Editor’s Note: In response to the election, there has been a lot of crying — and outcrying — on both sides. The TLA Network asked for practitioners to share their thoughts.
Additionally, as some of you may know, the TLA Network offers a Certification program. Chronicling TLA practice is a part of that process, which can be fulfilled by writing multiple pieces for the blog. This is the third submission to our blog by monologist Janet Toone.
This last week we had an election, an upset many of us did not expect. During the campaign, the male candidate, who in his own words, repeatedly showed himself to be misogynist and a bigot. According to my perspective, by his own words, he also fit the profile of a sexual predator.
As a woman who grew up in a home where I was taught on a daily basis that females were worth less than cows; where women and children were battered and abused; where females were continuously sexually objectified and abused, I found myself in disbelief. Had American women really contributed to the election of a President who openly objectified females; who bragged about sexual assault, who engaged in brutal verbal abuse of females; and who had a long history of discrimination against individuals of color?
As I watched this candidate gather his “team of good old boys” including a democrat turned independent turned republican with his own share of scandals, another who was reprimanded as Speaker of the House for providing false information to the House ethics committee and using a tax exempt organization for political purposes. There was nothing in the history and personal lives of these men to reassure me that they have any desire to protect the rights of children, females, or minorities.
This election became a wake-up call. I cannot stand by silently and passively allow this lack of respect and lack of values to be perpetuated. I owe a commitment to stand and be counted as a woman who is not only openly intolerant of such behaviors, but who is also willing to fight for the rights of children, women and minorities to my grandchildren, my great granddaughter and their peers.
Janet Toone is a certified counselor, writer, storyteller, and survivor of complex chronic childhood trauma. The combination of living decades with the effects of C-PTSD and finding treatment providers who could provide neither an understanding of the effects of complex chronic trauma nor a therapeutic framework for recovery and her work with dual diagnosis substance abusing adolescents, many of whom had experienced trauma, amplified her resolve to explore the therapeutic process for trauma recovery work.
She is particularly interested in the role of Transformative Language Arts and arts in general in providing guidelines to developing a safe environment to explore recovery needs, in developing resiliency in victims, and ultimately in providing narrative structure with the goal of creating and externalizing objective views of trauma experiences.
Her areas of focus and interest include complex chronic childhood trauma, child witnesses of trauma, victims of sexual assault, victims of domestic violence and intergenerational family trauma.
Editor’s Note: In response to the election, there has been a lot of crying — and outcrying — on both sides. The TLA Network asked for practitioners to share their thoughts. This is a poem submitted by a TLA practitioner Juanita Kirton.
IN DEATH THE SILENCE CAN STILL BE HEARD
Bullets lodge themselves in brown bodies
uniformed uninvited guest invade doors
young boys with no prospects
patrol the projects
and the temporary rhetoric of speech stomping
silence the scattering of rodents
This one person, one vote, born from ashes and strife is still in labor
Two hundred years of pushing and breathing has not given birth to a new nation
Freedoms call needs a hearing aide
The blood that lies beneath the soil will turn to stone
There is no roadmap to a Democratic Republic, never done before
Someone said, “we are a grand design”, an experiment gone wrong
The “Pursuit of Happiness” has so many interpretations
the perspective is from your own
male, female, somewhere in-between,
black, brown, yellow, white or all encompassing, like a rainbow
Is happiness, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist or none?
How do we pursue Peace?
war, reflective, reconciliation?
On the eve of November 8, 2016, the silent will be heard with the jerk of a handle
the stroke of a pen and the counting
In Retrospect does my vote have substance?
Democracy is sill stuck in the birth canal and she has only dilated 3-centermeters Seven more to go, If I’ve calculated correctly, four-hundred more years before this nation gives birth and then we can listen for the first breath, clean her up
watch her learn to crawl
In my silent dreams the earth has no boundaries
her natural resources shard by all
with no hunger, there is no want
with no want there is no war
and so the leaves continue to fall, winter will arrive
all the silent voices will be heard
I walked on Mt. Evans, rode across the desert, swam in the Pacific, traveled on the waves of the Atlantic
The Caribbean & Metearrean have their blues.
