Our honoring of Veterans on November 11th stems from the Armistice or peace agreement set forth on the 11thhour of the 11thday of the 11thmonth of 1918, which brought an end to WWI. Known as “the war to end all wars” both sides agreed to end the bloody conflict, which had taken more than 8.5 million lives over four years.
When the generals agreed to end the fighting, the Allies chose the 11th hour. Six hours remained before that time. In the final moments, a young man, honored by the United States as the last soldier to die in that war, charged the German line. Both sides called for him to stop before machine guns ended his life.
Henry Gunther had been drafted. On the front lines he had written a letter urging a friend not to enlist. The letter was intercepted and for his clarity he was demoted. His fiancé ended their engagement and he was left to prove himself a worthy soldier.
The peace of the armistice did not find him.
When I was young I dreamed that one-day soldiers would refuse to fight. I was told it was naïve. I am older now and I have learned a bit about peace. And this is what I know: peace is a personal choice we each must make again and again. It is not an end of conflict. It is a feeling and an understanding and it is possible.
Peace is a choice. And I am still dreaming that all people will make that choice.
As for Henry Gunther he was posthumously reinstated to his role as sergeant. And even though honored as the last to die in the war, he was not.
But he reminds us of this: Discover your own armistice and don’t give your life away.
It’s time to change the narrative. You know, the stories of our lives; the beliefs that were handed to us and go unchallenged. The fabrications of falsehoods devised to divide.
There are some real perks to rural living. One is the solitude that comes from the physical distance of other people – the good, the bad and the ugly. The downside to rural living is our ability to avoid anyone or anything that challenges the comfort zone of beliefs we commonly share. This isolation into sameness often drives me to discover a different glimpse of humanity.
Our Winding River library system carries a wide variety of important films. I was grateful to borrow the 2018 film “The Hate U Give”. This American drama is based on a novel by Angie Thomas and directed by George Tillman, Jr.
In the movie we are given the opportunity to witness a black teen exist between two worlds: a white suburban high school she attends and her home in a predominantly black and poor neighborhood.
It would be very easy to reduce this clash of two worlds to sound bites, but the written artistry, superb directing and passionate acting present viewers with complex themes in a human touch.
Tupac Shakur and his message of “Thug Life” play a central theme in the movie. We’re invited to explore Tupac’s explanation of the meaning of “thug” in these, his edited words, “The Hate U Give Little Infants, “Effs” Everybody.”
This is a movie that explores hate but is triumphant in love. And that is profound in a world insistent on division.
My advice? Rent the movie. Take time with it and make sure to engage the extras on the menu. Look at life from another’s point of view. Take time to see how hate destroys, but love conquers, and then, let’s change the narrative.
photo from Wikipedia
As the weather turns towards winter our interaction with Nature offers another window of understanding. Shorter and often cloudy days are a transition away from the busy buzz of summer. The waning of the green and the falling leaves remind us of the finite nature of life. For those who live of and from the Earth the impending winter teaches us to prepare for what will surely be the stark contrast of summer’s plenty. So it is of little wonder that centuries of people have held the end of October and the beginning of November as a time of reflection.
Samhain, the Day of the Dead, All Souls Day and more were created by human beings who wanted to honor and celebrate this unique season. This passage of time brings with it the recognition of death and of those who have gone before us. Ancestors are honored and homage paid to them, in hopes that any darkness that had stalked them would let them rest in peace. There is also a hope to chase away any demons that may have been left behind.
The end of October and beginning of November is often referred to as the time of the thinning veil. The veil is the cloak that keeps us from the awareness of our true nature. When the veil thins, we have the opportunity to see differently. It is as if Nature has given us this time to make peace with our finite nature and to begin to comprehend our nature of infinite consciousness.
To distil this time to a holiday marked by fear and titillation is a commentary on our culture’s discomfort with death and our lack of connection to life’s more subtle invitations. When ceremony looses its roots, we are left with superstition.
Let the season remind us.
photo: wikipedia commons
Hope, like faith, cannot be blind. It needs to be active and engaged. It requires love and consciousness. And it exists in each of us.
These days hope is easily dashed. When we are hopeless we are easily misled and easily crushed. Fear becomes the dominant force.
And fear is hope’s enemy; especially the paralyzing kind that grips us when we believe there is nothing we can do.
I understand why many of my friends cannot follow the news. The facts and the fabrications are daunting. Just the numbers of worldwide refugees are enough to overwhelm us. The displacement of people due to war, natural disaster, persecution and violence have resulted in over 60 million human beings forced from their homes over the past two decades.
Sixty million children, women and men, young and old, have been driven from their homes. With daily news of over crowded camps, disease and starvation, they are crying to be recognized and desperate to be helped.
Recent events in Syria have underscored the fact that governments are not helping and are more likely the cause of forced displacement.
