Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Blind Spot of Non-Partisan and Non-Denominational Event Planning

I read the list below to my husband this morning, and he commented that he wondered what would happen if he wore his favorite camo shirt and Trump hat to the event.  If you are like me, I had this knee jerk reaction—“Why would you be so partisan? Are you looking for trouble?  Can’t you see what they are trying to do?”

He laughed out loud.  “They are doing the same thing!”

Now of course, a very “interesting” conversation ensued.  I want to invite you into that conversation now.  If you are very honest with yourself, it can be an eye-opener.  Here is the mission statement and list I read to my husband:

WIMN is a nondenominational nonpartisan celebration of healing and listening through the arts which unite us heart-to-heart with oneness and compassion.
·  Artistic talent in the form of paintings, photos, reproductions of posters, drawings relative to peace, tolerance, and community could be displayed and offered for purchase by the artist if so desired via easels...
·  Peace T-shirts designed will be available for purchase
·  Neck massage
·  Peace mural
·  Drumming Circle
·  Thunder Bay Theatre
·  Crafts for the young at heart sponsored by Home Depot...assisted by the Boy Scouts? 
·  Girls Scouts...materials to make peace signs, dove with olive branch, or????  
·   Strolling musicians.
·  Glass Bottom boat ride drawing
·  Marine Sanctuary educational booth
·  Gratitude Yoga session Chair Yoga
·  Face Painting...?
·  Henna Tattoos
·  Award winning films from U-tube
·  Balloon art

Information tables:
·  Native American
·  Environmental information
·  Marine Sanctuary

Look carefully at the mission statement and the list of activities, and ask yourself the following questions:
      What does the peace symbol or a dove with an olive branch actually mean to different religious and political groups?  No, I don’t mean its academic meaning. I am referring to that knee-jerk, gut level feeling that good symbols evoke.  How is this different from wearing a conservative slogan at this event or a symbol that has deep meaning for folks who are more conservative, and who think their symbol applies equally to all?  What is the blessing and danger of such symbol sets when we assume they apply to everyone equally?

2.       What do physical activities such as yoga, henna tattoos, massage and drum circles convey to the full spectrum of religious and political groups?  Again, you aren’t passing judgement about whether an activity is right or wrong—you are only using empathy and a feeling sense to define how others might respond to these “symbol” words. I am a yoga teacher and have been wildly excited about a drumming circle coming up on Sunday at a local church, so recognize this as the hard work it is. Consider each event separately—what do you see?

3.       Look at the larger entities who are participating—theater, water sanctuary, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Native American table, Environmental Information table, Art in the Loft. Look at them one by one because they will not all fall into the same category.  Again ask, what is the public face of these groups? How do both liberal and conservative and “folks in the middle” respond to these organizations as such?  If you had to “label” the group as conservative or liberal or truly somewhere in the middle, be ready to defend why you say this.  Literally try to stand in the other's shoes as you do this!

4.       Now, look at the mission statement.  Does your analysis of the activities, information tables and symbol sets truly reflect “nondenominational nonpartisan celebration of healing and listening through the arts which unite us heart-to-heart with oneness and compassion”? And even more interesting to me—what symbol sets, activities and information tables would better reflect the mission statement? I think events such as this one are lovely. I glow participating in them.  I’m personally giddy and happy it’s happening in a little northern Michigan town and I applaud the love and effort behind it.  But we need to own who is really being served by the event and either 1) be honest about who is really being called to participate or 2) embrace that only certain segment of the population will meet for this event and don’t try to cloak it as nondenominational and nonpartisan. That’s where honesty and integrity begins and that’s the only way true change will ever happen.

Blessings, Right and Left and Middle,

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