Examining My Assumptions About Money, Wealth, Possessions

I have come to understand that how mainstream U.S. culture has taught me to think about money, wealth and possessions (that is, to highly value those things and to desire them increasingly more and more) as something that is likely to promote violence. The reason that I say this, is because of how I ‘heard’ a Native American view, which was the expressed opposition to overvaluing money. Specifically, Aleck Paul, a Chippewa, explained in Our Stock of  Food and Clothes (Nabokov, 1999, pp. 85-87.)

When the white people came, they commenced killing all the game. They left nothing on purpose to breed and keep up the supply, because the white man don’t care about the animals. They are after the money. After the white man kills all of the game in one place he can take the train and go three hundred miles or more to another and do the same there (Nabokov, 1999, p. 86.).

What Mr. Paul was expressing was that when the European immigrants came into Chippewa territory, they would exploit the resources without regard for maintaining environmental sustainability. Their only concern was to make as much profit as possible from their exploitations of the environment, and then move on to do the same elsewhere once the resources were depleted. This was different than the Chippewa way.

In contrast to this sort of environmentally devastating behavior, Mr. Paul explained that the Chippewa act differently. They do not need government regulation concerning hunting. This is because the Chippewa “must protect the game or starve,” Paul said (Nabokov, 1999, p. 87.).  In other words, the Chippewa people do not need governmental regulation because they act with self-regulation.

After gaining this Native American perspective on resource management, I question the assumptions that I have learned about the capitalistic ideals of competition and profit and consumption. I now see that if a person’s priority is to ‘get ahead’, and get wealthy, that person may be too focused on those goals in order to be able to see that such actions are detrimental in the long term. Therefore, when a society is culturally taught to overvalue wealth, competition and consumption – and especially acquiring beyond one’s need, it is likely that resources will be depleted in such a way that others are unable to have their needs met. Then, unmet needs increase competition such that conflict is likely to result – thus the need for governance.

In essence, what I have concluded from Mr. Paul’s story is that when people act with self-regulation there is likely to be less conflict and less need for other-governance. Yet, if some people are competing in order to get ahead, those who self-regulate will be ‘left behind’. This too can cause conflicts. Therefore, self-regulation promotes peace only when everyone self-regulates. The two different life-ways are incompatible.


Nabokov, P. (1999). Native American testimony: a chronicle of Indian-white relations from prophecy to the present, 1492-2000. Penguin Group USA.

© Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog, 2013-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Reflections on the Meaning of Peace

Yesterday was Memorial Day in the U.S. On Memorial Day each year, countless numbers of folks display their “American” flags, and they gather together at parades, picnics and other get-togethers in order to remember and honor the nation’s veterans who have passed on as the result of their service to our country and its mission of freedom and security. Generally speaking, our society instructs us that those veterans gave their lives in order to secure and spread the ideals of a peaceful democracy that we may live life free. Therefore, for the most part, many of us tend to think of ourselves as citizens of a rather benevolent nation, where values of living in peace and harmony prevail.

Yet, living in peace and harmony are virtues to which many of us aspire but few of us achieve. Instead, we engage much of our lives in competition and conflict. For example, when we are young, we often engage in sibling rivalry, and we begin to learn our exclusionary social tactics by grouping ourselves together in cliques at school. Additionally, we learn to compete with each other in our academics, in sports activities, and in our consumption patters – forever seeking to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ even when we are too young to know that this is what we are doing. We learn this competitive attitude and behavior when we are young, and we work to perfect it in order to “compete in the marketplace of America”, as political commentator Bill O’Reilly has so eloquently named our purpose and way of life (O’Reilly, n.d.). Our way of life, for the most part, then, consists of maintaining social exclusions, competition between individuals and between groups of people, and because of this, a great deal of social injustice results, and this leads to conflicts between people, not peace and harmony.

Personally, I have become tired and emotionally and spiritually drained from an ever increasingly competitive environment that is rife with social conflicts. Certainly, I tell myself again and again, there must be a better way. It was two years ago, when I decided to learn about ‘another way’ and decided to go to college in order to do so. It had occurred to me, at that time, that most of mainstream U.S. culture is built upon stories of competition, conflict and domination, as evidenced in our very profitable and rather violent entertainment and sports industries, for example. I wanted to learn about what I thought of at that time as the ‘hidden peace stories’ – those stories that did not have the exciting appeal of a conflict or combat (and therefore they gain little media attention) but are essential, to my way of thinking, of passing on cultural knowledge of how people can act in order to get along with one another in a peaceful and harmonious way.

At that time, it was my intention to engage in what I thought of as ‘Peace Studies’. When I told folks that it was my intention to learn ‘peace studies’ almost no one knew what I was talking about. I explained that what I had in mind was learning about interpersonal skills of conflict resolution, conflict transformation, conflict management, peace building, and peacekeeping. I did not know much about the field of Peace Studies, either. I discovered that only a few colleges and universities offer studies in peace. No wonder our ideas about peace and how to achieve it are sometimes rather ambiguous. This reinforced my idea that there was a great need for this sort of education, for both myself and for others.

Through my own research, I discovered that Peace Studies, as an academic discipline, began in the 1950’s in the aftermath of World War II. The focus at that time was on international wars and their prevention, but the field has been expanding in scope ever since it began. Currently, the approach to peace studies may take different paths depending on the lens with which the topic of peace is examined. Two common approaches include that of dealing with the politics of war and the effective means for its prevention, while another related method is concerned with the causes of social conflict and its effective management and/or resolution or transformation (What is Peace Studies, n.d.). There is a wide breadth concerning approaches to the academic field of peace studies and one’s approach may take place at the interpersonal, societal, or the international level, depending upon the focus one wishes to explore. I prefer approaching the topic of peace studies at the interpersonal level.

For certain, the concept of peace means different things to different folks. Perhaps the most common idea concerning peace is that it is a state of social harmony that is characterized by the absence of conflict, violence, or war. I used to think this way. This notion of peace is sometimes referred to as negative peace, as described by sociologist Johan Galtung, the founder of peace and conflict studies. Yet the components of negative peace are only a fraction of what peace is, because in order to achieve a sustainable state of social harmony, it is also necessary to address the reasons for social unrest that lead to conflict, violence and war.

