Veterans Reclaim Armistice Day is a panel discussion event moderated by NPR National Correspondent Kelly McEvers, part of the Spirit & Place Festival and sponsored by the Vonnegut Memorial Library, on Saturday November 8. The theme of this event merges the world of the arts with military service, namely how reaching to the arts and humanities helps vets cope with combat and service related issues post discharge, once life after war has commenced. I am honored to be joining in as emcee at this meaningful event as a marine mom, in honor of my son who served and in honor of all the sons and daughters who serve. Do What You Have to Do, my essay published in This I Believe - On Motherhood (2012), and my HuffPost article In Support of Art as Alternate Non-Violent Means of Expression expound on my platform, which has afforded me this wonderful opportunity. After thanking sponsors and before introducing our esteemed moderator, I will have a precious opportunity to share my story and cause.
My goal is to help build on this nuanced awareness, which is intended to walk hand-in-hand with increased mental health awareness and proactivity.
I speak also for myself as one who has reached to the arts as both a personal cathartic outlet and the foundation of a societal contribution I wish to make via advocacy. What I write is for anyone out there who might benefit from shared personal experience - a beautiful, fundamental role the written word plays for all authors and all readers/listeners. The nutshell message is simply this: we are never as alone as we might at times feel. Through arts-based expression, the pen or the paintbrush or the stage or the songbook are not only a means to one's immortality and artistic legacy, they are our bridges to each other.
Society, however optimistically poised it tends to be, cannot realistically rely on "fixing" everyone, for that is not how we diverse and complex humans were intended to be. Especially in this country, we also deal with macrophagic, shareholder-driven medical and pharmaceutical industries whose profit motives and bottom-line machinations only render them less reliable and trustworthy. Outcomes focusing only on the idealized repairing of all "broken" or "non-normal" minds and personalities (as deemed by whom?) are as naive and closed-minded as they are, in the end, costly. On all levels. Our "ills," our "issues" - quirks to quagmires - facet us and make us brilliantly unique and are a part of the individuality that makes us the interesting species that we are. It's what we do with what we are handed and the choices we make when confronting the most difficult aspects of ourselves that make us who we are and that, under the right circumstances, can be manifested in creative mile markers, not destruction - and even moments of genius.
By keeping the arts as accessible to all as is possible, by fostering a less violent and more creative social climate, we will promote peaceful assertion and non-violent confidence building. School environments and educational performance will benefit through the well-documented improvements that occur when creativity and the arts are incorporated into curricula. Perhaps schools, the most tragic theaters of violent demonstration of all, will become safer places again.
And by providing arts-based avenues and outlets for extreme expression and rejecting the blanket, agenda-driven censorship of demagogues, we will provide alternate means by which to externalize the darkest inner storms of emotion and pain, alternatives to violence and the intentional destruction of place, self or others. We would do well to remember the furor over Elvis and his pelvis, Mozart's Marriage of Figaro, Edvard Munch and his Screams, Isadora Duncan, Kurt Vonnegut, N.W.A., Madonna, Eminem.... Art is the original shock and awe.
Through support for and access to the arts, we give each and every member of society the opportunity to evolve through their expressiveness, no matter how contrary it might be, for in confronting and coming to understand the expression, we are not struck down but allowed to move forward together.