Saturday, March 28, 2009

An Excellent Film: A Mighty Heart



I've just finished watching the movie, A Mighty Heart with Angela Joli. I 've avoided watching this movie, I confess. It seemed too difficult to confront the real murder of a journalist through the eyes and experience of his pregnant wife, Mariane, who is also a journalist. Some of you know that my own mother was murdered and I find these stories difficult to watch. I remember the media that surrounded my mother's murder and the opportunistic way that those involved tried to use the story to foster their own often unrelated causes.

In Mom's case, the Huron Township Police Chief, Mr. Cagal, tried to use her murder to argue against gun control. Others carried the story with an emphasis on property line disputes emphasizing how people allow their emotions to get out of control. The problem with these interpretations was that Mom and her partner, Christine Puckett, were treated as somehow responsible for the event. Their same sex relationship was hinted at but not addressed as the real reason for the murders. One article was published with the headline, "Two Lesbian Women Shot" and this created a stir in the gay community. No one except the gay community wanted to admit that it was a hate crime. The general media tone was geared to comfort their reading audience by couching the truth in a mild it-could-never-happen-to-you message. I had a shocking realization that the news reports were gently placing the blame on my mother and Christine by subtle inference even though the facts tell us that they did not kill him, they did not carry out weapons, and they were innocent of any crime.
One of the reports, revealed that James Brooks had used a shovel to attempt to hit Christine. Mom went into the house and called the police. Soon after this, she called the police again to report that Christine was shot. Does this sound like a woman who would let her emotions get out of control? She was on the phone when she witnessed Christine's murder, she dropped the receiver and she went out to help. Brooks came out with a shot gun, came up close to Mom, and she didn't turn away. She spoke with him as he shot her at close range. There is no doubt that the newspapers were placing the blame on the victims by their objective stance. There is a feeling that we have to uncover the real story. (It couldn't be an unprovoked murder.)

The problem with objectivity is clear. If Mom was enraged or "over-emotional" she would have gotten a weapon herself. Friends, this is rural Michigan, everyone has guns. Mom had a license to carry a handheld weapon because she transported substantial sums of cash and was occasionally threatened in her real estate business. She also had the "normal" weapons, rifles and such that you have on a farm. Brooks had weapons, too. Only he used them to shoot animals that crossed onto his property,e.g. chickens, dogs and a goat. And he used his guns to shoot and kill both Mom and Christine. They were the innocent of any crime so why did the papers try to shape the story in a way that softly but securely placed part of the blame on those murdered instead of securely on the the murderer?

When Brooks was questioned as to why he killed them, he said "It had to be done." Did the community of reporters, police, and passersby agree? I reflect on the thinking, "So two lesbian women were killed? Life goes on. Don't get in fights with your neighbors." And under these messages there is that subtle message, "If you are lesbian, watch out. Keep it a secret. You also could be killed."
~~~

The movie murder depiction has something in common with hate crimes. It is talking about terrorism and senseless murders but also it successfully delivers a message about tolerance. One review, criticizes the lack of information provided about the cross-cultural undercurrent that contributed to the murder; and though I understand the film director's choices (Michael Winterbottom) I do think many "why" questions are left unanswered.


I think that the story could have benefited from a historical placement of the conflict between Muslims and Hindus because many viewers do not understand the history of religious tension and peace between the two groups. Unfortunately, most people like to have an easy target in which to place the word terrorist, usually depicted in an image wearing a head wrap of some sort which results in the meaning: head wrap + dark face = terrorist. I've had friends who were detained by the airport security because of suspicious skin tone, or an Arab look. (Puerto Ricans are a multi-cultural group.)


That's me in my cold university office warming myself with a makeshift sweater head wrap. Watch out!





