for independence from Russia and the Union. It was also at the death of Lenin in 1924 that Josif Visarionovich Dzhugashvili – more commonly known as Joseph Stalin- was able to cement his rise to power over Russia and its unified territories and gain full control over both the government and its propaganda wing, the Communist Party. Once in power, Stalin began a campaign of 'five year plans' to rapidly advance industrialization and modernity into the Soviet Union and its people. The first Five Year Plan contained provisions that removed the individual farmer from the control of their land making the land consolidated property of the state and forcing peasants/farmers to either move to cities and work in the rising industries or continue to farm on the new 'collectives' with new tools and rules. It is thought that the Stalinist government hoped to suppress and control the growing Ukrainian nationalist movement as well as individual support systems that could be used for revolt against them. These were the circumstances/national policies that set the stage for the coming famine and genocide.

With the new policies of land appropriation, things turned challenging for people very quickly. Some of the more well to do farmers burned off their crops refusing to join the collective farms causing many farmers (also known as Kulaks) to be deported to concentration camps to die leaving fewer people to farm. They were also branded as 'enemies' encouraging both the official law enforcement and other citizens to 'liquidate' them as a class. A decree requiring production quotas was passed and so in most cases all grain and food products that were produced were taken by the government for export to gain money to increase the speed of industrialization... living little to nothing for the populace itself to eat. In fact, as the quotas were unable to be met, government representatives were sent to villages to look for hidden food- a true irony as they would walk past those dead or dying of starvation in their search for just a little more food to sell to Europe.

When the starvation became evident, it was seen by Stalin and many in power the result of the peasant's failure to work adequately within the new collective system. Examples of that way of thinking can be seen in the many accounts given by survivors. When a Chairman of the Village Soviet was informed of the many deaths that happened in a village in the county of Cherkasy, the chairman was said to have not wanted to believe the 'story', to object to the use of the word 'starved', and to say that the only deaths that could have happened were to the idle, the lazy, and those who refused to work in the collective farms who needed to be exterminated anyway as “enemies of the people”. Yet one observer during this time stated that peasants in the Ukraine had resorted to 'eating dogs, horses, rotten potatoes, the bark of trees, grass-anything they could find... and no matter what they did, they went on dying, dying, dying.” The writer Isaac Babel returned to Moscow after visiting the famine stricken Ukraine and he told a friend that some of the things he had seen were impossible to speak or write about including cannibalism. It seemed to be impossible for those in power or with a strong belief in the ideology of the Communist party to see that the policies of 'progressive humanity' could fail … it could only fail as a result of enemies from without and so the 'five year plan' and the system itself continued to move forward creating not only more death, but endless numbers of enemies would be created by the numberless individuals who were starving. Between the torture and death of his political opponents as well as citizens, Stalin can rightfully be called one of the most successful mass murderers in history.

During this time frame, the Soviet government strongly curtailed freedom of expression and used censorship to try and control the information that was able to be discussed. Many who spoke of the existence of the famine were imprisoned or executed and the official state talking points were of consistent denial that the famine existed at all. This strict code to denial went so far as to also refuse any food aid that other countries did try to send to the individuals in the Ukraine. Information that was given out to other countries relied on these particular talking points, and so even in the United States, Stalin's propaganda and misinformation of the famine was spread. New York Times correspondent Walter Duranty wrote during the crisis: “Any report of a famine in Russia is today an exaggeration of malignant propaganda. There is no actual starvation or deaths from starvation, but there is widespread mortality from diseases due to malnutrition.”

The changes that the Hunger Extermination brought to the Ukraine were far reaching and are still in work today. Initially, it destroyed the Ukraine's political leadership and also changed the demographics of the population between the deaths and the encouraged resettlement of other Russian ethnic groups into the affected areas. (Even the capital city of Ukraine had been changed from Kharkiv to the city of Kiev where it remains today.) It helped bring the separatist nationalist movement to the core of Ukrainian politics, history and identity. Any effort to have the Holodomor recognized by the United Nations as an act of genocide is heavily resisted by Russia and so the politics over the situation continue on into the current relationships of both countries; many other countries have acknowledged the Holomodor as genocide or as a 'deliberate act of famine' by the Soviet authorities. (The U.N. has recognized that the Holomodor was “a national tragedy of the Ukrainian people caused by the cruel actions and policies of a totalitarian regime.”) While this was certainly not the first major challenge that the inhabitants of the Ukraine had with Russia, it seems to have certainly caused the most pain and remembrance in large swaths of the population. In some ways the Holodomor is still a censored topic: when looking for sources for these writings, I found many books on the history of Russia and the Ukraine that mentioned the Holodomor only as a famine and in one or two short sentences... easy to be missed and forgotten. Other changes that have happened that now have international consequences due to this and other massacres committed or sanctioned by other dictators such as such as Mao Zedong in China, Augusto Pinochet in Chile and Pol Pot in Cambodia, is that the International Criminal Court has been developed and no longer (with some exceptions) allows national sovereignty to be the reason that dictators can commit atrocious acts against their own citizens. The system is no where near perfect, but it is much better than nothing.

