Tuesday, March 30, 2010

District #30...We Need a New Representative...Now

© 2010 by Karen Van Fossan

“District” is another word for neighborhood, for community, another way of saying, This is my home.

Plenty goes on here, in district number 30. An elderly woman falls, but rejoices that she hasn't harmed her eyes. A mother and son argue about suppertime, a car ride. A couple of wild-tomboy girls stop to pet my wild-tomboy dog.

We live here – in district number 30, neighborhood number 30, community number 30.

And so does Nicole Weiler. In March of last year, her husband assaulted her – in our district, out in public. Arrested and charged, David Alan Weiler pleaded guilty. Then, in March of this year, the Weiler case again made local TV. Nicole had called the police, filed a report, claimed her husband had beaten her again.

Strangely enough – David Alan Weiler works for me. He's one of my Representatives in district number 30. His job is not to thwart the laws, but to make them and refine them, particularly laws that protect us from personal violence. And so, his violence becomes my violence in a way, mine to address, mine to rectify, mine to interrupt.

Some say Nicole Weiler will drop the charges. Some say Dave will heed the public outcry to resign. By the time you read this blog, the story may have grown in many ways.

But there's still domestic violence in my community, there's bullying in my neighborhood, no matter how this story twists and turns. In neighborhood number 30, if we're paying close attention, we know this:

In March of 2009, David Weiler assaulted his wife, Nicole, by his own admission.

Based on decades of research, the Duluth Model teaches us, “If a batterer does not have a personal commitment to give up his position of power [over his partner], he will eventually return to the use of threats or violence to gain control.”

Sadly, I see no evidence that David Weiler has a made this personal commitment. In the year since his first arrest, I've heard him voice no regret, no remorse, no commitment to personal change. I would like to see him make this commitment. If I am wrong about his willingness to practice nonviolence, I look forward to being corrected.

But who has asked Dave to make such a commitment? The courts gave Dave a suspended sentence. The leaders of his party gave him a promotion – a chairmanship of an interim committee. The voters of District 30, like myself, gave him little flack. For one full year, he has lived within a paradigm almost free of accountability.

This is the type of atmosphere in which bullying takes hold, where bullying can thrive, where a person can assume the right to bully.

For all of these reasons, I am working to recall David Weiler. If we gather enough signatures, if our petition is successful, the voters in District 30 could have a chance to vote again. A new election could happen. The people of this district could hold Dave accountable, by voting to replace him – if we choose.

Which brings me back to my neighborhood. The other day, as I biked along Hillside Park, I passed two brothers taking turns spanking their dog. They were young, they were worn out, they didn't know how to handle a pulling puppy. I stopped and showed them what tricks have worked for me with pulling dogs. I let them know I understood how tough it is. For their own sake, these children needed a sense of being accountable, being seen, being challenged to pursue another option.

Violence becomes possible in fractured, broken communities, where the network of relationships does not keep us safe. If we can create vibrant, true community together, maybe we can stop domestic violence – for the sake of Nicole Weiler. For the sake of all our children. For the sake of Dave Weiler, if you like.

Even here in neighborhood number 30.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I Didn't Die – Or Did I?

© 2010 Karen Van Fossan

I went ahead and did it. I rode my bike on Boulevard Avenue, in spite of the risks.

Risk 1: Splatter myself with mud.
Risk 2: Splatter myself with slush.
Risk 3: Tempt fate and die.

It was Risk 3 that nearly kept me off Boulevard Avenue forever.

According to one source, Boulevard Avenue was where I would meet my death. In fact, according to this source, I already had.

My dear friend Ferne – who's just about 101 and isn't prone to confusion – recently told her daughter I had died. I'd “been killed” was how she put it. Killed riding my bike on Boulevard Avenue.

Luckily, she was wrong. At least so far.

True, I didn't die on Boulevard Avenue. But just a few weeks ago, I began my own dance of dying.

In a good way.

(Sort of.)

Here's how it began:

I received a letter, which said that the North Dakota Board of Counselor Examiners had refused my application for licensure as a counselor. According to my graduate school, my professors, and myself, I am trained and ready to serve as a counselor. I'm a Dance/Movement Therapist, yes, but also a bona fide counselor.

The Board was unconvinced.

So I had to ask myself, “What next???”

I could...

Move away,
Go back to school,
Learn an alternate trade,
Hire a lawyer,
Count my blessings,
Ride in the middle of traffic on Boulevard Avenue.

In my mind, I found myself running from one idea to the next. And I hated all this running from one idea to the next. Pick a plan and stick with it. That was my general stance.

But suddenly, as I walked beneath the foggy spring sky, I saw my path.

This is it. This running from one idea to the next – this is my life. Today, this is my life. My own real life. My life isn't waiting for me in the answers to my questions. My life is taking place as I grapple with these questions. My life is happening now. My life isn't waiting in the well-plotted future. This is it.

And so, can I dance with this? Can I follow the rhythms and gestures of this dance? Can I be present and alive, letting myself experience my actual experience?

My dream of being a counselor – at least for now – is dying. This is a dance I have witnessed. I have sat with those who are dying. I have seen the stops and starts, the fits of life, the letting go, the ecstasy and the panic.

Today, this is my dance. Will I go here or go there? Will I stop, or will I start?

I don't know.

The knowing isn't now. Today, I have only to dance.

Maybe even up and down Boulevard Avenue.

A Note: Much gratitude to my teachers at Naropa University who helped me learn the dances of living -- and of dying.