A New Dawn?

IMG_3378.jpeg

 

Lily B my dove sings up November’s ominous orange sun peering out his window that overlooks over the mountain soon to be marred by machines that will create chaos in the skies. Dead bats and birds will be the invisible collateral damage. Whirling blades create noise that “hums” creating electrical impulses that are registered in human/animal bodies perhaps below the threshold of awareness but these waves of electricity are capable of disrupting bodily integrity and creating illness in ways that have not yet been studied.

 

I just read yesterday that my most beloved twenty – six year old collared dove is also avidly hunted as a game bird in New Mexico, (although New Mexico it must be noted, has much stricter hunting laws than Maine does). How can Lily B not know that others of his kind will be slaughtered while he lives on as a free flying house bird, protected and loved? Is there no escape from this “harvesting” of animals and birds for sport (fun) and trophies, and the addictive high that comes with each new kill?

 

When Europeans first came to this country they brought their guns introducing their profoundly “nature hating” way of life to the Native peoples and animals that already inhabited this continent. These men killed because they could. They bragged about shooting any animal that moved, collected pelts, heads, teeth, gall bladders, horns as evidence of their superior skill. When wounded grizzly bears responded to attacks by retaliating in self- defense, these poor animals were simply extirpated.

 

In the process of the violent takeover of this continent and its peoples the myth of “the killer bear” was birthed, soon becoming an American “truth.” It didn’t matter that Indigenous peoples had lived in peace with polar, grizzly and black bears for millennium, naming her/him Healer, Guardian, Guide and Protector. All bears were demonized and became the enemy, destined to fall to the hunter’s gun. As the settlers moved west and north black bears, grizzly, buffalo, antelope, deer, polar bears and birds disappeared, some species becoming extinct. Europeans shot everything that moved as the vicious and soul destroying “hunting tradition” became their new dawn.

 

I just finished reading a book about a man who lived with polar bears for a number of years and found them to be highly intelligent and shy animals that co- existed with him in peace. This biologist never carried a gun and the only near attack situation he found himself in was one that he deliberately provoked.

 

Charles Russell has lived around grizzly bears all his life (he’s in his late seventies now). He did an in depth study of grizzlies in Russia over a period of ten years to answer the question of whether or not it was possible to live with these animals in peace in a wilderness area where these animals had not yet learned to fear humans. The answer, of course, was yes. The only protection Charlie ever carried was pepper spray, and the only time he ever used it was to protect his rescued grizzly cubs from adult male grizzlies before they were old enough to be returned to the wilderness.

Dr. Lynn Rogers 55 plus years as a bear biologist and the most extensive researcher of black bears on the planet attests to the peaceful nature of black bears. His educational facility and many academic research papers can easily be accessed on his website www.bear.org.

 

If the myth of the killer bear is false, then how many other lies are being told about other animals?

 

Yesterday I heard one man say “we have to keep on hunting because if we don’t the animals will take over and threaten our way of life. We have to keep them under our control.” This is the standard response of most people I know. How this logic could possibly apply to deer, doves, elk, bison, prairie dogs or moose is beyond my comprehension. Bears are a different matter because men project their darkest fears onto these poor animals and then slaughter them without mercy.

 

Aside from projection, the question that is never addressed is why Americans continue to hunt in the first place, since most folks no longer “need” to put meat on the table. After all, we have grocery stores and programs (at least for now) that assist those in financial need.

 

What we refuse to acknowledge is that Americans hunt because they love the addictive high, and the sense of power they experience that comes with the kill. Is it any wonder that murdering innocent people is now so commonplace that we are immune to hearing it on the evening news? I would argue that there is a direct relationship between slaughtering animals and killing humans.

 

We also keep violence in the foreground in this country with our obsessive need to celebrate heroes of war through “holidays” like Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day when we venerate the fallen “heroes” of war, never acknowledging the deadly context in which these deaths occurred. We never hear about the thousands/millions of innocent people that died for absolutely no good reason. Going to war is an ideal that Americans hold dear. Think about it. We are the only country in the world that has no rituals to honor people in death that are not soldiers of war.

 

According to many American sources, men who have “served their country” develop bonds in war that they are unable to duplicate in daily life (if this doesn’t reveal addiction what does?). What this says about the state of human relationships in this country is terrifying to contemplate. In order to feel men (and now some brainwashed women) have to place themselves in a situation in which they wound and kill others or are wounded or killed themselves. Power over at any cost defines the structure of Patriarchy. This is where it is easy to see that the hunting tradition is an extension of a patriarchal perspective that Europeans brought with them when they invaded this country with their guns, and their need to slaughter innocent animals and Indigenous peoples who simply wanted to live out their lives in peace.

 

In these dark times where once again we are threatened by war on a global scale, most Americans are hell bent on keeping their destructive war rituals intact. When they get out there on Veterans Day this year to wave their flags and honor their heroes in death maybe they need to take a moment to pause and reflect upon who it is that they are really serving.

 

It certainly isn’t Life or Love.

Memorial Day – A Reflection on War

images.jpg

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.