It is important to understand that power and wealth disparity are major causes of societal unrest in the world, whether it is at the level of interpersonal relationships, larger group and community interactions, or increasingly (because of globalization) at the national and global level. Much of the power and wealth disparity that exists in the world is a result of social and economic systems that have been in place since the time of Western European wars and colonial expansion into other nations. These social and economic systems have resulted in systemic power and privilege imbalances, and are often described as racism, sexism, classism, ageism, nationalism, and many more ‘isms’, which are now deeply embedded into our society.

These unequal systems of power and privilege easily develop into systems of domination, resulting in indirect structural violence, where some groups of people are able to profit greatly while others are left in conditions of suffering and despair. Many times, these situations of unequal power and privilege erupt into physical violence, such as what took place during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s in the U.S. and more recently in the Occupy Wall Street Movement. I now know that if the human race is to achieve living together in peace and harmony, we must not only eliminate physical violence, but we must promote what Galtung named positive peace, by working toward a greater degree of equality and social justice for all.

Social justice recognizes a shared humanity. It also values diversity. Social justice promotes a positive and sustainable peace, by ensuring that all people have access to food and clean drinking water, security from physical harm and psychological harm, education for all, including for women and children, and other inviolable human rights. Social justice demands the consideration of human rights for all, and it works to balance competing demands for “needs, desert, and equality within and between societies”while balancing between joint responsibilities of both societies and of individuals (What is Social Justice, n.d.). Social justice addresses concepts of fairness at the macro social level by making the systems and structures of society more equitable. Therefore, in order to achieve a sustainable and lasting peace in society, it is necessary to move from unjust social systems to more just social systems, and this requires social change.

Collective action and social movements describe two methods that can be used to intentionally encourage social change. Collective action takes place in groups and describes behaviors such as a protest marches, political rallies, and the signing of petitions, for example. Mahatma Gandhi used this type of direct confrontation to or noncooperation with oppression as he worked to gain independence from the control of Great Britain for the nation of India and he called this method satyagraha or obstructive program (n.d.). When this type of group activity is purposeful, organized, and institutionalized, collective action then becomes what is known as a social movement.

The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and 1960s was also led by a nonviolent obstructive program strategy. Nonviolence embraces a core belief that it is fundamentally irrational to use violence to achieve a peaceful society, and additionally it asserts that just means must be used in order to achieve a just end. Furthermore, nonviolence is a method of achieving social change by encouraging respectful dialogue and negotiation as a means for problem solving. Finally, nonviolence is a method of intentionally bringing about social justice by working to create an awareness of people’s unmet needs, and also by creating new systems and structures designed to meet those needs.

Nonviolent systems and structures are types of constructive programs ( n.d.)that are designed to replace the current unjust arrangement. They might include those that meet basic needs such as food, clean water, clothing and shelter for all. They could possibly be concerned with environmental sustainability. They might provide education and healthcare for all. They could also encompass more just economic systems that provide needed jobs and fair wages. Programs that include cultural awareness can reduce intercultural conflict while promoting the value of and the sharing of cultural knowledge. They might embrace nonviolent communication, or alternative dispute resolution programs such as mediation and conflict resolution programs. Or they may be ‘new’ ways of thinking about and addressing ‘criminal justice’ and involve strategies of restorative justice and restorative practices as an alternative to retributive justice and incarceration. Programs that encompass teaching about trauma healing (including the transformation of historical harms) and forgiveness can increase psychological wellbeing. There are many ways in which one can approach working toward a more peaceful future. Non-violent methods of constructive program, because of their intention to meet human needs and promote a more just society, are methods that are perfectly suited to promote not only social change, but also more specifically, social justice and consequently, a lasting social peace.

Over time, my ideas concerning what the notion of peace is, have been evolving to compare with the ideologies of many indigenous cultures, and that of nonviolence, constructive program, and especially in developing language skills (because the way we conceptualize our world is closely connected to our use of language) in non-violent communication. To my way of thinking, we may be best able to achieve a greater degree of social justice, and therefore peace and harmony by gaining theoretical knowledge and practical skills in the field of non-violent social change. What is most important to me is the notion of positive peace – a peace that focuses on a greater degree of social equality and justice for all. Ultimately to me, peace involves ‘right relationships’ with the Earth and with one’s neighbors including even one’s ‘enemies’.


Constructive Program. (n.d.). Metta center for nonviolence. Retrieved from http://mettacenter.org/definitions/obstructive-program/

Obstructive Program. (n.d.). Metta center for nonviolence. Retrieved from http://mettacenter.org/nonviolence/satyagraha/

O’Reilly on America’s Race Problem. (n.d.). CNS News. Retrieved from http://m.cnsnews.com/video/national/oreilly-americas-race-problem#.U4QILgIpOdI.facebook

What is Peace Studies? (n.d.). University of Louisville. Retrieved from http://louisville.edu/peace/academic-programs/peace-studies

What is Social Justice? (n.d.) Appalachian State University department of government and justice studies. Retrieved from http://gjs.appstate.edu/social-justice-and-human-rights/what-social-justice

© Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog, 2013-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Forgiveness in Native-American Experience

Experiences of loss, slight and compromise are common occurrences to many native people in nations that were conquered as a result of the Western European colonial expansion that began in the 16th century.  For example, in what is now known as the United States of America, many native people(s) experienced situations of genocide, ethnic cleansing and forced assimilation as a consequence of this social change.  The anger that has resulted from these injuries has made it difficult for Native-Americans to experience a process of forgiveness as a response to the harm they continue to suffer.

One group of Native-Americans that experienced great loss was the Dakota people.  During the 17th century, Manifest Destiny, the Euro-American principle that the United States were destined by God to expand the virtues of empire across North America, was used to promote an acceleration of territorial expansion.  As a result of this expansion, the native peoples were forced to move to and live on ‘reservations’.  The land of the Dakota tribes became the Dakota Territory on March 2, 1861, until November 2, 1889, when the final portion of the then reduced territory was admitted to the union as the states of North and South Dakota.

