Scars of Past

This Piece was Published by lifeafterhate.org

http://lifeafterhate.org/2012/06/scars-of-past/

As well this piece was published by University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) in 2012 as the winner of the Weaving Words Aboriginal Storytellers Festival:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Utloo-Noye-Khunni-Weaving-Words-Celebration/258820110802888?fref=ts

Image[1]

Scars Of Past

scribed deep outlining definitions

identity established through hate

crooked crosses baring attacks

ancestors retribution, clanging metal in the void

fulfilling communication pinned in flesh

knuckles crack and crunch, smack downward

upward into fatty boned pillows of vilified foes

who collapse and crumble to tarry asphalt beds

pointed protrusions scarred on hand

tummy injected with scorn

configured protector a watchful back

swift limbs with writs of violence

manuscripts flame, unforgotten torment

tempered in retreat as forged fires strengthen

secured fortification, embedded in offense

skirmished symbology skinned

violence – a safe place[2]

Abuse and torment can take many forms. The scars from damages done can transpire in countless ways. Some scars are inflicted by others. While many other scars are inflicted upon ourselves. My deepest scars, inflicted by others in my childhood, are those that are not visible to the eye. However, my most noticeable scars are self-inflicted.

I dedicated my life to a right-wing-extremist cause. I am reminded of this every day as I look at my tattoos. These are my scars. Reminders of where I come from. More importantly these self-inflicted inked scars are reminders of where I do not want to return to. Scars of a hateful and treacherous path walked by a man who was lost and utterly alone.

These tattoos, that I bear, serve as reminders of my twisted conviction that these scars were once considered badges of honor. Each one strategically earned, conceptualized and inscribed with scorn into my body, my temple. Scars from my past reflect the intense negative energy harbored for the majority of my life. These scars reflect who I was and who I wanted to be.

In the mid-1990s the commitment to a life of hate was voluntary. I dedicated two years of my life to perpetrating violence every day. Romantic-ultra-violence was my code, which had tumultuous consequences for many people. These people that were injured, damaged and abused are carried within me throughout all areas of my life. Etched into my skin.

After fifteen years of violence and chaos my life changed. I started college with a grade seven education. I then began working in the social service field. Having worked as a community worker with minority groups, marginalized/oppressed peoples, and persons with acquired brain injury has helped me understand the depth of some of the damages that I have perpetrated. Counseling men with addictions and gang involvement has allowed me to understand myself and others more. This results in a deeper sense of self-acceptance, and the acceptance of others. The advocacy, activism and intervention work that I have done in several communities has taught me that compassion, empathy and understanding are imperative for my continued growth.  These inked extremist scars remind me of where I come from and the miraculous life graced upon me.

The first racist tattoo that I ‘earned’ was a confederate flag that was etched into my right hand. On my stomach is a large swastika which is circled by a chain. This symbolism was borrowed from the hateful-nazi-party with a ‘white-man’s’ fist utilized to symbolize ra-ho-wa, a racial holy war[3]. This fist was first used by the founder of the shameful american-nazi-party[4] and later adopted by the World Church of the Creator; now named the creativity movement due to a trademark infringement[5]. The crooked-cross (swastika) corners have each of my four children’s initials placed around the outside of the chained circle. At the time I believed this was honoring my ‘blood- line’, namely my children. Now I carry these horrific symbols as a reminder of my obsessively twisted past. While never refusing to inform those who inquire about these tattoos, of the transitions to my life-after-hate[6].

After leaving the streets and working for an organized crime syndicate in the lower east-side of Vancouver, I came to possess a small gargoyle statue. This carving was acquired through a violent robbery in an act of retribution.  Encouraged by the belief that this gargoyle represented my spirit and acted as my guardian it was tattooed on my shoulder. The other shoulder has a perverted hateful symbolic rendition of a celtic-cross. I believed this was an honor to our Irish family, the Collins clan. Our family shares genealogical lineage with the ‘Big Fella,’ Michael Collins. Michael’s father was my great-grandfather’s brother. I now understand that this tattoo is a disgrace to my ancestors.

