IN­SIDE

The Tribune (SLO) (Sunday) - - Local - BY DAN AND LIZ KRIEGER This col­umn is by Liz and Dan Krieger. Liz is a re­tired chil­dren’s li­brar­ian, and Dan is Pro­fes­sor of His­tory, Emer­i­tus at Cal Poly State Univer­sity, San Luis Obispo. He can be reached at slo­his­tory@gmail.com.

KRIEGER: PO­ETRY OF A 16-YEAR-OLD RE­MINDS US TO EM­BRACE ‘THE OTHER’

Love self­lessly... dive into the un­known all you have is to­day care about peo­ple who don’t care back and hope that they will be okay be your­self and no one else and know if you feel as if you’re in an empty room arms stretched out I’ll be there to hug you

The po­etry of then 16year-old Rita Marie Goehner, writ­ten shortly be­fore her tragic death in an au­to­mo­bile crash in 2006, teaches us a lot about liv­ing in Novem­ber 2018. It seems to shout out for us not to be afraid of “the other.”

Liz knew Rita as a vo­ra­cious reader and reg­u­lar at the San Luis Obipso Library. From 1998 to 2004, one of her projects in Girl Scouts was to serve as book drive co­or­di­na­tor, col­lect­ing chil­dren’s books for the library. Ev­ery year, she and her friends trekked in with bags of books. Her mom, Cassy, al­ways came along, grin­ning proudly.

To­day, Rita’s Rain­bows, a non­profit founded by Cassy and Andy Goehner, helps chil­dren and teens in need – in­clud­ing buy­ing re­ally pop­u­lar books for the 11 class book and pizza par­ties at our home ev­ery spring.

Along with our many book an­gel vol­un­teers, Rita’s Rain­bows helps kids “grow their own li­braries” and “fit in” and strengthen the Amer­i­can mo­saic.

Rita wrote, “I wanna make a dif­fer­ence, I want to af­fect peo­ple ev­ery day, I try to bring smiles in a world of frowns.”

Rita’s mother, Cassie Goehner, told us that Rita was home-schooled partly be­cause of the bul­ly­ing that is com­mon in our schools to­day.

What’s dis­turb­ing to us is that we are no longer shocked that a beau­ti­ful, tal­ented and giv­ing per­son like Rita would be bul­lied.

Bul­ly­ing has al­ways been a tragic part of hu­man his­tory, of­ten with fa­tal con­se­quences. The nar­ra­tive of David and Go­liath may be read as the “re­venge of the lit­tle guy.” The win­ners-take-all men­tal­ity in the Amer­i­can­iza­tion of Cal­i­for­nia led to what amounted to geno­cide of Na­tive Amer­i­cans.

Be­tween 1846 and 1873, 4,500 to 16,000 Na­tive Amer­i­cans were killed by peo­ple of Euro­pean ances­try. Lo­cal gov­ern­ments from San Diego to Kern to Hum­boldt coun­ties off- ered boun­ties for In­dian scalps.

Thou­sands of Na­tive Amer­i­can chil­dren were forcibly placed in “In­dian In­sti­tutes,” like the Sher­man In­sti­tute in River­side, where they were for­bid­den to speak their na­tive lan­guages and died in large num­bers from a va­ri­ety of ail­ments.

In Ari­zona, some Navajo chil­dren were sent as far away as Carlisle Bar­racks in Penn­syl­va­nia. Some of them used the very lan­guage that our gov­ern­ment tried to sup­press to be­come the heroic Navajo Code Talk­ers in World War II. Serv­ing on the front lines of the cam­paigns in the South Pa­cific, they were in­stru­men­tal in our tak­ing Iwo Jima.

Lo­cally, we’re re­minded of the ex­pe­ri­ence of Grace Eto Shi­bata at San Luis Obispo High on Dec. 8, 1941. Stu­dents turned their backs on her, and many teach­ers were less then sym­pa­thetic. Grace’s mother, Taki, wisely said that Grace need not re­turn to SLO High. When the fam­ily moved to Tu­lare County, chil­dren re­fused to give Grace a place to sit on the bus. Grace later named her daugh­ter, Naomi, af­ter a girl who even­tu­ally made room for and be­friended her.

In bul­ly­ing, as car­toon­ist Walt Kelly once said of Sen. Joe McCarthy and his fol­low­ers, “We have met the en­emy and he is us.”

When will it ever end? Com­ing to find joy in and dis­cover our­selves in “the other” is a be­gin­ning.

For more in­for­ma­tion on Rita’s Rain­bows, visit www.ri­tas­rain­bows.org.

Rita’s Rain­bows

Rita Goehner, then 5 years old, was a book drive co­or­di­na­tor for the San Luis Obispo Library.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.