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I recently was discussing with a friend in Copan the word culture and how we both thought it was often misused to make excuses for unacceptable treatment of women and children. Until she had brought it up, I didn’t realize that I myself had used it as an excuse in my writing and conversation. The word “machismo” could very easily be exchanged for the American idiom “boys will be boys,” both placing the unacceptable acts of men in the category of “culture.” When these words are used, somehow rape, domestic violence, and cheating become more acceptable because they are part of the “culture.”

I am frequently asked by friends and family, how can you live in Honduras where men treat women like they do? This question makes me upset when people ask it, and for some time, I did not understand why. I now see that the root of my irritation is that not so long ago America’s “culture” was one of female oppression, and the phrase “children should be seen and not heard” was used frequently to ignore the voices of the innocent.

It was strong people, that’s right, PEOPLE, not just women, who helped make the freedoms of women and children possible in the U.S. Americans seem to forget that this change only really happened in the last 100 years, and we lived in a similar world as women and children do here. While the unacceptable behaviours of men in Honduras are ignored on a regular basis, and that is termed machismo, I believe that way of thinking is changing, not just here, but in the world.

I see strong children and females all around me. I am reminded, that while many battles have been won, it is an on-going war to change the mindset of a world that has been primarily patriarchal, with women and children seen as possessions, not human beings of equal standing, for most of its history.

I look at the male children around me, and I ask myself where and how can they learn to be different than their fathers? How will they learn to be champions of women and children and call themselves feminists too? So often, I see men pushed to the side in the feminist movement, but they can be just as much a part of it and are necessary to it’s progress. They can show what true culture is.

By definition, culture is “the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively.” True culture is when people come together with all their knowledge, wisdom, experience, and history to create a statement of who they are as a people and what they have achieved together. As a cultural statement of the world, I hope someday at the base of all our achievements will be equality and respect.

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Rooted stillness
Certainty in extended fingers
Patiently stretching, reaching out
Savouring the sun’s gentle caresses
Veins exposed
The soul longs to fly
Running in place
Resisting until carried by foreign winds
Free from the last strand of attachment
A bird
Then a feather
Detached from bodily strength
Floating to earth
Disintegrating into soil
The soul sustains the rooted one.

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Revolvers kill.

To revolve is to move in a circular or curving course or orbit.
Does that mean if I kill you with an “r” at the end of “revolve” I will die too?
If it follows with an “s” will we all die?
How many revolvers does it take to wipe out humanity and stain the whole world red with their blood?
How long will it take for nature to devour us and our revolvers so we revolve into the dust we came from?

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As I stood in a shimmering pool beneath a waterfall, I was still and watched a bird fly between the mossy rocks that surrounded me searching for nourishment for her babies. As she flew back and forth, I felt the flutter of her breast in my chest and my soul soared with her wings. She basked in the sun, and I could feel the warmth suffuse my body as we became one.

Berlin Modern Art Museum

“People had lost all control and discipline, all concept of ‘mine’ and ‘yours’ was gone. Of all the horrors of war, this was the most terrible: Since then I have feared nothing in this world quite so much as the bestiality of a wicked human being; no animal would behave in such a way.” ~Katherina Heinroth

death

 Blind Power~Rudolf Schlichter

“With their nightmarish monsters, these pictures make us reel by confronting us so closely with the spurious foundations of our existence.”

~

Berlin Jewish Museum

jewish museum

Garden of Exile

“One feels a little bit sick walking through it. But it is accurate, because that is what perfect order feels like when you leave the history of Berlin.”~Daniel Libiskind

In the Garden of Exile, I felt an eery sense that no matter where I walked I would be in the same place, even though I knew there was an exit. I felt trapped with the appearance of being free. As I walked through the isles, I realized the view was always the same, a clear path with a wall at the end. I couldn’t escape the strict design. Despite the order of the rock garden, I always felt unbalanced as I was never able to stand up straight due to the tilted foundation. Olive willow tree tops peeked out from columns, but I could not enjoy them because they were too far away to properly observe. The sound of my boots on lonely stone pathways resonated emptiness and abandonment with traces of fear and mourning hanging heavy in the air.

Holocaust Tower

As I look at the closing door and the darkness envelops me, my throat becomes tight, and I hold my breath. Letting go of the pain in my chest might make me lose that last bit of light which feels like hope. My eyes well up, but I hold back emotional response. I could be here for a long time, and I cannot lose it yet. I have to hold it together and think. So I move my paralyzed body, touching the cold wall to guide my blind fumbling. I see a small bit of light at a top corner of my cement prison. I walk towards it, and the space around me only narrows. Claustrophobia sets in, panic. What cruelty to leave some light but have it be impossible to reach. I feel betrayed. I want to scream, but I am afraid of what else might be in here. I frantically follow the wall to the other side and come back to where I began. I realize attempts at exit are futile, so I squat with my back to the wall trying not to cry, holding myself so I don’t feel so alone, so I feel protected against the unknown. I comfort myself with memories of what it feels to be in the light, and I calm down remembering this is not my reality. That I can return to the warmth if I choose to step out the door, but horrified knowing so many never did again. That they died like this.

Axis of Continuity

I grow weary as I climb these stairs, but I push my tired body to keep going up. When I reach the top and look back, I see the lattice-work, the intricate bindings. The struggles that make us stronger. I can relax knowing it is all part of a greater plan. The interweaving of a blanket. A door opens into warmth. How apt there is a tree in the center with wishes of children hanging from it. Always a tree remains to remind us beauty and peace exist, that hope is just around the corner if we can open our hearts to change.

“I wish we could all live in peace, love, not war, no hate, just for everyone to be at one.”~Anonymous

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