Sunday, November 29, 2015

ACN Intern Maria Cardona discusses her "Know Violence, No Violence" series

Images from Maria Cardona's graphic art series "Know Violence, No Violence" are currently circulating on campus plasma screens. We wanted to hear about what inspired Maria, an ACN intern, to address the many ways we encounter violence, including issues of race and stereotyping, using graphic media.

ACN: What inspired you to create the "Know Violence. No Violence" series?

Maria Cardona:
 There are multiple factors that went into the creation of the Know Violence, No Violence series. The first was artist Traci Molloy's visit to Ashland in October. Her artwork really showed me the impact that images can have and how art can be used as a way to combat violence and ignorance. 

Aside from Molloy's presentation, the idea of microagressions and racism played a huge role in the series. I wanted to represent the harsh stereotypes people of various races have to deal with on a daily basis and how these stereotypes dehumanize people into caricatures of who they really are. Sometimes stereotypes and generalizations make us miss the opportunity to really get to know people for who they are and not who they are "supposed" to be. As a minority, it is such a struggle to debunk these stereotypes, because sometimes we get so caught up in not being a stereotype that we can't really show every part of who we are. 

Other than race, mental violence also helped me to create this series and to focus on the idea that violence isn't always physical or perpetrated by someone else. Mental health issues, especially anxiety and depression, inspired me to show the inner war many of us fight daily with our own selves. We don't think of these attacks on ourselves as violence but the long-lasting effects they leave on us and our self-esteem are proof that it is a type of violence--and that it is important for us to recognize it as this in order to combat it. 

The final element that inspired me to create the series was the massive issue of rape. After reading the play "I Dream Before I Take the Stand" by Arlene Hutton, I was frustrated by how widespread victim-blaming is in this play and how ten years after this play was written our society seems to continue to hold the same beliefs. Reading this amazing play was what really inspired me to do something against victim-blaming and show that instead of silencing victims, we need to encourage them to seek help and justice.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

After Beirut & Paris: Justice without Mercy?

By Craig Hovey

Last weeks horrific and deadly attacks in Beirut and Paris call first and foremost for silence. After Pearl Harbor, Dorothy Day began her column in the Catholic Worker by asking “shall we keep silent, or shall we speak? And if we speak, what shall we say?” Like the commendable silence of Job’s friends when they saw that his suffering was great, human tragedy of this sort and on this scale shocks us — the most human thing we can do is suffer with the sufferers and mourn with the mourners.
In the last few days we have been seeing a lot of different forms this solidarity takes. I was struck by this account in which a Parisian tells NPR’s David Greene how she opened her apartment to frightened mourners who had gathered in the street outside but who became alarmed when a loud sound went off:
DAVID GREENE: You brought 40 strangers into your apartment… who were just very afraid? 
JULIE MARKS: Yeah … I said, of course, come in. I mean, being friendly is all we have now. Having compassion, it's all we have now because if we just keep being afraid and being lonely and alone, you know, an individual, we have lost everything.
This initial burst of spontaneous mutual support and compassion for strangers, born of the mayhem of the last few days, is impressive. It is the spirit of nonviolence: discovering the community-building alternatives that meet needs and build people up.

But it also contrasts with the long-term war-planning coming out of the French government. Inevitably, it seems—as with Job’s friends—the talk will change from openness and solidarity to explanations and calls for justice, punishment, and revenge. Dorothy Day went on from her initial silence to affirm her organization’s commitment to nonviolence in the remainder of her column, “Our Country Passes from Undeclared War to Declared War; We Continue Our Christian Pacifist Stand.”

The nonviolence tradition with which I most identify is a faith tradition that, in an earlier time, preferred the language of nonresistance to nonviolence, peace, and even justice. Nonresistance was a way of talking about refusing to respond in kind: hatred for hatred, violence for violence. The cycles of reprisal and revenge, it was acknowledged, would go on indefinitely until they are decisively and peaceably broken when one side embraces an alternative instead.

This tradition, and ones like it, have always faced their toughest opposition when nonresistance appears simply to be inadequate to some injustice, usually in wartime. Speaking about nonresistance in times like this feels a lot like speaking as Job’s friends: unwelcome and ill-timed.

Yet I believe it is necessary to speak, primarily since others are speaking too. French president Fran├žois Hollande has called these terrorist attacks “an act of war” against France. The decision to call these acts “war” is the choice to respond to violence with violence rather than find other ways, ways to break the cycle. Hollande, we have heard, has promised a “merciless response” to the attacks.

War may not only be waged mercilessly, but it is also itself a response devoid of mercy. After Pearl Harbor, Dorothy Day acknowledged that war is a place and a circumstance where mercy is most needed. “Our works of mercy may take us into the midst of war.” She urged members of her organization to refuse to contribute to the fighting, but instead to look for ways to continue works of mercy where there are especially great risks because the needs are also so great.

Nonviolence does not mean being passive in the face of violence and injustice. It requires our greatest innovation and creativity in addressing the serious troubles endured by victims and which threaten to make victims out of yet others. What it will not do is withhold mercy in order to accomplish its ends.

Craig Hovey is executive director of the Ashland Center for Nonviolence.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Identities: Murderer

By Emily Wirtz

Every one of us has an identity. Every one of us also has an ethnicity, a race, a gender, a class, and a past. How we choose to identify ourselves may or may not be one of those categories. Unfortunately, all too often a stereotype arises from something that makes us who we are. Our race becomes our label, or our gender, sexuality, class, etc. and those labels become how we are identified—not how we identify ourselves. All too often a black man is perceived to have a gun in his pocket instead of a checkbook. A woman dressed in old sweats is perceived to have a food stamps card instead of a teaching license. A man on the streets is seen as a lazy addict instead of a man with a Ph.D. and a family to feed.