During this time period, there were many conflicts and struggles between the native people and the pioneers.  Most notable were the U.S. – Dakota Conflict that took place on December 26, 1862 and the Wounded Knee Massacre that took place on December 29, 1890.  The U.S. – Dakota Conflict was the “largest mass execution in U.S. history” when “thirty-eight Dakota warriors were executed (Dowlin & Dowlin, 2002).”  At the Wounded Knee Massacre, hundreds of Lakota Native-Americans were killed and at least twenty U.S. soldiers were awarded The Medal of Honor, the U.S. military’s highest honor for their military action (Green, J., n.d.).  The Dakota people experienced immeasurable loss from these events: They were removed from their homeland, their way of life was forever changed, and there was a loss of trust between the Dakota people and the non-Dakota people.

youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tG7hEVUCwiU&w=420&h=315

The loss to Native-American people is not only an historical occurrence, because loss from these events continues to this present day.  For example, as portrayed in Native American Survival Challenge:  Forgiveness v. Anger (One sky above us: The West, 1996), Albert White Hat (1938-2013), a Lakota man and teacher of Lakota language, at 16 years of age, was sent to St. Francis Jesuit Mission School, a boarding school.  Before that time, he grew up in his traditional Lakota culture ‘of stories’.  The purpose of the boarding school system was to force assimilation of Native-Americans to the dominant mainstream U.S. culture.  The students were not allowed to practice their traditions or speak their native language.  The boarding school system “killed those stories”, and with them, the Lakota culture, and for Albert White Hat, shame resulted (One sky above us: The West, 1996).  In this way, the loss experienced by the Lakota people, as a result of Western European imperialistic economic expansion, is unending.

For Native-American people, individually and as communities, forgiveness is difficult because they experience daily the injustices they currently endure.  Albert White Hat spoke of policy and laws that were imposed on Native-Americans by the white-man’s government and their schools.  These policies and laws, such as the 1851 Treaty in which the ‘Sioux’ tribes lost most of their land, were created with intention to destroy the native people and their culture, and appropriate native people’s land and resources for capitalistic gain to the benefit of non-native U.S. citizens.  In this way, Native-Americans and their culture and history were systematically excluded from mainstream U.S. culture and society.   Native-American people live daily with the injustices imposed upon them by mainstream U.S. culture and its government and policies, and therefore, forgiveness is an ongoing process that, as Albert White Hat said, will not end for hundreds of years (One sky above us: The West, 1996).  Forgiveness is difficult because of the ongoing hardship that must be endured as the result of loss of home, loss of way of life, and a loss of trust, but also because of the shame that results from the oppression imposed on them by a dominating culture.

Shame is a feeling of dishonor, and it is the opposite of self-respect.  Dakota and Lakota people feel shame as a result of living with a morally incompatible lifestyle and belief system that was and is imposed on them by another dominating culture.  The shame experienced through the oppression of a dominating morally incompatible worldview (a moral conflict) presents itself in a different sort of societal relations understanding and expression.

One illustration of incompatible expression is in the worldviews of the Dakota people in contrast to that of the U.S. government, and this is what eventually led to the U.S. – Dakota Conflict.  The Dakota worldview includes a certain understanding and expression of the notion of ‘relatedness’ as it pertains to ‘family’, ‘friends’, ‘father’ and ‘land’ (Dowlin & Dowlin, 2002.).  This is especially important to know in order to understand the Dakota notions of the ‘fatherly’ role of the U.S. government.  From the Dakota perspective, according to Anderson, as cited by Dowlin & Dowlin (2002), “fathers always willingly shared whatever they possessed with their children” and in contrast, the Euro-American use of the word father “means an authoritative, controlling relationship.”  This difference in worldviews concerning family relatedness explains how the territory treaty signing symbolized different meanings for these two groups.

The Dakota and the non-Dakota people held conflicting worldviews as expressed through their definitions and assumptions concerning the concept of ‘relatedness’.  The U.S. government understood the expression of treaty signing “as a way to dominate the Dakota and gain possession of the continent” and by this, the “Dakota were left with confined living areas (reservations), restricted activities, and eventually unfulfilled promises of needed provisions (Dowlin & Dowlin, 2002).”  The Dakota people likely felt resentment and anger due to the fact that they were misunderstood and therefore deceived in such a way that they now lacked self-respect because they lived in a degrading and shameful situation of relative helplessness and poverty.

In a similar way, theses two incompatible worldviews presented themselves in the expression of spoken language.  This was evident when Albert White Hat discussed how the oppressive boarding school system did not allow the students to speak their own language, and insisted on the use of the English language instead (One sky above us: The West, 1996).  The impact to Albert White Hat was that, because of the moral conflict in this situation, he felt shame and an overwhelming anger and he held onto that anger for many years.  At one point in his life, he felt that he had no choice but to kill members of the dominating oppressive culture in order to honor his ancestors.  For Albert White Hat, shame led to resentment, resentment led to anger, and anger led to thoughts of violence (as a way of regaining self-respect) and that blocked the path of forgiveness and healing.

Albert White Hat was feeling a great deal of shame, resentment and anger, and he was thinking violent thoughts, but deep down inside, what he really wanted was to live and to be happy.  He came to this awareness after spending some time fasting and meditating.  One day, when he rose in the morning and faced the East (which, in Native-American culture symbolizes renewal), he came to the realization that he did not want to follow a path of violence, but instead he felt that he deserved to live and to be happy (One sky above us: The West, 1996).  He knew that he had to forgive in order to do so.

As demonstrated in the experience of Albert White Hat, a state of un-forgiveness can be the source of many social ills including substance abuse, and by extension – spousal abuse, and even suicide.  An example of how forgiveness may help in the recovery of substance abuse, specifically that of alcoholism, is told by Sr. Molly Monahan, in her essay, Forgiveness in A.A (2008).  Sr. Monahan wrote that the stories of forgiveness, as told by fellow members of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), acted as “a faith that works” to heal.  She said that she heard of others’ experiences concerning the restorative powers of forgiveness. Then, when she reached step five of AA’s twelve-step recovery program, she experienced that she was, as were others, able to forgive not only the transgressions of others, but also her own transgressions.   She wrote that by this experience, she “came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity (Monahan, 2008).”  By this account, it appears that a state of un-forgiveness can perpetuate destructive addictive behavior, whereas a process of forgiving can be healing.

