Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Writing & Art as Resistance

I’m so frustrated about rampant injustice bubbling up all around us, I could chew the head off a nail. While we fight endless wars no more productive than the BP oil gusher, the rich get richer while the rest of us get poorer. 

It's a well known fact that the standard of living for working folks has fallen since reaching its high point almost 40 years ago while middle class income is stagnating; nevertheless, the safety net for those in need continues to be shredded.

And even more galling to me, here in New Hampshire, one of the richest states in the union, state government is balancing the budget on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens during this great recession (depression?) when so many are unemployed and suffering in countless ways.

For instance, just last week nonprofit agencies that provide mental health services to our poorest adults and children found out they are facing yet another round of draconian budget cuts.

Why? How can this be?

I take some solace from reading, Thinking Class, by Joanna Kadi. In a chapter entitled "Writing as Resistance, Writing as Love," she says, "I can't forget I have a kitchen with food in it, writing utensils, clothes. These are privileges. They should be rights for everyone on the planet, but right now they're privileges and I must think about how I use them...”

“Do I espouse the oppressive lie about 'pulling myself up by my bootstraps...' Or do I understand my literacy and writing skill as one tool for resistance and liberation? Why do I write? For who, for what? Who benefits?”

Kadi's straight talk, provided me with a real wakeup call, a 2 by 4 to the side of the head. As a self-described working-class, lesbian of Arab ancestry, she viscerally understands her position in society, feeling discrimination to the very core of her being. As a white man, because oppression is not constantly in my face, I sometimes forget. (Although as a Vietnam veteran, I shouldn't).

The truth is: It's too late for talking heads and blue ribbon committees to fix this mess.  Instead we must join with one another in solidarity and resist!

Writing is a noble form of resistance. The Forum is a prime example of creating such solidarity. The New Hampshire Gazette, edited by Steve Fowle, is another. All art has that potential to resist by speaking truth to power.

The art I have included with this piece is a perfect example: An Iraqi woman, against all odds, lighting a candle to dispel the darkness.   I recently bought this watercolor painting at the Concord Arts Market. The artist is 15-year-old Iraqi young man who recently emigrated to New Hampshire with his family.

You can check out her book by clicking below: