Arlington National Cemetery

My mothers father died before I was born, in a bicycle accident. Ive visited his grave site now and then with my family. Now my grandmother has joined him. A few months ago I was at his grave-site again, to attend my Grandmothers unveiling – the first time I visited the site visiting both of them together.

My sister and my grandmotherThis is a picture of my sister and my grandmother from Thanksgiving ’05, with uncle steve  in the background.

I went to a meeting this afternoon out in Shirlington. On my route I passed Arlington Cemetery, and its neat rows of markers. It made me think about Arlington as the place where the military family is buried together. Why is it that some of our military end up together in Arlington, and not with their relatives?

For some people joining the military is as much an economic choice as a moral one. Perhaps burial by the state helps the families bear a small portion of the burden that the loss brings. I understand also that burial at Arlington is a sign of accomplishment within the brotherhood and family of those whose work is to protect our country.

I appreciate President Obamas reference to the burden of duty in last nights address to Congress. He said:

As we meet here tonight, our men and women in uniform stand watch abroad and more are readying to deploy. To each and every one of them, and to the families who bear the quiet burden of their absence, Americans are united in sending one message: we honor your service, we are inspired by your sacrifice, and you have our unyielding support.  To relieve the strain on our forces, my budget increases the number of our soldiers and Marines. And to keep our sacred trust with those who serve, we will raise their pay, and give our veterans the expanded health care and benefits that they have earned.

To overcome extremism, we must also be vigilant in upholding the values our troops defend – because there is no force in the world more powerful than the example of America.

I agree with him about the example of America. I wrote something about that some time ago. The kicker in my piece was: “we measure our strength by our power to spread freedom, not only our ability to enforce it.”  Like the stones at Arlington, the American example – that shining city on a hill – is something that we each create together.  Arlington marks our nations protectors, and also the choices of our democracy.

[4/18/09: should have been, I think: ‘our capacity to inspire freedom, not only our ability to enforce it.’]

Arlington National Cemetery

First snow fall at Arlington in 2009

Photo by: Kaitlin Horst ANC staffer.

Blaming others for violence

I have been thinking about my choreographic project… how to choreograph something about non-violence….

I was chatting with a colleague at work and she told me about her trip to Israel with her mother. Her mom had gotten ill, and they had taken a pilgrimage. When I was a young teenager my grandparents took my family with them to Israel for a week.

We went to a place called Yad Vashem (which Fani is reminding me means ‘hand of god’.) Yad Vashem is Israel’s Holocaust Museum/Memorial. The last room I was in was a large dim room, with a candle burning in the ground. When I left the room, it was back into the bright middle-east sunlight. My grandfather was on the far side of a small open plaza. It was the only time I saw him cry.

image of Yad Vashem

He fled Germany in the late thirties, and met my grandmother – who had fled Austria – in New York city. He lost many friends, and some family. 

He felt so bad for surviving.

I told my colleague this, and we also talked about the woman who cut my hair last week – who was Palestinian. I felt this flare of  embarrassment when I identified myself as jewish to the hairdresser.

We need to stop blaming other people for violence. It’s important that we accept the challenge of opposing violence. I’m still not sure how to go about it, but I think a way for me to address non-violence would be to create some dance that asks us (the dancers) to stop blaming others for violence.