Furthermore, a 2011 study, Forgiveness, Depression, and Suicidal Behavior Among a Diverse Sample of College Students, suggested that forgiveness, as a voluntary “coping process . . .may buffer . . . poor mental health outcomes (Hirsch, Webb & Jeglic, 2011).”  The researchers concluded from their study that “forgiveness of self and others could be an important way to reduce the interpersonal distress and depressogenic ‘psychache’ that often precipitate a suicidal crisis (Hirsch, Webb & Jeglic, 2011).”  Therefore, it seems that if a state of un-forgiveness may be a source of social problems, it would be reasonable then, that forgiveness could be a way to resolve them.

An extraordinary example of forgiveness acting as a balm to heal social ills and moral conflict between Native-Americans and non-native people is documented in Healing History’s Wounds:  Reconciliation Communication Efforts to Build Community Between Minnesota Dakota (Sioux) and Non-Dakota Peoples (Dowlin & Dowlin, 2002.).  The authors of this paper begin their account with an explanation of a moral conflict, explaining how it existed and still exists between the Dakota people and non-Dakota people, and conclude the account with details concerning a model that aids a process of forgiveness and reconciliation that is currently in process between these two groups of people.

Dowlin and Dowlin (2002) detailed the moral conflict that existed between the Dakota and non-Dakota people.  They cited Pearce and Littlejohn concerning what takes place “when two incompatible social worlds collide” when they wrote,

1) Each side considers its own position vital and sees the adversary’s position as dangerous; 2) persons set aside feelings and beliefs that don’t fit easily with official positions and statements associated with their ‘‘side’’; 3) valid concerns on both sides are belittled, and important values are denigrated; 4) passion, energy, and material resources are depleted in fruitless and redundant battles; and 5) persons are left frustrated, turned-off, and despairing (Dowlin & Dowlin, 2002).

The moral conflict between the Dakota people and non-Dakota people cause people in both cultures to misunderstand and distrust one another, to avoid one another, to discount each other’s point of view, and to engage in costly conflict.

As illustrated above in the examples of what led to the U.S. – Dakota Conflict and the experience of Albert White Hat, the moral conflict between the Native-Americans and non-native people was evidenced by the incompatible understanding and expression of ‘relatedness’ in their differing worldviews.  Additionally, the colliding worldviews included different notions concerning power relations.  The Dakota maintained a relational, decentralized power structure, while in disharmony with Dakota values, the Euro-American model of power was a hierarchical and centralized system (Dowlin & Dowlin, 2002).  Because of these differences, the resulting initial response to one another was one of disgust (Dowlin & Dowlin, 2002.).  The resultant conflicts that ensued led to Native-Americans being forced by the dominant culture, to live in isolation on ‘reservations’.  It is clear to see in this situation how the ignorance concerning each other’s way of understanding, and how the negative feelings of resentment and distrust that each group held concerning one another could result.

In spite of the seemingly insurmountable dilemmas caused by clashing worldviews, the Dakota people and non-Dakota people are now beginning a process of sharing and learning, which is resulting in a movement toward understanding, healing and reconciliation between these groups of people.

Dowlin and Dowlin (2002) explained that this movement toward transformation began with the efforts of two men who met on a fishing trip in 1958, Amos Owen, a Dakota and Bud Lawrence, a non-native businessman.  They engaged in “on-going visits, lengthy conversations, shared experiences in the way of family get-togethers, and the eventual collaborative creation of communally shared Dakota and non-native activities, which contributed to increased mutual understanding and appreciation of each other’s culture and uniqueness (Dowlin & Dowlin, 2002.).”  This set the stage and a model of action that aids a process of forgiveness and reconciliation at the community, state and national level.

What began in 1963 as a mini-pow wow as an educational opportunity for children expanded to intentional acts demonstrating respect, honor and friendship and the promotion cultural learning opportunities.  It included a ninety mile walk by Lawrence and two other friends from his university in Mankato to Red Wing, Minnesota and another pow wow in reciprocation (Dowlin & Dowlin, 2002.).  These reciprocating communal events that demonstrated respect, honor and friendship, and offered educational opportunity continued and expanded and began a healing process between the Dakota and non-Dakota communities (Dowlin & Dowlin, 2002.).

Of special interest are the events that took place that served to commemorate the thirty-eight warriors who perished during the U.S. – Dakota Conflict.  First, Lawrence began a yearly observance to the thirty-eight lost warriors by going to Mankato to offer prayers for the fallen men each December 26th, the day of the massacre (Dowlin & Dowlin, 2002.).  Then a pow wow was planned and dedicated to the memory of the lost warriors and took place at the Mankato city ball park (Dowlin & Dowlin, 2002.).  The event was successful in that many showed up, but it was financially difficult to continue (Dowlin & Dowlin, 2002.).  Amazingly, a stunning occurrence happened just before the dancing began, thirty-eight bald eagles circled above the baseball field as if to “solidif[y] the understanding that Mankato events would commemorate the 38 executed Dakota (Dowlin & Dowlin, 2002).”

As a result of these happenings, efforts to continue community actions of “dialog, collaboration, and communally shared experiences” expanded even to the state level and beyond (Dowlin & Dowlin, 2002.). Especially notable is that Governor Rudy Perpich even proclaimed 1987 to be ‘The Year of Reconciliation’ in Minnesota in observance of the 125th anniversary of the 1862 U.S. – Dakota Conflict (Dowlin & Dowlin, 2002.).  The result of this effort is that the actions continued and expanded such that a ‘Year of Reconciliation’, a ‘Decade of Reconciliation’ and even a ‘Century of Reconciliation’ was declared outside of Minnesota borders, including actions taken by churches, schools, and governments, and these actions were further supported by the media (Dowlin & Dowlin, 2002.).

What began as a friendship between two men from very different cultural backgrounds expanded to a national level cross-cultural exchange.  What is being created by these types of events is a “place where dialogue, ‘new ceremonies,’ shared meanings, and shared histories [can] take place (Dowlin & Dowlin, 2002.).”  In other words, Native-American history, culture and experience are becoming more and more accepted elements of U.S. culture.

