Saturday, April 25, 2015

V is for Victim

April A-to-Z: must-read books

Touching Spirit Bear (2001)
by Ben Mikaelsen
(1952-) USA

When I began working with advanced grade seven and eight students in the exploration of books and creative writing at a level more appropriate to their abilities, a dear friend; a teacher’s assistant,  rushed this book into my hands, claiming it was incredibly popular; loved by the students at her school.

I thought that it was a bit rudimentary in style and structure to be challenging enough for those at an early high school reading level, but it was a great story with great ideas, strong characters and useful insights. And being such a contrarian by habit, it certainly aroused useful questions in me around our society’s views on justice. Coincidentally both my bread-and-butter work and my volunteer endeavors have been re-directed to the justice community; specifically the rehabilitation of former offenders and community protection.

Marvelous that a book for youths could prove so inspiring and a source of consolidation to a thoughtful forty-six year old.

It’s a solid powerful tale in terms of plot and mood and is provocative in terms of societal norms; It does not tread lightly around painful matters. And it reveals Native traditions in a thoughtful light which happens far too little. More and more I realize that my ancestors could have learned so much from native culture instead of ramming so much of our white-man crap down their throats. What a tragic backwards evolution whose effects now threaten the biosphere.

I had the Liberal Theologian give it a read. Her only complaint was around victim healing and offender rehabilitation coming face to face: offender interacting with victim. How unrealistic to her standard psychology models. Good, I say. All the more reason why the idea must be explored in literature if it will not be explored in white-man institutions. How obvious to any thinker that ideal restitution must occur between sinner and the sinned-upon. When I hurt someone I make it up to them, of course. I don’t confess to a priest or give money to charity and then wash my hands of it. Is that nobility not of obvious merit? Sure, we must tread carefully around the spectre of trauma but in the healthy society some of us like to envision, we might not be so addicted to holding on to our suffering and perceived suffering. And as one who has overcome so many fears, let me assure that it was done by facing them, not hiding from them.      

Delightful book; a journey of pain and struggle and reward, and a must-read for any boy or girl; especially non-native boys and girls.

A passage:

    Cole sat tight-lipped. The jail talk was getting old. If he was going to end up in jail anyway, he might as well have gone through normal justice and avoided all this Circle baloney. Suddenly he wanted out of this place. If only there weren’t a guard waiting in the hallway.
    Cole slouched low in his chair as the feather passed on to Peter. Peter gripped the feather with a tight fist and looked down at his lap. When a full minute had passed, the Keeper walked around and placed her hand gently on his shoulder. “Peter, would you like to tell us what you think would make things better again?”
    Peter bit at his lip before speaking in a struggling, slurred voice. “I think someone should smash Cole’s head against a sidewalk so he knows how it feels.”
    Uneasy glances followed Peter’s comment. Even the Keeper’s voice sounded tense as she took the feather gently from Peter’s hand and returned to her place in the circle. “Tonight raw feelings have been exposed like plowed-up ground,” she said. “But that’s when you plant seeds. We now understand better, the struggle we face, and share the desire to find a solution. Let’s stand and hold hands again.” Three hours after it began, the Keeper closed the Healing Circle with a prayer.
    Cole stood but refused to hold his parents’ hands. He folded his arms defiantly across his chest, causing a break in the circle. On his left stood a liar who had beat him numb, and on his right stood a dressed-up puppet, afraid of her own shadow. Cole would not let them hold his hands and find out how sweaty they were. He would not let them pretend they loved him. Especially his dad.

1 comment:

Stephen Tremp said...

This is the home stretch for A to Z. Thanks again for helping make the event such a success!

Stephen Tremp
A to Z Co-host
V is for Vortex (the paranormal kind)