Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Cultural Appropriation in America or Oh! The Butthurt!

I don't often write on topics so inflammatory as something like this simply because it's rarely worth the energy to write about it and then deal with flamers and the, in general, butthurt, however, the notion of cultural appropriation in America (and, to an extent, the Western world) is something that sticks in my proverbial craw.  Why?  Because it is something we all do in one way or another, whether or not we realize it.  This is a topic that goes beyond being pagan, too, and is something that happens in regular life.  It's part of our *gasp* culture, as Americans.

If you don't believe me, here is a prime example:

Side-by-side, we have white Jesus and we have black Jesus.  If we are to believe what we read in the Bible, this was a man born in the middle east during Roman occupation.  He was neither black, nor was he white.  So, this means that not only did Europeans, but also Africans appropriated the image of a neither white, nor black, but olive skinned man who may or may not have existed in the latter part of pre-history and remade him in each culture's own image.  And they did so using the same book.

Want more cultural appropriation?  Yoga.  Have you seen the YouTube of Ghandi in the yoga studio?  If you haven't, it's here.  It's pretty funny, but it also shows the really generic white chick not even remotely recognizing that she's taken Ghandi's religion and, essentially, blasphemed it.  Here, yoga is simply breathing and exercise to most people.

Want another appropriation?  Bellydance.  All these cute white women doing bellydance, but where did it originate?  Oh, that's right, the middle east.  How about everything Michael Harner wrote about shamanism?  That's appropriating another spiritual practice from... Well, from native peoples all around the world.  What about that Chinese chick with dreadlocks?  Well, you know, Rastafarians? Yep!  Even farther back than that, though, yogis.  Why? Because they renounced all of their worldly possessions, including the comb. (Despite the name 'dreadlock' coming from Jamaica.)  Oh, one more bit of cultural appropriation!  That white woman who is a Voudon priestess.  It's not a 'white' religion, is it?  No.  It's Afro-Caribbean.  What about Cinco de Mayo?  Did you get fucked up in remembrance of the Battle of Puebla?  Are you even Mexican?!?!

I'm sure that by now I have listed something to offend everyone.  I bet that if we all don't do at least one of these things, then we know people who do.  The point is, we are becoming a global community with each passing year.  Many Americans, like myself, have had family on this continent for centuries, no matter where they may have come from and no matter what their genetic makeup may be now.  My own heritage in America began somewhere around a century before the founding of the nation.  I have documented family in the Revolutionary War and family that fought on both sides of the Civil War.  I have documented Cherokee and, on my mother's side of the family, undocumented Ojibway or, maybe Apache or, maybe something else.  It was not told to my grandmother that she was 1/4 Native until her sister was on her deathbed.

Society borrows from other societies.  It claims and discards traditions to suit the times.  Christmas?  Taken from the pagans by the Christians.  Halloween?  Taken from the pagans and made secular.  Dancing and chanting to induce trance? Taken from various indigenous cultures around the world and still used by them today, as well as by modern pagans.

The point I make with all of this over-the-top 'everyone is a thief' is that if someone takes something that is culturally 'yours' and makes it 'theirs', it's not the end of the world.  It doesn't make your own practice or tradition 'less pure'.  It makes what they are doing 'theirs'.  Do you really think that the sages and yogis of India are upset that Sally Mae in BFE, America is using yoga as a way to stay in shape and to stay strong?  Probably not.  Another point I want to make is, in modern day America, unless you live in Little China, Little Italy, or a pure Jewish neighborhood, whatever traditions you may practice have probably been taken from another time and place, stripped of their meaning (because life 100 years ago was different than life today is), and has been rewritten in a whole new context now.  So, don't be so butthurt.  Remember that everything you do had to be taken from someone, somewhere.  Maybe it was taken from people who were, culturally, the same as you, but maybe it wasn't.

Brightest Blessings, Friends!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Letters Not Sent: A Thank You

This is a series I have been mulling over for some time.  The concept is that sometimes in relationships, there are things left unsaid before the person crosses over, you lose touch, or the relationship is shattered in an irreparable way.  Occasionally, the emotions attached to the words are so strong that they keep us from moving forward in that aspect of life, whether it is the sudden loss of a beloved grandparent, parent, or friend, the crumbling of a marriage, or even being picked up by that person who refused to leave your side and saved you from doing something stupid.  

All of these people have left an indelible mark on your soul and whether it is a 'thank you' or a 'fuck you' writing a letter with no intention of sending it is great catharsis.  It is just another way to get closure to a situation that there may never, actually, be a way to get closure.  

If anyone reading this is also a blogger and would like to do a blog ring type thing with this concept, please, feel free to contact me via the form to the right or at lightgoddess(at)gmail(dot)com and I will be happy to add a link to this and future blogs for my own readers.  I will also be happy to post links on my Facebook.

And so, on to the Letter...


My Dear,

This is a letter more than half of a decade in the making.  I have spent this time learning and living.  I have spent this time yearning for you.  Part of me died with you.  That part of me walks with you in the Great Beyond, yes, but it has left an empty space.  I often hear you sardonic laughter.  I hear your bitchy retorts when I say something stupid.  I feel your hand in mine when I need a friend.  You taught me many, many things in our short time together, but mostly, you taught me how to live.

From you I learned the subtle Art of Bitchcraft.  If you have a smiling face and soft words, you can tell anyone to go to Hell in a way that they will look forward to the ride.  I learned that with the proper amounts of sarcasm and honey sweetness turning someone down romantically could be enjoyable for both parties.  In the same vein, I learned that some amount of vanity was always needed.  A Lady isn't a Lady without it.

From you I learned the Art of Loving.  I'm not talking sex and relationships.  I mean Love.  You sat in a place where you were accepting of your own brokenness and from that acceptance you gauged others and you loved them through their own brokenness.  You looked at my own brokenness and you loved me when I wasn't very lovable.

From you I learned the Art of Touch.  Something you said to me when we were in our early twenties, when I came to visit has stuck with me through the years.  You said, "Don't think I'm weird, but will you hold my hand?"  The question in your eyes, the doubt that said 'please don't reject me', reminded me that you, too, were human, despite your confidence.  It was that moment when I crawled into your hospital bed with you and held your hand like we were 10 year old kids again.  After that visit, I never hesitated to hold your hand or sleep next to you or pet your hair.  It goes back to Loving.  In those quiet moments, we allowed ourselves to be kids again.  You reminded me that Love cranked up to 10 is as potent as Love at 5.  You reminded me that Love is a mutual thing.  You reminded me that it's only weird if you think it is.

From you I learned the Art of Life and Death.  Live with abandon.  If you want it, take it.  If you can't get it, well, it probably isn't worth it.  You charmed Death many times through the years, shooing him away as though he were a moth.  So enamored with you was he that he let you stay with us on your promise that you'd go with him one day.  When you left us, it wasn't with a melodramatic flare.  You slipped away like a whisper in the deepest of snowy nights, despite the fact that it was August and so hot that even the Devil was begging for a sip of water.

I know that you know how sorry I am that I couldn't make it to the funeral.  I know that you know that I never really mourned you.  I know that you know I haven't spoken to anyone in your family since just after your funeral.  I know that you know how much it hurts me that they scapegoated me, but I also remember our conversation some 10 years before when you told me that they would.  I promised you that when they did, I'd be able to shoulder it.  It's better they turn their pain toward me than one of the others.

It's still unfathomable to me that you could have been born into such a cruel group of people.  It stands to your character that you didn't let them dim your shine.  Even more so, it stands to your character that you loved me enough to warn me years in advance.  I never forgot that, either.

I miss you every day.  Some days I miss you more than others.  You are the barometer that I do my to strive for every day.  If I can be half as good to those around me as you were to me, then my life will have meaning.  I will have touched someone.  My only regrets in this earthly realm revolve around you, but ironically, you wouldn't want me to regret anything in regards to what I did or didn't do by you.

Thank you.  Thank you for showing me how to live.  Thank you for showing me how to love.  Thank you for being you and letting me be me.  Thank you for loving me and giving me the privilege to walk this earth with you, even if it was for less than two decades.  I am all the better for it.  

Rest in that place with Kurt, God, and the Angels.

Until we meet again...