On October 8, visiting artist Traci Molloy spoke in the Ridenour lecture hall—and she filled the house. As her presentation went on, it was clear that the information she was sharing with us was a powerful message she shared through her art. She considers herself as much a social activist as an artist, and I would have to agree. One of the first pieces she shared was a series entitled “Kids that Kill Kids.”


From this series came a variety of portraits and overlapping text. One piece that stood out to me in particular was one named “Missed/Dismissed.” Its display contains a series of mugshot-style portraits of both victims and perpetrators on death row. Each portrait is equally whitewashed, and the text plaques on either side are statements made by the mother of a murdered child and by the mother of a child who committed murder. The grief is the same. It is the same humanity captured within the art and the words it speaks.

If we were to look at a portrait of a sad 17-year-old, wouldn’t our immediate thought be of a child? But, if we were to look at the mug shot of a 17-year-old on death row, knowing that he had murdered a child, would we still think of him as a child? Would we have the heart to forgive him or would we condemn him? These are the exact questions that Traci’s art seeks to make us ponder. They aren’t easy questions to answer; how much worse it must be for their mothers! Perhaps this piece deals less with stereotypes and more with morality, but “murderer” and “victim” have become these children’s labels. Those are their identities—she seeks to challenge this. Nothing is black and white. Even the portraits have grey areas.

Emily Wirtz is an ACN Peace Scholar and Intern.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

What We Didn’t Talk About - Race and Diversity

By Maria Cardona

On a chilly fall Wednesday night at 7:40, 7 shots are heard in downtown Ashland. A single bullet strikes a Chinese restaurant where outside, a group of Americans and Asians stood conversing. The shots startle and frighten the group as a car drives away somewhere between the Church and West Second street intersection. Relief washes over the group; no one was harmed.

Four days go by. The buzz about the seemingly random shooting has died down quite a bit, when suddenly email alerts go off everywhere. Staff and students from the University all open up an email and concern and fear takes hold of them. The vagueness of it all inspires fright in the community worried about themselves and the rest of the student body.

It is then all revealed in multiple news reports: The shooting was not as random as previously thought but an act of racial violence. While it has become clear that the victims of this horrid crime are Asians, many questions are left unanswered. Who would do such a thing? Why would they do it in the first place? And, is everyone truly safe?

More news reports surface and suspects are taken into custody, but three words stick out from the page: charges are pending. Seph Valentine, a 32 year old and Tammy Lunsford, 54 have been apprehended and the community is alerted that once more, we are safe. But in reality, are we?

With no knowledge of charges being brought up yet, and the disconcerting revelation that Valentine had been convicted in 2010 after “making and leaving homemade bombs in public places,” (Mansfield News Journal) how could we feel truly safe? We were being pushed back into the bubble of the safe, small town dream, but this only filled us with a false sense of security.

While it is true that Valentine did serve out his sentence, and stronger charges were not pressed because the bombs were not capable of detonation, Valentine still intended for these to function properly and harm others. As I read the article from the Mansfield News Journal, an important piece of the puzzle is uncovered. Valentine is a schizophrenic which might give some insight into why he’s committed these crimes but the article concludes by stating that “during his 2010 trial, he was declared competent to stand trial.” Unsettling feelings resurface once more as it’s clear that his condition is no excuse.

Multiple articles on the shooting spread through social media like wildfire as the students vocalize their concern, yet by Wednesday/Thursday it seems as if the buzz has died down. I came into this short class week expecting students and/or professors to reference the violence that had ensued just 0.6 miles from our campus, but nothing was said.

Classes went on as normal and professors expressed that they hoped we had a “nice fall break,” but the shooting went by completely unspoken of. It was jarring to me and some of my fellow students to realize that we were apparently going to ignore this. We seemed perfectly content with the news that suspects were apprehended and we were “out of danger,” but are we truly in the clear?

If 5 years ago this man had committed a crime and after 3½ years in prison he committed another, what’s to say that Valentine won’t do it again and again? And if not Valentine, what’s to say that someone else won’t come into our small town and commit a crime of a similar nature? Our false sense of security and the fact that we keep our guard down because “it’s Ashland” paints a huge, red target on our town.

I am not suggesting that we should live in constant fear and are plagued by paranoia of crime being around the corner, but we need to stop using “it’s Ashland” as an excuse. Yes, we live in a small town. Yes, most of the time it’s calm and quiet. But we can’t ignore the days when it’s not.

Perhaps there is more to us ignoring this than just the belief that we are safe in our small town bubble. It is clear to anyone that our campus is mostly Caucasian students, and perhaps it is the lower rates in diversity that we experience that bring about this carelessness. While I do not claim that it is intentional, some students might have ignored the facts because it didn’t directly affect them.

However, what happens in our community happens to all of us. We need to stand together; worry together, and more importantly we can’t sweep the issues under the rug and pretend they’re not there. An important conversation needs to take place, I believe, on race and discrimination.

Many are blind to racism nowadays because they see racism as something overt, but that is not the racism of our day. While clearly the shooting was an obvious racial attack, it is microagressions that plague our world today. Unless we learn to recognize these and talk about race openly and respectfully, we will make no progress.

So let’s talk about race and racism, let’s talk about microagressions, and let’s talk about prejudice. Let’s clear up some stereotypes, let’s love each other for who we are instead of what we look like. Ashland University has a growing diversity rate and these students are not different from anyone else. We are all AU Eagles so let’s talk about this shooting and move forward, stronger and more united than ever before.

Maria Cardona is a junior at Ashland University and an intern with the Ashland Center for Nonviolence.