We still have the challenges of censorship and genocide in our world today. Discovering how to combat it and use speech to attempt to not only right the wrongs that have been perpetrated but to also attempt to keep genocide and atrocities from happening is something that many scholars and individuals still debate today. How much secrecy can a government have and still allow full freedom of expression? How much openness can we have as a society and still have security? How much of either are permissible to be restricted to keep the majority of people safe, secure, and also free? It is a debate that I suspect will continue long into the future... as long as human beings continue to exist.

I hope you enjoyed... or at least learned something new. Not a topic that can really be enjoyed, is it....


Term Post #2 : The Irish Potato Famine / Irish Genocide

From time immemorial, rulers have tried to manipulate the past, discipline historians and control collective memory”

The Irish potato famine is generally agreed to have been between the years of 1845-1852 with around one million deaths and the population of Ireland shrinking by at least twenty percent between deaths and loss by emigration; there are some suggestions that almost one million people also emigrated for other countries during this time with most headed to the Americas. The history between England and Ireland for over six centuries has been filled with hostility and the unfortunate circumstance that the good fortunes of one country usually spoke of the bad situation of the other. At the beginning of the famine, Ireland was under the control of England and its parliament and most of its land was controlled by English landlords who didn't live on their land; in fact, for the seven hundred years before the famine, the Irish people had gradually become tenants in their homeland with the English as the major landowners. In 1690, the British government passed penal laws in Ireland that restricted the rights of individuals who practiced the Catholic religion by prohibiting them from holding public office, getting education, owning land, participating in civil activity, and inheritance rights... pretty much the majority of things that helped people and their families rise out of poverty. By 1843, Ireland's demands for the repeal of their union with England- and the strength behind that demand- was seriously disquieting to the British government. Many commissions/ special committees that looked at the situation in Ireland right before the genocide/famine had nothing positive to say about the circumstances on the ground there: “Without exception their findings prophesied disaster,” or as stated by John Mokyr, “population grew unrestrained, continuously exacerbating poverty, thus making the resolution of the problem by a catastrophe ultimately inevitable.”

And so the straw broke in the form of the fungus Phytophthora infestans also known as potato blight. The potato crop had become the food that the majority of the Irish population depended on for their basic subsistence as almost two-thirds of the population depended on farming for their survival. The fungus was quick working as one day the plants would look healthy and then the next… the plants were dead. If the disease to the potato plants had been it, then the outcome might have been very different and this disaster wouldn't be seen as a genocide. What makes this challenge a man made disaster was the politics and economics that surrounded and enlarged it. As the crop failed and people went hungry and began to starve, the political decisions that England made compounded the problem. Part of the blame for the political decisions that were made can be focused on the attitude that the English populace and politicians held towards the Irish population. Between the racial animosity, the religious difficulties and the English perception that the Irish were a more primitive people, the difficulties between both cultures in some ways was inevitable... it was also a common misconception that the Irish poor took a perverse pleasure in degradation and squalor.
The British prime minister at the beginning of the famine, Sir Robert Peel, stated “There is such a tendency to exaggeration and inaccuracy in Irish reports that delay in acting on them is always desirable.” In fact, the skepticism of the British government in believing or understanding the depth of the crisis- whether intentional disbelief or not- would prove fatal to many. Another challenge was that the land owners (who were mostly English) continued to force optimal growth and work out of the Irish creating large amounts of food that were then exported to England. Some figures suggest that several ships left Ireland daily laden with food for England and in some of the worse times of hunger, the exports were protected by military escorts from the hungry populace. By some accounts, enough food was shipped out of Ireland to England during the famine to sufficiently feed around two million people. As far as I can ascertain, this was the first time in history that a country during a famine where food was a dire need for the population didn't stop exports of food as well as allowing imports of food in. When relief was sent by England, it was not only insufficient but was only a fraction of the amount of food shipped out as well as food that was not easily used in the rural areas of Ireland.

There are many things that can be seen today that we can trace the roots back to An Gorta Mor (the Great Hunger). Even with the pressure and the discrimination that was committed in the cause of removing the power of the Catholic religion and to try and force the population into Protestant leanings, the constitution of Ireland which was ratified in 1937 stops short of calling for a national religion, but does acknowledge the leading role of the Roman Catholic Church. Even the language of discussing the famine says a lot about how it is viewed by the speakers- many people call it the Great Irish Potato Famine, while the Irish call it the Great Hunger. The culture itself changed as even the language of choice shifted from Irish to English and some of the customs disappeared- it is the modern Irish and nearby historian who continues to try and pull the past forgotten traditions, folklore, and customs back into the collective consciousness. It was also right before the famine and during it that the agricultural practices were changed from grain to 'pasture farming' which persisted on after the tragedy itself. The diaspora of thousands to America and other lands helped spread some of the Irish culture with its people, but also removed it from its central place- in both the lives of those who left and in the lives of those who stayed behind and managed to survive. Ireland also was unique among European countries at this time and after due to the severe population loss as all other European countries experienced rapid population growth during this time frame and the years after. The seeds of Irish independence were well watered during the famine and within a few years, Ireland was able to gain her independence from England. And today, both countries are still working on an understanding and tolerance of each other and their differences.