The salt in Utah is humbled by glacial Bay
All that divides us is made-up mindless stories
Your blood is my blood, your wish, and my dreams
your fears a lack of knowledge
Trust is a hard word to swallow
Juanita Kirton holds a BA in Psychology, an MEd in Special Education, a PhD Educational Administration and a PhD in Developmental Disabilities. In 2015 she obtained a MFA from Goddard College in the Creative Writing/Poetry track. Juanita sings with Riverside Church Inspirational Choir, is a member of Rutgers University South African Initiative Brain Trust Committee, the Pocono Mountain Arts Council, the Pocono Mountain African American Network, volunteers with several local organizations.
Juanita facilitates the Blairstown Writers group in New Jersey, which is affiliated with Women Who Write in NJ and participates in the Women Reading Aloud workshop series. She directs the QuillEssence Writing Collective that coordinates an annual women’s writing retreat at Kirkridge Retreat Center in Bangor, PA, and is currently a poetry editor for the Goddard College Clock House Literary Journal.
Editor’s Note: In response to the election, there has been a lot of crying — and outcrying — on both sides. The TLA Network asked for practitioners to share their thoughts. This one was originally posted on Joanna’s blog, here.
This morning I woke to find that the nightmare developing when I finally went to bed at 1 AM, the one where the map turned increasingly red, was real. I immediately broke down sobbing. I haven’t really stopped since. My children have never seen me like this; it scared them. I tried to gain control of the whirling weather-map of emotions surging through me, but they were too much.
So, I will try, now that I can see through my waterlogged eyeballs again, to break down these various emotions:
For my country, for those who had so much hope that “Love Always Wins,” and for those who believed we were finally going to see a woman in the White House. That people have experienced rifts in their friend and family circles during this election.
That which I, and so many millions in this country and around the world, couldn’t even conceive happening, did.
- Despair and Disillusionment
That half – half! – the population of this country voted for a man who has been shown over and over again to be a crappy — and dangerous — human being. That many of these voters (other than the ones who supposedly voted for him because they felt they had no other choice) don’t believe in love or compassion, don’t believe in equity, don’t believe in diversity, and instead believe, as a bumper stick I saw the other day declared, that what makes America great is God, Guns, and Guts. People who favor above all their whiteness, their sexually-aggressive maleness, and their so-called Christianity; those who prefer a leader who parrots their worst fears back to them and, like some orange fairy godmother, tells them their greatest dreams will come true.
“The charismatic or hypnotic leader who successfully rallies his followers… exhorting Americans to go out and battle the ‘heathen and immoral humanists, feminists, and communists [or socialists or liberals or Muslims]’ — whom they blame for all our world’s ills.”**
It is in despair (and utter bafflement) that I witnessed a man stand in front of the world spewing hatred, fear, and lies, and have his repulsive, illegal behavior excused away or completely ignored by even the smartest of his supporters. I despair that people I know, who I know are fundamentally good and not stupid, can vote for a person who could well take our country to war while denying people healthcare and equal rights — human rights.
That violence will rise. That hate crimes will increase. That white supremacy will surge. That our Middle-Eastern and Hispanic friends and neighbors will be targeted, including the Syrian refugees who are arriving in my town soon. That families will be separated through deportation. That our gay friends, friends of color, our liberal friends will take verbal or even physical abuse.
“Elites of fascist and communist totalitarian state hierarchies … impose [their word/law/ideology] by force or the threat of force… Obedience and conformity are the supreme virtues. And in both, violence is not only permitted but ordered if it is in service of the officially approved ideology.”**
Fear that our children will see a rise in bullying and name-calling. That our sons will grow up continuing to believe females are inferior and objects for their enjoyment. That sexual assaults will continue to be dismissed as female over-reaction to a male’s right.
That the advances we’ve made in women’s rights, gay rights, civil rights, healthcare, etc. will be over-turned. That we will be looking at a country (once again) governed by archaic patriarchal/religious laws. (Sound familiar, Sharia-law fearers??)
