A Day of Remembrance.
Odometer Reading at departure: 3,563.0
Memorial Stopping Point: 3,690.0
That is 127 miles spent contemplating the value of life and the measure of man, holding many questions in my thoughts. The day’s journey was dedicated to all lives lost in war.
I departed Fairbury, Nebraska, heading toward the 11th vector on the Peace map- Sioux Falls, South Dakota. My first stop was in Seward, NE, for breakfast/lunch and coffee. I pulled in to a very Norman Rockwell small town and went to the local grocery store. The locals had all congregated for lunch and raised eyebrows at me. I made myself invisible and listened to the banter about politics and the heat, chewing on a starchy, greasy grilled cheese and tomato.
It had become obvious to me that these areas in the Plains had sent many youth off to fight-in many wars.
For hundreds of miles past and to come- I have seen memorials and signs in support of our soldiers.
I am riding for Peace. I would like those who also support the soldiers to understand that means I want to see an end to war so that our soldiers don’t keep dying. Which is pretty supportive, I think. Let’s refer back to that “for us or against us”, mentality that so endangers our ability to problem solve and communicate effectively. I do not stand in support of this war but I pay tribute to those who lost their lives in this complicated mess.
I feel the measure of loss from it-on all sides.
Of course I don’t want our soldiers, or ANY SOLDIERS, to die. How could I say I want this? Are not our hands bloodied indirectly- though soldiers face immediate death-through allowing this war? How can I say “I am willing for there to be death for there to be Peace?” Perhaps in our past history, this was the only way. But have any of these wars created Peace? Or just more oppression?
When you take the time to converse with someone seemingly different from yourself, you realize you have the similar needs. Our strategies for acquiring them are different. Basic needs are protection, food, medicine, shelter. Our cultural, religious, and political views separate us because those indicate the different routes we take to acquire our basic needs. And said systems often perpetuate such inequity or oppression that we inhibit people from acquiring the basic needs. Which usually creates war, fighting or revolutions. History shows it.
This evolution everyone talks about-where? when? how? I can boot up the computer and play an online game of chess with someone in Russia. The scooter I ride was made in Taiwan. Do you shop at Walmart? All that stuff was made in China. Where did your jeans come from? Your underwear? Your food? Your stocks-how many countries are you invested in? Our lives are interconnected-at the very least-from a monetary perspective. The point being, we have access to other cultures in a way we never did before-other cultures are becoming embedded in our lives-and ours in theirs. We are building global bridges.
How can we continue this attitude that we will send our youth off to kill, or to die as a way to resolve conflict? Why is it not just as patriotic to be a visionary statesman/woman and brainstorm new ways of conflict resolution as it is to bury our youth and spend billions of American money?
In war, people die-lives, families and towns are forever altered through the decision to declare and fight a war. I don’t want war. I want us to accept that conflict is inevitable, I experience it in some form at least every other day. How we choose to resolve it and create viable decisions for our precious youth is the new paradigm. I guess it comes down to power. And power over is something our country has always had. Maybe its time to set the bar and create institutions that resolve conflict by developing power with. The more we exert power over, the more conflict will continue to fester. Conflict hasn’t been removed-just shifted-in that type of relationship. If someone’s spouse beats them into submission because they are complaining about something, they can only shut them up for a bit, they haven’t solved the problem. They are ruling their partner by fear only. Beating your partner for dominance isn’t a last resort tactic-it’s plain wrong. No matter what the situation is. What if we applied that mentality to our global tactics? Sure, it’s complicated. You don’t have to tell me that, or think this snippet is my only synopsis of international relations, thank you. But our tactics in the Mid-East aren’t developing sustainable futures. And our youth and their youth are dying-at rapid rates.
The day’s journey was dedicated to all those lives lost in war. At a protest I attended in September 2006 the death count was at 2703. Today, when the odometer hit 3670, I called my friend for the latest death count. Unfortunately, it had gone up one since the morning-and there were probably more unrecorded. That last twenty miles was very solemn for me. I had spent all day relating my living to the deaths these soldiers experienced-giving thanks I have it. I thought about what I would do if Death came to me and said I had the day to spend as I wished. A tractor trailer came hauling up behind me at 3689, so that last mile countdown was a hectic. I maneuvered over to the side of the road and settled in for a little memorial.
There I was, surround by nothing but corn, twenty miles past the town of Schuyler, NE, begging the universe that we learn from these tragedies we invent. I read passages on Non Violence from Martin Luther King and held a prayer for us. A mailbox (?) stood across the way, so I put a postcard in it. The explanation on the card said that I was traveling through on a ride for Peace and that my odometer just reached the number of dead U.S. Soldiers. I asked that they take a moment of silence and help to envision a better world, then fill out the postcard and send it to a friend-or the President.
Then I prepared a geo-cache package and placed it in a ziplock baggie under some loose chunks of asphalt by a “School Bus Stop Ahead,” sign. So, if you are traveling Hwy 15 through Nebraska-there is a package hidden there. It’s GPS coordinates are +41° 38′ 10.50″, -97° 3′ 33.96″ (41.636250, -97.059433)
The mileage of the Peace Scooter tour 2007 will never be equal to the amount of total casualties; a reminder that war is lose-lose proposition and Peace is not solely a political endeavor. It’s personal and it’s fundamental that we envision new ways to resolve conflict.
That night as I headed towards Sioux Falls, the sunset was the most breathtaking one I have ever seen. It lasted about half an hour at least, the longest sunset I have ever seen, I swear. My route kept shifting, east, then north. Every bend I came around presented a new exhilarating angle. Miles Davis was playing on the iPod, my heart was soaring, and my mind reeling from the intoxication of being human. There are a lot of prospects ahead in our future-let’s not forget the interconnectedness we share on this Earth. Thanks for reading and being there at the memorial with me for a moment…..
If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other. -Mother Theresa (1910-1997)