During the time of this indirect or direct genocide (depending on which point of view you take), there were many people who spoke out about the famine, the deaths and the devastation. One of the most well known was the speaker and writer, John Mitchell. As one of the first men to recognize and name the famine as a genocide, he was also one of the most outspoken in his hatred of the British government and its policies towards Ireland. When Parliament and those men ruling England became frustrated with the rhetoric of Mitchell and others, they passed a law called the Treason-Felony Act. This law was meant to try and censor the kingdom's critics in Ireland by creating a mechanism for 'legitimate' punishment. A few people were prosecuted under this law, but most were acquitted... John Mitchell was successfully convicted and was sentenced to fourteen years transportation to Bermuda. He managed to escape and made it to the United States where he continued his writing and vocal rhetoric for the complete independence of Ireland. In a tract that he wrote in 1861, he said, “I have called it an artificial famine: that is to say, it was a famine which desolated a rich and fertile island that produced every year abundance and superabundance to sustain all her people and many more. The English, indeed, call the famine a 'dispensation of providence;' and ascribe it entirely to the blight on potatoes. But potatoes failed in like manner all over Europe; yet there was no famine save in Ireland... The Almighty, indeed, sent the potato blight, but the English created the famine.” Strong words indeed – no wonder the English government tried to silence him. Censorship continues to this day as both Irish scholars and others portray the famine as a mostly natural disaster and play down any role that the British government had in its beginnings and long lasting effects and mortality.

Thoughts or comments....? :)


Term Post #1 : Freedom of Speech, Censorship and the Role they play in Genocide

“Language is not only a means for exposing and discerning truth, but also for stifling and misrepresenting it.”

Human beings have been around on this planet for thousands of years and from what we know of the history of the human race, murder and genocide has accompanied our existence from the very beginning. Depending on your particular viewpoint of our beginnings (whether we have been 'created' or purely evolved from one celled organisms in a primordial ooze), the first murder was either committed within the second generation of God's chosen people or the first genocide is theorized by some paleontologists/ archeologists to have occurred between early humans (Homo sapiens) and Neanderthals back near the very beginnings of our race. The pages of written history are spattered with the blood and deaths of the innocent and those who were in the way of those in power due to race, culture, gender, religion or even misperception... and even in our modern, civilized world, we still perform crimes and acts against humanity as a whole destroying the peace and prosperity that we all long for. Over the last two hundred years as ways of communication have increased and information and news has become available to a larger percentage of the global population, historians and journalists have tried to appropriately document and report on the transgressions of government leaders and dictators. As such,these individuals are most likely to find themselves on the wrong side of governments and those in power. They are more likely to be bullied or tortured into silence, forced to help with propaganda campaigns to ensure their survival, and many are killed or imprisoned every year. In our current world, we can more easily discover these horrors and fight them, but it would be remiss of me to not acknowledge that people have risked their lives throughout the human time line to try and stop human rights violations. While most we will never know due to the lack of documentation and the time that has passed, we can acknowledge and be grateful for their sacrifices and existence. For many human rights advocates, language is one of their most commonly used weapon to share information, to bring violations to light, and to strengthen others in the fight and their cause. I wish to acknowledge some of the people who have given of their time, safety and freedom to future their ideals of freedom and safety for all.

It is my intention to take this opportunity to look at how leaders and dictators use government and armies to achieve their own ends while using the law and other forms of coercion to stifle and limit dissent or challenges to their ambition. One tool that governments and those in power use to restrain communication between individuals and the population at large is censorship. This a great tool which is used to limit language and ideas that the powers that be disagree with and restrict the ability for people to speak freely about their thoughts, lives and opinions. It is through the use of censorship and the limiting of freedom of speech that dictators and leaders control large population of people who feel oppressed and dissatisfied with life... and in some cases can eventually lead to genocide.

Freedom of speech and the ability to safely express opinions and views are widely considered to be a fundamental attribute of individual freedom. In the United States, James Madison argued at the very beginning of the colonies' development that government acts restricting speech and open debate were fundamentally wrong- yet it hasn't stopped other government officials or people in authority from attempting to control or limit speech that they find difficult or unacceptable and this pattern of repression continues into our current culture. While some laws restricting speech can be seen as reasonable- laws banning hate speech or allowing criminal responsibility for some forms of speech are an example, others can be seen as restricting and limiting of speech that should be protected and allowed. Examples from 1965 and today show how some patterns of repression continue even as leaders and times change. In 1965, John and Mary Beth Tinker were told that they were not allowed to wear black armbands in school as a statement against the American interference in Vietnam; their rights to do so were affirmed by the Supreme Court later on in Tinker vs Des Moines. In 2012, a school banned their cheerleaders from using positive, religious messages on their banners.... and a court again upheld the student's rights to free speech and expression. Determining the boundaries of where free speech should be curtailed have been debated since the idea came to fruition and even laws banning certain forms of hate speech can be seen as stifling legitimate views and expressions. As Charles Levendosky once opined, “One man's hate speech is another man's political statement. And political commentary has – and should have- the highest First Amendment Protection.” John Stuart Mill, who wrote a publication titled Essay on Liberty, stated “Strange it is, that men should admit the validity of the arguments for free discussion, but object to their being “pushed to an extreme”; not seeing that unless the reasons are good for an extreme case, they are not good for any case.” Another related tool that those in authority use to control speech and ideas that they find distasteful is censorship; the control of verbal or pictorial speech by individuals or groups or manipulating what information people can receive and share as well as keeping information secret. To have a truly open and prosperous society, individuals need to have the ability to seek, receive and give out information to others. Censorship can be in seen in small ways such as when libraries remove or ban a book so that it cannot be used by patrons due to content.... to something as big and convoluted as the internet filtering that some states impose on its citizens such as Iran and China. Used together, governments or leaders can severely restrict and limit how people interact with their community, families and other groups.... even how they feel about life and where they live and the level of fear and anxiety they feel in their daily lives. There is some evidence that over time people begin to self censor themselves which potentially suppresses not only the ideas and expressions of the individual, but also those that surround that person- family, community, etc...

