Monday, September 1, 2008

How Not to Blog

I am brand new to blogging and have often told others that no one wants to know what I'm thinking about every day. Even so, when I think about poetry and community and Santa Fe, there's a lot to tumble with.

One, Santa Fe is a city that sits in many layers of beauty, conquest, conflict, and reconciliation. My friend Selena Sermeno has taught me a lot about "conflict engagement" in the last year--the idea that there are some conflicts that will never have a resolution for various reasons--historical realities, religious incompatibilities, entrenched (so much so they might be called "innate") beliefs. What we can hope for, in these situations, is to learn the "stamina" to stay with a dialogue about conflict, to engage with it in fruitful ways, to keep trying to listen to, empathize with, and understand the "other's" point of view, whether we will ever agree with it or not. This process of "conflict engagement" presents us with an opportunity to let go of the idea of resolution (which may blind us to the present moment) and concentrate on LISTENING to another and deepening our understanding of what s/he thinks and feels.

What kind of conflict, you may ask? How is Santa Fe a place of conflict? Next weekend is the annual Santa Fe Fiesta, a "celebration" of the "bloodless" reconquest of Santa Fe by Don Diego de Vargas in 1693. However bloody or bloodless the actual reconquest was, the event was preceded by many violent years of conflict between the Indians and Spaniards. Many have argued, fruitlessly, about what happened during the actual "reconquest." Is it not more important to acknowledge that Indians and Spaniards were at war with each other and that our history lies in the truth of this?

Acknowledgment of this truth may direct us away from impossible arguments about what happened and toward the present need for more open and productive dialogue about how people feel about the past and present of Santa Fe. Once, while in graduate school, I took a class with N. Scott Momaday in which we read his WAY TO RAINY MOUNTAIN. On the back cover was a quote that said something like "This book nags at the white man's conscience." On the first day of discussion, a graduate student blurted out that she was sick and tired of being accused of being complicit in the oppression of Native Americans. As a white woman, she said she had not participated in violence against Indians, would never do so, and was tired of being grouped with those who did, ancestors or not. This sparked a long and contentious debate in the class.

After some time, a Navajo student, who didn't (as it turned out) talk a lot in class, waited for a rare hiatus in the discussion and spoke up. She said that most of the time, native people just want to hear that people acknowledge what happened in the past and see the darkness of it, its legacy in the present. I have never forgotten this. We sometimes get caught in the cycle of guilt or defiance against guilt, in the effort to resist the ugly past, so much so that we forget that we "simply" need to acknowledge what happened and express our remorse.

As a mestizo woman, I sometimes feel the warring between different parts of my own psyche--the dark and historic legacy of my Spanish ancestors, the presence of Navajo blood and the absence of any real experience of a Navajo community (as our native ancestry was subdued). I am learning to accept this warring as a fact of my body, blood, and psyche and trying to engage with this conflict by listening to myself and others as they reflect, probe, and grapple with the past. These undercurrents rumble beneath the streets of Santa Fe and it seems wise to acknowledge their movement.

I am talking, here, of some very first steps in what will be a long process, I hope, of building a future together as once warring peoples. We have made strides, yes (many would urge me not to be negative, to concentrate on the fact that people in Santa Fe live in relative peace). But we have all seen prejudice, anger, resentment, hurt reflected in the faces and words of our fellow citizens, have we not? Rather than turn away, we could lean forward and listen, stay with what might feel uncomfortable, unfair, wrong-headed, unfriendly. This is acknowledgment. This takes stamina. And, it might be the beginning of something "else."

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