~~~

Mariane Pearl's memoir, A Mighty Heart; The Brave Life and Death of my Husband, provided the inspiration for this film. Mariane tries to show the world a way to understanding through continued dialogue and a shift from the focus on fear and retaliation. Pearl's insight is informed by Buddhists principles and as she continues sharing the story, she extends both her husband's and her own committment toward peaceful action in this world. (Here is the link to the organization Mariane Pearl founded.)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Hugs (abrazos) to All; Sisterhood and Friendship Awards

On September 2007, The International Day of Peace, my daughter, Amber and a group of high school teens (spearheaded by Rafa in the photo) organized a free hugs campaign in the Old City (Old San Juan, Puerto Rico). They carried signs and smiles and offered hugs to people arriving to Puerto Rico from cruise ships, tourists and bemused, muddled and confused locals. As the activity caught on, people began to understand the gesture of goodwill and many began to accept "Free Hugs." (An article featuring the story was written by Libni Sanjurjo Melendez in Primera Hora on Sabado 22 de Septiembre de 2007; Jovenes conmemoran el Dia Internacional de la Paz Regalan abrazos en Viejo San Juan, Panorama 22) The teens were questioned by police and after much discussion and delay were allowed to continue.

I am so proud of these teens and my daughter for understanding love and showing the way to sometimes hesitant adults. Everyone needs a hug!



I applaud all people who recognize the power of affection and appreciation!

Hug a Tree!
Hug a Puppy ! Hug a Friend!

Hug a Blogger!

The Hug (Tess Gallagher)
A woman is reading a poem on the street
and another woman stops to listen. We stop too,
with our arms around each other. The poem
is being read and listened to out here
in the open. Behind us
no one is entering or leaving the houses.

Suddenly a hug comes over me and I'm
giving it to you like a variable star shooting light
off to make itself comfortable, then
subsiding. I finish but keep on holding
you . A man walks up to us and we know he hasn't
come out of nowhere, but if he could he
would have. He looks homeless because of how
he needs. "Can I have one of those?" he asks you,
and I feel you nod. I'm surprised,
surprised you don't tell him how
it is-that I'm yours, only...
~~~

In the spirit of sharing peace, I give you Abundant Hugs

~~~

Linda Socha from Psyche Connections has honored Oasis with the affirming Sisterhood Award for giving her "laughter, learning, and perspective." Please go visit her blog and enjoy her peppy and touching posts. Open hearted Natalie of Musings of the Deep has also shared this Sisterhood Award with me and to top that off, she also shared the Friendship Award with me! Such a community of warm and intelligent friends in this blog world.





I would like to share the Sisterhood Award with these bloggers who share love, laughter and insight...

1. Butternut Squash Goddess of the Confluence

2. The Muse at Muse Swings

3. Sheila the artists who writes From Forensic to Fine Art

4. Carol of The Writer's Porch

5. Dianne of Intutive Painting

and those bloggers with abundant hearts must have the Friendship Award...

1. Reya Mellicker of The Gold Puppy

2. Pat of Mille Fiori Favorite

3. Just a Plane Ride Away

4. Linda of Vulture Peak Muse

5. Rudee the Knitting Nurse


If I missed you, please accept a long hug of apology and take the award you deserve!

You are a living story. Become aware of the stories you tell about yourself and your world. Participate consciously in the writing of the next chapter of your life.

Deepak Chopra and David Simon (The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga)
~~~

Also, Thank you Bill Austin the Best Blog of the Day Award! (March 5, 2009). If you would like to nominate a friend's blog or your own, click on the Sharing Blog Love link on the Oasis sidebar under the award.

Blog Awards Winner

~~~

On Accepting Your Sisterhood or Friendship Award...

Here's how award process works:

1. Put the logo on your blog or post.
2. Nominate at least 5 blogs.
3. Be sure to link to your nominees within your post.
4. Let them know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog.
5. Share the love and link this post to the person from whom you received your award.

Watch the video that made it all happen!

Monday, March 16, 2009

On Being Someone's Son or Daughter


Kelly Corrigan takes what might have been a fairly standard story of survival, and reframed it, most charmingly, as a coming of age narrative. We see here a headstrong girl, under the most severe adversity, turn into a genuinely strong woman.

