How the Light Gets In
It's been a long winter and to say it's been a rough few weeks is an understatement, which is why I haven't even tried to write about what has been happening. It's a lot to absorb and I don't want to add to anyone's pain. It began when I wrote Rick Martin's obituary (he was sixty and had terminal liver disease).
His wife, Rene Martin, the Haines School principal, is my hero. I am grateful for her courage in speaking out after Rick died. In the message he left her, recorded before he took his own life, he revealed that he had been raped as a boy by the former (and long dead) school superintendent, coach, and Boy Scout leader for whom the Haines High gym was named in 1994.
The sign on the Karl Ward Gymnasium came down right away.
Then KHNS broke the news. You may read/listen to the KHNS news story here. After that, The Chilkat Valley News followed up a few days later in the weekly paper with a bigger story, adding four more revelations of assaults from former Haines High basketball players now in their 60s.
I also adore Mr. Ward's widow. She's my friend. By all accounts she didn't know, and is in mourning for a life she thought she had lived.
It's awful. Terrible. Shocking. To be angry is not enough. Sorry is definitely not enough.
So what do we do now?
For starters, maybe try to love each other enough to be honest.
This is our community, so the story of a man who came to Haines as a missionary and wound up leading the school district, a man once publicly revered, who committed these crimes, is now our story, and the story of Haines. But we don't know it all. There is racism in it for sure, and injustice, and historic and current woes that can't and shouldn't be ignored. There are, I hope, grace and mercy in there as well.
One idea I have, and it is just an idea, you may have a better one, is to create Haines' own version of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, similar to Canada’s. That could be a beginning into understanding, and then healing.
Another idea, which is more symbolic than active, but it too could be an important gesture by the Borough Assembly is to return the old City of Haines, which is now called “The Townsite Service Area” by the newer, unified Haines Borough government, back to its original Tlingit name: Deishu.
Whatever we do, it is past time to listen closely to those who have felt they needed to remain voiceless for so long.
For now, I'm treating everyone I see as if they or someone they love are hurting, which means with extra good care. I don't want to do more harm.
I am also looking to the helpers, Rene Martin, the four brave men - my friends- who came forward, the media who covered it all, and public officials who have spoken up, as well as counselors and teachers.
I'm especially grateful for Rick Martin's last words, which included both this terrible and necessary revelation and a plea to be kind to one another and to treat each other better. That's not too much to ask, or do, is it?
A line from Leonard Cohen's song, "Anthem," keeps rolling around in my head, so I think I will leave you with this for now:
Ring the bells that can still ring, forget your perfect offering, there is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in.