Hoping that our government or any government will save the day is simply blind. Religious leaders too, are often mired in politics, greed or scandal and guide with fear, not hope.
I am of the mindset that everything we need is at hand. It is not a whimsical fairy tale. It’s an idea born of experience.
Hope is the launching point of action. It is the direct result of courageous conviction and supreme trust. And it is born in the heart of an individual who refuses to surrender to ignorance.
I will leave you with these words of Desmond Tutu: “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
If you fell into the lull of summer, October will bring to you the shock of approaching winter. Lush grasses wither with a serious frost. The sheep roam the orchard with a bit more ferocity, stocking up on any late falling apples. Wild animals put on extra coats of fur and this is often an indicator of how swiftly winter will settle in with permanency.
October is also the month my mother would begin to query me on how wild animals make it through the winter. She had seen fawns and had fallen in love with their grace and beauty. She needed to know they would be OK when the icy winds of winter blew. I would share with her all that I had observed and while that placated her, she was determined to put her concerns to rest. So one day she said, “There must be a building they go to.” I smiled at her simplicity and reveled in her compassion.
I thought of her today as I contemplated human homelessness. I have never understood it. I’m certain it is a human construct. And I know the numbers of people we deem homeless have increased over the past few decades – directly proportional to our growing lack of empathy and compassion.
So when I heard Bernie Sanders declare that “a safe, decent, accessible, and affordable home (is) a fundamental right,”I agreed. When I heard that he said this the day after President Trump disparaged the homeless, I applauded. Apparently Trump would like us to believe that the homeless crisis is harming cities’ “prestige”.
More research on homelessness reveals the fact that providing people with a permanent home is more cost effective than offering temporary housing or temporary services. That makes sense.
We have everything we need to end homelessness; we simply lack compassion.
We are inching closer to renaming Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The debate began in 1977 at a Conference on Discrimination Against Indigenous Populations. And it demands ongoing education.
Why education? Well, for starters, Columbus wasn’t the first European to discover the Western Hemisphere. The first were Norse, traveling west from Greenland, when Erik the Red founded a settlement near what is now Newfoundland in 985. Secondly, Columbus never set foot on North America and instead landed in what is now known as the Bahamas. After meeting the native people, Columbus incorrectly named them Indio and captured about twenty-five human beings to be gifted as slaves to the Spanish king and queen. About eight of his twenty-five captives survived the trip. This began the first transcontinental slave trade.
On his second voyage Columbus brought with him soldiers and farmers to colonize the land and the people. The Taino people, who were known to be peaceful and full of natural wisdom and complex, governing systems, were brutally eliminated. Thus began the systemic destruction of indigenous ways of life and the genocide that continues to this day.
So the question becomes, why do we celebrate a man who bridged the Atlantic Ocean with cruelty and ignorance? The answer lies in a world-view whose bottom line believes that the destiny of human kind lies with god*. I have read explanations that it was god’s hand that guided the misguided Columbus. This vengeful and cruel god is the excuse of those who continue to exercise colonialism and the genocide of indigenous people throughout the world.
In 1991, Russell Means, an Oglala Lakota human rights activist, gave the prophetic speech, “For the World to Live Columbus Must Die”. He challenged our reluctance to let go of the legend of Columbus. I agree. It is time for the ignorance to end.
* I choose to lower case “god” when I am referring to the man-made construct of a brutal and vengeful god. I capitalize “God” if I refer to an impartial and benevolent force. I am of the opinion the god of manifest destiny needs to go the way of Columbus.
Wisconsin is now recognizing Indigenous People’s Day
Photo / poster compliments of Wikipedia Commons.
In between the downpours that have become autumn’s new norm, I heard a faint cry from the potato patch. The potatoes were calling me to come and get them. I know that is ridiculous and perhaps it was my stomach saying it was time for lunch, but regardless, I took the time to unearth those precious gems. Heavy spring rains made their planting late and now they seemed pushed to the surface by the swell of water that continues to fall from the sky.
In case you haven’t gotten the memo, the times they are a changin’. The name we have given it is climate change. And while politicians debate the causes and pundits advance notions of population control and promote the need to industrialize our food systems even more, the gardener and the harvester observe and respond to the roller coaster ride that we are now engaged in.
To say we are in challenging times is an understatement.
As if uncertainty is not enough, the media spin attempts to guide us with fear. The already prevalent notion of scarcity is driving our pocket books and our vision. When all the while, the earth remains quite capable of feeding us.
This is what the lover of the earth knows.
The lover of the earth knows that there is still time to learn from the seasons, to enrich the soil, to re-discover old wisdoms and re-plant old seeds. The lover of the earth knows that food of the earth is the best medicine, unadulterated and pure. And the lovers of the earth will go right on loving regardless of the climate upheaval, because we can.
The earth has many more secrets to reveal and we are capable of learning.
As for me, I’ll meet this new day with trust in my heart and hoe in hand.