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Honoring Our Warriors: A Reflection on Veteran's Day

Toshiro Mifune, "Yojimbo" 1961

In my 20’s I watched every Toshiro Mifune film I could find; I was obsessed with the philosophy of the Samurai warrior culture of Japan. Samurais were highly educated noblemen, who held high ethical standards including honor, loyalty, courage, and self-sacrifice. They were not unlike the Native American warriors whom I witnessed this past weekend at the annual Indian gathering where all warriors were highly honored by singers and drummers and the prayers of the people alongside Chief Roland McCook, Uncompaghre Ute who lives in Grand Junction, Colorado.

Sitting Bull
“Being a warrior is more than about fighting, it is about service to the community and protection of their homeland. The warrior, for us, is one who sacrifices himself for the good of others. His task is to take care of the elderly, the defenseless, those who cannot provide for themselves, and above all, the children - the future of humanity.” —Sitting Bull, Hunkpapa Lakota Sioux

In my thirties I watched every Vietnam war film, trying to understand our country’s history, my father and how we got involved and what happened to our warriors who went to fight for our borders, against communism infiltrating North Vietnam.

My father was a John Birch Society card carrying member. He voted for McCarthy! My college boyfriend was an Army Captain who fought on the front lines and held top security clearance. In 1976, A government official interrogated my dad because he was a potential threat to our country. I never really quite understood it and both men scared me then. I grew up with this undertone of fear, having gained expertise in the “duck and cover” drills in case of an atomic bomb explosion. Did you watch the 1982 exposé on Vietnam and Watergate, “The Atomic Cafe”? I was indoctrinated into “Communism is dangerous” and our warriors would not let it get close to the doorstep of our country. At any cost, we would fight it. Yet, the protests against the Vietnam war lived in my home, every night we watched the demonstrations; colleges were under siege and students were getting killed in the name of democracy. I even wrote a paper on “The Descent of America” highlighting flag burning. This was the first time a war was brought to our living rooms. We ate the culture of fear, during the evening news and dinner. We became that.

A rich, vibrant, trade route for thousands of years has completely been demolished. Why?

As the trajectory goes, I also grew up in the ’60’s and ’70’s “Make love not war” era; a revolutionary turn around that could possibly be the seed we planted to grow the homely flower of homelessness and mental illness. We did not honor our warriors. Those TV stars of Vietnam today make up 46 percent of the homeless and mentally ill people on our streets.

On January 26, 1991 I played my flute at a women’s gathering the night Desert Storm was declared a war; we prayed for peace. Exactly ten years later, soon after 911, I had a dream about taking what “we had stolen” back to Afghanistan: I carried a lapis mosaic head of a woman on a silver tray (the feminine) across the country and ocean to Afghanistan where I handed it to Afghan warriors. Bombs exploded in the Hindu Kush mountains, backdropping the gift giving. I have been trying to understand the history of our relationship with this country. A rich, vibrant, trade route for thousands of years has completely been demolished. Why?

Scottish Soldier of the Black Watch, 1740

And recently, I visited the battlegrounds of Culloden in Northern Scotland, where two hundred of my kinsmen were slaughtered by the British. All because they were protecting the homelands, a way of life, the clan system, their families and villages. Thousands of people were exiled from the land and clearances of entire villages took place to make room for the ambitious endeavors of the victors. Here, I prayed to and for my ancestors, that they may know peace and help bring peace to the world.

In the Native American culture war is considered a negative force that catapults nature and communities into imbalance. The Diné have the Protection Way and the Beauty Way ceremonies—one does not exist without the other.

Warriors didn’t always go to battle but cared for families in need and helped during difficult times. Their societal role was to ensure their people’s survival, including laying down their lives. When the warrior returned home, ceremony for them restored the equilibrium and was a healing balm for the warrior. The masculine principal is to watch over their people and land with dignity and humility, so their lives and future generations can continue to build a life way conducive to balance.

I learned that this practice continues in many of our Native American communities on behalf of their modern-day warrior. Without a village and people understanding the need for protection and the nature of the masculine (not male exclusively), western culture veterans coming home are left adrift. The cultural norm is to ‘leave the war behind, don’t talk about it’. Trauma, fright and soul injury makes up a large percentage of our population today.

It is understood that humans will war. Our wars are getting more extravagant, better weaponed, more bombs, more money, more lives killed, more children annihilated, genocide today at every turn. It is no longer about warriors, is it? The divine feminine must be brought back to our civilization. War is out of balance. It’s about who has the biggest machine—bombs are lobbed from sterile rooms on a screen and cyber technology. Yes, we have warriors on the ground, but the big bullets are shot by people in suits.

How do we take care of the souls of our warriors now? Can understanding and acting as though the soul of each of our service men matter make a difference? Could each service-person come into ceremony for healing and to restore the balance of all of us who have faced trauma in the name of war? Could the ancient Ways of the Warrior bring our world back into balance? I think so. This is the work of the feminine.

The Shambhala Way of the Warrior says that, the sacred warrior conquers the world not through violence or aggression but through gentleness, courage, and self-knowledge. Could this Way of the Warrior ever be achieved?



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