“The first policy priority in a male-dominated system has to be the preservation of male dominance. Hence, policies that would weaken male dominance — and most policies that offer any hope for the human future will [i.e. reproductive freedom and equality for women] — cannot be implemented.”**
Fear that this presidency will lead us to war. World and/or civil. That the gun culture will make our country a tinderbox.
That the “hoax” of climate change will endanger our planet to the point of extinction.
- Anger and Frustration
At all the above. (Plus some at the DNC, the non-voters, the 3rd party voters, the uninformed voters, and those who wanted the country to go to shit to prove some point. And a lot at the electoral college which have gave us a president the majority did NOT vote for.)
In times of group grief, love surges. I am so in love right now with the people of my “tribe” who are reaching out over social media to give virtual hugs and inspiration, who are meditating for personal and communal peace, who are taking this as an opportunity to speak out from a place of compassion. A friend on Facebook, after I had posted of my despair, wrote, simply, “I love you.” In those three words I felt the circle of connection tighten, my heart lurch. I began crying all over again but this time it wasn’t out of desperation, it was because of love.
I believe what has happened today is the death rattle of a mindset/heartset which is will no longer be tolerated. The fear-focused individual has a heart in which love cannot flourish. For a long time the worst of these fearful ones have been hidden away. But Trump has drawn them out and legitimatized their fears and hate. They are out in the open now.
While we have been living for a few decades in a world of advancing rights for minorities and human-beings in general, what the majority of us have been able to deny or file away as the point of view of a few disturbed, angry individuals, is staring us in the face. And we are not going to ignore it.
Women have bravely risen up to tell their sexual assault stories — by the millions. People are demanding their human right to healthcare and freedom to make their own choices regarding their body. Women are determined in their right to career options and advancement, and equal pay. The working class are asking to have a living wage and students to be able to be educated without drowning in debt. Activists are working on the behalf of the incarcerated. Bernie will continue to lead us in a fight for social reform and environmental restoration. I could go on and on.
The point is, inequities created in our society by old, tired patriarchal, religious, aggressive-capitalist ideals are no longer tolerated by the majority. As a friend, who just stopped by to give me a much-needed hug, put it, the boil has festered into a pustule. It will burst — and that’s when the healing begins.
Our world is changing. Indeed, writes Riane Eisler in Chalice and the Blade, during a historical period of greater gender equality, when “women obtain relatively more freedom and greater access to education… one of the most telltale signs that the pendulum is about to swing back is the revival of misogynist dogmas.”
Apparently it took a major, uncomfortable kick (and it might be a longer lasting and more painful kick than we would like under the inflammatory rhetoric of our new president) to jump start actions that will get that pendulum swinging the other way. But swinging it always is.
According to Eisler, Cultural Transformational Theory shows that, “following a period of chaos and almost total cultural disruption,” when there are unstable states, “a shift from one system to another can occur.”
“What may lay ahead is the final bloodbath of this dying system’s violent efforts to maintain its hold. But the death throes of androcracy [form of government in which the government rulers are male] could be the birth pangs of glylany [partnership society based on gender equality] and the opening of a door into a new future.”
And in that frightening yet hopeful assertion by Eisler, I will hold my hope — a tenuous silver lining — that today wasn’t the end of the world, but the beginning of a new one.
*This isn’t intended as a political post. However, I will say this:
I love Bernie. I supported Bernie. I trust Bernie. Reluctant as I was to have to support someone else, I trusted he knew what he was doing despite any corruption which may have/probably forced him out of the race. And to see a woman as candidate, was, despite my love for Bernie and his message of change, inspiring and exciting.
I was elated that my children would see a woman break the last glass ceiling. And that woman would, I absolutely believe, have continued facilitating positive change for the equal and human rights of women, LGBTQs, people of color, immigrants, children, the sick, the poverty-stricken, the working-class, etc. etc. No, she isn’t Bernie but she is a mother, and an educated and experienced one at that… and, above all, NOT Trump.
I don’t intend this to start a political dialogue. I am too raw to engage right now. But, all other discussions are welcome!
