Just wanted to say a word for the dead after this memorial day. Especially the fallen soldiers in Iraq. I know this forum^ is normally about domestic violence, but I hope we can take a moment to decry other forms of violence as well. A couple that I and my wife are very close to are counselors, he works for the Dept of Veterans Affairs and she is a rape / crisis counselor in private practice. They have told me that survivors of war and survivors of rape often have similar symptoms and challenges, so maybe there is something in common after all. I don't know.
But I do know that I grieve for my brothers who died in this war, and in my war (the first Gulf War) and in my friends war (VietNam) and my mentors war (WW II). I grieve for the families they left behind, for the comrades who bear the guilt of having survived them, and for the violence that all we soldiers have inflicted on others.
When I was a young man, I joined the Navy so that I could support a girl whom I had asked to marry me. I thought long and hard before choosing helicopter based anti submarine warfare because there are very few civilian submarines and so little chance of killing innocents. I was sent to the first gulf war and my helicopter helped to clear mine fields. All was well until my helo was used to guide army attack helos from the gulf to the area of their targets. In the video from one of their wire guided missiles, there was a distinct image of a teeter-totter going up and down as the missile zoomed in. The secondary explosion left little doubt that those kids were killed.
After the war, I started drinking. With the goal of getting drunk. Years later, AA taught me to make amends to everyone that I had wronged. Today, I am trying to do that, in a negligible way, by speaking out against any form of violence.
I won't try to make the world rosy. It is true that many problems seem to have no solution but "the last resort of the incompetent." They are resolved only when an 18 year old is standing on a hill with an M-16 in his hand. Or when a serial rapist goes to the chair. And it seems that even more local problems end with a violent solution: Disobedience in children is "solved" by yelling / spanking / slapping and much, much worse. Sexual frustration or inadequicy is "solved" by rape and molestation.
We are all incompetent at one time or another, in one way or another, and we all feel the desire to give in and just lash out, let go of our self control and do harm to others to get what we want. Sometimes we must be violent to get what we need. Even to survive.
But it goes even deeper than that, I believe. In "The War Prayer" Mark Twain said "If you pray for the blessing of rain upon your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse upon some neighbor's crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it."
In the first Gulf War, my war, it was about oil, no question. We were protecting our "valuable trading partner" Kuwait and our uninterrupted supply of the oil we had come to depend upon. I blamed the killing on my country: How could my government, my people, send me over here and order me to do this? Did they really need that oil so badly? Now that I'm back here, I'm a part of that country. The finger of guilt has a way of traveling in large circles...
The vast majority of our food is grown with petroleum based fertilizers. And the major users of fuel are the trucks, trains and ships that transport our food and other goods.
Bananas, grown thousands of miles away in a banana republic, are cheap to ship over here because oil is kept cheap through war. I think of eating a banana over here as firing a round of ammunition over there.
Driving a hummer, eating bananas, shopping for the lowest price for foreign goods; these are all tiny violence's that we commit without thinking. Multiplied times the millions of people who commit them, they are the cause of our wars, of the oppression of peoples in the 3rd world, of the death of personal responsibility.
For memorial day, I worked in my garden. We have spinach, lettuce, onions, chives, green and red peppers, tomatoes, and more strawberries than we can eat. It was great exercise, it was peaceful, and it made me happy on a very, very sad day.
You can start small and still have an impact. Buy locally grown, organic food. Cut an old milk jug or something from your trash in half to make a pot, plant cherry tomatoes or basil or something else that is easy to grow. Set it out in the sun, water it once a day, just enough to dampen to soil.
Have faith that it will grow. And when you eat the result, know that it does make a difference. Know that because of it one less round of ammunition will need to be fired by an 18 year old in some other country. You can eat it here and it will make your body healthy. And their bodies won't have to eat it over there.
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