In fact, these same types of methods of reconciliation are now being used in the growing field of Peace and Justice and the practice of Restorative Justice.  One especially pioneering group of individuals that work in the Restorative Justice field is the Mennonite Anabaptists.  The Anabaptists are another group who have historically experienced situations of oppression and extermination by a dominating culture because of their different cultural beliefs.  Many individuals of their group were murdered for their religious beliefs during the Radical Reformation period of the Catholic Church that began during the sixteenth century in Germany and Switzerland, as documented in the Martyr’s Mirror (1994).  This is the group from which the Amish have descended.  Members of the Amish religious sect shocked ‘the world’ by their very quick forgiveness response to a tragic occurrence when an angry shooter killed five students and harmed five others at their Nickel Mines School, in Pennsylvania on October 2, 2006.  In the wake of this tragedy, the Amish community responded with forgiveness and kindness to the deceased shooter’s family.  In doing so, they practiced their deep faith in the ways of Jesus Christ by offering “forgiveness and actively making peace” as an “alternative to perpetual fear” and strife (Kasdorf, 2007.).   The Peace and Justice field and Restorative Justice programs are not forgiveness per se, yet they have similar elements of practice that result in relationship restoration and the healing from transgressions.

In Anabaptist circles, which include the peace churches of the Mennonites, the Amish, the Hutterites, and the Brethren in Christ, Howard Zehr is considered the ‘grandfather’ of the Restorative Justice practice in the field of Justice and Peacebuilding (Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online, n.d.) (Howard Zehr, n.d.).  The model of Restorative Justice that he advocates incorporates cultural values of both the Native-Americans and the Maori of New Zealand in his philosophy that includes the “core values” known “as three ‘R’s’ – respect, responsibility and relationships (Restorative Justice and Peacebuiding, n.d.).”  Zehr states that the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University “is organized around three central fields: trauma awareness and healing, conflict transformation and restorative justice. Several other auxiliary fields include healthy organizations and community development.  (Restorative Justice and Peacebuilding, n.d.)”  The methods used in the EMU Center for Peace and Justice programs mirror the methods currently being used by the Dakota people.

That the methods used by less dominant cultures are being studied and in turn now used by the dominant culture in order to create spaces for dialog, collaboration, and communally shared experiences in order to foster forgiveness and healing is encouraging.  As cited by Kazdorf (2007), David L. Weaver-Zercher affirmed the notion that “the Amish symbolically function as ‘a saving remnant’ within the dominant culture.  Perhaps this is true also for the Maori and the Native-American peoples and other non-dominant cultures, too.  Non-dominant cultures have been systematically oppressed and excluded even as they have so much to share with the people of the dominating culture; it is comforting that this is now changing.

To summarize, Native peoples experience a great deal of loss including negative social and health effects that are a result of a morally conflicting worldview imposed on them as a consequence of Western European colonial expansion.  The oppression they experience has, for many years, blocked the way of forgiveness and healing.  Yet, what began in the 1950s as a friendship between a Dakota man and a non-Dakota man has become a healing model that has expanded to a national level.  This model of reconciliation aids a process of forgiveness by using indigenous values in order to bring disparate groups together through communal events that demonstrate respect, honor and friendship, and offer educational opportunities as a way of fostering understanding and reconciliation among these people.  This is restoring self-respect for Native-Americans and allowing a space for healing.  These same methods are now being used in other peace and justice programs.  It is clear that the spiritual, emotional, and intellectual, effort that is required in order to understand and forgive transgressions may be key to achieving a world of greater justice and peace.


Dowlin, S. L., & Dowlin, B. (2002). Healing History’s Wounds: Reconciliation Communication Efforts to Build Community Between Minnesota Dakota (Sioux) and Non‐Dakota Peoples. Peace & Change, 27(3), 412-436.

Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. (n.d.). Global Anabaptist Mennonite encyclopedia online. [Web page] Retrieved from http://www.gameo.org/index.php?title=Welcome_to_GAMEO

Green, J. (n.d.). The medals of wounded knee. Nebraska history [Web page]. Retrieved from http://nebraskahistory.org/publish/publicat/history/full-text/NH1994MedalsWKnee.pd

Hirsch, J. K., Webb, J. R., & Jeglic, E. L. (2011). Forgiveness, depression, and suicidal behavior among a diverse sample of college students. Journal Of Clinical Psychology, 67(9), 896-906. doi:10.1002/jclp.20812

Howard Zehr. (n.d.). Howard Zehr. [Web page] Retrieved from https://www.emu.edu/personnel/people/show/zehr

Kasdorf, J. (2007). To Pasture: “Amish Forgiveness,” Silence, and the West Nickel Mines School Shooting. Cross Currents, 57(3), 328-347.

Monahan, M. (2008). Forgiveness in AA. (Cover story). Human Development, 29(2), 16-19.

One sky above us: The West, a film by Stephen Ives. (1996). Films On Demand. Retrieved February 24, 2014, from http://digital.films.com.library.esc.edu/PortalPlaylists.aspx?aid=1667&xtid=44418

Restorative Justice and Peacebuilding. (n.d.). Restorative justice and peacebuilding. [Web page]. Retrieved from http://emu.edu/now/restorative-justice/2009/04/20/restorative-justice-and-peacebuilding/#sthash.Rg3eb5D3.dpu

Van Braght, Thieleman J., and Thieleman J. Braght. Martyrs mirror. Herald Press, 1994.

© Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog, 2013-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review: Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most by Douglas Stone

Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters MostDifficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most by Douglas Stone

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Effective communication is important in daily life and in formal negotiations, yet conflict and therefore difficult conversations, is a normal part of human experience. For this reason, the need to learn successful communication skills so that we can better deal with the difficult conversations, which we all sometimes need to face, is quite clear. Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss what Matters Most (Stone, Patton & Heen, 2010) is the result of years of work at the Harvard Negotiation Project, whose mission is to improve the theory and practice of conflict resolution and negotiation. In this text, the authors have explored those things that make certain types of conversations difficult, why folks tend to avoid these difficult conversations, and why they sometimes tend to handle them poorly. Additionally, Stone, Patton and Heen have provided a communication method, a particular conversational style, to be used as a guide in order to develop one’s own conversation style in a way that improves one’s opportunity of obtaining better outcomes from difficult conversations. This book is effective in making conflict resolution theory real to its readers. The authors do this by examining the structure of and then decoding difficult conversations, they help readers to understand how to reposition their ‘stance’ to be more open, and they also offer metaphors and real-life examples to demonstrate clearly, the results of their research. This book is written in an easy-going conversational style that makes it simple for readers to follow and understand the elements of conflict negotiation theory that the authors share.

