Thursday, December 14, 2006

My Op ed

The Lost Freedom of Our Troops


I received an honorable discharge from the Army four years ago after serving 14 years. I am a 3rd generation soldier. My grandfather served during WWII and my father served during Vietnam. The slogan, “Freedom isn’t Free” is a familiar phrase in our family. It was not until I entered Seminary in 2004 that I began looking at freedom from a humanity point of view. The question I have in regards to this slogan is, “Why isn’t freedom, free? Is there a true definition of freedom? If freedom is not free then “Who” decides how much it cost to have freedom?” When I was in the Army, I wanted to fight for the Freedom of the United States as does most, if not all, of those who serve in the military. Now that I am a veteran and a civilian, I want to know if President Bush, the Commander-in-Chief, will support the Veteran’s Administration Mental Health Department with the necessary funds to support those who have fought and are still fighting against the so-called terrorist war when they return. Will you Mr. President?

Our servicemen and servicewomen in Iraq and Afghanistan are told they are fighting for the freedom of the United States against terrorist. We state that “Freedom, isn’t free” but what is it costing our service people to fight this war? I am not asking about monetary figures or losses. I already know it is costing us billions of dollars monthly to be in this war. The cost is also high when we speak of the thousands of lives that have been lost, American and non American. I want to know how much this war is costing our service members right to freedom; freedom to pursue happiness, freedom of a healthy conscience. Are we counting the cost, Mr. Bush? I wonder how much freedom is lost when a soldier watches her whole squad die brutally from a bomb but she lives through it. What does it cost a husband who serves in the National Guard who has served three times in Iraq during a two year period? What impact does it have on his wife, his children and the life they once lived? Where is the freedom for those who return from war with missing limbs, having life changing injuries or PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? Women and men are joining the military to better their lives for numerous reasons and these same people are now returning from war in bondage, bondage physically and mentally.

In my opinion, the “war on terrorist” is costing our service members their freedom. Each American has the right to live a healthy life. This war has changed the lives of these service members and their families forever. It is costing them healthy images love, lost are the loving images of their family, their children playing, and their spouse’s loving face. Now those images are replaced with horrifying images. The image of their battle buddy laying in a pool of blood or the child they had to shoot afraid a bomb is hidden on them. The innocence of a 19 year old soldier is lost as he fires his weapon at civilians when he is ordered to commence firing in defense or retaliation. Lost is the freedom of conscience.

The freedom of conscience is a freedom we civilians take for granted. According to the Wikipedia Encyclopedia, the Freedom of conscience (also called freedom of thought) is the freedom of an individual to hold or consider a fact, viewpoint, or thought, regardless of anyone else's view. Conscience is more than just what you think. It is a difficult concept to study because of its abstract character. I heard that freedom of conscience is without equal in a democratic society as all other rights flow from it. The idea of choice is born out of it. A free conscience is, indeed, the beginning of freedom.
Our service members have lost their freedom in this war. They have lost their free conscience. An article published by The Hartford Courant in May of 2006 addresses the issues of mental health and suicides among military service members deployed in Iraq. For the series, the Courant interviewed more than 100 mental health experts, service members, family members and friends. One article called “Mentally Unfit, Forced to Fight” stated that “Although required by a congressional order, fewer than one in 300 service members sees a mental health professional before deployment”. The Courant investigation found that some troops with mental health problems are treated with antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications but are not provided with counseling or medical monitoring. In addition, some troops with PTSD are sent back into combat despite having the condition. Twenty-five service members committed suicide in 2005, up from a total of 11 soldiers and two Marines who committed suicide in 2003.

Freedom isn’t free, that is true. It is costing our women and men in the United States Army, Marines, Navy and Air Force and their families more than we can ever repay. Our service members have lost their freedom. They will no longer live normal lives in the United States of America, land of the free. As a veteran, I wonder President Bush, Commander-in-Chief, are you willing to pay the price in supporting our troops when they return from fighting your war on terrorist with the necessary mental health funds to give them back their freedom? A free conscience is, indeed, the beginning of freedom.

By S. Harrington

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

One more day of global warming

The holidays are here. How can one tell that it is the holiday season? On the 1st day of December, Davenport Iowa received quickly 8-10 inches of snow. That is a sure sign the holidays are here. Another indication that the holidays are here is the overwhelming sale advertisements on television much less all the catalogs that fill my mailbox. My favorite indication of that the holidays are upon us is the beautiful display of Christmas lights and the many Christmas scenes. I love this the most about Christmas.

I always look forward to the night, my spouse and I, for the first time, get into our car, stop by starbucks for a peppermint mocha and then we drive. We drive in neighborhood after neighborhood looking at the splendor of colorful lights and scenes of Christmas. Yet this holiday, I am disturbed. No one will stopping by our house to look at Christmas lights.

Were did the time go? How could I get so far behind that my neighbors have their lights up and looking wonderful? Oh how I wish for one more day of global warming so I can hang my lights without getting frostbite.