Unearthing and examining the history of different countries with a focus on how limited speech and effective censorship can not only cause a 'chilling' effect on people, but also potentially lead to human rights abuses and genocide is difficult the further back in time we travel. Many written records from our past were created by the victors of wars and conquests and so all documents that were written and survive to this day (with few exceptions) were written and distributed by those in power and therefore, not necessarily truthful or accurate. Perception is everything and we gain our views, ideas, and biases from our experiences, the people around us, and our environment... which is why censorship and limiting speech works so well, as the less input we have, the less information we have to develop our views in a well rounded way. It is easier for dictators to steer our thoughts/ actions and easier to convince people of the lack of humanity in others without the full ability to question the information coming at you if what input you get in controlled and focused on the message you want people to agree with. It is this process which eventually leads to propaganda, the process of combining different forms of communication to try and influence people and groups towards one viewpoint. It usually only shares one view of the position and along with censorship, suppresses alternative views and discourages inquiries challenging the stated position. And so, many of the documents that are available to historians can be seen as propaganda or, at the minimum, a limited view of the discussed topic.... one of the reasons that history can 'change' over time as more facts or perspectives are discovered. As M.C. Beaton once wrote, “The way propaganda works as any schoolboy knows is that if you say the same thing over and over again, lie or not, people begin to believe it.” And historians can be caught up in the same web as they try to separate fact from fiction and other altering viewpoints while governments and those in power try and restrict what information is available and how it is viewed. There is some evidence that governments have in some cases destroyed or culled materials from their records and archives to keep it from potentially being viewed and dissected even in our more modern and 'enlightened' times. When confronted with censorship, historians and the everyday individual must decide whether to collaborate with the government, impose censorship onto themselves, or resist and leave themselves open to persecution. These are important viewpoints to keep in mind when studying history, large groups, governments, leaders, etc...

So, how do the combination of limiting speech and the freedom of expression lead to crimes against humanity or genocide...? There are so many examples in the course of human events to chose from (unfortunately). The examples I have chosen vary due to location, culture, and the facts. However, they also have a few things in common; those in power either didn't share important information or made specific decisions knowing the harm they would cause, people allowed themselves to become focused on the differences that they disliked in other groups, censorship and limited speech as well as the use of propaganda were used to further their desires and to attempt to limit the knowledge and discussion of the consequences of their decisions. I also specifically choose examples that I had heard briefly mentioned during my studies or my fun readings over the courses of my lifetime so that I could take the opportunity to not only learn more about the transgressions and the aftermath, but also to try and understand how they came to be. I also recognize that some of my choices are not free of controversy, that full documentation does not exist and that even the term genocide may be questioned by both scholars and the lay historian today. Therefore, the examples I have chosen are the Irish Genocide also known as the Irish Potato Famine and the Holodomar in the Ukraine.

Thoughts so far...?


It's Done.... Thank Goodness! An Introduction to the Next Three Posts :)

Whew! My term paper for the torture class is done and turned in. I am going to post it here but I will break it up into three different sections as follows due to length:

Post #1 - Censorship, Freedom of Speech and how they can contribute to Genocide
Post #2 - the Irish Potato Famine / Irish genocide
Post #3 - the Holodomor in the Ukraine

I'll post one a day so if you find the paper interesting... well, you won't have to wait long for the rest :) Let me know what your thoughts are!

(My several pages of sources are available to anyone who asks. :)


Happy Thanksgiving! :)

This post is most of my notes from a talk that I gave in Sacrament meeting last Thanksgiving. I thought that I would share it here. Happy Thanksgiving, my friends :)

I am very honored to have the opportunity to speak on this Sabbath day. I have been given the topic of gratitude and what it means to me. I found this topic a little difficult because of my current and recent challenges but also because I believe that gratitude is seen by many as a noun... something you have... whereas I guess I see gratitude as a verb and something that must constant be active to be useful. The ability to see shortcomings or to find things to complain about is easy. In some ways, self pity and other self absorbing emotions or behaviors as easy as well. But the cultivation of true gratitude in our lives is more difficult. True gratitude often includes a sense of gratitude that is combined with a sincere desire to repay others for what we have been given. This is not to say an external or imposed obligation is what is suggested. This sense of obligation that comes with our thankfulness arises naturally within us as a recognition of our blessings and how we have been supported and cared for by others. To be blunt, gratitude is not the same as indebtedness.

