Friday, August 18, 2006
Polishing the Soul
Yesterday, while hiking in a very remote part of Pantelleria, Sicily, we met two americans. I am an American Indian living here with my wife, who has been living here 10 years. We said hello to these two men, possibly a father and his older son. Naturally being well-mannered, we gave him our names. When he heard my rather american indian name he immeditaely began asking me about 20 racial, racist question: am i a full blood? is your blood from your mother or father? and other questions I have already emptied my mind of. Hello, I meet you out here in the wilderness and youy choose to not tell me your name or say anything friendly but to calmy grill me on the contents of my blood? He spoke without drama....without animation, like he was asleep.
To tell you the truth, I barely noticed and while I had an impulse to say something corrective or express my disappointment in this behavior, I was patient and kind to him. I am so used to this. Only from Americans do you get this behavior. I am so used to i barely noticed. Silvia, being from this italian culture, brought home the disturbing quality of this exchange by explaining and reminding me what would happene if two italian groups met while travelling in the wilderness of another country. There would of course be handshakes. These white men did not want to be touched. There would be names. These guys said nothing about themselves while wanting to know all about my racial composition....which seems like an intimate and invasive question, it feels invasive. If Italians had met this way, they would be having the diner together for sure. There would be touching and smiles and no invasive race clarification questions. This seems to happen only to indians being talked to by white people in america. I have seen it many times. It is endless. It also does not matter "how much blood" is involved....I have seen it pulled on every kind of indian.
What's the point? Just this....Americans seem so cold, so distant, so frightened. Being here in this culture of peace and respect for one another, I was jarred by being reminded how racist, how arrogant and empty the American culture is becoming. These two guys, after looking in my wife's eyes, I was ashamed for these two dumb and empty men.
I can polish my soul by breathing. By waking up in my dreams. By not being for or against anything. It is ok to speak your mind. I was happy to learn that their behavior did not make me angry. In the past such bullshit talk could really get a rise out of me. Now it was just an exchange of emptiness, a flatulence of the new world order.
Italian culture has taught me a lot about love, about accepting others, about what a good and healthy and joyful citizen can do and say to make life more sweet. The contrast is astonishing.
I remember everything.
I drop my heart inside these stones
and put them in the fire.
I burn, I dream, I become water.........
The place where we met these two ghosts is a very rare and spiritually charged place on the island. It is called "Favare Grande" and it has red stones and pale soil; the only place on the island like it. There are some stone feathures that are stunning. There are some man-made things here no one understands fully. It is an asonishing hike with both nature and history. It was no fun meeting dull bored americans with typical no-manners of american in a sacred space inside a culture which considers hospitality the fruit of a good life....and I'm not sorry I don't always capitalize my words like america...america has lost the big A in my heart......
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