The second ‘badge-of honor’ that I had ‘earned’ was a cover-up tattoo. The original tattoo was done by my brother/friend Jason Gladue when we were seventeen. Jason was a skinny metis kid. The tattoo he pinned onto my arm was the outline of a 3D swastika with a bullet hole in the center of it. This anti-racist tattoo was dichotomously transformed into a symbol of my hate a few short years later. The new swastika tattoo placed on my forearm became a deadly weapon. My hands abused many people. Assaulting over 500 people in a two year period was symbolized by this ‘badge-of-honor’. Violence was my refuge. Hateful rage was a horrific misdirection of my human and spiritual energy. Inside my temple was a boy drowning in hate. I had ostracized myself from all who loved me. On my leg is a nordic rune that references odin, the god of war. It represented my commitment to warrior ancestors and my willingness to die in battle. Another ‘badge’ of hate.

A few years after remaining drug and alcohol free, I met my friends Gary Moostoos and Jerry Goodswimmer at a local coffee shop in Edmonton. They offered me love and refuge without judgment. Both of these men are from Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation, in Alberta. These men were instrumental in the decision to keep these tattooed scars in order to honor myself, and others. Especially those I abused.

After my first newspaper interview with the Edmonton Journal, about my path of redemption, written by Dakota journalist Graham Andrews[7]. The Edmonton Police Service’s Hate Crimes Unit requested a meeting with me. Dave Huggins, the units coordinator, then offered me a gift.

Huggins informed me that Gayle Tallmanfrom the Canadian Jewish Congress[8] wanted to meet me and offer an opportunity to get rid of the scars of my past. Gayle then arranged for Dr. Groot[9], in Edmonton, to do pro-bono laser surgery to remove my tattoos. I obliged and was so relieved to have these scars removed from my body.

After a year of attending First Nations’ ceremonies on the Enoch Cree nation, I was in discussion with my friend Gary Moostoos about this opportunity for tattoo removal. As a community worker, activist and healer Gary openly indicated that he thought erasing these scars of my past was a bad move. I did not agree. I contended and challenged his points with denial and anger. He suggested that these tattoos would serve as a constant reminder of where I have been and how easy it could be to go back to that life. He encouraged me to not erase these tattoos until I was ready to leave my hate behind. I nevertheless continued with the laser surgeries generously offered by the community of Edmonton.

The tattoo removal offer came while I was working as an addictions counselor at a men’s residential treatment facility. I became worn out and tired from living several months with painful blisters and burns induced by the laser surgery. My psoriasis began to attack all of my healing wounds. The healing process of these laser burns was hindered due to my skin disorder that was running rampant.

I sat with my good friend, who I consider family, Jerry Goodswimmer. Jerry a former Chief of Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation and a First Nations leader and scholarly activist indicated to me that he, like Gary, disagreed with removing my tattoos this soon. He blatantly said “you hurt my people now you need to sit with that”. Inside I knew he was correct. I had more road to travel on this healing journey before I could erase these tattoos.

These scars are carried with me every day as a reminder of where I have been, where I do not want to go, and to honor those I had perpetrated abuse against. These scars of past are self-inflicted writs and scribes of a hateful past that motivates me every single day to live a life motivated by compassion, empathy and love.

In compassionate and creative solidarity,

Daniel Gallant


[1] Photo by  Shaughn Butts, from the Edmonton Journal: City Plus Cover: Ex-skinhead seeks path of redemption, January 6th 2006.

[2] Poem written by Daniel Gallant. Edited by Daniel Gallant and Garry Gottfriedson. Scars of Past poem printed in West Coast Line No. 72, 2012, Winter Edition & published on http://www.lifeafterhate.org

[3] Ra-Ho-Wa: Racial Holy War, declared battle cry from the Creativity Movement excerpted from Nature’s Eternal Religion (Klassan, 1973) published by the Creativity Book Publisher.

[4] American Nazi Party leader George Lincoln Rockwell wrote book entitled White Power (1967) that used a white fist as the logo on cover.

[5] World Church of the Creator, a white supremacist/Neo-Nazi organization founded by Canadian Ben Klassan, now named The Creativity Movement due to civil litigation pertaining to a name/trademark infringement (Chicago-Illinois Civil Docket Case # 00-CV-2638).

[6] Phrase life-after-hate adopted from Arno Michealis’ book My Life After Hate and non-profit organization Life After Hate (www.lifeafterhate.org).

[7] Edmonton Journal, City Plus cover story, January 6, 2006: Ex-skinhead seeks path of redemption by Graham Andrews.