Gratitude is such a simple word and yet, this word describes an act, attitude and lifestyle that is complex, intricate, requires sincere introspection, and is one of the most important aspects of the gospel. We cannot truly live the gospel or understand the Atonement itself without some strong understanding of the idea and necessity of this emotion. A few scriptures help illustrate this:

DC 46:7 - But ye are commanded in all things to ask God, who giveth liberally; and that which the Spirit testifies unto you even so I would that ye should do in all holiness of heart, walking uprightly before me, considering the end of your salvation, doing all things with prayer and thanksgiving, that ye may not be seduced by evil spirits, or doctrines of devils, or the commandments of men; for some are of men, and others of devils.

DC 78:19 - And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more.

An ancient Roman Philosopher (Cicero) once stated “Gratitude is not only the greatest of the virtues but the parent of all others.” A strong foundation of gratitude in our lives is necessary for all of us and more especially when we are faced with challenges. Sometimes our trials will make us feel weak – whether it is a weakness in our physical body, our spirit, or other difficulties.... gratitude gives us a foundation with which to begin to become stronger. Sometimes, in our weaknesses, this is the only step that we are able to take to help ourselves. In our moments of devastation and despair how many of us have been able to pray to our father and thank him for the things and blessings that we have? If you have been able to do this at times in your life, do you remember the comfort and peace you felt from what would seem a simple act?

A well known LDS speaker (Meg Johnson) once said “gratitude from your mouth is “thank you” and gratitude from your heart is “I love you” This week, most of us here had the opportunity to celebrate the holiday of thanksgiving. Some of us met with family members, traveled distances to join with relatives... and many of us celebrated by eating too much food. :) Thanksgiving as a national holiday is only one day a year, but we as members of this church know that we need to give thanks and show gratitude on a daily basis- in our prayers, in our thoughts, in our attitudes. My brothers and sisters, do we remember to give thanks....?

In my life that I have when I sit down quietly and begin to thank Heavenly Father for them. During times of great struggle (and there have been a few) I have found that one of the ways I am able to find a way to smile and continue my responsibilities and trying to move forward in my goals is to sit down with pen and paper and just quietly think and write all the blessings that would come to mind. After a few minutes of this intentional introspection I would find it almost impossible to continue feeling sad or picked on or the pain of the struggle I cannot say hat those feelings truly went away but I have found that gratitude helped make those feelings seem less enormous and less dragon-like and overwhelming. No matter what the circumstances in your life all of us have so much that we can be grateful for... we just need to pause and look for them. Gordon B Hinckley said “ When you walk with gratitude, you do not walk with arrogance and conceit and egotism, you walk with the spirit of thanksgiving that is becoming to you and will bless your lives.”

What can we do to help promote the feelings and attitude of gratitude in our lives? One thing that we can do is to actively work on being positive and to actively fight our human tendencies to complain, to look out for ourselves and not others and to see the negative more easily than the generous amounts of 'positive' things in our lives. Taking the time and mental focus to 'catch' ourselves when we are freeing negatively, when we are expressing and focusing on the negatives in our lives... and to work to change these thoughts and behaviors can make big differences in our lives. Even small steps and attempts can make huge changes.

Brothers and Sisters, Jesus himself has given us so many examples of gratitude. Two that come immediately to mind is the miracle of the loaves and fishes (Matthew 15:4) and the miraculous healing of the ten lepers. All were so thankful for food and healing and felt peace and joy for the gift, but how many showed gratitude to the Savior for the gift itself? Of the lepers, we know that only one took the time to express his gratitude to the Savior. The lepers were clearly pleased and thankful for the wonderful opportunities that were now available to them... so happy that they were unable to do anything but immediately jump into the activities and opportunities that they now could enjoy and not giving a thought to the giver.

How many of us become so excited and pleased at the gifts that we are given that we too forget to show gratitude for the blessings and gifts that we are thankful for? And how often are we unable to see past the negative thoughts and emotions we struggle with over the blessings that we feel we lack and deserve? C.S. Lewis once said “not only heaven but all this earthly past will have been heaven to those who are saved.” Can you imagine? As we work towards a greater sense of gratitude in our lives, our trials can become easier to bear. When we focus on what we have and not what we lack, we can find true joy in our lives now... and not have to wait for the perfect time or place! What a wonderful blessing all on its own!

I hope and pray that we as individuals can put forth more of our energy towards a true sense of gratitude in our lives and the lives of those around us. I say these thoughts in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.


Ethical Concerns for Providers when Dealing with Refugee Populations

There is no doubt that mental health professionals and other service providers can help alleviate the effects of trauma, torture and other crimes that are perpetrated against people and communities due to circumstances, religion, war, etc... Throughout this class, I have learned quite a bit about the consequences to both individuals and groups based on trauma/ torture and have even broadened my views of how those terms should be defined. Between therapies that are individualized or set up for groups (such as a family, community or people with the same traumas and problems in common) and interactions that attempt to alleviate suffering through the use of medical training, pharmaceuticals, neurobiological or cognitive therapies, etc... Many groups and professional have been focused on – and continue to try- to help victims and the society as a whole heal, develop techniques for survival and daily care, as well as trying to improve the quality of health and life of those affected. However, there can be challenges as well as ethical problems that the mental health / medical provider can face in these situations.

