Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Open Letter from a US Marine mom

I am "yielding the podium" today to a neighbor and friend who has a very compelling, very touching open letter that she recently shared with us. I feel that everyone needs to see this letter... thank you Inger, for letting me share this with the world:

Letter to our government, members of Congress and Senators, and to all those in power to make decisions over our strategy in Iraq ( and also in Afghanistan); to all those who form public opinion in our country, and to all American parents:

Please do not sacrifice our soldiers, our sons and daughters, to save your pride! In the Middle East many bullies are fighting to establish their bases of power (directly or by proxy for other super powers). They fight, kill and destroy to inflict maximal damage on their competitors- over the heads of ordinary civilians trying to cope with daily struggle for survival. Our soldiers, all soldiers are used as tools and sacrifices for this power struggle. It is not a fight between “Good” and the “axis of Evil”. It is a staking out of claims by the most powerful to push their agenda on others. One player is not better or more virtuous than another, no matter what their religious leaders say.

Our sons and daughters, including my 22- year old Marine son, are being sacrificed to this slaughter. The governments of the United States and Israel seem to think that if you keep throwing more force, more destruction, and more blood at the battle, it will be won. This did not work during Vietnam. On the contrary- increased violence increased the determination of the Vietnamese to fight harder, more ruthlessly and finally chase the foreign armies into the sea (or helicopters from the roof of the embassy). There are countless examples of wars fought, where the occupying armies ultimately lost to the natural local populations. We know that even small forces can oust a powerful enemy (during our revolutionary war).

This brings me to a second item. During the revolutionary war, our soldiers maintained their civil rights as free citizens to return to their families when they were in need or danger, to go home when the battles became senseless, so they could save their own lives and those of their comrades in arms. There were also many real honest debates about the goals of the struggle, the real motives for the sacrifices made by everyone. Great generals have sounded retreat when it would cost too many lives to keep fighting. There is no dishonor in a sound retreat, a sound strategy for regrouping.

Yet, for some reason our current soldiers have no civil rights anymore. They have lost their rights to free speech and their pursuit of life, freedom and the pursuit of happiness. They get paid minimum wage, often live on outdated, dry MRE meals and 3-4 hours of sleep for weeks on end and they have to suffer frequent verbal and physical abuse by their superiors. They go out on extremely dangerous, often futile missions. They are willing to die for their country yet they have no rights of freedom of _expression. As soon as a soldier or his/her family speak out against the War (any war), refuse to fight against their conscience or want to stay with their family in need, he/she is kicked out, locked up or worse and their families are called unpatriotic or “un- American. Which freedoms exactly are we fighting for!?

I lost my husband (Green Beret Special Forces), the father of my Marine son, to the war in Vietnam, the years of desperation still playing in his mind and soul. He committed suicide years later, still not being able to throw off the terrible things he had experienced. He hated the government for sending him there on such outrageous pretexts, often even denying he was there at all. Their mission: “to keep fighting so the others had not lost their lives in vain”- sound familiar!? The battle in Vietnam was long lost. Hearts and minds had not been won- on the contrary. Our harshness and increasingly alarming amount of cruelty and environmental killing had destroyed what little goodwill still existed for us. Are we going to repeat that kind of thing? Do I now have to lose the next generation to the same pig-headedness of the men in Washington DC?! Do our sons and daughters really have to be sacrificed for a lost cause again?! He is my child, bright, idealistic, well- educated and compassionate. He was going to be such an asset to this country- if we can just keep him alive and sane.

Please, members of Congress and Senate, have pity on your own citizens. Aren’t you parents too? Would you send your child into this kind of hellhole with no hope of “victory”? Please let us stop this madness, pull out now, regroup and rethink. Let us stop sending more missiles to Israel so they can kill innocent Lebanese farmers, women and children. Let us stop fuelling violence- which only begets more violence as the Good Book says. Please let us refrain from further escalation.

