“There were seven Nez Perces whose bodies from shoulders down were bulletproof. All were killed by shots in the neck. One of these warriors was Sarpsis Ilppilp, son of Chief Yellow Bull, killed in the battle of the Big Hole. A strand of the wampum necklace he wore was cut by the bullet that killed him. One of these men who received bullets on his body showed black spots the size of a dime.”
Two Moons also held faith in this immunity against enemy bullets. He tells how he saw Sarpsis Ilppilp and two companions, Wahlitits and Strong Eagle, ride the battle line at White Bird Canyon without incurring any injury from the shots rained upon them by the soldiers. On another occasion, he said, Sarpsis loosened his belt and permitted several bullets, some of them misshapen as if they had hit an impenetrable surface, to fall to the ground. His red flannel shirt showed perforations, but no bullet had broken the skin.”
-Penahwenonmi (Helping Another); fm. Yellow Wolf: His Own Story. Lucullus McWhorter, 1991.
On Memorial Day, this passage from Sōen Shaku‘s (釈 宗演) 1906 ‘Zen for Americans,’ a book derived from a series of lectures delivered to American audiences in 1905-6, a period in his life encapsulated thusly at Wikipedia:
In 1905, Soyen Shaku returned to America as a guest of Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Russell. He spent nine months at their house outside San Francisco, teaching the entire household Zen. Mrs. Russell was the first American to study koans. Shortly after arriving, he was joined by his student Nyogen Senzaki. During this time he also gave lectures, some to Japanese immigrants and some translated by D. T. Suzuki for English speaking audiences, around California. Following a March 1906 train trip across the United States, giving talks on Mahayana translated by Suzuki, Soyen returned to Japan via Europe, India and Ceylon.
Can you imagine sitting on a rocking chair at the rail station someplace like 1905 Cheyenne WY or Dodge City KS and a Zen master steps off to stretch his legs while the locomotive coals and waters? A pre-internet, pre-long distance telephone, even substantially a pre-literacy era in America and this utter unknown alights in your midst, let alone with a message like this:
“Why, then, do we fight at all?
Because we do not find this world as it ought to be. Because there are here so many perverted creatures, so many wayward thoughts, so many ill-directed hearts, due to ignorant subjectivity. For this reason Buddhists are never tired of combating all productions of ignorance, and their fight must be to the bitter end. They will show no quarter. They will mercilessly destroy the very root from which arises the misery of this life. To accomplish this end, they will never be afraid of sacrificing their lives, nor will they tremble before an eternal cycle of transmigration. Corporeal existences come and go, material appearances wear out and are renewed. Again and again they take up the battle at the point where it was left off.
But all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas never show any ill-will or hatred toward enemies. Enemies–the enemies of all that is good–are indeed wicked, avaricious, shameless, hell-born, and, above all, ignorant. But are they not, too, my own children for all their sins? They are to be pitied and enlightened, not persecuted. Therefore, what is shed by Buddhists is not blood,–which, unfortunately, has stained so many pages in the history of religion,–but tears issuing directly from the fountain-head of lovingkindness.
The most powerful weapon ever used by Buddha in the subjugation of his wayward children is the practice of non-atman (non-egotism). He wielded it more effectively than any deadly, life-destroying weapons. When he was under the Bodhi-tree absorbed in meditation on the non-atmanness of things, fiends numbering thousands tried in every way to shake him from his transcendental serenity; but all to no purpose. On the contrary, the arrows turned to heavenly flowers, the roaring clamor to a paradisiacal music, and even the army of demons to a host of celestials. And do you wonder at it? Not at all! For what on earth can withstand an absolutely self-freed heart overflowing with lovingkindness and infinite bliss?
And this example should be made the ideal of every faithful Buddhist. Whatever calling he may have chosen in this life, let him be freed from ego-centric thoughts and feelings. Even when going to war for his country’s sake, let him not bear any hatred towards his enemies. In all his dealings with them let him practise the truth of non-atman. He may have to deprive his antagonist of the corporeal presence, but let him not think there are atmans, conquering each other. From a Buddhist point of view, the significance of life is not limited to the present incarnation. We must not exaggerate the significance of individuals, for they are not independent and unconditional existences. They acquire their importance and a paramount meaning, moral and religious, as soon as their fate becomes connected with the all-pervading love of the Buddha, because then they are no more particular individuals filled with egotistic thoughts and impulses, but have become love incarnate. They are so many representative types of one universal self-freed love. If they ever have to combat one another for the sake of their home and country,–which under circumstances may become unavoidable in this world of particularity,–let them forget their egotistic passions, which are the product of the atman conception of selfishness. Let them, on the contrary, be filled with the lovingkindness of the Buddha; let them elevate themselves above the horizon of the mine and thine. The hand that is raised to strike and the eye that is fixed to take aim, do not belong to the individual, but are the instruments utilized by a principle higher than transient existence. Therefore, when fighting, fight with might and main, fight with your whole heart, forget your own self in the fight, and be free from all atman thought.