The "global warming" comment is a joke which began when my riding partner, to CTS in Chicago, and I were talking about the warm weather we had in Novemeber. I was stating that I needed one more day of warm temperatures so I could get my lights up outside. He quickly informed me that having a warm day in December would state that global warming is really occurring. I replied, "You're right. So I don't need another warm day to get my lights up, I need another day of global warming." HA HA

As a week has passed and the weather is colder, I wonder is it worth standing in the cold December weather, stringing some lights together that I hope will light or at least stay lit. I ask you, Is there nothing more frustrating than to have a light blow out once you have so carefully strung them on the house?

So is it worth the time and energy when both are so precious to me now? I have to answer, YES. Christmas lights bring me so much joy to see. If my spouse would let me, I would have lights strung on every bush, tree and they would line the sidewalk to the house of all different colors. She is less excited about stringing lights than I am because of the after holidays duty of taking them all down. So I will put up lights this year, blue and white lights. They will not hang from the house or will they be wrapped around the trees. It will be a simple display on the shrubs by the door and a simple lighting of the walkway to the door. Yet in this simple display, it is enough, For these lights aren't to keep up with the neighbors, it is to bring my some small joy as I drive up to my house. It signifies to me the holidays are here.
Happy Holidays Everyone & Have a Merry Christmas!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Maya and a slice of Heaven

On Thanksgiving day, I experienced what I believe to be a slice of heaven. I was in a room with over 200 strangers who came from all over the United States and the world to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with Maya Angelou. Yes, it is true, I shared turkey and dressing with Maya Angelou.

During this five day event, Dr. Maya Angelou and her family hosted this joyous occasion. I was amazed how quickly strangers became family and unconditional love and acceptance was freely given. Words cannot describe what my partner and I experienced.

To meet Dr. Maya Angelou was an honor and a blessing but to be addressed by Dr. Angelou as a new daughter in the "family" was truly humbling.

My partner, Mona, who is a harpist and two of her sisters, Zela and Lesa, were asked to present a concert for Maya and those gathered. Mona performed on the harp, Zela on the cello and Lesa on the violin. This was a slice of heaven for all who witnessed this event.

As Mona and I loaded the car and began our travels back to Iowa and reality, we reflected on the last five days. Words escaped us as we tried to explain our feelings about what we experienced in the midst of strangers. It was in the midst of strangers that we found unconditional love. We found acceptance and we were embraced as family. How could this be true? How could this have happened?

It is true and it happened because of one woman's dream of sharing her love and her home with other people. It began over 25 years go that a small group of people gathered in the home of Maya Angelou and shared a meal of Thanksgiving. Today, it has grown to over 200 people sharing love and hospitality.

It is truly a slice of heaven. As Maya so eliquently says, "We gather as young and old, short and tall, black and white, thin and fat, beautiful and plain, gay and straight" and we gather in love.

I wonder....what would the world be like if we all gather together in this kind of love? Thank you Maya Angelou for sharing your dream and reality with us! May we pass it on.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Do unto others, Mr. Bush.

The president of the United States says he is a Christian and prays to God for guidance. Where is God in Torture, Mr. Bush?

There is a golden rule in the Christian tradition that says "Love thy neighbor as thy self." For me, this means do unto others as you would want them to do unto you. A fourth amendment on the Detainee Bill that was voted down would have required the State Department to inform other nations of what interrogation techniques it considers illegal for use on American troops.

Shouldn't the interrogation techniques be the same for our American troops as well as for those who American troops detain? Is God with those who suffer as Jesus taught us? Or is God for those who dominate and try to control others?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

God's children

I am deeply concerned for my unborn and gay brothers and sisters. In 1993, a unique discovery was brought forward. Scientist said they had discoveried the "gay gene" called Xq28. As a lesbian, I remember feeling quite torn between being excited about this news and on the other hand, very distressed.

I was glad to have scientific evidence that being homosexual was not a choice. This was something I knew all along. For I grew up in a small country town in Mississippi, where I was the first homosexual that I encountered until college.

Quickly my excitement turned to dispare when I began to hear that the discovery of the "gay gene" became know as the "defective gay gene." I remember driving across some western state scanning the radio, searching for some entertainment and hearing a woman state very expressively what she would do if she knew that her unborn child was going to be gay.

This was coming from a conservative christian radio station who I am sure would oppose abortion. I still can hear the woman say, "If I knew that my unborn child would turn out gay, I would not want that child to be born." If she could have know the sexual orientation of her unborn child, in aborting this child, would she have been playing the role of God or would she be missing out on a divine blessing from God in having a gay child?

In the Human Genome Project are they playing the role of God or being an agent of healing? As a gay person who has heard more than once in my life that I am not created in the image of God who in fact finds me an abomination. I have to question the underlying beliefs and intentions for this research. I pray that it is intended to eliminate unnecessary human suffering. But who decides what is necessary and unnecessary? If it is to eliminate unnecessary suffering, will impoverished people be able to have healthy children as well as those who can afford the procedure? Are we making separation more defined of who's in and who's out in society much like the lepers of antiquity?

What does it mean for the Human Genome Project to eliminate unnecessary suffering? Whose suffering are we trying eliminate in this project, the parent's burden or the child's suffering?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Wecome

This blog has been created as a requirement for my Public Theology class at Chicago Theological Seminary. I suspect that this is the first of many blogging experiences I will have in the future.