Monday, June 19, 2006

Garden People

National Archive

Drat! Just as I was finishing up this post my browser crashed and I lost it. One might think it's easy to reconstruct a post--a matter of retyping--but that's hardly the case for me. Oh well, I wasn't quite sure about the post anyway.

I began it with Rear Rear Adm. Harry Harris, Guantanamo Bay commander saying the three recent suicides there were acts of "asymmetric warfare." The always interesting BagNews Notes has a great post about the incident with links to the Charlotte Observer coverage. If you are at all interested in the story, go to BagNews Notes and click through the links. The reporting by the Charlotte Observer is important and unique.

The picture is of a garden made by Yasusuke Kogita during he and his family's four years as prisoners at the Minidoka Internment Camp in Southern Idaho. I discovered the picture through an NPR Morning Editon report by Ketzel Levine. Levine tells about Kenneth Helphand's Defiant Gardens: Making Gardens in Wartime. NPR provides a few book excerpts.

What connected Guantanamo to the picture of Yasusuke Kogita's beautiful garden was a report about how prisoners at Guantanmo had saved seeds from their meals in order to create a prohibited garden. A British human rights advocacy organization Reprieve has begun collecting seed packets and gardening advice for the prisoners at Guantanamo. They know the prisoner's actually receiving them isn't likely, and are prepared to sue in US courts for their delivery. Success through the courts is even less likely, so the effort is to protest.

We are assured both that victory will be ours in the "War on Terror" (WOT) and that the war will be more or less permanent, at least there's no end in sight. It's disconcerting to know that already WOT has exceeded the length of the US in WWII. The peeved reaction of US officials to the suicides at Guantanamo reveal a frustration with the progress; a plaintive cry: "Why won't they just do what we tell them to do." Last week a song performed by a US soldier in Iraq, "Hadji Girl," made the rounds of on the Internet; via Digby the lyrics include:
I grabbed her little sister and pulled her in front of me.
As the bullets began to fly
The blood sprayed from between her eyes
And then I laughed maniacally
Then I hid behind the TV
And I locked and loaded my M-16
And I blew those little f***ers to eternity.
And I said

Durka Durka Mohammed Jihad
Sherpa Sherpa Bak Allah
They should have known they were f***ing with a Marine
A German TV station has a clip startling to hear the audeince response of laughter and approval.

As Americans begin to speak about the WOT; tentatively asking "WTF?" the accusation is hurled that any discussion is an aid to terror; an expression that we don't want to win the war.

I discovered the links to the Charlotte Observer stories about Guantananmo after I'd lost the previous incarnation of this post. I was struck by Col. Mike Bumgarner. The reporter relates:
He got a phone call. It was the older of his boys, the one that most closely shares his father's reverence for honor and duty.

"Dad," he asked, "what are you doing down there?"

Bumgarner was stunned. "For him to challenge me and question whether I was doing anything to compromise my integrity and his, well, it hurt me very deeply."
I relate very much to the hurt he felt and recognize that I have a responsibility as a citizen which has real bearing on the lives on the service members sent to fight under my flag. They are my sisters and brothers, my fellow citizens. Col. Bumgarner is following orders for which my small influence exceeds even his. To say forthrightly that the prison camp at Guantanamo is a dreadful blunder which should be rectified by its prompt closure is not to undermine his integrity, rather to attempt to preserve it along with my own.

Victory Gardens during world War II were for food security, but they also served as a way that ordinary people could be engaged in the war effort. I'm not so sure that the whole food security angle of such gardens for today isn't a good idea. But I think that gardens planted without that motivation are good ways for Americans to become engaged. What is so lacking and in critically short supply are our imaginations engaged to respond to the challenges we face today. Gardening can engage our imaginations.

Why does a prisoner save a lemon seed to plant, and then secretly plant it although it's forbidden? Is it really so hard to imagine? Look again at the picture of Yasusuke Kogita's garden. His son's remember that he was lost in reverie as he meditated and worked on his garden. Gardens are a way to manifest our love and connections to life.

On Tuesday June 20, PBS will air the third in their FRONTLINE documentaries about the Iraq War, The Dark Side. The title stems from vice-president Cheney's warning that after 911 the US government would have to operate on "the dark side." Our descent has been rapid and pervasive as we move towards a terrible world with no restraints to power over enemies.
The lists of enemies have grown to include a bare majority of Americans ourselves: Americans who express any questions or reservations about our nation's secret conduct outside the framework of representative government and the law.

My friend PingTing wrote a wonderful comment to my previous post on torture encouraging me to stop paying attention to the media for a week, among other things. He wrote:
my reality is what i can deal with. i try to be kind and gentle in the world each day. if i water the
plants around me, and tend to them, they will hopefully grow well and the bees will come and the flowers
will flourish and spread. we can "do" more (to help the world condition).
He is more eloquent than I in making the point why we should garden now more than ever.

It's not really about gardens per se, PingTing and another friend arrived at my house after supper one day last week. It was so delightful to walk with them on a long walk through the gardens here as the light faded and the darkness set in. I don't get around to mowing the grass as often as is expected, and goodness knows my approach to weeding and watering, essentially ignoring those activities, leaves much to be desired. Still I plant seeds and wonder at what comes up. We picked flowers, touched and smelled the plants as we went along. Pausing to admire the shingles of bark of the Shag Bark Hickory tree and how it conjured sinister renderings of forest in illustrations and films. Then over to the massive Hemlock towering at an angle, bent by the wind. I laughed at myself when I noticed that I was indeed hugging the trunk. The best aspects of my garden are ones I had nothing to do with. Appreciating them makes me a part of the garden, makes it mine.

Over the time of this blog I've repeated "create something good" which has been attributed to G. I. Gurdjieff as his answer as to what our response to evil must be. I'm not a student of Gurdjieff, but that answer seems inspired to me.

I'm not sure I'll take PingTing's advice to stop consuming media for a week. But the point to focus on those things close to me which I can reasonably influence seems good advice. As my government, leaders and many fellow Americans embrace a dark path, at least what I can do is try to remember and follow the path that's towards the light. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke much that's worth repeating:
The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral,
begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.
Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
Through violence you may murder the liar,
but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.
Through violence you may murder the hater,
but you do not murder hate.
In fact, violence merely increases hate.
So it goes.
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence,
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness:
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

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