—Carolyn See, author of Making a Literary Life



Kelly Corrigan addresses a difficult subject in her memoir, The Middle Place . (Corrigan's blog link) The narrative begins with early childhood memories of a dynamic yet embracing father and continues on to weave in a story about cancer survival while she addresses her placement within the proud Irish-American family fabric. I agree with Carolyn See in the quote above- that the expected story would have been a survival story about one woman's experience with cancer. Yet, Kelly Corrigan, skillfully leads us into our own understanding of family relationships and their meaning within our lives.

~~~

The documentary interview was finished. I was at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport preparing to return to Puerto Rico, steeped in my own memories of the past, when a series of mechanical irregularities (failed plane saftey test!) waylaid me to the Clarian hotel in the Metro area where I could thankfully give into Kelly Corrigan's reading experience. I was with her as she grew up on Wooded Lane in Philadelphia where she had the usual conflicts with her family, school and life in general. She was a young girl fighting for her place in the family and in the world.

Corrigan takes us to a memory land that we may never have actually lived but one that we all have lived enough. Let me explain. Our general life patterns overlap and we become adults. For most of us, we have a life defining shift that usually involves deep pain. It is that common human experience that provides a place to connect with the true story of a real person in a real life. Corrigan's honesty compels you to read on and wills you to understand how someone under great stress can find the will to continue activily participating in life while struggling to survive cancer. Corrigan is in the Middle Place-that place between childhood and full adulthood-a comforting place boxed in by childhood memory and young adult security. She writes that when she found out that she had cancer, she immediately need to call home-the location of her home still being where her mother and father live even though she is married and has two small children of her own. I was particularly perplexed about the location of this "Middle Place". After I read a bit more, I was grateful that she didn't have to confront it's passage too early in her life.
~~~
What happens in your life when you are not someone's son or daughter? That's how my life is now with both parents gone. It's the natural course of events and most will arrive here at the uppermost generational tier. We hope it's not too soon. We hope were ready for the next phase. We hope we can breathe at this higher altitude. When our parents die, we feel like a child again. The feeling of our home, a feeling of situatedness evaporates with their death. Then the work of locating home inside, begins and we start learning how to parent ourselves.
In this uppermost space resides the location of possibility where we can learn to take on the responsibility of creating (recreating) the family feeling in our lives. We decide to continue or begin some of our own family traditions. In this place of hope, we may learn to be the unconditional givers to those we love. Here we may learn to create our own family, which may include close friends. Or maybe, we will need to create a family that is comprised only of friends. In this place, it is possible to broaden our concept of family to combine all of humanity. And it is here where we may begin to feel that it is necessary to act- to offer assistance to all who are suffering.

I often wonder when will we redefine our realm of responsibility -our boundary of concern -so that we will not tolerate another day of hunger in this world. When will we be able to overcome the fearful hesitancy that keeps our hands in our pockets instead of reaching out to those in need?
When my parents died, I began to understand that I had to take some of this responsibility for others upon myself. Do we have to lose our parents to begin to understand that we must continue to foster empathy and compassion in this world? That we have to share in the responsibility and care for all of those who surround us? Must we wait for our losses to eventually push us into broadening our area of concern to include not just people, but animals and the environment too?
It is my hope that when we all encounter the passage from this Middle Place to full adulthood that we re-think our position in this world. Personally, I hope to find the right balance between my values and my actions in order to live a life completely harmonized by integrity. I hope to foster within myself pure motive guided by empathy and the best for all concerned. May all humanity make it successfully through this Middle Place. And when the time comes, may we all graduate into the Upper Place with the will to live in peace with each other; be it our family, friends, neighbors, and also extended out to all religions and to all countries. I am confident that this understanding of the Upper Place represents a kind of graduation for all of humanity.
May we all find ourselves living this vision of peace.