One challenge can come in the form of using pharmaceuticals to help the patient deal with some of the symptoms that cause difficulty in their lives. While studies do suggest that medication makes a bigger impact on an individual's symptoms, the issue is not that black and white. How the patient and/or their family feels about medical care in general (or mental health medication specifically) has an effect on how the medication is used and therefore, how successful it can be. An individual's culture may also weigh into the decision to use medical treatments/ medicine of any kind. And how the services are provided might also affect the utilization of those services. Language, economics, and other barriers can cause misunderstandings and challenges as well. A perfect example of this problem can be found in the book, “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down” written by Anne Fadiman. An amazing and very sad biography.

Another thing that is very important for the provider to acknowledge and understand is that the trauma itself may be what the provider wishes to treat and focus on... but the provider is still treating a person. An individual with different perceptions, biases, experiences and other ways of seeing and moving through the world. And so while trying to treat the troublesome symptoms of the past trauma, it is imperative that the person being treated isn't seen in the narrow sense as a label or a diagnosis. The patient needs to be viewed and looked at in the 'prism' of their views and life... so recommendations and therapies need to be available to the patient in a way that fits their current set of circumstance and needs. I thought of an experience in my life when I had a few sick animals who lived with me and my family in a one room yurt. The vet said that one cat needed to be fed a special food, another cat needed a different special food and the other cats couldn't eat either food. When I mentioned that I lived in one room, I was told to deal with it. I did figure out a solution that worked, but it took a while and I didn't use the resources that had been offered nor have I been back to that clinic. I probably would have felt differently and used the resources offered if the provider had made them seem possible. Just a thought on that topic.... So making sure that the resources used are more helpful than stressful and really address the 'whole person' are needed. That takes more time and energy as well as an understanding of an an attempt to put your own biases, etc... aside. That is a bit difficult to do for most of us. :) Also making sure that the resources are available to use in a way that works for the client makes them more likely to be utilized and more likely to help the patient with lasting change in their lives... which is the goal!

Another important element – which I touched on in the last paragraph is to make sure that a thorough understand of the person and their culture are attained. By understanding what is important to the individual and what they use to not only make decisions but base most of what is important in their life on.... the suggestions and recommendations that are given by the mental health providers are more likely to not only be followed but misunderstandings are more likely to be caught quickly and early in the process. That helps develop the trust relationship between the provider and the patient as well as help the patient to work harder to help themselves because not only does it matter to them as individuals, the provider has shown that it matter to them too. (Aren't we all more likely to accomplish our goals when we have a friendly goal 'buddy'?) So by having decent understanding of the background and viewpoint of the patient, the service providers can make fewer but more meaningful referrals and help keep the patient on task. An example is not suggesting a patient with PTSD have an occasional drink to relax but maybe a cookie or a walk with a friend instead. If the culture sees nightmares and terrors as a curse from God that must be overcome.... then they are much less likely to take the Ambien to sleep nor will their family encourage them to do so. Telling an individual to eat pork or stop smoking for their health when smoking is part of their religious practices or the eating of pork is against their beliefs will either cause total noncompliance or partial uncompliance as the patient will only do it when they feel pressed to do so or have another compelling reason to do so. It is important that the clinician recognizes what his values are and recognize when he is potentially pushing values and cultural norms on the patient and not actual treatment. I know those examples are not mental health related, but I thought they did help me make the point I was attempting to make. :)

Another thing that it is imperative that mental health providers think about when dealing with challenged and refugee populations is to follow the information and tools that have work in the past as evidenced by studies and their own observations and life experience, but to also recognize that the current work that is being done can give good insights into potential therapies simply because if it appears to be currently working, with so few good studies out there.... if every is in agreement to try something new... that has the potential to help victims now as well as future populations. This kind of flexibility to look outside the box but also to be cautious and thoughtful about trying therapies that haven't had a lot of use and study is a challenging but needed trait in these providers. It is also this flexibility that allows the clinician to look at the individual in a well rounded way, and not just the way that they have been taught to see certain symptoms or mental distress.

Lastly, it is important that the clinician recognize and maintain clear boundaries between themselves and their patients so that both parties can work together for improvement and satisfaction. When the boundaries are loosened, both parties may find it very challenging to continue to work together and to work towards progress in the manner that was possible when the division between the two was clearly laid out. Providing services that also allow the individual to have privacy not only from strangers who do not have a legitimate need to know their information, but also family can also help the patient by making things clearer and less likely to be misunderstood through another person's biases and thoughts mixing into the mix. An example could be when the parties involved have a language barrier – a translator from outside the patients inner circle may make a different translation that a family member or a friend who may interpret what the patient is saying or needs based on what they think the patient needs... not quite the same thing. This kind of translation can also compromise a patient's need and right for confidentiality making services more challenging for them to get and undermining the trust needed between the patient and the provider. The provider must also to make sure to care for and recognize problems that may crop up with themselves from working with this population and take care to not allow themselves to become burned out or harmed in the process of helping others... which can cause them to be unable to continue to help or even to cause more trauma to the patient.

To be a provider to such a challenged population comes with both risks and rewards for the clinician and the patients. Understanding the important ethical concerns that should be addressed can help everyone involved do a better job, be safer, and to help people gain more resiliency and a better quality of life through the therapies. What more can we ask for? :)


Aaack! Aaack!