**From Riane Eisler, Chalice and the Blade, which read today like all-too real-right-now prophecies.
Editor’s Note: Latisha and I went to graduate school together. She is a tremendous educator, artist, and advocate. I’m thrilled to share some of her thoughts on theatre, playwriting, and identity — reminiscent of many conversation’s we’ve had. ~CMW
As a playwright, theater artist and educator, the written and the spoken word are intimately intertwined. I often write words intended to be performed aloud, and I speak my written words in order to clarify my thoughts. As a student of both creative and critical writing, I learned how the written word could free my voice and allow me to unravel and express the multilayered — and oft-contradictory — truths of my existence. It is utterly impossible for me to speak about my life as a writer without my social identities informing the narrative. I am a college-educated, 30-year-old black woman who grew up in a mixed class background with a single mother. I was raised in one of the richest counties in the United States, Howard County, MD, with a “private school level” public education system. I received my bachelor’s degree in Screenwriting and Playwriting from Drexel University and my master’s degree in Educational Theatre from New York University. I worked in public school education for about 5 years and have recently changed careers to Arts Administration. And my name is Latisha Jones.
Why the short biography? Because often times when artists who are minorities are asked to speak about their creative experience, they are asked to talk about their art separate from their social identities — because it “makes people uncomfortable” — or they are asked to be the “representative” for their social identity and are seemly asked to speak for the likely millions of people who may have similar backgrounds. Both demands are nearly, if not completely impossible to fulfill, but many try anyway as a means of survival and learning to live as an artist. This is one of the many contradictions that can, at once, cause great anguish and yet prompt great art. For me, its life within these contradictions, either to explain them, use them or escape from them, which prompts me to create.
Art is often a method to temporarily make peace with the cognitive dissonance of everyday life. When used by the government and other hierarchical structures, the pacifying power of art can crush the critical discourse needed for a thriving, democratic society. In Ancient Greece, the theatre served three main purposes; to serve the gods, to tell the stories of the past and to release the “negative” impulses of the public that were seen as a threat to Greek social and political order. When used personally, the pacifying power of art allows us to find a place a calmness and focus in our chaotic lives. In the world of “Black Lives Matter”, constant stories police brutality, and Trump, the power of art is more necessary than ever to our well-being.
One of the ways I have tried to utilize the artistic power of the written word is by writing well-researched interactive plays for children. When I was a child, learning about African American history was a source of pride. I learned that there were writers, intellectuals, doctors and freedom fighters that looked like me. I was able to draw strength from stories of Harriet Tubman when I was feeling tired and weak; I drew strength from Shirley Chisholm when I needed to stand up for myself and from Sojourner Truth when I needed to speak. However, in working with the public school system, I’ve learned that some these stories which have the power to strengthen the resolve of children and help to prepare them for a society that is not always kind to their presence can sometimes be lost in the shuffle of standardized testing and academic benchmarks.
In order to help solve a problem within the elementary education and remind myself of the humanity of my heroes, I wrote plays that are meant to be performed by children and shown in a classroom environment. When I originally started writing my plays, I was still working in schools, so I had the opportunity to direct and teach children about their history while teaching them how to project and speak with eloquence. The end result was a community event which educated the parents and students that attended, informed the lives of the students who performed, and brought a community to celebrate some of the historical achievements of Black Americans.
The entire process of writing, teaching, directing and presenting these plays is transformative in the way that it gives me a small measure of solace in world where people need to be reminded that #blacklivesmatter, young black boys are tracked based on their reading scores in 4th grade and stories of police brutality are continually featured on the 24 hour news cycle. I cannot change my past or the way that people will perceive me based on external characteristics, but with my pen (or keyboard), I can create some measure of internal peace and clarity; and maybe be a positive influence for the people around me. That’s all any artist really wants, right?
Latisha Jones is the Program Manager and Outreach Coordinator for the Children’s Chorus of Washington. She has her master’s degree in Educational Theater from New York University. She has worked as a theater teaching artist and teaching assistant for the past ten years. Her lifelong passion for the written word started from writing stories in the second grade and morphed into writing plays and movie scripts by time she was in college. She hopes to continue writing historical plays for children and inspire more dialogue.