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Stories hidden in plain sight, waiting to be
acknowledged and shared. Tucked away for
safekeeping, often for self-preservation, all
too often they remain silent. When the
phrase ‘silence is golden’ is considered, it
comes with the implication that silence is preferred over voicing one’s thoughts or
opinions. Our lives are our stories. The victories, the fear and pain. The moments of clarity and joy, the emptiness of loss encompasses every aspect of who we are. Silence is a vital component of our stories. It lends itself to our ability to listen to the natural world around us, and to move within the flow of the Ancestors.
I treasure silence when it is appropriate. Listening to the wind, the trill of birds and the happy chattering of squirrels offers a natural connection. Sitting with someone you care about; the mutual unspoken communication is refreshing. We hear the Old Ones in the silence, we listen, and we remember. I grew up in a world of shadows and deception. Punctuated with demands to stay out of the way, invisible and silent, the message was clear. Never, ever discuss anything with anyone. This paradigm of
confusion shaped my stories. Stories became internalized chronicles, journals, and narratives poised for relief of the imposed silence; each one a dance. Fight or flight.
Journeying from suppression to open expression was complicated and often emotionally painful. It is, however, a part of the story. My story, your story, the stories of people across the country, and throughout the world are emerging as we stand on the edge of uncertainty. Sharing my truth as a child proved difficult, in part from fear of retribution, and the rest lay crumpled, pushed aside, and dismissed. Stories wrapped in silence, waiting for someone to listen.
Years ago, I was admonished after a jury selection for speaking my truth openly in front of a room filled with strangers and attorneys, instead of requesting a private moment with the judge. Said person referred to me as a victim, stating things of this nature are best said in private. At this point in time, I would place him in a loose construct of the entitled, or in many cases, under the false belief of entitlement. Here’s your red cap buddy. No thanks. I am not a victim. I am a survivor, and I will not be
The current climate is one of pandering diversion, not unlike the tactics implemented soon after WWI in Europe. Literal campaigns of violence, incitement, and abuse rose like an endless wave. Attacks against Jewish people, gay and trans people, and outspoken liberals escalated. Aryan women were encouraged to bear more children, while the so-called ‘inferior’ mothers were sterilized or underwent forced abortions. It draws a parallel to the countless Indigenous women and teens who were sterilized without their knowledge and consent. This atrocity began in the 1930’s and escalated in the early 1970’s when Congress passed the Family Planning Services Act to subsidize sterilization for Medicaid and patients through Indian Health Services. It didn’t stop there, in fact in Canada there are cases of forced sterilization as recent as 2019.
Books were censored and burned. In May of 1933, over twenty-five thousand books were burned, including those written by Sigmund Freud, Helen Keller, Albert Einstein, Ernest Hemingway and the works of poet Heinrich Heine. In Heine’s Almansor, he spoke of the burning of books for political or religious reasons, and his statement, “That was but a prelude; where they burn books, they will ultimately burn people also.” His words would prove to be hauntingly true with the Holocaust.The dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 has found its place among required reading in school, and as
a banned book. Fahrenheit 451 covers the attempts to censor knowledge and information from the citizens in the story, to control and create an ignorant and less volatile society. Among the numerous Indigenous books banned, are a picture book titled Fry Bread: A Native American Story; An Indigenous Peoples History of the United States; and Sherman Alexie’s National Award Winning book The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian.
Among organizations working against book bans is PEN America. ‘PEN America works to ensure that people everywhere have the freedom to create literature, to convey information and ideas, to express their views, and to access the views, ideas, and literatures of others.’ It is important to note among the highest reported books banned are those written by and about Black, Indigenous and People of Color, as well as dozens with LGBTQ+ themes or characters. Women authors are also high on the banned lists, as well as books on race and racism, activism, and human and civil rights.
We cannot stay silent as these patterns continue to emerge. More and more states are imposing laws against women’s reproduction rights, including attempts to pass bills to punish women with the death penalty for seeking an abortion, regardless of the circumstances. People of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community are being targeted, books are being removed from schools, politics continues to exert what can be taught in schools, to the point where Indigenous history is ignored, critical points of
slavery, the Civil War, as well as the Civil Rights Movement are downplayed. Surveys taken in 2021 indicated many young adults did not know anything about the Holocaust, or they were more apt to believe the Holocaust deniers on social media. While social media has shed the light on many atrocities, it is imperative our voices, our truth, and our stories are heard.
In a time filled with intolerance of human rights and liberties, we must stand strong. Even the most subtle voice needs to be heard. We need to educate and take care of ourselves and our families. Find your silence in the sunrises, the sunsets. The subtle call in the early hours of a nightbird, the harmony of coyotes or wolves singing break the stillness in the natural world. Break your silence with your stories, your truths, your vision. Books may be banned, but they cannot take our stories.