Falling Down and Going Under

 

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TASHA – Upside Down

(photo credit North American Bear Center)

 

I have been traveling across country during the past week from New Mexico to Maine, leaving one “home” for another wondering what the word even means for me these days. I suspect the word doesn’t refer to a place, but a state of mind/body that continues to elude me.

 

In a forested glen in Virginia I first heard the cardinals singing from the trees and smelled fragrant mounds of trailing honeysuckle that cascaded over every bush and lichened granite stone. For a while I seemed unable to soak in enough of the fully leafed out deciduous trees – trees dressed in miraculous shades of lime, deepening to dark spruce. My endless hunger for emerald green was finally appeased by endless rolling hills and blue tipped mountains.

 

Arriving in Maine brought rain, a second spring, the joy of peepers chiming by the thousands in the bogs, a million shades of unfurling greens, muted maple flower reds that veiled the trees, and willowy emerald grasses waving to the hills. The rich scent of forests, ponds and brooks allows me to breathe in rich moist – laden air with an appreciation for humidity that I have never had before l moved to the desert. The North Country woman has come home to cobalt blue skies without a harsh summer white out, and the brutal west winds of the desert have been left behind.

 

Last night, the bears came. First a small yearling who climbed bb’s pine after feeding a few minutes on the ground – oh, the sound of pitiful wailing and moaning broke my heart. Where was the yearling’s mother? After about 45 minutes she arrived, ate a few morsels, tipped over the bird feeder for her yearling’s pleasure and strode across the lawn with the confidence that comes from knowing her territory and accepting recent non – threatening human/dog arrivals. Disappearing down to the brook she finally re appeared behind her little one. Suddenly, startled by some strange sound, she sprinted down the hill with her youngster trailing close behind. This mother behaved so casually towards her offspring that I wondered if family break up was immanent. When the female comes into estrus she will leave her yearling on its own… a normal process, though heartrending to experience. Yearlings are often very afraid to be left alone. After they left I stayed by the window staring into the night, and sent a silent prayer of gratitude and prayers for the safety of these bears to Venus who was perched in high the night sky over the eastern horizon. If any experience would help me find ‘home’, I thought, an experience of seeing beloved wild bears would.

 

Yet I am still walking on air.

 

Upside down, backwards, sideways. No wonder we feel dizzy and nauseated much of the time. Legislators discuss ”consensual rape,” presidential spokespeople insist there are ”alternate facts,” and lies become beyond brazen since there are written, photographic, video, audible, publicly witnessed records and testimonies exposing the lies. Crowd size, for example. What was said in an un-doctored videotaped interview or speech. What crime was boldly committed and baldly denied. When enough of these accumulate—and they come in an avalanche daily—they leave tiny pits, then dents, in a citizen’s self confidence about recognizing reality, until the blizzard of pebbles becomes a pelting of stones and finally a hillside of boulders roaring down to bury the self, the truth, the real…This happens through language and action both, via short-term tactics and long-term strategies. It’s so blatant it bewilders the rational mind…It’s so continual it exhausts attempts to select one discrete example and analyze that constructively… It’s so absurd that in lighter moments we liken it to Wonderland or the looking glass, with ourselves as Alice–shrinking, swelling, lost, being bullied, even being sentenced to our own beheading. There is fear, and worse: the massive combination of all this seems so encompassing as to feel overwhelming, it evokes despair.”

This morning Robin Morgan’s words burned through my bear haze, reminding me that along with all the wild creatures I cannot inhabit this planet in peace. Just like the haunted, hunted bears, I too am on the run. Because ‘the personal is political’ no place is home because most of the humans on this planet have gone insane and there is no safe place left to go…

Postscript:

What I didn’t realize until I wrote this post was that on one hand we are being assaulted – the Earth and her peoples, and on the other side we are faced with a wall of personal and pubic denial of what is…there is no way through. We are stuck in a crack in between.

Memorial Day – A Reflection on War

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I believe that there is a collective need on the part of women and men to stop supporting those who have served in the military, men who have killed and maimed millions of human beings, men, and now some women, who always fight on foreign soil killing innocent people and calling these acts of unspeakable violence “collateral damage.” Men who are then lauded as our country’s “Heroes.”

It is important to note that in our very Patriarchal culture, war is still the ultimate solution to the world’s problems. Might is right, and we Americans worship the dynamic of “power over” and the “mighty economy” at the cost of countless human lives.

The idea that war has been obsolete since the creation of the atomic bomb almost a century ago is deliberately and blindly ignored. We continue to strengthen our military at a huge financial cost to every American citizen. We talk peace and create wars. Or we participate in “conflicts” in the name of “democracy,” a form of imperialism. We have become a nation of warmongers.

Every spring, during the beautiful month of May we come around to Memorial Day Weekend when most families celebrate the death of millions with picnics, parties and camping trips.

Many also genuinely grieve deeply the loss of their sons, daughters, nephews, uncles, fathers and grandfathers, and surely some of them wonder if sacrificing their often adolescent children to war in the name of “patriotism” was really worth it after all.

These are the people my heart aches for. For I too have lost family members to warfare, and find it impossible to dismiss these tragic deaths as necessary in order to save our country from “enemies,” who are human beings, just like us. We project evil onto other races, religions etc., while closing our eyes to our own. We refuse to examine our individual or collective capacity for human evil.

We don’t see many older men racing to the nearest recruiting station to volunteer to become a part of the military. We sacrifice our young people instead. On Memorial Day weekend we sentimentalize those who died “in service to their country” modeling this sacrificial behavior to adolescents who are idealistic and whose brains are not fully developed and thus and not yet capable of distinguishing the various shades of gray from black and white thinking. Many young people are recruited in high school because they do not know what direction to take in their lives, or because someone has inculcated in the adults around them the idea that serving their country “will make a man (woman?) out of them” or keep them off the streets  and away from drugs. We romanticize war through all forms of media. We wave flags frantically trying to out do one another, to prove what? That our dead are more important than those we kill?

We should be ashamed of ourselves and our collective behavior.

Wars are not inevitable.

 Unfortunately, in the United States (as well as elsewhere) men and women are both inculcated into patriarchy, a position that automatically privileges men over women at home, in the workplace, in politics, and in the religious practices of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Men are not born into power and control over others; they are taught to be this way, either by their caregivers, wives/partners, community, religious practices, government, or by the culture as a whole. Just as women are taught subservience.

Patriarchy supports an unequal power structure between men and women that can lead to physical mental emotional, and spiritual abuse. And we know that abuse of women is at an all time high. It is not by accident that 52 percent of American women voted for a president who is a misogynist. How else do these women justify how powerless they feel, or how much they hate themselves or other women?

Healthy women (and men) can help stop male violence at many levels. We can refuse to support those who are warmongers, we can refuse to stay in unhealthy relationships, we can refuse to allow our sons and daughters to be sacrificed to the military. We can stop sentimentalizing our losses by refusing to participate in Memorial Day activities.

At the risk of being called sexist I believe that women in particular are in a position to mediate the culture’s -either or – kill or be killed, – thinking about the inevitability of war. It is scientifically factual to state that women are better able to see both sides of an issue because women have the capacity to use both sides of their brains at the same time. Men as a group have a tendency to see an issue in absolutes – as in seeing a truth as right or wrong.

We need healthy, independent women to speak out against the atrocities of war in spite of being called ‘radical’ or ‘feminist’ or crazy. Women are in a position to be able to see beyond the cultural belief in “the inevitability of war” more clearly than men can because of the way they think.