“Get over it”
I hear or read that phrase almost continually, easily once a day.
The people who say it are usually not compassionate to your situation or those of others.
What they are really saying is, “Kill your feelings so I don’t have to feel.”
It’s impossible to get over anything. Attempting it means locking your experience – your emotions – in a casket and dumping it down into the dark recesses of your soul, there to rot and fester and leak out in unpleasant ways.
The only solution is to go through it.
Imagine if those who said, “get over it” instead said, “get through it.”
What a difference!
The phrase alone immediately sparks a moment of compassion. We all recognize the journey, the shadowed path, the eventual breakthrough into light.
The trail ahead is dark. Get through it.
There is no bypassing, there is no getting over. The only way is one step, then another.
And never alone.
It happened in the past. Get through it. I believe we can together.
In Canada, survivors of the Residential School system, and their directly affected children and grandchildren are often told to just, “Get over it.” The Indigenous people of North America are survivors of a monumental and horrifying colonial expansion and attempted genocide that is ongoing today.
But when we talk about the Nazi Holocaust, we don’t tell people to get over it. We have monuments and museums. It’s required learning in school.
After 9/11 the call was, “Never Forget.”
So I say to those who have suffered, that are suffering, don’t get over it.
Get through it, as we’ve talked about.
But never forget.
Never forget so that this nightmare might be averted for others in the future. Add it to the cultural memory and the wisdom teachings of our various peoples.
Heal, but always remember.
Just as we know not to eat poison berries, let’s always remember the rotten fruit of human growth based on greed, murder and lies. On sickness and dogma and dehumanization.
Hold your government, your institutions, you society and yourself to higher expectations and standards.
Our great grandchildren and theirs deserve to know their history and to learn to walk along brighter paths. Their challenges will be greater than ours. Let’s send them as much strength and readiness as we can.
This painting is about the Residential School experience.
It is filled with symbols that most Indigenous people in Canada will immediately recognize and understand.
If you don’t know the history, briefly:
It was the policy of the Canadian government to “kill the Indian in the child” by taking them at a young age from their families and sending them to these distant schools. On paper, the goal was to destroy their attachment to their own culture and indoctrinate them into Western religion and ideals.
The children had their braids cut, their clothing replaced and were forbidden to speak their own language. One punishment was needles in the tongue.
The government practiced medical experiments on many of the children, leading to crippling and death.
Disease was rampant as was malnutrition.
Sexual abuse was common, as were pregnancies from priests. The children dug the graves for their own friends and cousins.
Some tried to escape and many died in the attempt.
The police would not allow the parents to save their children.
This went on for over a century. The last Residential School closed in 1996.
The US had a similar program with their Boarding Schools.
After much legal battling and outcry from communities, the government agreed to a Truth and Reconciliation process where survivors could tell their stories and the truth of all of this could finally come out. The mandate has been extended to 2015 as Churches and Government still refuse to release all their documents. Perhaps they are busy destroying the worst of them, who knows?
At any rate, generations of this has left its mark on the Indigenous people in Canada and the US, leading to all sorts of inherited social ills. When you see an Indigenous person lost in addiction or pain, you can be certain it is a direct result of this attempt at cultural genocide.
I tried to capture all that in this painting.
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Aaron Paquette is a First Nations Metis artist, author and speaker. Based in Edmonton, Aberta, his first YA Novel Lightfinder comes out June 2014 through Kegedonce Press.
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