In the past, I have found myself really busy and struggling to juggle all the 'needs' and how to meet and accomplish all of them. Juggling Bug and appointments and the household and the spouse was barely doable – no surprise that my health became really poor as taking care of myself wasn't in my list of priorities. With the other family changes in my life, I have been able to make caring for myself a great priority and my health has improved a lot. Gluten is still a huge issue for me – sometimes I feel like the world is made of wheat and so I can't touch anything or go anywhere.

I'm back in a little bit of a crunch time again. After I was laid off in August, I have continued to look for work and I am still enrolled and completing three college classes. In September, I accepted a 'temporary / part time' job which was supposed to last three weeks and I would either have full time or nothing. I have been working almost forty hours a week at around minimum wage since that time. The company that I am working for is now suggesting that they may keep everyone at relatively low hours, wages, and 'temporary' positioning through December. So I'm hanging in there in the hopes of full time because I have the potential to make a lot more. But I would be lying if I didn't say that I feel the weight of the work that I am trying to accomplish. Working full time, doing school work full time, continuing to look for work and trying to fulfill my church, family and personal responsibilities... well, I feel really pushed and rushed around. (I'm also in the middle of moving as well.) I haven't been taking care of myself as well as I could and my sleep has been problematic again. It's like my brain can't shut off and is constantly continuing to try and rearrange and figure out how I am going to get it all done. So I will wake up after a few hours and my brain is already 'running' as I wake up. And it has to run for a bit before I can sleep again. So part of my brain will continue the list, rearrange it, or add more to it... while another part of my head is quietly swearing and imaging sleep. So I'm making lists, thinking 'Ack', and trying to image my mind into dreams. I will admit it's not working well. ; )

So over the last few weeks I have been trying something new... and its working! A few weeks ago, many of you know that I adopted two almost grown kittens who needed a home quickly... or they wouldn't have been around for one! So even though I didn't need any more cats... didn't want any more cats... I have two more cats! And they are such a blessing. We have a race to the door when I come home and a race to bed when I am getting ready to head there. I have purring and snuggling during scripture study and I am sleeping so much better. It's funny because I am still behind on so much but I don't feel nearly as stressed about it now. It's just a wonderful thing. Sleep, I took you for granted when I was younger.... I don't anymore. So I am grateful for my new pals and the other blessings in my life. They mean a lot to me!

What new blessings do you have in your life? :)


Modern European History - Disecting a 'Tale of Two Cities' from 1958

So one of the things that I have been learning this semester is how to do a historical matrix. I have a few under my belt at this point and what they tend to entail is watching a film that has both a plot and the historical situation involved in it. Teasing out both pieces and then discussing them is the assignment and while I am finding it a little difficult, here is an altered version of my first one. I have altered it a little because I have no idea how to create columns and rows on a blog page and I also have removed a few personal comments. This post is based on the film “Tale of Two Cities” released in 1958 If you have a chance, watch the one produced in 1935... it is better. :)

Can I start this matrix/assignment by saying that I find this time frame challenging to study as its such a difficult time period. What a struggle to live during that time... the French Revolution is one of the most challenging times to focus on. It just seems so vicious for all who lived then whether you were in France of not....but France was definitely the worst I think. The older version seemed more true to the book as well... I didn't feel quite the atmosphere in this movie that I felt in the book and the older version.

Summary of the Movie

Broadly, this film is about the struggles of many people during the beginning of the French Revolution. There are several characters of various walks of life whose lives interweave in both painful and distressing ways. We learn about Dr Mannette and visit he makes to the home of a nobleman (we later learn his name is Darnay) where he watches the deaths of two young people and learns of the death of their father. Unwilling to ignore the horrors he has seen, he reports the aristocrat and Dr Manette is not seen again outside the Bastille for eighteen years. When he gets out he is housed by an old servant (Mr Defarge) who keeps him their until the doctor's daughter Lucy and his banker arrive to pick him up and take him to peace and safety in England. On the way down, Lucy Mannette meets both a nobleman named Charles Darnay and a barrister named Sydney Carton. Due to a set up, Mr Darney is tried for treason and manages to be acquitted with the help of Mr Carton. Both men return to England as both men are in love with Lucy; however, Mr Darnay wins Lucy's hand in marriage. Within six months of their marriage Lucy is pregnant and Mr Darnay discovers that some of his servants in France have been locked up and need his help. Knowing it is dangerous, he returned to France and is immediately arrested and thrown into jail.

The Bastille is successfully stormed and its prisoners released as well as its large stockpile of weapons and gunpowder. At the head of the mob is Mr. Defarge along with his wife- she is the only living relative of the three deaths at the beginning of the book whose telling caused Doctor Manette to be sent to the Bastille. Within six months of their marriage Lucy is pregnant and Mr Darnay discovers that some of his servants in France have been locked up and need his help. Knowing it is dangerous, he returned to France and is immediately arrested and thrown into jail. Lucy returned to Paris with her companion Posy and Sydney due to her concern for Charles and soon it is apparent that Mr Darney will be put to death as an aristocrat and for the bad deeds of members of his family. Sydney, in his attempt to save Lucy, the life of her unborn child, and her sorrow over the mental health and life of her husband, blackmails a prison guard that he recognizes from England to help him and with the help of this man and Mr. Lorey, he (Sydney) managed to get Lucy and Charles with their belonging back to England. Sydney Carton takes the place of Charles Darney and pretends to be the defeated aristocrat until this death.

