I started my day just fine, a cup of coffee, gratitude for this beautiful fall day, the crisp-ness of the air. My husband bustling about telling me of his project. A beautiful item I ordered was delivered and brought up to its place in my yard. It is large blue glazed pot that I have wanted forever, and now it sits in its place where I can see it easily throughout my days. And it is proof that visions can be realized.
I wash my face and apply my new facial products and I am proud of my attempts at self- care.
Leilani calls, yes I’m on my way, I will be there by 10:00.
I arrive at the corner of Orange Grove and Colorado for the closing ceremony of the 2017 Not On Our Watch. I stand off to the side with Teryne and listen to “God Bless America” and some other patriotic song. They were sung so well; it was really beautiful and enjoyable. Teryne went to sit with Rachel and I moved back under the shade of a large tree, standing with Leilani. As usual, I am transfixed on the dragonflies. We have a special mystical relationship, dragonflies and me. I point them out to Leilani and we enjoy watching them together. I am listening to Lisa’s speech, and I am taking notes of statistics and thinking of how I can post something on my FB page. She mentions bringing back the battle cross from across the street. I hear the bagpipes before I turn around to see a color guard followed by a rag tag group of old and disabled veterans and friends carrying a helmet, two flags, and some flowers, etc.
At this point I should point out that the bagpipes alone tugged at my Celtic heart. Then to see the effort it was taking many of the veterans to make that walk, tugged at my heart even more, and made me sad. I thought of the veterans who died young, and not so young, and the ones here today making that walk. And before I knew it, I had tears flowing down my cheeks, one then two.
As the procession approached it was out of trained habit that I saluted, although I held back as long as I could, telling myself that I am now a middle-aged women far and away from the requisite salute. But then my muscle memory won the battle, and the stir of feelings—unwanted feelings—of being a 20 year old Officer candidate and the multiple salutes a day we had to make as we passed the flag on our comings and goings. 20 paces out, salute, hold it, 20 paces past, drop salute. And as these unwanted feelings were stirring, I was at war within myself. I do not like communal emotion fests. I am not sentimental. (Yes, I will cry during some scenes of movies, which generally include the love for an animal—think Ole Yeller—but that is within the privacy of a dark theater or my home.) But I cannot stand having my emotions manipulated. I don’t appreciate the manipulation. So here I am with tears flooding down my cheeks, and I am appalled at my behavior. Leilani comforts me and says emotions should be felt.
And SNAP, I go over the edge. I go over the edge because I do not know exactly WHAT I am emotional about. Where are these tears coming from? Oh, believe me I have a well of sorrow I swim in often. I now exactly what my points of despair are, and where they come from.
But these tears were not from that well; they were not wanted, not welcomed and not appreciated. They felt stupid. And then within me, a flood of currently held beliefs went into battle with past conditioning. And the internal turmoil raged.
I do not believe in patriotism anymore, and yet it can be stirred in me almost instantly by prodding my brainwashed response, like with the right song or “Ode to the Flag” and I become Pavlos’ fucking dog. Or should I say the governments’ fucking salivating dog. I don’t want to be anyone’s bitch. I have out grown such adolescent bullshit, or so I think, until they set the stage just right and there I am with unwanted emotions stirring around.
I do not love a piece of cloth more than I love human beings. And rather than carrying it as though it’s something precious, I think we should carry a peace sign instead, because it represents something more important.
Instead of singing praises to the nation, where is the national song in praise of veterans?
I do not love our military apparatus that continues to lie and destroy lives.
I do not appreciate a populace that buys into feeling all sentimental and patriotic, and religious, instead of doing the concrete real work of fixing the system that leaves us all powerless.
I do not approve of a society that feels good about sending cookies to the battlefield and remains mute about veteran homelessness
I do not believe in war.
I could not articulate this at the time as I stood in the shade, watching the ceremony unfold. All I felt were those stupid tears and the internal turmoil. I had to leave. I had to escape to save myself from what I felt was harm.