Difficult Conversations is a straightforward guide that can be used for gaining the skills that are crucial in order to better deal with difficult conversations, such as asking for a raise, terminating an employee, or discussing family conflicts. The intent of the authors was twofold. It was, on the one hand, to help individuals find a way to break through difficult relationship dilemmas, while on the other hand, it was to fill a broader organizational need for change and adaptation that is an intrinsic component of an ever increasingly competitive, technologically advanced, and globalized world. The roadmap that these authors used combines a way of thinking about the particular conflict issues with a certain manner of speaking and listening, or conversational style. The goal of this conversation style is that we may initially understand, to a greater degree than before, the complex nature of conflict, and then because of this we will be better positioned to begin a difficult conversation. Additionally, it is the authors’ intent that we learn how to do this while minimizing stress. It is also their purpose that we learn how to keep the conversation constructive and focused on effective outcomes that, many times, lead to real problem solving. The authors have described how these conflict resolution techniques may be effectively applied to both interpersonal relationships and how they may also be applied at an organizational level in order to shape improved difficult conversations.

One way that Stone, et al. (2010), make real the results of their research on the theories and practice of conflict resolution and negotiation is that they have ‘decoded’ the structure of difficult conversations, revealing that there is more to a difficult conversation than what one says and what one hears. This concept is explained as a difficult conversation actually being three separate conversations that take place simultaneously. They describe the ‘what happened’ conversation as one that involves disagreement between parties and as one that concerns what events took place. The feelings conversation is about uncovering and acknowledging the emotions of each party, while the identity conversation is an internal dialogue concerning what one wishes to believe, and what one wishes to present about himself/herself to others. In addition to the three conversations, the authors explain, there are also three stories running concurrently with these conversations. There is one story (and perspective) for each participant, plus a neutral story that sees and understands from a neutral point of view. Each of these stories contains its own version of the ‘what happened’ conversation, the feelings conversation, and the identity conversation. Examining the structure of a conflict reveals the many perspectives, the identity issues, and the need to have one’s feelings acknowledged. It also reveals that all of this is tied to each point of view. Finally, when all of these elements and perspectives are combined together, this makes up a more complete picture and understanding of reality than what one might otherwise consider without having applied the practice of conflict resolution methods. Understanding the structure of a difficult conversation helps one to develop a more neutral and realistic view of a difficult communication so that he or she may enter such a conversation in such a way that it has a better chance of being well received.

A second way that Stone, et al. (2010), make real conflict negotiation theory is by the use of metaphors. For instance, in their introduction to the book, they compared a difficult conversation to war, when they wrote that there is “no way to throw a hand grenade with tact or to outrun the consequences (p. xxx).” The metaphor they used paints a violent image of the conflicts that can sometimes arise from difficult conversations. This assists the readers to appreciate that how they choose to use their words is critically important. The metaphor helps readers to better realize that if used ineffectively, words might be construed as an attack.

Additionally, Stone, et al., also explain that in order to prevent a message from being interpreted as an attack, one can consider, and possibly adjust, one’s negotiation stance. They present having a difficult conversation as, not so much one of ‘delivering a message’, but instead as one in which folks are engaged in a ‘learning conversation’ instead. They illustrate the fundamentals of the learning conversation: the need to know the purpose for entering the conversation; the reasons why one should enter the conversation from a neutral perspective; the value of using good listening skills; the importance of expressing oneself clearly; and finally, the goal of problem solving. They sometimes teach methods that at first seem counter-intuitive, such as, that in order to be heard, one must first learn to listen well and practice good listening skills oneself, then the other party is more likely to respond by listening in return. They show us that by entering a conversation with curiosity and the intention to learn about the other party we may find that their perspective is real and perhaps even valid, too.

Lastly, there are many real-life examples of the communication methods that Stone, et al., suggest. For example, instead of entering a conversation from one’s own (limited and judgmental) perspective, that begs a return defense such as, “Listen, Michael, say what you will, but the problem on that financial brochure was that after all the work I did, you treated me badly, and you know it!” one could instead use an approach that comes from a more inclusive third, or neutral perspective, such as, “Michael, I’ve been thinking a lot about what happened between each of us on the financial brochure. I found the experience frustrating, and I suspect you did as well (Stone, et al., 2010, p. 221).” It is clear that the second example has the potential to be much more effective because it is much less confrontational. Real life examples such as these allow the reader to witness the theory in action as a real-life dialogue. They can even perhaps internalize their own reactions to such statements and ‘feel’ which might be more effective.

In all of these ways, the authors bring to life the theory of conflict resolution and negotiation and make the practice real for their readers. They have decoded the structure of a difficult conversation, and by the use of metaphors and real-life examples, they help readers to understand exactly why and how they should enter a difficult conversation as though it were a learning conversation. The result is that the reader is able to see how communication is much more than just delivering and receiving messages, because they can then see how it also consists of learning about and relating to one another in a more real and authentic way, which then leads to collaborative problem-solving.

I am grateful to these authors for making their research so accessible in an easy to read format that provides real life examples that bring conflict resolution and negotiation theory to life in a truly meaningful way. As a result of reading Difficult Conversations, I have begun to notice a transformation in my own thought process. This is altering the ways in which I think about others, and myself and this has changed the ways in which I interact with others, too. For example, I no longer assume that because I know that I am right, and because ‘their’ view is different from mine, therefore, they must be wrong. Instead, I am able to take an ‘and stance’ and by doing this I can see how both perspectives theirs and mine, may have validity. I can also now see the difference between the intent of a message sent and the impact of a message received. Therefore I am less likely to assume that I know what another’s intent is, based solely on the impact that I happen to feel. I now take all of this new knowledge into account when I deal with others. I have begun to effectively use this knowledge in my own interpersonal relations at home and at work to diffuse potentially difficult and stressful conversations. I have become more effective at maintaining a constructive conversation that is focused on effective outcomes, and I have, as a result, become a better problem-solver. It is clear that the authors have been very effective in meeting their goal of offering a way to help both individuals and organizations by offering them a method that breaks though difficult relationship dilemmas. For that, I am truly thankful.

Stone, D., & Patton, B. (2010). Difficult conversations: How to discuss what matters most. Penguin.

