Thursday, October 04, 2007

We Get Email

We received an email to our newdharmabums yahoo account the other day. I almost just marked it as spam and sent it off into the trash bin, but there was something about it that looked real enough to warrant a closer look.
The note to Roger was from Aidan Delgado, author of the new book The Sutras of Abu Ghraib. He was looking for some exposure for his book, and found us after a google search for Buddhist blogs. When we took a look at his site and read some of the reviews of his book, we wrote and told him we'd be glad to put a link on our blog and write something for him. We're just a small mom & pop blog, but sometimes it takes a lot of moms and pops to get the message out. We're glad to do our small part.
Aidan Delgado became a Buddhist while serving in Iraq. He was in Abu Ghraib during the worst of the tortures. He became a conscientious objector and was granted an honorable discharge in 2004. He has a story to tell about awakening to the message of Buddha and confronting the horrors of war.

Roger and I are only buddhist by nature, disposition, and inclination. We practice nothing but the everyday zen of being regular folks. We try to tread lightly, leave a small footprint, and treat all the living things we meet with a kindness that will make their lives a little better. That's about it. We were so moved to read about the work and deeds of this one young man and how he has become an outspoken critic of this war that we are glad to help him get his message out in any way we can. We feel it's important to hear Aidan Delgado's voice above the political din.

Roger sez:
the e-mail from aidan delgado reminded me of the only vietnam vet i knew really well, and i mentioned him in my reply. aidan, in his reply to me, said that he hoped my friend had found some peace. my friend, jeff, had been a bit of a wastrel before the war. he came home with MS. the MS rendered his legs useless and crept slowly up his body till he could no longer speak or breathe. he died several years ago. he did find some peace in being a good father and husband for many years. he had a grand smile and twinkling eyes. he never felt sorry for himself.

i have two short stories about jeff that i always think of when i think of him. they are not in chronological order because i want to leave you with a picture of his joy in life.

jeff smoked a lot of marijuana because it would quell for a while the tics and spasms of his legs. being a agreeable sort, i partook right along with him. we were mostly jolly, but now and again he would tell me about a firefight he had been in. he told me he went over it a lot, trying to recall exactly how many vietnamese he may have killed. it bothered him to kill and he wanted the number to be low.

jeff and his wife came to visit my wife-at the-time and me in rural northern california, not long after he had become confined to a wheelchair. he could still muscle himself in and out of a car by keeping his now uncooperative legs stiff and standing awkwardly, holding onto anything for balance. hearing our description of our local swimming hole in the creek, he asked us to take him there. we drove the mile or so to the nearest access, parked, and he got into his low-tech hospital era wheelchair. the three of us wheeled and muscled him maybe a hundred yards along a path strewn with rocks and roots. when we got to the nice swimming hole we asked him how he wanted to proceed. to our surprise and delight, he beamed mightily and declared "roll me in!" and we did. he loved it. after a while the cold water got to him and we helped him back into the wet chair and rolled him out, and back along the obstacle course.smiling jeff in his hi-tech, VA-provided wheelchair, with his ever present cup of coffee

Aidan wrote Roger that he was afraid that his war experiences would stay with him the rest of his life. It's true, we thought, they probably will. I look at the faces of the young men in the photo of Iraq Veterans Against the War, and I know they will someday be old men like Jeff, finding the intensity of their pain diminishes over time, with the deep love of a partner and friends to get them through it.

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