Good luck charms and dancing Indians

sunsetI’m not a very good tourist in the sense that taking city tours and visiting museums and churches falls low on my priorities. Last week I got to visit New Mexico. I enjoyed amazing sunsets and wonderful food and time with friends and bought a little local Navaho jewelry and I was ready to go home. None-the-less, there I was at the Santa Fe Museum of International Folk Art.

Okay, it is a wonderful museum in a beautiful city. While my husband wandered off in search of the history that fascinates him, I looked for something that would interest me. Ah. The marquee pointed to an exhibit on good luck charms from around the world. That had promise.

charmsI spent a little time inspecting carved figures from Brazil and Russia and Ethiopia and India before I began to notice what was the whole point of the exhibit. Humans, of every continent, race, and religion, hope for good fortune. They want to live long and healthy lives, safe from danger. They will ask their gods and beg the fates to protect their children. They want love.

I stared long and hard at the charms from Syria, and those from Iran and Pakistan as well. It is so easy once the drums of war begin to forget the humans who wear these charms. If only we could watch as they pressed them into the hands of their sons and daughters, knowing the silliness and futility of a tiny amulet and yet hoping against all odds that it might somehow tip the balance in a cruel and unpredictable world.

My husband finds me photographing the exhibit. He raises an eyebrow, but lets me be when I explain “blog post”. We wander outside as we hear music.

The adjoining Museum of Indian Arts and Culture is offering a live program and we sit down to watch. We enjoy the native American drummers, and we are delighted when they are followed by three young dancers who do their families proud as they perform a traditional dance involving corn.

dancersNo one in the crowd finds the three children and their dance anything but adorable. That is wonderful. My mind wanders back in time to when native American children would not have evoked such a response from a crowd of largely European descent. Is it a good thing that not only does our animosity fade over time, but our memory of it mostly does as well?

Of course it is. Centuries of hate that neither side can let go of yield the worst of circumstances for all parties. No matter how horrible past atrocities are, or how unfair historical outcomes were, continued hatred is never a better a situation for any of those moving into a more fair and peaceful future.

I think of the good luck charms from Syria. The one piece that we do, desperately, need to remember, I think, is that the fears and angers of today will pass as well. At least they will if we are lucky. Perhaps we can behave with more compassion and understanding  if we remember that cultures that are all too easy to vilify now as we steel ourselves for a fight will once again seem interesting and benign another day. It is our good fortune that things change.

We need to remember the people, all of the people, holding on to their amulets wishing for good luck.


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