I am a freedom loving, law abiding tax payer in this country. My tax money is given to a government that sends it overseas to buy missiles to destroy other civilizations, and I feel responsible. It should be my right to withhold my support for such actions. I do not begrudge paying taxes, if it is for the upkeep of this country’s people and infra structure or even to support other needy countries or peoples. I just feel so powerless and so angry when my hard earned money is used to destroy and kill. I beseech you, please bring our troops home now, stop supporting foreign violence of any kind, and restore sanity, health and freedom to this nation!

No-one wants another world war, or even a Middle East all-out war. Stop all fighting now! Let us pick up the remnants of civilization and evolve. American soldiers are so often used to enforce dictators’ rule over rebellious populations. Military men and women are used as tools to protect commercial interests. There is so much injustice performed by our troops, in the name of patriotism. In this American society does not stand alone. We should be able to stop this insanity and bloodshed. Humanity is not meant to fall back into savagery each time someone cries foul. We are not meant to quote “Holy books” of any kind to devolve into animals. Human Beings are meant to solve the challenges of violence and learn to cope with life in a peaceful and creative manner, with compassion. That is the true battle for hearts and minds of the people.

This is a plea from a US Marine parent, together with many other caring and patriotic mothers and fathers. Bring our Troops Home Now!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Hope... or Hate?

Whew! I really haven’t spent a lot of time on the web; I had not realized what kind of essays are being posted with the implication that they are reasoned responses to the world situation. There was a very frightening blog/essay on the Signs of the Times website, one that made me think of witch hunts, heretic burnings and mob lynchings…

It seems to be an attempt to distance the author (and “us good guys”) from a group of people that he wants to de-humanize. “What if the evil we see around us in the world is not born from human nature?“ Henry See writes. “once you have studied… a psychopath's methods and means of manipulation, once you have understood the individual psychopath and have traced its [emphasis mine] predation as the most successful ones move into positions of power in the law, politics, business, the police and the military…” Granted, these are not nice people -- psychopaths -- but to call them non-humans, and to use the pronoun “it” in referring to a psychopath, put us on the very same path as the psychopath has travelled to get to his/her disconnected, uncaring perspective that others are “things” to be manipulated and/or exterminated. If we call those who act in a way that suggests they have no conscience “non-humans”, as the author did, and specifically state that “we humans” are not and would never be capable of the actions of these “things”, as the author did, we are falling into one of the oldest traps of human psychology, that of projecting all of our evil onto another.

I am not in any way defending the actions or the perceptions of psychopaths or sociopaths (I have met several in my work as therapist; they are not pleasant to be around), but I am appalled that someone who calls himself human would so callously demonize another human just in order to state that he and “us good guys” are free from the kind of evil capacity that “psychopaths” are capable of. And, as is obvious in the essay, he has widely branded many, many people as “psychopaths” with no clinical proof. No, despite his "hope", we are not so easily able to say we would never, ever, do evil to another person -- none of us can guarantee that our minds will always be sane or clear, or that a huge grief or rage would never, ever seize us and cause us to do outrageous things. Yes, there are people who we have learned will do these things repeatedly, but they are of the same human species as we are, and no one has yet found a clear, indisputable cause for their actions. There is a case to be made that there is some biologic elements, but it is a huge leap from there to “non-human”! There is also much evidence that deviant behavior is learned, that psychopaths were not born with their behavior. There is evidence that damage to the frontal lobes of the brain can bring about such behavior -- which means any of us could end up acting as they do, after a certain kind of injury.

The fact that Henry See’s essay is entitled “Hope” makes it even scarier… because his hope seems to come from the possibility of “eradicating” these people, so that “humans” can live happily ever after… this is scary stuff… does anyone hear echoes of Nazi Germany’s “final solution?” Who gets to have the life/death decision in this process of first “isolation of such individuals” and then…?

I understand how frustrated and helpless many people feel right now, in the face of all this violence and runaway greed, but the last thing we need is to herd a group of people -- any group of people -- into some ghetto or to brand them as “other”. Until we learned we are all connected, on a very deep level, this kind of greed and violence will continue.

I hate to publicize his work, but in fairness since I criticized it, here is the link:
http://signs-of-the-times.org/signs/editorials/signs20060807_Hope.php You can tell me if I'm overreacting...