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© Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog, 2013-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Bullying and Harassment: The Process of Creating a Masculine Gender Identity As Presented in Dude You’re a Fag by C.J. Pascoe

Dude, You're a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School

Dude, You’re a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School by C.J. Pascoe

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dude You’re a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School (2012), by sociologist C.J. Pascoe, is a discourse on the exploration of schools as a socializing institution for boys concerning the formation of their masculine identities. Pascoe’s discussion was based on the results of 18 months of ethnographic research that took place in a racially diverse middle-class suburban high school in northern California. The goal of her study was to “explain how teenagers, teachers, and the institutional logics of schooling construct[ed] adolescent masculinity through idioms of sexuality” (4). Through Pascoe’s research, it was demonstrated that the construction of powerful and controlling masculine and heterosexual identities, regardless if the masculinity was in male bodies or female bodies, determined the degree of acceptance and popularity experienced by those who successfully created that identity. Furthermore, some students, who were not successful in creating this version of hegemonic masculinity, or else rejected it, were many times marginalized or stigmatized, and even sometimes victimized by the members of the majority and controlling group. This study leads to implications on how educational facilities, as major institutions of socialization, might work to educate both faculty and students beyond the confines of narrow stereotypical gender-norm definitions and provide a greater understanding and acceptance of alternate gender possibilities. Freeing youth from these narrow confines of gender identity will promote a greater degree of opportunity, acceptance, equality and social justice for our youth and the future society that they will shape.

Pascoe’s masculine gender norm analysis centered on what she termed the ‘fag discourse’, the process by which boys reiterated “repeated repudiation of failed acts of masculinity” and an assertion of masculinity by “engaging in heterosexist discussions of girl’s bodies and their own sexual experiences” (5). She discovered that the fag trope did not refer to homosexual desire, but instead was in reference to a boy who was emotional, expressive, incompetent, noncompetitive, physically weak or unable or unwilling to dominate girls, for example. The fag discourse’s purpose was to ‘police masculinity’ by ‘shoring up contemporary definitions of masculinity’, and she discussed this fact throughout the book. The fag discourse was used in the construction of a masculine identity and consisted of boys attaching the stigma of the fag to other boys, while at the same time deflecting it away from themselves. Most boys also used girl’s bodies in the creation of their masculine identities through shared stories about girls and sex that were completely devoid of positive feelings of love or romance, but instead were about mastering and conquering girls’ bodies, and sometimes in a violent manner. The formation of a masculine gender identity was a process by which boys continually rejected the specter of the non-masculine man while also demonstrating that they did indeed possess masculine power and control, and this happened by means of insults and violent speech, and sometimes, violent actions. Pascoe also addressed the institutional sexism that ‘River High’ (pseudonym) promoted through programs and policies that reinforced both heterosexual and masculine dominance. Messages sent by school policies and programs, classroom discussions and activities, and the students themselves all worked together to reinforce ideals of heterosexism and masculine power and domination. The resulting hegemonic masculinity that emerged was generally understood as power and domination over others. The creation of powerful, dominating masculine heterosexual identities simultaneously reinforced the feminine quality of passive submission, while it also created marginalized and stigmatized groups of students who did not identify with and fall within the narrow definitions of a controlling masculinity or submissive femininity.

What was clear in Pascoe’s work was the dynamics of group formation and interactions, and the power that was conferred to the majority and dominating in-groups, because they had the relative power to define what constituted normal versus abnormal thoughts and behavior. The dominating in-groups consisted of those who identified with either hetero-normative behaviors, and those who identified with masculine behaviors. The school institution set up a formal structure for the foundations for hetero-normativity through the sanctioning of different competitions, dances, homecoming rituals, and other sexist and hetero-sexualizing activities. Teachers at River High reinforced heterosexuality by using heterosexual metaphors in their instruction, and by making sexist and heterosexist jokes. It is interesting to note that sexual orientation did not necessarily distinguish one as non-conforming though. Students confirmed to Pascoe that if a boy was labeled a fag, it did not indicate that he was gay, because a gay person could be athletic, for example, and therefore not a fag. Rebecca, a ritualist, who was gay and identified as masculine, sometimes faced the same type of labeling and policing that boys did when she stepped outside the boundaries of her masculine role. Her friends found it difficult to accept her secondary deviance and teased her for it. Also, the Basketball Girls, who were innovators, and of which some were gay, self-identified with a typically powerful and controlling ‘masculine’ style and behavior, and these girls were popular, being not only accepted by the larger in-group, but celebrated with their popular ‘pimp’ identity too. What was sanctioned and reinforced, by the majority in-groups at ‘River High’, were either hetero-normativity or masculinity, but not necessarily the need to be ‘straight’. The school institution acted in a way that created an organizational culture that enforced and reinforced a hegemonic hetero-normative and dominating masculinity that existed there, while stigmatizing those they considered ‘others’.

Those students who identified with neither white hetero-normativity nor masculinity were the non-conforming out-groups. Social deviance in the instances of ‘feminine’ boys, the politically active non-normative Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) group, and those who were identified by others as possessing a ‘non-white sexuality’, were stigmatized. Ricky, a retreat-ist, and an openly gay boy who violated most gender norms, was severely harassed and physically assaulted at ‘River High’, and because of the lack of institutional support, he eventually dropped out of school. The GSA group, were rebels, who were a politically organized group who worked to change the school’s culture regarding sexual and gender norms. The members of this group did not necessarily identify as gay or to stereotypical ideals of masculinity or femininity, but rather encouraged individual notions of sexual and gender expression. African-American young men were frequently and unfairly disciplined for what the administration perceived as overly aggressive heterosexist behavior, as was the case concerning bodily contact during school dances. The social deviants who did not conform to the majority controlling in-groups, experienced not only physical violence, but also structural violence in the form of discrimination, harassment, unfair disciplinary action, and therefore also psychological harm.

What Pascoe discovered is that many aspects of the high school environment worked to form social cohesion by shoring up stereotypical ideals of hetero-normativity and masculinity while at the same time marginalizing and stigmatizing those who did not identify with or fit into those categories. The creation of a powerful and dominating masculinity also co-created a feminine identity of passive submission where women possess a great deal less power than men. Furthermore, the creation of this hegemonic heterosexual and masculine identity simultaneously constructed marginalized and stigmatized groups of those who did not fit into this stereotypical gender ‘norm’. Understanding this process of identity creation through gender socialization is useful to help us see how the current hegemonic force shapes and maintains a position of masculine power through actions that should be recognized as forms of bullying and harassment. It is through the understanding of how hegemonic groups gain power through the creation of certain social sanctions that we may also realize how to intentionally re-create societies that encompass a greater degree of understanding, compassion and justice toward all.

