This article is a confession to my gurus.  Well, maybe more of an apology.  Or a humble request for forgiveness.  Okay, it’s a mixture of all three.  Sometimes I can be an asshole.  More so when I was younger and before life kicked my sorry brown ass into submission.  People say they love writers who have had the life beaten out of them.  That’ll be my remaining solace in this whole matter:  I’m only likable after bruises on the side of the face and a gash near the hairline.

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One of the beautiful behaviors of people is our need to protect. We don’t like bullies.  This becomes more the case the older we get.  There is something about seeing someone being treated terrible that we can’t stand.  Maybe it’s a new comer who is unjustly getting targeted, or it could be someone vulnerable who doesn’t have the means to stand up for themselves.  Either way, when you see opportunists attacking someone, you can be assured the protectors will come out if full force.

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I like to think I’m too smart to be manipulated.  I have a Master’s Degree.  I’m an avid reader and writer.  Critical and creative thinking is my business.  Then I attend one of those Hollywood productions (of the better variety, like Life of Pi), and despite my knowledge of all those structural techniques I still find myself being moved, with the simple use of music and cinematography.  What?!  No.  Not me.

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“There’s not much culture in this writing,” I’ve heard students say when critiquing student work or reading the novel of a Native author.  Or they’ll say, “It looks like the main character is having an identity crisis,” and it can sound dismissive, but there’s something we have to understand about most Natives:  We move deep into the center of culture and back to the periphery like an ocean in symbiosis with the moon.

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I said it before.  The last grade I completed was the sixth grade.  Then later in life I went on to obtain a Master’s Degree.  I think a lot of it had to do with riding waves.  Not in the ocean.  I’ve never been daring enough to take on those types of challenges.  But riding waves of opportunity.  Sometimes I look back and it’s interesting to see how it all lined up and came to fruition, as though in symmetry, like musical notes being plucked from the strings of a guitar.  In time and rhythm it can make a beautiful song.

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I was in grad school when a professor asked, “What metaphor would you use to describe how power structures stay intact?”  We were studying Faucoult and had come to his explanation of how individuals give up their power to others, with his example of a moving ship and how everyone does their part to keep the ship moving forward and are in fear of what would happen if the ship stopped moving.  I agree with Faucoult’s analogy.  It makes sense in most situations.  In a modern context though, I’m thinking more along the lines of interstates.

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That’s how far back we’re about to go.  I’m going to use a simile only a certain generation will understand.  Remember tapes?  It kind of sounds odd to say now.  Tapes.  Sounds like a prehistoric infection.  If my kids overheard me ask someone if they “had tapes” when they were a teenager, they would think it was an STD.  Like an old school slang term for gonorrhea.  But I digress, as usual.  I’m about to rewind my tape and take young and old back to my days as an introverted neophyte surviving on southern sweet tea and tapes.

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We love the sound of our own voices, and there’s a condition associated with narcissism that calms people when they look at pictures of themselves (if you’ve ever wondered why we take so many selfies).  The same goes for values.  We like to hear our own values echoed back to us.  If we took a real look at our circle of friends we’d find people who have the same value system.  Yeah, there might be some differences in opinion, but no deal breakers.  Just echoes of eternal conformity.

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When I think about creativity, or the impulses to create, and how there is a certain bravery or cowardice involved, I think of forest fires.  You see, my cousins were fire fighters for the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma.  I love it when they regale me with stories of their adventures and sometimes these are about disaster relief, like following Hurricane Katrina, and other times they are about fighting large forest fires in Colorado or California.  They tell me, “If the wind catches the flames and rushes the fire toward you, you have to decide:  are you going to run through the flames?”

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