In fourth grade my classmates and I were taught to “duck and cover” because we lived about 60 miles away from Losing Airforce Base. We were told, “Each day a planes leaves LAFB headed to the USSR with nuclear weapons because Moscow is sending a similar plane toward us.” We children were all afraid.
Then in 1982, Samantha Smith, a 10 year-old girl born in my hometown, wrote to the head of the U. S. S. R. “I would like to know why you out like to conquer the world or at least our country…” Amazingly Yuri Andropov wrote back and said they didn’t want war at all. He mentioned being part of the Alliance against the NAzis in WWII. The publicity received by Smith’s letter, it’s reply and her subsequent visit to Russia moved the governments to discuss nuclear disarmament.
This story gives me great hope. If we aren’t afraid to speak up and ask hard questions, perhaps we to can change the world.
Part of An American Story: The Phasianidae Family & Friends Exhibition
This work was done in response to the 2016 Election and Black Lives Matters protests. Each work was exhibited with a story or quote. Below is the introduction to the overall exhibit.
Turkeys and peacocks are members of the same family. Yet one is revered as a pet or a symbol of fashion; the other is considered a game bird worthy only of being hunted and eaten rather than given equal respect. One screams with human like sounds, the other gobbles and goes about its business.
The peacock is a reflection of our first world problems. Being overwhelmed by emotions and unaware of how much we have as we focus inward on problems of self.
By contrast the turkey is a native American symbol of abundance and exemplifies gratitude in our Thanksgiving story. Benjamin Franklin’s commentary on the American Turkey as a ” … respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America. He is besides, tho’ a little vain and silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a Red Coat on.” This sliver of history and the Aesop’s story of the Peacock’s Lament provide the contrast that make the two classes of birds symbols for the Haves and the Have Nots, subjects to represent racial tension.
York also observed many woodpeckers at her feeders. Listening to the constant “rat-a-tat-tat” seemed to echo the sounds of children playing with guns, which reminded her of the now too common school shootings. Then one day she discovered a Flicker at the feeder; it looked like a puffed up woodpecker in a leopard skin coat. When she discovered a species of these birds known as the Gilded Flicker… images began to percolate.
“I am a story addict. I want to know where a story will go but as any reader knows there are different sides to the same story paradoxes that make the story richer for the contrast. Right now I don’t recognize the story that America is telling. I hear words like “Great, Better, Best, Wealthiest, Melting Pot, and at the same time words like “Sh*thole, Walls, Sons of B*tches, America First.” from the mouth of the man elected to lead us.
I love our country. The promise of the story started with the Declaration of Independence, The Constitution and it’s Bill of Rights.
These ideals and documents that have been fought for, bled for and lead people to our shores to be part of this land. I love that our Revolution inspired the French and to honor our part in their history they gifted us the Statue of Liberty. I love the poem on her base. These are the ideas that have balanced the daily news stories that have torn at my soul while I worked on the paintings for this exhibit.
What story is our country telling you?
Susan J. York, artist