Pascoe’s study provides a useful way of thinking in a more inclusive manner when thinking about sex and gender. Understanding that gender is a process, rather than a social identity associated with specific bodies allows us to recognize that there are opportunities for positive change. It will be by understanding beyond the stereotypical binary gender system of dominating males and masculinity in opposition to submissive females and femininity that the dismantling of hegemonic power and domination will take place. This allows us to devise and implement institutional practices, professional development, plus student education, in such a way so as to promote social integration of all students resulting in sexual and gender equality.

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© Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog, 2013-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

School Bullying:  Understanding Restorative Practice Processes is Essential for Effective Circle Processes

School Bullying: Understanding Restorative Practice Processes is Essential for Effective Circle Processes

WNYT and the Albany Times Union reported on May 29 (see articles here and here) of a bullying incident at Albany’s Hackett Middle School, that resulted in the victim being removed from the school and the offenders receiving (as of yet) no reprimand.

In this situation of school bullying, having the victim(s) “participate in a ‘sensitivity circle’ to talk about how the incident made her (them) feel” is not an adequate solution. This Circle Process approach to Restorative Justice seems to be lacking some very important principles of the practice. To restore justice in this situation, it would be good to see through a lens that focuses on the victim’s needs, as suggested by Howard Zehr (Little Book of Restorative Justice, 2002). These are important things to consider:

  • Crime is a violation of people and relationships.
  • Violations create obligations.
  • Justice involves victims, offenders, and community members in an effort to put things right.
  • Central focus: victim needs and offender responsibility for repairing harm.

Some important questions to ask:

  • Who has been hurt?
  • What are their needs?
  • Whose obligations are these?

As reported in the Times Union article,

“U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights concluded that race-based harassment had occurred and that district officials should have recognized that. The department also found that the district did not appropriately discipline the harassers or provide a viable remedy.”

“They failed every student in that school,” said Henri Williams, the girl’s father. “It’s not just about the black kids, it’s about the white kids knowing what’s OK.”

The article by the Times Union did not mention if the victim found the resolution to be adequate, nor did it mention what and how the offenders are taking positive action to restore justice (maybe they could research, write & give speeches concerning the trauma caused by structural violence such as institutionalized racism).

These are some important thoughts to consider.

The administration at Hackett Middle school has been faulted for not appropriately disciplining the harassers or providing a viable remedy.  This could be the result of inadequate training.  New York State Higher Education institutions are lacking in course offerings in the very important and growing fields of study of Restorative Practices and Peace Studies. If NYS higher education institutions do not offer adequate learning opportunities in these important fields of study, we need to ask ourselves,

“Why not?”


“Who’s obligation is it to meet this need?”

© Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog, 2013-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Jailed for Cultural Differences?

A news report on MyWay, details a story of Chad Johnson’s courtroom experience: a fanny slap, and the subsequent jail sentence.

Football star Chad Johnson may not be aware of the cultural scripts that Judge McHugh determines are appropriate for her courtroom.

Judge McHugh may not be aware of cultural scripts normal to football players.  Or she and others may simply find them shocking and inappropriate for the courtroom setting.

I suspect the courtroom laughter was a reaction to discomfort caused by the breaching of cultural norms, and the judge reacted to disorder in her courtroom.  Both were reactions to an uncomfortable situation.

It is interesting to understand that it is the judge who has the power (and the privilege to use it) to enforce societal scripts and cultural norms that she (and the majority of mainstream society) determines are the correct ones.  Yet she did not do this.  Reinforcing what isn’t culturally acceptable is a very different thing than reinforcing what is considered appropriate.  The judge might (instead of acting to remove an ‘offender’ from society) have chosen to act intentionally and relationally, and have chosen to restore justice as an alternative to punishment.   Seeing through a lens of restoring justice is very different than seeing through a lens of punishing criminals though.  Howard Zehr states that our ‘assumptions . . . govern our responses’ and that we need to ‘look to alternative ways of viewing both problem and solution’.  This is an interesting thought . . . our assumptions. What we ‘know’ to be true, may simply be assumptions instead?

It is interesting to discover that what we believe might be considered assumptions when we tend to think of these beliefs as self-evident truths.  Our western, linear, Euclidean worldview is based on axioms, that we consider ‘self-evident truths’, but I have begun to learn that these ‘truths’ may not be quite so absolute as we might imagine.  It is interesting, too, to think about how we form our identities – and this is by thinking in contrasts – ‘us and them’, so to speak.  This oppositional and divisive way of thinking creates boundaries and allows for unjust power systems to develop and flourish.  Affecting positive social change begins, therefore, by changing the ways in which we perceive ourselves, and consequently, how we interact within our interconnected multi-cultural world.

Referencing the specific domestic violence charge of head-butting in relation to his courtroom behavior, it is clear to see that Mr. Johnson is deeply enculturated into a lifestyle of football customs and behavior.  Maybe this is simply because Mr. Johnson spends a great deal of time away from mainstream society, and instead is engulfed in football sub-culture and it’s symbols.  I fail to see how the decision to remove Mr. Johnson from society for 30 days will provide justice to Evelyn Lozada, his estranged wife.  I also fail to see how jail time will help Mr. Johnson learn cultural and societal norms that may help him to avoid further social problems.

Judge McHugh has the power (and privilege to use it ) to help Mr. Johnson and others (including herself) to learn about the concepts of intercultural miscommunication.  Learning how others may misinterpret the messages one sends may be a better solution to restoring justice to those harmed in this situation than simply removing the ‘offender’ from society for 30 days.  Changing Lenses and learning how others communicate and understand the world they live in, may help to restore broken relationships, which is key in achieving true social justice.

After reading the MyWay news report, I am left to wonder about the two players who have been harmed in this broken relationship, Evelyn Lozada and Chad Johnson.  Did our justice system truly provide the victim, Evelyn Lozada and the offender, Chad Johnson with their just desserts?  Might Chad Johnson be a victim also?  How?  Was anyone else harmed?  We can ask again, “Who else might have been harmed?  and How?”

Who is responsible for repairing these harms?

These are the important questions we should ask ourselves.

© Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog, 2013-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.