Violence and the Fourth of July

artwork-of-a-lorenz-attractor-named-after-edward-lorenz-who-developed-E1KGND.jpg

 

I have just survived another “Independence Day” celebration complete with three nights of experiencing myself as being under ruthless attack by not so anonymous neighbors who began the weekend with deafening explosions that intermittently assaulted my nervous system. Semi – automatic weapons also punctuated the monstrous three – day weekend splitting the air with their “mindless” gun power at all times of the day. Like drones at war. Last night was the finale. For two and a half hours we were forced to listen to fireworks exploding like bombs and then echoing blindly around our mountain valley. All my efforts to protect myself – closing all windows, exchanging the screen door for winter glass, using ear-plugs and wearing professional ear protectors could not keep out the ear – splitting cacophony. My two dogs stared at me with deeply troubled eyes. Wasn’t there something I could do they begged? “It won’t last forever” I responded with heartfelt compassion, the only sane reply I could make to their pitiful query, (which was also an attempt to comfort myself). When the auditory attack finally ended, I realized I had a horrible backache. My body, unable to withstand the assault at a cellular level was keening. Was she also filled with blind rage? I hugged my dogs and opened the window so we could listen to toad trills and the night symphony, but although the darkness was still sweet the toads and frogs had fallen silent. Like us they were probably exhausted. We three spent a restless waking night…

Target shooting and gunning (everyday occurrences here in our mountain valley), take on a more sinister aspect around holidays. New Year’s Eve, Memorial Day, and the Fourth of July, Labor Day, and Veterans Day are celebrations that bring out the killers in full force. War games complete with all the necessary victims, living beings, human and non – human, whose nervous systems recoil at blunt auditory force, not simply because our bodies can’t deal with the chaos, but because of what we sense is happening beneath the noise – we feel the intent to kill, maim, dismember, overpowering us. Death is in the air. And we are powerless to stop the assault.

This morning I reflected upon my distressing response to this third night of the weekend attack. After the first hour, I heard myself thinking how much I wished these people were dead. I would like to say that this persistent reoccurring phrase was a simple exaggerated reaction but it wouldn’t be true. For every moment I thought it, I did wish people dead. Worse, I recognized the pit of pure hatred I had fallen into as a result of feeling victimized. I knew from prior life experience that I had to shut down this kind of thinking immediately and I was able to do so with some concentrated effort. I couldn’t afford to become part of that problem. The conclusion I reached for the millionth time is that violence breeds more violence, and no human being is immune. I find this perception terrifying.

Perhaps equally troubling was a conversation I had this weekend with a dear friend, a mother of two adolescent boys, both of which are developing violent tendencies that are being ignored. In this family it is now acceptable to discuss the many ways to blow up geese I discovered on Saturday while listening to dad and the boys laughing uncontrollably at their own ruthlessness.

Slaughter.

The following day my friend complained about her husband and sons’ violent conversation, which apparently occurred quite frequently around the dinner table. However, almost in the same breath she also said that she understood why people believed they needed to carry around firearms to protect themselves because the world had become too dangerous. I was shocked because up until recently this woman and I shared the belief that violence engendered more violence and that guns would not solve our cultural crisis of escalating human (and non -human) slaughter.

My first thought was that she was protecting her oldest son who had become a gun carrying “red neck” by his own description. He had just turned eighteen and still lived at home, though he did have a job. He shot anything that moved. I remembered him as a child, bright, a budding naturalist, a little boy that I loved. What happened? What flashed into my mind next was an image of her youngest, also a teenager, throwing an ax at a helpless tree, wounding it horribly in the process. And his bloodless stare. My gut response to this adolescent’s behavior was to shudder involuntarily as I made the decision to leave the premises. This tree was being wounded so that some kid could have “fun.”

What had happened to my woman friend’s perspective on violence? Was she losing her reality under the force of this dominant male family ideology? Patriarchy has such dark roots. As I empathized with her as a mother, I also felt threatened.

I remembered the gun that my brother used to shoot himself just after graduating from Harvard…

When my youngest son (now almost 48) purchased his first weapon a few years ago I was stunned. I thought I had taught both my children well that guns, violence and war were unacceptable…

I remembered that the last time I saw my grandson almost two years ago, he proudly showed me the gun that he purchased on the way to my house. My stomach churned uncontrollably when I saw the deadly weapon. He was finally discharged from the Marines after five years this June at the age of 22. He hasn’t bothered to call me.

At almost 71 I continue to believe that violence breeds violence and that buying more guns to protect ourselves from those that would would harm us is not the answer. Am I simply naive? Perhaps I am deluded? I can’t answer my own questions but I hear the deepest part of myself crying out “No! More guns will only bring us closer to the worst form of human evil in ourselves and in others.”

I choose to listen to that inner voice, and realize that to do so puts me over the edge into a  terrifying territory of unknowns.

Postscript: The image at the beginning of this article is of the Lorenz Attractor which is a paradigm for chaos. The idea behind this image  is that small changes in initial conditions can create perturbations that can have large effects because sensitivity to initial conditions means that each point in a chaotic system is close to other points with significantly different future paths. Thus a small change in the current trajectory may lead to significantly different behavior. As a metaphor the Butterfly Effect could help us understand that if the initial conditions are predicated on peace, for example, then a change in behavior might be able to create a new kind of peace… To extrapolate the metaphor further if we uncover the initial conditions under which early cultures lived then we might be able to change our current aggressive behavior. Feminists believe that early cultures did live harmoniously (see Marija Gumbutus). We also know that Indigenous peoples  around the world walked lightly on the land and as a whole were peaceable. If feminists are right, we have a chance then to call up the past and build a more peaceable world for the future. Of course critical mass is also an issue because the majority of people must believe and take concrete actions to help make these changes. And feminists are few… We have such a long way to go but perhaps there is a sliver of hope for those of us who abhor violence…

I must add that in all fairness from a scientific perspective this explanation regarding the Lorenz Attractor depicting chaos is ridiculously simplistic.

I chose this image was because it reminded me of an owl and owls are  often associated with wise old women!