Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Your Roots are Calling

Please watch this short film of Mari Boine talking about her Laestadian roots. If you aren't familiar with her music, this is one of her more famous songs, Kuula Kuule (hear, hear).
Hear hear girl, boy  
Your roots are calling for you.
This summer, my roots called and I answered, big time. It was life-changing. How exactly, remains to be seen.

I planned to stay three weeks, and ended up staying four. After two days in Stockholm, I visited Luleå, Boden, Övertorneå, and Pajala (where I toured the Laestadius museum and met the town's first female Lutheran priest), Jukkasjärvi (where one of my ancestors was a Sàmi shaman), and Kiruna (where my great-aunt, a nurse who never married and devoted her life to the poor, has a street named after her). In Tärendö, I had the joy of listening to a jazz pianist play in the very room my ancestors were baptized and married in. I stopped briefly in Gällivare for Indian food, and spent two magical days in Jokkmokk (with a midnight-sun drive to Nattavaara) before heading south again. After several days in Uppsala, I took the ferry to Helsinki, and did a grand tour of Mikkeli, Savonlinna, Kerimäki, Heinävesi, Seinajoki, Ylistaro, and Vaasa.

The only thing I'd change? More time.

I found both countries, and all of Sàpmi, breathtakingly beautiful. The weather, mid-July to mid-August, was perfect, with just enough rain to make rainbows. It seemed sometimes as if I were in a dream, where anything could happen. More than once I was taken by surprise, being in the right place at the right time to see something delightful. As if the ancestors were sprinkling fairy dust and opening doors wherever I went.

If your roots are calling for you, listen. If I can help you plan a trip (or better yet, be your tour guide) send me a message.

To be continued . . .

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Rape Culture in Tysford and Elsewhere

Odd Fagerjord spokesman for the Læstadian church in Norway.  Photo: TERJE MORTENSEN, VG
Odd Fagerjord spokesman for the Læstadian church in Norway. Photo: TERJE MORTENSEN, VG PHOTO: TERJE MORTENSEN , VG
Rape culture, an academic term referring to the normalization of sexual violence, is all over the news since the Stanford rape case went public, and not a moment too soon. Perhaps this is a watershed moment, when our country is finally waking up to the fact that sexual assaults, even with eyewitnesses, DNA proof, and unanimous felony convictions, are still considered "minor" offenses by many, including those we've vested with the power to render justice, like the Santa Clara County judge who is facing a recall effort.

The Stanford victim's statement to her attacker has been shared widely online; if you haven't read it, I encourage you to do so. Given what we know, who among us would recommend a victim pursue justice through the courts?

I don't know what the court system is like in Norway, but in the village of Tysford (a largely-Firstborn Laestadian community), a series of articles on sexual abuse speaks to a similar desire to stop the insanity. The victims' stories are so familiar, and heartbreaking.

Will a public conversation help Tysford's Laestadian leaders reconsider their role in interviewing victims and reporting crimes?

Will the Stanford case help us consider how we ourselves contribute to rape culture?

Or will we shrug and say "it happens everywhere."

That sexual abuse is universal does not mean it is insoluble. That we are not abusers ourselves does not absolve us of a responsibility to prevent abuse.

We can take a clue from the two Swedish bicyclists, Peter and Carl-Fredrik, on the Stanford campus that day. They did not look the other way, they questioned what was going on, they prevented the attacker from escaping, they did not accept his explanation, they did not suggest he consult a spiritual authority. They didn't debate among themselves whether it was legal to force oneself on someone else. They called the police.