[8] Gayle Tallman employed at Canadian Jewish Congress now named The Center for Israel & Jewish affairs.

[9] Groot Dermasurgery Centre located in Edmonton, Alberta.

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About Daniel Gallant

Daniel is a social worker (MSW,RSW) and is a current student of law, who is also an emerging writer and has been published internationally in literary journals. Poetry is his primary creative processing tool, and also has published creative non-fiction (auto-biographic). He has a B.A. in First Nations Studies. I am a consultant for media, scholars, and government bodies about violent right wing extremism in Canada and a trained counsellor; Daniel offers services to individuals seeking to leave violent extremist lifestyles, and facilitates public speaking on matters of resiliency. Daniel presents Scholars from the Underground Blog in order to promote transformation and to contribute to create safe spaces in society for true cultural transformation. Canada has to move from a racist nation to an inclusionary society. We are blessed to live in a space and time where we can now talk openly about these social issues. Daniel welcomes you to is Blogosphere. http://scholarsfromtheunderground.com

13 responses to “Scars of Past”

  1. Jill Thomas says :

    I thought I knew Dan before, we called him Dan the Man, we loved him then we lost him. I am so happy he found himself so we have the opportunity to love him again ❤

  2. IzzieJ says :

    Wow! What a powerful article on racism and self-discovery! Thank you for sharing your story! I would love to interview you for my blog BONDFIRES.org. I hope you continue to speak out against racism. I hope the rest of your life is filled with love, joy and peace!-Izzie J

  3. bobby joe says :

    A racist never changes no matter how much they say they have. You will HATE all your life. You were born with it and you will die with it. It is yours forever. It doesn’t matter how many degrees you get, how much you say you have changed, how much you say that you have found love. You are a racist-plain and simple. Admit it !!! You sir, should not be allowed to speak to any youth about your life and how you say you have changed. You will never change. Hate will live with you forever.

    • Daniel Gallant says :

      Bobby Joe,

      Like others it seems you buy into the fact that racism is unchangeable. The concept of race is a social construction. The only thing that truly differentiates us is our own beliefs around the phenotypical attributes we call colour. In fact race has nothing to do with the determinants of one’s intelligence, deviance, or any other aspect of socialization. I grew up in a world of pain. It was not until I was willing to look at the root of my hate, which was driven by my need for violent exercises of power, then I was open to learning.

      As much as you may doubt me or anyone else, I understand. I commend you for speaking up. I challenge you to perhaps find a way to see why it is you are so bothered by my change and see where that stems from. I further challenge you to explore some key educational sources that will help you see another way to view the concept of race and racism. It can be changed. In fact, racism could be eliminated if we began to educate people. Not all hate is racist.

      In fact there are many things I do still hate. I have utter contempt for people who abuse marginalized, oppressed, and vulnerable peoples. This includes politically sanctioned abuses, some corporate abuses, and even child abuse. I am not asking you to believe me. That is your choice but I do encourage you to be open to see that you may not be entirely correct in your perspective. If you in fact are correct then how and why has society become less racist?

      If racism is inherent then surely people are at the core racist and there is no getting away from it. Racism is not biologically determined; it is socially taught.

      Sincerely

      Daniel Gallant

  4. Bobby Joe says :

    Text book answer. Very eloquent indeed. Education has sure paid off for you. I don’t need you to tell me how I feel about racism. I live with it everyday. I challenge it everyday and I change it everyday. I take racism head on. To me, the scars of your past that you carry (tattoos), are trophies of your victims of your violence. You have kept trophies of your victims of hate. I am glad that you have them. They let others see who and what your are. Don’t most seriel killers keep trophies of their victims? I don’t understand why you are not in jail having self admitted to 500 acts of violence (hate) in a two year period. You Sir, should be in jail for a very long time. I know of many reserves in this Province, that once they found out who you are and what you did, You Sir, would not be welcome. Nobody would listen to your empty words. They would turn their backs to you. They are people that you hate.

    Bobby Joe

    • Daniel Gallant says :

      Bobby,

      I am glad you take the time to read my writing. I am pleased you are expressing your lack of trust. I am sure if I was in your shoes I would feel differently.

      I believe there is most likely a chance that we have met before; I assume this because of the comments you made in the past.

