Memorial Day

I hope everyone is enjoying their three day holiday. Today is Memorial Day and in addition to honoring our soldiers, I encourage you to contemplate how we can create more Peace. I’ve been perusing some resources to find out how many wars we’ve been involved with since the Civil War; the origins of this holiday.

I came across a passage, the article itself somewhat a rant. The slant however, is good, as the author brings up questions that really matter. How can we continue to spend more than any other country on Defense when our own people lack health care, food, and shelter? Many U.S. interventions have been seemingly altruistic, but this unselfish concern for the needs or interests of others must be applied domestically.

The way I see it- our soldiers, a voluntary profession, keep in mind, and our taxes, a mandatory requirement, go towards battles that don’t create Peace. Peace is not the objective of War. The U.S. is a pretty aggressive country. It’s also a more prosperous nation than most, but that doesn’t impress me much when you stop to consider our own suffering infrastructure. And then stop to consider the 3 trillion dollars that have gone into this war and how it could be invested differently. It’s time for the U.S. to lead us into the next era of international relations by changing its own aggressive tendencies, taking better care of its own people and build without destroying. I’m always confused by the premise that welfare and a big federal government is horrible but trillions of dollars spent in a War whose to build a democracy overseas is justified.

Per our aggression throughout the years, as found at http://www.alternet.org/audits/77827/

“For example, suppose you wanted to measure comparative national warlike tendencies by simply counting wars. Since World War II, the United States has messed around, in ways big and small, in Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, Lebanon, Grenada, Iraq, Panama, Colombia, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Haiti, Afghanistan again, and Iraq again. No country in the world can begin to match this record in the last half-century. And I’m not even listing here the covert operations (almost everywhere), including the ones that toppled democratically elected governments (Iran, Guatemala, Chile, etc.), the long-term occupations of Latin American countries by the U.S. military, the gunboat diplomacy of the American Navy around the world, the aiding and abetting of other killers (Saddam invading Iran, for example, apartheid South Africa or the Israeli occupation of Palestine), the militarization of the oceans and of space, or the myriad other ways in which the United States leads the planet in aggressive tendencies. (For a whole century’s worth of overseas fun — not even counting the big stuff — Stephen Kinzer’s Overthrow is highly recommended reading.) ”

In other news, the Veterans for Peace have been blocked by the American Veterans Center from marching in the annual parade. Veterans for Peace intended to carry a casket representing the loss in war. I’m not sure why that is considered political. The reality is people aside from our own troops die in war. In Vietnam, our news actually showed the caskets coming home. The news now takes a cleaner approach to war, put it would serve us well to realize the atrocity of War. We tend to see it in financial terms more than anything; the war cost us a trillion dollars, the price of gas has gone up, we are facing a recession.

In defense, president of the group, Jim Roberts, says, “”We don’t allow groups in the parade that are projecting an opinion. That goes for pro-mission as well as anti-war,” Roberts said. However, I would say that generally being a vet means at one time you were pro-mission. Except if you were drafted. For more on the article, click here.
I try to stay very apolitical while on the P.E.A.C.E ride. My focus is Peace, what does it mean, how do we create it in our personal lives. However, each individual exists as part of a greater community and then as part of a global human network. Topics like this have to be considered. Just in case you haven’t read enough over here today, I am reposting the blog about the Memorial from last year.

Have a great Memorial day, drive safe and don’t forget to think about Peace!

A Day of Remembrance.

Odometer Reading at departure: 3,563.0
Memorial Stopping Point: 3,690.0
General Douglas Macarthur

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. IMG_1330

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 oppression?

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 in September the death count was at 2703. DSCN0764When 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. MemorialThe 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…..

Sunset in NE

If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other. -Mother Theresa (1910-1997)

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