March 16th, 2007

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Good Morning!!

I look out on another beautiful day even as I hear how quickly lives can change.   Many of my friends are suffering right now with illness of their friends. 

I believe that the Vietnam War Memorial is one of the most touching I have ever seen.  I have a book sitting near me, Boundaries by Maya Lin because I love and appreciate her work and what it represents so much.

The following is a heart-felt comment on how the war in Iraq has affected the life of one man, and  wonder at how anyone can think of a war memorial as a place to protest and attack.   I can only sit today with prayer and desire for bridges to understanding and peace.  

 The Wall That Now Divides Us
    By Charlie Anderson
    t r u t h o u t | Guest Contributor

    Friday 16 March 2007

"Most Walls are meant to divide us and separate me from you, but God bless the wall that brings us together and reminds us of what we've been through."
-James W. Herrick, Touch a Name on the Wall

    The night air was cool and damp with spring rain as I walked down the dimly lit path in front of the Vietnam Memorial Wall for the first time. I was only nine years old and too young to fully grasp the meaning of the seemingly endless sea of names etched on black onyx tablets in front of me. I was also far too young to understand the impact of the Vietnam War on our country or the impact it had on the generation of young Americans that fought it. But, even as a young child, I could tell that The Wall was sacred space. There was an overwhelming air of sorrow that permeated the air around the shrine; people spoke only in hushed tones, many stared at a single name for long periods of time, and even a young child like me could easily be moved to tears. The Vietnam War tore the nation apart. Nearly 60,000 Americans gave their lives in the struggle, over 300,000 more were wounded, and countless more are still suffering with the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder and Agent Orange. The nation itself was polarized into camps of "pro-war" and "anti-war," casting aside similarities, such as love of country, in favor of political differences. The result was a nation that to this day has not reconciled the societal cost of the war. Worse, the concentration of public opinion also forced the war's veterans into polarized camps of "pro-war" and "anti-war" regardless of shared their suffering and shared experience. The chasm created by this unfortunate polarization has prevented many veterans from finding peace with the war. The Vietnam Memorial Wall was built to deliberately cast aside these controversies and create hallowed ground where the nation could grieve the loss of a generation of its youth, away from the political distractions and away from the turmoil surrounding the war. Though many vehemently opposed The Wall as inappropriate or simply an "ugly black gash in the ground" before its construction, the nation has come to treasure the memorial as a shrine to 58,253 unfinished lives.

    Twenty years after my first visit, I visited The Wall as a combat veteran. The Wall took on an entirely new significance to me during that visit. The Iraq War is in many ways similar to the Vietnam War. Both wars were controversial at home, causing the veterans to feel betrayed or abandoned by government or the population at large. In both wars, the mission was often unclear to "the grunts on the ground." Much-needed equipment and material goods were denied to the forces in the field by Washington bureaucrats, and in both wars, the care of veterans has not been a true priority. The treatment of veterans has led many veterans of both wars to feel cut off from the nation they love and honorably served. On that and subsequent visits, The Wall felt like a sanctuary from the political storm that has surrounded "my war." The memorial is a place where I can mourn the dead not only of the Vietnam War, but of all wars, including mine. As a warrior, I carry the loss of life and the loss of innocence tightly within my heart. On every visit to The Wall since returning from Iraq, I have met people who disagree with me about the Iraq War. Yet, there is no politics around the wall; we mourn in silence or share our grief aloud not as liberals or conservatives, not as hawks or doves, not as Republicans or Democrats, but as human beings united by our suffering.

    I was saddened to learn recently that for the first time since the beginning of the Iraq War, the sanctity of The Wall will be challenged by protest. On March 17, a coalition of citizens concerned about the war gathers for a protest march originating at Constitution Park across the street form The Wall. A group of counter-demonstrators, calling themselves The Gathering of Eagles, will gather around and presumably in the memorial while spreading their pro-war, pro-Bush/Cheney message. The "eagles" claim that their intention is to "defend" The Wall from attack by the anti-war demonstrators. Yet, through four years of anti-war protest, there have been few incidents of vandalism and no war memorial has been damaged in the past. Further, hundreds of veterans and military families, including those who have had loved ones die in this war, are at the forefront of today's anti-movement. None of us who have sacrificed in this war would tolerate, much less condone, such behavior.

    While the mission statement of the "eagles" states, "... we are adamantly opposed to the use of violence, vandalism, physical or verbal assaults on our veterans, and the destruction or desecration of our memorials ... we defend and honor those whose blood gave all of us the right to speak as freely as our minds think." Yet, a cursory look at the comments section at the bottom of the page tells a different story. One commentator said, "I hope one of these Muslim commies cross the line so we can teach them a valuable lesson. I will be there with my brothers and will be victorious over these Dimicrat scum. This will teach them not to look at us with seditious eyes." Another expressed similar sentiments: "We need to show these anti-war turkeys we are all business that the sacrifice and honor of the men and women of this Memorial will not be defaced by the likes of them." Organizers for the veterans' contingent of the anti-war march have also received death threats from "eagle" supporters. It seems that the real intent of the Gathering of Eagles is to intimidate those who do not agree with their position on the war. They purport to believe in free speech and to forever honor America's men and women in uniform until the men and women in uniform disagree with them. At the point at which we veterans who feel a duty not to remain silent and advocate that our brothers and sisters in arms be brought home alive and cared for both now and when they get here, the "eagles" call us "commies," "traitors" or "dimicrat scum."