Historical Matrix - The order runs as follows: each number has two sections. The first section shows the part of the film picked for analysis and a brief description of the scene. The second contains the analysis. :)

1. Minute 13; quote by aristocrat Evrémondes ...Dr Mannette is told by an unknown noble (after watching a young girl die)... “Doctor, you are not summoned here to listen to the babbling of this kind... You may forget these serfs. I only wish to impress upon you doctor that the things you have seen and heard in this house are not to be spoken of. You would do well to mark that.” (I do not remember this scene in either the book or the older movie)

I think this scene was included to give us (the modern reader / watcher) members, but understanding of how the majority of people – or serfs- were treated in this society. They were cherished by family members and maybe even by community, but as serfs they owned nothing except their feelings and thoughts. Their lives, energy, possessions, etc... were all owned by the noble who owned them and the land they worked. This scene suggests how the majority of nobles probably felt about their serfs in this time frame; like property without feelings or lives, just to work for them and accomplish what the nobleman wishes. If they die or 'break' more are created through birth to take their place... and as such easily replaced if necessary or if the personality or looks of one were not to the owner's liking.

2. Minute 1:03; quote by Mrs. Defarge ... “You're the one who shot the people down. Genocide!”

I think this scene is trying to express and show us a few things. First, the peasants no longer worry about being killed as they are dying of starvation and other problems. In this sense, the number of dissatisfied and frantic people creates a form of 'mob' mentality. Death is no longer the peasant's primary concern. As the mob realizes that they are winning the mood of the group not only continues to focus on its anger and for some revenge, the peasants feel no pause at harming anyone they see as an enemy- even people who are only following the orders given to them... people who may not be that far removed from the peasants themselves in money or station. Those who have felt oppressed or overpowered rarely deal with great power in the most rational and truly 'right' and fair ways. The deaths of the king's men at the Bastille and even some of the aristocrats show that. You can hear in the laughter and the yelling the total out-of control nature of the peasants in the mob. When I was watching some of the footage of the Egyptian protests during the 'Arab Spring', I could see some of the same play of emotions of the people's faces as they fought.

3. Minute 1:08; quote by unknown servant of Mr Darnay - “What have any of these others done?” Mrs Defarge - “You ate, while we starve!”

These thoughts express both the bewilderment of those who have been removed from power or those who had some more control over their lives.... and the anger and need to 'scapegoat' that many of the peasants felt. When people make others into a scapegoat, it also absolves the 'scapegoat-er' of any wrongdoing and gives them justification for their poor behavior. We still do this today to so many people and groups over perceived grievances. I think that sometimes we as humans are so anxious for change that we do not realize that things can't be instantaneous... it causes chaos as the differing sides fight and struggle. Bloodless revolutions or large change usually take 'time'... very rarely does history give us King William and Mary. :)

4. Minute 1:10-12; Quotes - Charles Darnay and Sydney Carton talk of responsibility. Carton – “How simple it all sounds. Far simpler than I'd imagined. Goodbye to France. Farewell to all responsibilities.” Darney - “I have been selfish. I should have gone back to France when my cousin died... worked out and supervised all I meant to do.” Carton - “I see. In view of that I hope you won't contemplate doing anything foolish.” Darney - “You must leave me to make my own decision.”

This scene helps to show the hierarchy of the society and the challenges and responsibility that came with each 'station' of life. Even though aristocrats and the nobles had different problems than the other classes they too had responsibilities and things that they were required to do as well. For those who had some thoughts that were influenced by the Enlightenment, they were in a double bind... being pushed in two directions as all sides fought farther apart to hold onto what they had and to attempt to gain more. Today, we can see the same problems... the gaps between the 'haves' and 'have nots' are growing in all countries and so all people feel the tension and the struggle that is starting to build between us.

5. Minute 1:41-44; Sydney Carton sits alone in the cell.

At all times in every person's life we have times where we have done something challenging, or must or feel we must make choices that break us. How we make those choices shows our character and what truly does matter to us. Whether rich or poor, male or female, no matter our station in life, all of us must make these choices or they may be made for us. Some must reflect longer on their choices, but all will feel them and the pain they cause No character in my life from a book with one exception has ever made more of an impression on me. I have named a beloved pet after him, writing many stories and thoughts about him. This character always reminds me that in all of us is the ability to care and do amazing things... we need only have the strength and motivation to do so. I hope that I do in the mountains and pits of my life.

Minute 150-151; Sidney Carton - “Suddenly I want to weep, but I must hold my tears in check less they think it is myself I weep for.... and who would weep for Sydney Carton? A little time ago none in all the world... but someone will weep for me now. And that knowledge redeems a worthless life. Worthless but for this final moment which makes it all worthwhile. It is a far, far better thing that I do than I have ever done. It is a far, far better rest I go to than I have ever known.”

We all weep for the Sydney Cartons of the world. “There must be some appeal - some chance of a reprieve” And at some point most of us give – maybe not our lives, but a part of us to take away the pain or a punishment of another. All we do to help our fellow human beings find joy and relief throughout all the ages of history matters … even when most do not remember or know of their existence.

Have a great day, my friends... and hope you enjoyed :)