When it comes to questions of how to respond to the cultural demand to "honor the soldiers who died for you," I find that the problem is not so much that I do not want to comply, but that I literally do not know how. Assuming, of course, that our honor and memory should take a form other than silent complicity in the continuing violence and militarism of our government — what should my honor look like?
It has happened again. In fact, it is still happening, even now. If not here, then somewhere, in this country, in this world. There is almost no end to it. There is almost no space between one moment and the next, between the pain and the noise it makes. What do we do now?
Different stories will inspire different people. For some, cooking and crafting is their way of fostering a relationship with the natural world, while others might be inspired by the greater call to serve the community on a global scale through conservation. If our efforts are effective and the stories we tell are inspiring, does it really matter whether we approach the work with the courageous heart of a fighter, or the gentle heart of a farmer? My post on invasive species provoked some really wonderful discussion from readers last week, reminding me once again just how diverse our attitudes towards the natural world can be. Even when we all agree on what practical actions we need to take, our motivations and reasons can be very different!
In my latest post over at Pagan+Politics, I explore the real origins and context of the quote, "Only the dead have seen the end of war" (commonly but falsely attributed to the ancient Greek philosopher Plato), and grapple with some of the deeper ironies surrounding the celebration of Memorial Day: "I know little about death and what our ancestors, the beloved dead, would say or do if they were alive today. I find it hard to believe that Plato would be anything less than horrified by the mechanisms of global warfare and violence that we have invented in the last century; I imagine that he, like Santayana and so many other philosophers of our time, would struggle to reconcile such sweeping violence with a belief that there is reason and structure within the chaos... Read more...
In my latest post over at Pagan+Politics, I ramble on a bit about my reaction to the news of Osama bin Laden's death, what it means for the future of foreign policy in this country, and how these questions all lead me back to the larger questions concerning justice, reconciliation and peacemaking: "Has justice been done? I'm not sure. When I turn a reflective eye on my own reactions, I have to admit that I feel very little more than mild surprise. I don't feel relieved or happy about the news, but nor do I feel particularly sorrowful. I might even describe my reaction as curiosity, albeit a wincing, hesitant kind, that leaves me wondering, "What next?" After a decade of using bin Laden and the threat he represented as the raison d'être for so much of U.S. war-mongering and justifications for our violent, heavy-handed foreign policy — after three on-going wars, thousands dead, millions of civilians turned overnight into refugees — I wonder if the death of a single man can do much of anything to restore balance and see justice done. ...
We consent to our own destruction, with the passing of time, with the changing seasons, with the restless intensity of living and breathing. Above the cold concrete and glass of the city skyline, sharp-wedged forms of birds wheel and tip in the dark, blustering sky. I find myself thinking again that it takes an awful lot of courage to live in this world sometimes, knowing that winter is coming, the dark is coming, and death, too, will eventually arrive to claim us. It takes courage to release ourselves, to enter willingly into the wild dance that whirls in this liminal space between life and death, creation and destruction. In my mind, the image of birds crashing through wind currents and swift-driven clouds commingles with the image of the warrior, poised in grace on the edge of chaos.
My first customer of the morning was a disheveled-looking woman with suitcases and overflowing canvas tote bags piled up around her in the tiny booth where she sat sipping her coffee and fingering an unlit cigarette back and forth across her knuckles. The waitress from the midnight shift shrugged and shook her head. "It's not like she's out of her right mind or anything..." I glanced at the woman grinning dreamily across the dining room. "When she came in, she threw up her arms in the air in a bear-hug," my manager chimed in, "I thought she was going to attack you!" I walked a fresh pot of coffee over and topped off her mug. The woman winked. "It's cold enough out there to shiver my timbers!" I smiled. "That's what we're here for," I said, gesturing gently with the steaming pot.