I went to my car and let out a sob. I let out huge several large breaths, wiped my tears off my face, and took off my “US Army Retired” cap. And I began to drive. The tears were gone, but I had a band of tension around my middle that made me nauseous and I felt like throwing up. Breathe, Breathe, Breathe. My head was pounding. I was doing self-talk. “Ok something really triggered you. Right now just try to calm your body, calm your mind, you can process this through writing.” Breathe, Breathe, Breathe. I went to a café and ate a yummy, yummy lunch as I read some articles; I was distancing myself from the emotional turmoil. I then walked around the block and took pictures of beautiful architecture, and I became mindful of the glorious weather once again.
I went home and was greeted by my loving animals; I gazed upon my large blue glazed pot and felt more grounded. I took out my laptop and threw open the doors to let the perfect breeze blow through the room. I sat down to write and then I had to run to the restroom, where my yummy, yummy lunch was expelled.
And as I sit here now, some things, but not all are coming to the surface
I would rather be angry than sad, because angry energy can get things done.
I do not like waste. I do not like wasteful effort. I do not like words in the air or sentiment for the purpose of emotional masturbation or kumbaya for the little fuzzy feeling of Aren’t we good people? And at the end of the day, or in this case three days I ask, what have we accomplished? Have we saved any vets from committing suicide? Have we set up a suicide hotline? Have we raised money to provide services to X amount of veterans over the next year? What the fuck was accomplished? And THEN to wave the flag and sing songs to the very nation and institutions that have caused so much harm to veterans and ignored veterans’ needs is so repugnant to me it literally made me puke.
No, I do not want to be Pavlo’s fucking dog. I have been brainwashed. I knew it and I know it. And in order for me to be mentally healthy, I have to remove myself from situations of manipulation. I must be very cognizant of exactly what the purpose of the effort is, and exactly what is the stated objective and outcome.
I must stand in my truth and integrity. I cannot and will not participate in delusion.
If any of you would like to come together to write a SOP for how veterans should be transitioned into the civilian world to include, outreach from veteran organizations, creation of “units” to be assigned to for the first year, mental health treatments, etc. etc. to be submitted to every member of congress. And a handbook for family, friends, community of what they can DO to support their veterans I’m down. I would love to do that.
What I will not do is attend a ceremony that manipulates my emotions, and pretends to honor fallen veterans by honoring the institutions that have harmed them, because in my mind, if the ceremony cannot demonstrate that it is saving a veteran, then it does not honor fallen veterans.
It has been several hours since I wrote that last line. And I have been mentally twisting every since. My husband asks me about it. He can see my agitation. He recognizes that I’m “not here”; my mind is consumed with the stressful thinking that is too big for me and made me go and buy three novels and a bottle of wine. Once again I need to confront that fact that I am a sincere soul, and that when I believe, I believe and when my trust is broken, I am broken.
So here is my statement: All of us whose lives have come into contact with the war machine—all of us since the beginning of time—are abused souls. We have been lied to, used, harmed, and discarded. We have been suckered.
When we continue to wave the flag and pledge our allegiance to a system that has abused us, we are masochists. And we feed into the delusion. We become guilty of perpetuating a system that will kill portions of our future generations. We are guilty if we, who know the truth, do not actively fight to destroy the war machine.
I am guilty. I want to focus on beauty. I want to forget. I want to walk away from it. That makes me guilty.
Because I know: The military will give you a thrilling chance to challenge yourself. It will give you what modern society will not: a rite of passage. It is very seductive and you feel beholden to this authoritative parental system that will pat you on the head and give you approval for becoming what it wants you to become.
We say we are good leaders. The truth is we are better followers. We followed the rules, the regs, right down to how to lace our shoes. We are the ultimate conformers.
For me the only thing to do now is to find a veterans group or any group that is truly actively working to at least improve the lives of military personnel and veterans.
We should be out there every day seen by the public, raising the battle cry. Calling out the elected officials every fucking day. Protesting in front of the corporations that make billions from weaponry and killing—every fucking day.
We should be protesting in front of the VA Medical facilities demanding a higher standard of care.
We were “conditioned” together, we fought together, and then returned home to fight our individual fights for VA benefits, etc. Now it’s time to fight together again, to call out the system that abused our families and us. It’s time to end this charade.
I just joined Veterans for Peace. Join me?
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