    I took an oath to defend the Constitution and honorably served ten years in uniform. I still hold my oath no less sacred than the "eagles" claim to. One of the ways to honor that oath is speak freely and from the heart. I sacrificed everything I had and everything I was when I went to Iraq. I lost my marriage, a job I loved, and the very way I viewed the world. It is a shame these "eagles" who claim to love and support me so much not only want to silence my voice, but they have chosen to put a wall between me and the one place in America I where I can truly let my guard down and grieve.


    Charles E. Anderson served in Iraq with the Marine Corps' Second Tank Battalion during the invasion of Iraq. During his nine-year career, he served in infantry, armor, and medical units. He lives in Hampton, Virginia, where he is a World Studies student at Thomas Nelson Community College. He can be contacted through his website at

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Maya Lin -

I open to a page of Maya Lin's book Boundaries.

She comments on landscape, writing of how the modern age gives us new perspectives. 

I wonder why we still use war as a way to resolve conflict when we see how connected we are.  

Maya Lin:

    "I have spent much time staring out at the landscape from an airplane, looking out at the natural landscape ...

       My interest in landscape has led to works influenced and inspired by natural topographies and geologic phenomena.  I find inspiration in rock formations, ice floes, water patterns, solar eclipses, aeiral and satellite views of the earth.

       It is a distinctly twenty-first century notion of landscape that I have incorporated into my work.

       Photographic images, which can freeze and capture naturally occurring phenomena, as well as aerial photgraphs, satellite images, and microscopic and stop-camera images have given us, in this century, a new way of seeing our world.  And it is this technologically based method of analyzing or looking at the landscape that has been a significant influence on my work, both in the studio sculptures as well as the larger outdoor outworks. 

       Our view of the landscape and our relationship to it has been changed significantly by our ability to view the planet from these new vantage points.

       What is landscape art at the beginning of the twenty-first century?

       The topography where I grew up in Athens, in southeastern Ohio, was hilly and wooded.  Behind our house were three ridges separated by streams - my entire childhood was spent playing in these woods and on these hills.  I called the middle one the "lizard's back" because it started up from the creekbed, like a tail.  It grew into a long-winding ridge, and ended in what looked to us like the head of a lizard.

       That image and the presence of Indian burial mounds - the effigy mounds and the serpent mounds - were a profound influence on my work. 

       In strictly formal terms my artwork seems to vary considerably from work to work.  Waves of earth, broken car glass, water, stone, plaster.  In looking at the Wave Field or Eclipsed Time you may not make the visual connection that the same artist created both works.  My artwork has not been formed by a specific palette or materiality but instead has been shaped by the reaction I have had to each site, combined with a strong connection to an idea of landscape."

The Vietnam War Memorial is a place where people come to grieve, connect, and heal.   To use it any other way than as a place of peace seems wrong to me.  We need sacred places, both human-made and natural, to grieve and heal our anger, fear, and hate.

May you find places today, both within and without, that soothe and heal your wounds.  

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Purifying -

This is from Mark Morford's column today. 

He suggests we do the same.  You can check the whole column out at:

Apparently, George W. Bush -- famed warmonger, despoiler of lands, despiser of gays and women and science and earthly resource, hapless fascist-wannabe -- it seems George just visited Guatemala, where he happily trod upon a holy Mayan site or two and shook hands with wary diplomats and blinked a lot and mispronounced a hundred different names. You know, same old, same old.

But then something interesting happened. Seems Bush left behind huge steaming piles of banality wherever he went, and therefore the first thing Guatemala's holy guardians of the sacred did as soon as Air Force One's wheels lifted off the ground was, of course, to purify the hallowed ground our president's shockingly low, nefarious energy had infected.

It's true. Those Mayan priests rushed in right after George left and cleansed the sacred archeological site upon which Dubya had trod, shooed away the snickering hordes of bleak spirits that trail behind America's Great Embarrassment like a sickly fog of ignorance and misprision and shockingly humiliating grammar.

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Awakening -

bell hooks

We know from Buddhism that if we look for an end we will despair and not sustain our efforts.   But if we see it as a continual process of awakening, we can go forward.

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Connecting -

The moment we connect with ourselves, all our efforts and doubts drop away”

                                                                --Marion Rosen
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Checking in -

I am thumbing through a variety of books this evening.

One that I am perusing is The Trail Guide to the Body.   It is filled with interesting tidbits such as these.

    Muscles of the Tongue

       These are two groups of muscles that coordinate the tongue: the glossus muscles and the intrinsic muscles.  The three glossus muscles attach to the hyoid and other bones and move the tongue during swallowing and chewing.  Three other intrinsic muscles of the tongue interweave with each other and are responsible for changing the tongue's shape during speech.  As the tongue is basically a bag of fluid with a constant volume, these intrinsic muscles mold and twist it in the same way you might bend and shape a water balloon.

                Wow, Amazing are WE!!

    And then there are the Ears!

          Humans have only four muscles with which to move the ears.  These muscles tend to be weak, and on some of us, they are not even functional.  Horses, on the other hand, have thirteen muscles that perform a variety of ear movements.  Why?  Humans communicate their feelings through facial expressions and not by wiggling their ears.  Horses, however, display their emotions primarily with their ears, so they need a strong, diverse group of muscles to create specific actions and expressions.

                It might be lovely to have more muscles for our ears, but then, our faces are quite mobile, so we may have the edge there.  Have fun wiggling your ears.  Entertainment abounds.