Thank you for joining me as I begin my author's tour for my new book WAR AND THE SOUL.
As some of you may know, I lead healing and growth journey abroad to Greece and Viet Nam. I take many veterans as well as people seeking psychospiritual healing and adventure to some of the most fascinating and mysterious places on the planet. When I travel, I always write "letters from the world" in order to share the wisdom, learning and healing gained, and to help knit our world together into one great and cooperative community. Certainly a book tour, especially about a topic as critical to us all as modern war, counts as one of these adventures. I am happy to do my best to bring you along and share the questions, insights, concerns, suffering, community that becomes active and available when we go out into our cities and towns and discuss what concerns us all the most. Please feel free to write your own thoughts, questions and concerns as we travel together.
Tonight officially begins my book activities. Let me share how I left my town of Albany, NY to begin this road trip to talk about modern war.
Over 100 veterans from all modern wars are represented in WAR AND THE SOUL. One of them is named Walt. He testifies in my book to the terrible damage down to his soul, his spiritual center, his moral code, sense of worth, and religious and ethical sensibilities by his service in Viet Nam during that war. And he didn't even kill. He considers his greatest crime to be digging up a mass grave of Vietnamese with his back hoe and moving them to another location so that the smell did not offend a visiting general.
I visited with Walt for the last time at the Veterans Adminstration hospital in Albany just before leaving. He is only in his early 50s. He is dying of Agent Orange related cancers. This man, who was once vital, brilliant, philosophical, searching, now looks like a concentratiion camp victim. He is pencil thin. His brain seems to be shrinking. He can barely utter a few words and even those take a very long time.
Walt was in a combat veterans group I facilitated 15 years ago during the first Gulf War. Of the 8 veterans who were in that group, he will be the fourth to die of old war wounds. The other 3 did not even make it to ageg 50! Two died of Agent Orange illnesses, and the third of a massive heart attack. At his funeral his parents said, "Our son was killed in Viet Nam. It just took this long for it to catch up to him."
This is what modern war is and does. The pain and suffering do not end when the guns are silenced. The pollution of body, soul, earth, community, society, infrastructure do not stop, do not go away, continue for generations. In Viet Nam today, about 35,000 babies are born every year with severe Agent Orange deformities. Our own veterans are seeing disabilities in their children and grandchildren.
When we make war in this modern technological way, for controversial and debatable political ends, these kinds of wounds -- Post-traumatic Stress Disorder to the soul, terrible damage to the body and land -- are inevitable. We Americans are not aware of these enormous costs. But we must be! And we must ask if the costs are worth the gains.
Modern war teaches that war is not and can never be an answer to human conflicts. The psyche, the body, the earth can no longer tolerate it. This is not about right or left, liberal or conservative politics. War can no longer be a political tool for anyone. And we must tend our wounded and the wounded of other lands with utmost love and generosity.