The fall 2017 edition of the Loaves & Fishes Newsletter is headed to the printer tomorrow! We are excited to share some updates with the many people on our mailing list and contemplate the theme of security with our readers. Here is a sneak-peak of two bonus articles! If you are interested in being added to our mailing list please email email@example.com
Not Afraid of Who We Were . . .
By Doris Malkmus
My sense of security depends a lot on my identity, in fact, so much so that I rarely think about it. Most of my identity comes from my past experiences—my family, society, my country—and its values and history. History shapes today's beliefs about who are and who are not our enemies. Calls to make America great again, are directly related to our understanding of the past. So are calls to confront white privilege, make reparations for slavery, and return land to First Peoples. Yet, when our nation’s history includes events and attitudes that are painful and deeply divisive, is it best to ignore the past and move on, or can examining the past help heal and unify our nation?
No one is born knowing the history of the world—most of us first learned history as children through simplified stories about national heroes like Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln and Rosa Parks. These heroes represent the best and brightest hopes. However, to create heroes for a child’s understanding, a lot of history has to be swept under the rug. Psychologists tell us that to learn new information, it has to “fit in” with old information. As we grow up and learn more about history, new information has to agree with the simple stories of our childhood; the more those heroes were icons of American ideals, the more painful it is to learn that Jefferson hated slavery but didn't believe in racial equality, that Lincoln ended slavery and backed conquest of the Plains Indians, and that Rosa Parks was only one of many protesting segregated buses.
When the human side, the underside, of history comes to light, it can inflame festering wounds and trigger extremism. Almost anyone feels reactive and threatened when cherished heroes and ideals are disrespected. For whites and blacks alike, new knowledge can be used to spark background resentment into hot anger, race hatred, or violence.
The past has to be more than simple stories to unite us, but where is the ground can we stand on together? Many historians urge us to find common ground by treating the past like a different planet and stop judging it by today’s standards. The past was complicated. There are real debts that remain to be acknowledged and a reckoning made, but a lot of pain was caused by people who had no more political efficacy than we feel today.
An example. In the nineteenth century, lots of groups were unhappy about slavery, in fact, almost everyone. Only slaves, however, had to bear that burden, while most whites sat on their hands. A few slaves risked their lives to escape, and a few whites risked enough to force political change. Most of the people on both sides, whether saints or sinners, were caught up, just as we are, by institutions they inherited from history.
Another example, this time of good intentions that went bad. Puritans landed at Plymouth Rock weeks after diseases decimated all the Indian villages there. Puritans, who saw the whole world through the lens of God’s Providence, naturally interpreted empty native villages as a sign that God intended whites to inherit the new land. Over the next ten generations, land speculators preyed on these beliefs to lay waste in the name of Christian progress to the land we claim to love. Blaming is unhelpful, so too are stories of American greatness that sweep all failures under the rug.
We, the multicultural present, can find maturity, humanity, and wisdom by a clear-eyed look at both aspects of our history. We can either put our faith in symbolic heroes and blame African Americans, feminists, and terrorists because America isn’t as Great as it was, or we can take the past as a gift and lesson from our elders and be our own heroes.
Restorative Circles by Amy Brooks and Mallory Thorne
Domestic violence is incredibly damaging. It happens far more often than we would like to admit and often times is closer to us than we envision. No matter where this violence happens, or who it happens to, we as a community are implicated in addressing this harm and creating an environment that does not allow for this to continue. Tackling this issue once and for all will require our entire community.
Individuals who commit acts of violence are our community members and they hold a set of beliefs and values that allow them to cause harm against their partners. They are not an outside force harming our community. These are people that we walk beside daily. We have an obligation to address this violence on an individual level when it happens but also as a community.
The Domestic Violence Restorative Circles Program responds to this need by providing transition circles to repeat offenders of domestic violence. These participants have caused a great deal of harm in our community and without any intervention would likely continue to cause harm and therefore continue to be incarcerated. By creating a space to connect participants to the community in an environment that allows for trust to build and difficult conversations to take place, we can begin to repair that harm in our community and create stability and security in his life, as well as the life of victim/survivors.
We also offer support circles to victim/survivors of domestic violence who have been harmed by the participants we serve. Support circles are designed by and for each survivor. This is a powerful way for the community to show up, support and walk with survivors through the process of healing.This is done in a separate process and is guided by whatever that person may need at the time of circle.
Both types of circle consist of 4-6 community volunteers who meet for two hours each week over a period of 6 months to have a dialogue around violence, power, and control. All volunteers are trained in both restorative justice as well as domestic violence 101. Expert knowledge is not required, but a willingness to show up, be curious and sometimes a bit vulnerable is. Any community member can be a part of this process.
As a community we need to take action- for the safety and well being of all of us. We need to believe survivors if/when they come forward and we need to hold those who cause harm accountable for their actions in a way that invites them to change their behavior.
The DVRC program is always accepting volunteers. If you are interested in learning more, please contact Amy Brooks firstname.lastname@example.org or 218-727-1939 ext. 106.