Memorial Day weekend – remembering our war dead

Posted May 25th, 2012 in Blog, Featured Comments Off on Memorial Day weekend – remembering our war dead

Fostering Ecological Hope
Reflections on Culture and Meaning

I’m remembering my war dead. I’m remembering the people who lost their lives in war:

50,000 Nicaraguans killed in the infamous US-inspired contra war of the 1980s;
70,000 Salvadorans killed in the US-supported war of repression by the Salvadoran government in the 80s to early 90s;
250,000 Guatemalans killed in counterinsurgency war by a military dictatorship put in power by a CIA-led coup in the 1950s.

I’m remembering my war dead:

Maura Clark, Ita Ford, Dorothy Kazel, Jean Donovan, Michael Kline, Stan Rother, Ben Linder, and many other US missioners killed by US-supported counterinsurgency forces during those civil wars.

I’m remembering courageous human rights organizers, Christian Base Community leaders, refugee workers, and union leaders whom I met and who were later tortured and/or killed in those countries.

I’m remembering my war dead.

And I think how easily we still go to war, and how hard it is to end those wars. I think of the damaged lives and psyches, I think of how not a single country in the world that has suffered from war fared well afterwards. I think of how war ramps up international tensions and leaves divisions that play out over centuries (the Balkan war, for example, the viciousness of which was still being energized by civil conflict and ethnic hatred that goes back a thousand years).

And I reflect on how the latest technology is making it possible to do war remotely, sending predator drones, now a favorite weapon of the Obama administration, to kill people while not putting our own soldiers’ lives at risk. Cleaner war from our point of view; terrifying, sudden, cold, and brutal on the receiving end.

I’m remembering all these war dead.

And then I think about my work, about this longing I share with millions of others for a healing path, a way to repair the broken fabric of our lives on this planet, and I just feel so, so, well, so sad.

What is the sickness inside the human spirit that we can’t manage to get at, to address, to look at forthrightly and truthfully, so that we can find the remedy for us? We can’t even talk about the real thing. But like any illness, if the doctor can’t see what it is, can’t diagnose it correctly and accurately, she can’t provide the cure.

Example: we know that racism runs rampant through much of the vitriolic anti-Obama rage in this country, but very few people dare speak its name, few are courageous enough to accurately diagnose the disease. One result is that many of us end up very defensive of our first African-American president, who is also a nice guy, intellectually brilliant, and very eloquent, but whose policies on war and energy spell pain and suffering for this planet.

What I have come to believe is that we can’t get to the path of ecological healing, or to an ecological spirituality, through traditional political work, or endless legislative advocacy, as if we could somehow win a rational argument on things like energy and climate change. We are in a situation where none of that works. That whole paradigm itself has broken down.

In DC we talked all the time about the need to address the ‘structures’ of injustice. Yes, but what do they actually represent? If you don’t get at the pathologies represented by those structures – things like racism, power and its true sources, nationalism, fear, patriarchy – if we don’t get at the roots of those pathologies – fear resting largely in tumultuous change that is uprooting old paradigms, worldviews, religious belief systems, the way in which we are swimming in cultural diversity that has put terror into the heart of white Anglo peoples here and in Europe – if we don’t address these roots – forthrightly and truthfully – the rest of what we do won’t matter in any essential way.

And what we do needs urgently to matter in ways that are essential, fundamental, radical (i.e., from the ‘roots’), if we are to find our way to a path of healing and hope from the violent, rage-filled chaos of our time.

That is also an ‘ecological’ work. It reminds me again of why I reject the terms ‘environmentalist’ and ‘environmentalism.’ We are not trying to ‘fix’ an environment so that we can better live in it. Our work needs to address all the ways in which the sentient and non-sentient beings within the living systems of this planet are connected. Predator drones come from the same pathology as fracking. It is about humans using technology in ways that destroy those beings and those living systems for the utilitarian purposes of this one arrogant species that thinks itself above and apart from all the rest. And then, to make matters worse, within that species, we vie for power and control.

I’m remembering my war dead – because in all these cases I know why they were killed. And I know it was for the same reason that we send drones to the Afghan-Pakistan border, the same reason my state of Wisconsin is being given over to mining and other polluting business interests, the same reason Obama is opening up the Arctic to oil-drilling.

And I know that our future, or the kind of future our descendents will live within, depends on how we address these deep-seated, deeply-rooted pathologies.

Which is why this work is one of both ecology and spirituality – the connections among and within the whole in which we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28), and the underlying values and frameworks of meaning that have brought about the pathology.

We need to have this conversation.




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