Monday, January 31, 2011

Man Made of Words and an Argument on thePower of Words

During the 2008 election, Sarah Palin became the darling of many conservative groups in our country. Like many public persons, she "shoots from the hip" in many of her public comments. So it comes as no surprise that in the aftermath of shootings in Tucson many pundits rushed to blame "vitriol" in our public discourse for the event in Tucson. I, too, think that the atmosphere of the hateful, ungracious, and thoughtless words hurling around our country had some effect on all of us.

It may be that the  person who shot Congresswoman Gifford did not follow Palin and her language of lock and load and reload. However, public figures must attend to the language they use. There are many cultures within the United States that believe language has a power to transform our realities and even the way we think.

Perhaps my study of the power  of language influence leads me to think of the ways other cultures think of language. My personal favorite ideas about the power of language to create realities comes from my early studies of Native American Indian studies. People who know me know that I took lessons from work by Kenneth Burke and work by N. Scott Momaday to launch my thinking of language as a force for creation. One of the many pieces of writing by N. Scott Momaday was a long essay which he had published in a book titled: The Remembered Earth: An Anthology of Contemporary Native American Literature. His essay has the same title as an earlier short story of a similar name. "The Man Made of Words."  The section I look to as an example of both native beliefs and a writer's attention to a muse teaches me that calling your muse brings the stories she has to share and allows the writer to use them as a way to reconstruct and see the history he seeks, His Muse or Grandmother is an elderly native woman whom he calls forth so as to hear the stories of his people. These people have passed on long ago and yet a Native Man seeking to learn his people's history is based on the power of calling forth Ko-Sahn who has been with the tribe from time immemorial,

Whether or not Momaday actually sees Ko-Sahn or experiences his history through calling out her name one can see how his calling for her helps him overcome the blank white page he stares at when his stories are still wanting to come forth and teach Momaday the history of his people and the power that language has in creating the realities we live in or with.

I've enclosed a url which will lead others of you to some of N. Scott Momaday's work. In any event, I still feel I can learn a great deal more from reviewing his work and the works of other members of Native American Tribes and My Latina Writers who also use words to better place their histories in the public sphere.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Rhetoric of Vitriol: Does It Really Lead to Murder

Like many USAmericans, I've listened to the commentary on the Assassination Attempt on Tucson's US Congresswoman Gifford.  Some of the speculation of the reasons for the event surrounded the uncivil civic discourse that the country has experienced for the past 24 months. Indeed we've seen hateful speech during the discussions about the health care bill, President Obama's legitimacy to the title of President, and outright pictorial depictions of our President as a monkey or worse. Images of long ago mimicry of Blacks by Whites in black face was seen for any with eyes to see.

No other president during my lifetime has had to endure such vilification of his person, his office, and his history.Stepping back on all of the events and harsh rhetoric made me feel a bit like Alice in Wonderland but instead of "wonder" it was more like a carny horror tunnel with odd personae jumping periodically to scare me and make me ask what others have asked in a different context: Where is My America? Where has she gone? Why can't people who do the best to serve the people in the various states and congessional districts have to reduce their efforts to inane ideological gestures that in fact do not address the concerns of our nation.

Okay the main question is : Where have all the grown ups gone?  We need to get back to doing what is good for our country and learn that compromise is NOT a bad thing.

So before going to bed I'll post this and pray that tomorrow's news will be better and that we take seriously -- all of us our responsibilities to participate in governing this country which is at the brink of financial disaster with banks not sharing money to small business who want to hire folks.

May the next few days bring on a better tomorrow for all of our families present and those coming in the future.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

New Year Reflections

While the country ponders the next political moves its leadership will take, I'm considering a way to avoid putting off writing on a daily basis. I do not mean to write here each day but to write for my children and grandchildren.

The world has changed so much from the time when I was born. I'd like to explore that past and the people who populated my world as I grew.  I also want to consider the lives of my grand parents who lived on the island of Puerto Rico without any of the benefits of modernity like running water and electricity. Their way of life had a positive impact on me because I visited then often and grew to value them and the land they farmed.

I think how hardy they must have been without the things we take for granted. I also think of the isolation my poor grandmother must have endured during the years she spent away from her nearest neighbors and family. Even then --early to mid 20th Century--the distinctions between living en el pueblo y en la finca were pronounced. While I live quietly on my own--without daily interactions with those whom I love --I do have these electronic devices which keep me in touch with the outer world. Now I am finding a need to protect the inner world of a writer so that I can write more frequently and productively.

So now I am working my way back to my inner world so that I can produce something for the family and friends I care about.

I know change and death are inevitable. I do however feel saddened by the destruction of some very good ways of being that modernity in all of its forms--good, bad, and vague--cause us to make choices. Unfortunately the choices leads to the loss of something that was good.

Now back to a Billy Collins Poem