A Purple Heart For PTSD

PTSD is as valid a reason to get a Purple Heart as is a physical wound–The Pentagon recently decided not to award the Purple Heart to those suffering from PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder. Their reason for not awarding this prized medal for those who are wounded or killed by enemy action was that it is not a physical wound. True enough, but someone like me must ask if given that so much of life is not visible whether that isn’t a rather superficial reason? And if one factors in a spiritual dimension then asking becomes even more relevant. The sacrifice of those suffering from PTSD is no less, in fact sometimes more, than those whose wounds bleed. Physical wounds heal far more quickly than psychological ones. If one has ever encountered anyone suffering from this disease, it is not difficult to see how their sacrifice does not end with returning home or with the end of a war, but like those who’ve lost limbs,for example, they have to continually make adjustments. There is another factor,that of motivation, of doing something for one’s country, one’s fellow humans. Most young people enlist in the armed forces with lofty motives and whether one is physically or psychologically wounded does not change that motivation.
We live in a world of materiality, where what is not visible is easily dismissed, making a compassionate view toward those suffering from PTSD all the more necessary. If the Pentagon were to even slightly embrace higher values in its understanding of the issue,it would have no choice but to reconsider and include PTSD in the list of wounds qualifying for a Purple Heart.

War, Israel and Questions

Is Israel being Short-Sighted?–In Israel, I read, rare is the person not supporting the Gaza offensive. The rest of the world may object, but Israelis do not. They feel justified in whatever is done in their name. 2003 wasn’t so long ago. Many remember the night it was announced President Bush had gone to war in Iraq. Flags were everywhere, everyone was behind the administration. It was a just war and a just cause. In a relatively short time, the country did a proverbial 180. It may end up the same with Israelis, their realizing that no matter how they may wish it, no matter what reason they give it, or how justified they feel, war on Gaza in the way it is being conducted is neither right, nor just, nor necessary. Let’s assume Israel wins. What will that victory mean? Lets say no more rockets from Gaza. Then what? Rockets from Lebanon? A continued lack of a settlement about the Golan with Syria? Worse relations with Iran–if that’s possible–and other Muslim states? A World opinion that puts Israel below that held toward the U.S. after Abu Ghraib? And what about the future? The end of a two state solution? Given the demographic trends, the first step towards an Apartheid type of regime to control Arab Israelis and Palestinians? An Israel that is a democratic state without practicing democracy? A continued violation of international law by expanding the settlements?
It does look like Israel is being very short sighted. Peace at any price may not be peace at all.

Recognizing Genocide

–The first step to the eventual elimination of genocide is to recognize it, as is just beginning in Turkey–The genocide of Armenians, which began in 1915, where more than a million people lost their lives through the atrocities committed by the Ottoman Empire, has long been a subject no one in Turkey admits or talks about. Now, Baskin Oran, a professor, began an online campaign apologizing to the Armenians for the war crimes they suffered. Although more than 25,000 people have signed the statement, Mr. Oran receives around 200 pieces a hate mail a day. The Prime Minister has criticized his efforts and many feel he is insulting the Turkish people. He does feel that regardless it is a necessary step trying to compensate for a “collective amnesia” as well as the fact that Turkish children are taught that Armenians killed Muslims. Some Armenians even criticize him for not using the word genocide. Still Mr. Oran persists believing he is eroding one of the country’s biggest taboo.
An online campaign may be a small thing, but is nevertheless a step in the recognition of the century old genocide. On a larger plane, if we are ever to learn to eliminate genocide, it must begin with a recognition of its nature, its history, its manifestations, and small or not this is an effort worth noting.

A Cautionary Tale

–A Kentucky lawman’s statement prompts us to be careful about how our beliefs affect our ability to think–A NYT story this morning about Kentucky lawmaker Tom Riner quoted him in relation to his concern about the growing immorality of the society and the many whom he sees as drifting away from the role god played in the nation’s forefathers’ thinking: “If we don’t affirm the right to recognize divine providence, then that right will disappear.” While I can understand Mr. Riner’s sense of mission about strengthening ties between church and state, on its own it is a troubling statement, troubling because it appears to be lacking in a certain logic. If a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it, the tree nevertheless falls. If rights are not affirmed (particularly in Western society), they are nevertheless rights, not affirmed true, but there for the claiming. According to the NYT’s story Mr. Riner, for the last 26 years a state representative who has endeavored to bring church and state closer together, is someone to be respected. A Baptist preacher, he still has a ministry in a humble building heated by a space heater, conducts daily prayer meetings a 7:15am and helps and shelters the homeless. He is obviously someone who practices what he preaches, who believes in what he says and who tries to live by his values. And yet his statement highlights my concerns about people who are so steeped in their own orthodoxy, their ability to think is reined in by their belief system. The world’s main religions, and Christianity would top the list, seek to open the heart, to enlarge one’s understanding of the divine, of humanity, of love. The statement seem to evoke the opposite. Could divine providence really disappear whether or not we believed in it? By definition wouldn’t it have to be larger than we and our human constructs? Even making allowances that the quote was not properly explained it is still a cautionary tale for those of us whose thoughts are influenced by our spiritual beliefs.