Today, more than ever before, life must be characterized by a sense of universal responsibility, not only nation to nation and human to human, but also human to other forms of life.

Dalai Lama

Friday, March 13, 2009

A Journey Back from the Past



As I left for the interview from the San Juan International Airport, I collected my thoughts by writing in a journal, reading newspaper clippings of the murder, and focusing on re-remembering. Sometime during this process, I looked out the window and saw the setting sun; I remembered the Goodbye Sun post and thought of how serendipitous life can be.

I brought photos to share with Brian Alexander, the documentary film maker of the Pittmann Puckett Story (working title). Who is that little perplexed girl scratching her head? She's thinking, "What's this life all about?"
My family of seven celebrated when we finally bought a VW bus- where we could at last have enough room. Before this time, we would all pack our sardine selves into a little VW bug- the Love-Too-Much bug. I remember one time we forgot to close the door securely and when my mother turned into the driveway on Middlebelt Road one of my siblings spilled out the door and landed shaken but unharmed onto the street!


My dad was a handsome man who used his serious face to control his wild bunch of children. When we got older, we realized the crinkled blue eyes were a give away. He was often laughing on the inside! Here's the famous serious Clint Eastwood expression of Dad's.


I grew up in a rural area of Michigan in a house that was built in 1936. I enjoyed Christmas with my family the most of all. I had hoped we would always stay together but life has its own twist and turns...
sometimes it makes knots...

Dad died in August 5, 1986 at 49 years.
~~~
This trip I had a chance to visit the Pittmann farm again.


It's shocking to think that my mother was murdered here on the half-circle drive.


Travel makes you think about new beginnings and new possibilities, don't you think?

These Michigan Bradford Pear tree buds want to bloom

...may the season favor their growth...

May all life have its chance to become.

~~~

Thank you dear blogger friends for your kind words of support.

I felt you all ever-present as I spoke during the interview.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Documentary Interview and Award

Hello friends, I´ve been a bit busy lately and I want to excuse myself for this weekend also. I´ll be away from blogland because I´m being interviewed for the documentary that is being made on the murder of my mother, Susan Pittmann and her partner, Christine Puckett. (Click on the sidebar, "Goodbye Sun" for more detail.)


This is my mother at 50 years old (and Chris), just after graduating from her bachelor´s degree program in Social Work from Wayne State University, Michigan. I am so please and proud that she attained her deferred dream of a college education after raising five children. She also lived an active socially conscious life and spent most of her time working to make the world a better place for everyone.

Please send me positive thoughts so that I can share my part of the family story. I hope to raise consciousness about this horrible crime and perhaps help people to understand that we are all connected to each other and our actions, words and attitude either positively or negatively influence society.


May we all come to accept that everyone has a right to happiness regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation.

°°°°°°°


But before I go, I have the Premio Dardos award to give to my dynamic, intelligent and engaged bloggers. Fhina, from the blog, A Woman of No Importance has given me the following award for my "beautiful life and excellent reviews." The instructions were that I should give it to 15 (!) bloggers for my own reasons. Awardees should link back to me and pass it on to 15 blogs of their own selection. (Just do what you can!)
***********
"This award acknowledges the values that every Blogger displays in their effort to transmit cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values with each message they write. Awards like this have been created with the intention of promoting community among Bloggers. It’s a way to show appreciation and gratitude for work that adds value to the Web.”
*************
1. Charmaine´s High Desert Diva








5. Jude´s Cariad in Crete


6. Cherie´s Butterfly Dreamer




8. Butternut Squash´s Goddess of the Confluence


9. JBA´s In Good Shape


10. Elis Cooke´s Journey by Journal






13. Reyna´s The Gold Puppy


14. Michelle´s The Truth as I Know it


15. Moannie´s The View From This End

Dear blogger friends, I hope I gave to everyone who wanted an award. If I missed you, please help yourself.

I send everyone of you appreciation and love.