It is most characteristic of our religion, as we understand it, that while Buddha emphasized the paramount significance of synthetic love, he never lost sight of the indispensableness of analytical intellect. He extended his sympathy to all creatures as his own children and made no discrimination in his boundless compassion. But at the same time he was not ignorant of the fact that there were good as well as bad people, that there were innocent hearts as well as guilty ones. Not that some were more favored by the Buddha than others, but they were enabled to acquire more of the love of the Buddha. One rain falls on all kinds of plants; but they do not assimilate the water in the same fashion. Buddha’s love is universal, but our hearts, being fashioned of divergent karmas, receive it in different ways. He knows where they are finally led to, for his love is unintermittently working out their salvation, though they themselves be utterly unconscious of it.
Above all things, there is the truth, and there are many roads leading to it. It may seem at times that they collide and oppose one another. But let us rest confident that finally every ill will come to some good.
-Sōen Shaku. Zen for Americans; 1906.
Shane MacGowan tells an old man’s story perfectly in his primal, alcoholic growl. Eric Bogle’s 1971 original the archetype for countless heartfelt covers, The Pogues here render a version that rings with the authenticity of Empire.
When I was a young man I carried my pack
And I lived the free life of a rover
From the Murray’s green basin to the dusty outback
I waltzed my Matilda all over
Then in 1915 my country said “Son
It’s time to stop rambling ’cause there’s work to be done”
So they gave me a tin hat and they gave me a gun
And they sent me away to the war
And the band played Waltzing Matilda
As we sailed away from the quay
And amidst all the tears and the shouts and the cheers
We sailed off to Gallipoli
How well I remember that terrible day
How the blood stained the sand and the water
And how in that hell that they called Suvla Bay
We were butchered like lambs at the slaughter
Johnny Turk he was ready, he primed himself well
He showered us with bullets, and he rained us with shells
And in five minutes flat he’d blown us all to hell
Nearly blew us right back to Australia
And the band played Waltzing Matilda
As we stopped to bury our slain
We buried ours and the Turks buried theirs
Then we started all over again
Now those that were left, did their best to survive
In a mad world of blood, death and fire
And for seven long weeks I kept myself alive
While the corpses around me piled higher
Then a big Turkish shell knocked me arse over tit
And when I woke up in my hospital bed
And saw what it had done, Christ I wished I was dead
Never knew there were worse things than dying
Ah no more I’ll go waltzing Matilda
To the green bushes so far and near
For to hump tent and pegs, a man needs two legs
No more waltzing Matilda for me
So they collected the cripples, the wounded, the maimed
And they shipped us back home to Australia
The legless, the armless, the blind and insane
Those proud wounded heroes of Suvla
And as our ship pulled into Circular Quay
I looked at the place where me legs used to be
And thanked Christ there was nobody waiting for me
To grieve and to mourn and to pity
And the band played Waltzing Matilda
As they carried us down the gangway
But nobody cheered, they just stood and stared
Then they turned their faces away
And now every April I sit on my porch
And I watch the parade pass before me
I see my old comrades, how proudly they march
Reliving their dreams of past glory
I see them march slowly, all twisted and torn,
The forgotten heroes from a forgotten war
And the young people ask me “What are they marching for?”
And I ask myself the same question
And the band plays Waltzing Matilda
And the old men answer to the call
But year after year their numbers get fewer
Some day no one will march there at all
Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
Who’ll come a waltzing Matilda with me?
…With the 10-year anniversary of the Iraq invasion looming, Stuart Bowen, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, considers $8 billion of that money wasted outright. And that’s a “conservative” estimate, Bowen tells Danger Room.
“We couldn’t look at every project — that’s impossible — but our audits show a lack of accountability,” Bowen says. “We are not well structured to carry out stability and reconstruction operations.”
That isn’t nearly the whole story of the Iraq War’s expense. Bowen is only looking at reconstruction money, not the cost of military operations in Iraq, which totaled over $800 billion. But on Wednesday, Bowen’s office released a mammoth, final report into the botched reconstruction, which cost the U.S. taxpayers, on average, $15 million every day from 2003 to 2012 — all for dubious gain…
So a lot of the progress we paid for was fake, but the national debt rung up in Iraq under GOP ‘oversight’ is real enough.
The last NYT column from Bob Hebert, in which he pulls no punches:
The U.S. has not just misplaced its priorities. When the most powerful country ever to inhabit the earth finds it so easy to plunge into the horror of warfare but almost impossible to find adequate work for its people or to properly educate its young, it has lost its way entirely.
There’s no time to pull punches anymore. People have to speak their minds, especially when we’ve gone so far astray. Change comes from unity: a common understanding that arises from the recognition that we are not alone in thinking/feeling we’ve lost sight of our common goals and aspirations. Silence is submission.