      I understand you are angry with me. You are entitled to that. As I am sure you know often we believe people do not change; especially abusers. I learnt where my abusing others came from; it came from being abused. I have stopped that cycle and now work on several fronts in regards to anti racism, child protection advocacy, and educating others about the schismatic and racist design o our society.

      I encourage you to keep expressing yourself in a positive fashion. I hope you are able to reconcile your anger with me; I am willing to hear why you are so angry with me.

      Sincerely, Daniel Gallant

  5. bobby joe says :

    Oh, Danny boy-still talking your “spew” and still believing it !! I guess someone out there will finally believe you. Someone out there will listen to your empty words. I still do not believe anything that you say. Your are still and will always be a racist. A leopard does not and can not change his spots. Your elouquent and empty words are just that, elouquent and empty!! No one will listen to you. You are just wasting your breath. I am sure your brethren would love to hear what “old Danny boy” is up to these days. Try as you might, your spots will never change-what lies underneath will always remain the same.

    • Daniel Gallant says :

      It is sad that you do not believe people can change. I approved your comment, even though I disagree with you fundamentally; perhaps the reason I believe others can change is because I did a lot of work to change myself. However, I am far from perfect and still have many challenges. Nonetheless, James, I disagree with you. I also find it interesting you do not use your correct name on your comment.

      Daniel

  6. james says :

    Daniel,

    This is James. aka. Bobby Joe.

    Daniel, a few years ago I had a friend named Bobby Joe. He was my best friend. We grew up together. Babies, really. I can never remember not knowing Bobby Joe. We did everything. A “sticks and stones” kind of thing. He was like my brother. We had toy trucks, sandboxes, lego, sleep overs, forts, school, parties, girlfriends,…everything. We went to school together, graduated, went to college and dreamed of the future. He was the best man at my wedding. He toasted me well. We had good times. I remember them. Bobby Joe was going to change the world. He was a proud native man from Burns Lake. He was good and had good dreams. Daniel, he had a sparkle and I believed his sparkle.

    Bobby Joe was in Vancouver going to school. I wanted him to wait until we could all go together. But he insisted. He was getting everything set up for all of us. He was somewhere in Vancouver, alone (I really don’t know where) and a group of Skinheads came upon him. Well, they proceded to beat the living days lights out of Bobby Joe. I don’t know why !, I wish I know why ?. Maybe because he was alone, maybe because he was a “Indian” Maybe because he was alone and a “Indian”. Who knows! Stomping, beating, breaking bones, blood !. Daniel, Bobby Joe was left for dead, alone, bleeding on the streets of Vancouver!. Someone finally found Bobby Joe and got him to the hospital. In his wallet was my phone number along with a picture of both of us. I got a call from Vancouver and immediately went to the hospital. What I found was a beaten, broken man in a coma. Daniel, he was in ICU for days. It was “touch and go” for awhile. I waited and I worried. Finally I got to take him home. I brought him to Prince George to heal. Bobby Joe’s sparkle was gone. He was scared, timid, non-trusting and he had developed personal demons. Demons that would haunt him for the rest of his life. Daniel, you are right, people can change, and that faithful night Bobby Joe did change, he changed forever. He was never the same. Gone was his sparkle.

    Bobby Joe decided his sparkle was not bright enough. He found his life’s answer elsewhere. He no longer has demons. I wish that this was not true, but it is. Daniel, my best friend is gone. I am still angry. That night changed me forever. I wish that night never happened.

    Am I angry at you ?, yes, but no ! Yes, because of the group that you use to represent and be part of, but no, because, I don’t know you. Maybe you have changed? I hope that you have changed. I want to believe you have changed.

    I always thought of myself as a peaceful man with no hate. But, Daniel, in your writings, I found that I do have hate in me. I wish I didn’t, but I do. Like you, Daniel, I hate things that are not right. I wanted to speak for Bobby Joe, he believed in good and right. My words were angry. Your words helped me heal. I do believe that people can change if they really want to. There is good in everyone.

    Please continue to write, your words stir up emotions that some don’t even know they have. Your words really make you look “in the mirror” Change can happen everyday.

    James

  7. Daniel Gallant says :

    James,

    Great to hear from you again. I am interested to hear about your friend Bobby Joe some more. Please feel free to contact me at: scholarsfromtheunderground@gmail.com

    Perhaps I can offer you and Bobby Joe some further resolve.

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