(Reposted from Crave) This Thanksgiving, give thanks and show support the unarmed water protectors who are risking their lives to stand against a militarized police force.
"When it comes to sexuality and intimacy, it is not enough to simply tackle outdated policies that shy away from love and sex. Sex must not be reduced to a violent, emotionless wargasm in a post-war homecoming."
Picture this: A combat veteran is getting publicly shamed. Their service is spat upon; various media outlets perpetuate misinformation about them; veterans’ charities and nonprofits exploit them; and the general public doesn't seem to accept them either.
They are criticized, scrutinized, and are often spoken about with disdain, question, and shame. The combat veteran faces constant antagonization and, as a result, experiences a failure to reintegrate after war and is vulnerable to homelessness, domestic violence, substance abuse, incarceration, and suicide.
No, this isn't 1968. This is the beginning of the 21st century. And that combat veteran is a woman.
In 2004, in the desert sands of Kuwait, I realized where I stood as a woman in war compared to a man. And all I wanted to do was give the finger to every double standard that protects men, and chastises women.
"There was no reason to stay with anyone who despised my passion, spirit, or who I was on the inside. I wasn’t merely free now because I was newly divorced and embarking on a cross-country move, I was free because I wasn’t frightened by the journey or the unfamiliar, mysterious destination. I was free to write a new chapter and to live my life on my terms - starting with this road trip."
Throughout American history, men and women have been fighting and dying in wars throughout the majority of our country’s history. However, veteran reintegration proves to be a continual challenge as we see statistics regarding homelessness, suicide, incarceration, and mental illness indicating an ongoing crisis.
“'What makes the desert beautiful,' said the little prince, 'is that somewhere it hides a well...'”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Reverence is not merely a feeling, a religious attitude, or an act easily executed, but something that takes an excavation of the soul to fully encounter.
After a spiritual breakdown and years of exhaustion over an ever-present numbness since my return from the Iraq war in 2005, I yearned to feel, to reconnect my spirit to the world around me. After years of what felt like abysmal loss and hopelessness, I was fortunate to find myself in the middle of the Sonoran Desert one weekend after New Year's 2010. It changed my life forever.
For whatever reason, a light switch went off inside my soul. Upon inhaling the arid air, drinking in the surreal colors of the desert, I had an irresistible urge to abandon my life and belongings in New England and embark upon a new journey into the desert of the US Southwest.
Years after making that decision to act, and to escape spiritual death, I am happy to report that out here in the desert - the Mojave Desert now - I have had found that glimmer of hope and followed it through reverence. I have rediscovered not only the ability to feel again, but the ability to experience gratitude in everyday life.
It wasn’t an easy journey, but a necessary one to feel alive after years of trauma, wounds that I had neglected, and spiritual neuropathy. Such a journey could not have been possible between these deserts without wonderful people I've met along the way.
In revering the otherworldly beauty and solitude of the desert, I have found a well. A well that has seeped into my veins so deep that it helped a heart broken a thousand times over to feel love again. Once I was able to love - my art, life lessons, others around me, and myself - anything became possible
This post was inspired by a prompt from Robin Sierra and The Global Reverence Project. See Robin's art at http://robinsierra.com/.
In Jun & Me, writer and director Kendall Williams makes his debut by treating us to an introspective and mystical journey into the mind of the insomniac main character, Mark Everest (Giorgos Koutsakis). As a photographer living in Tokyo, Mark struggles to find meaning or purpose in his seemingly anemic daily routine. Without sleep, without joie de vivre, we can easily connect to Mark’s current rut where he yearns for fulfillment.
The cinematography throughout the film - also the work of Williams - reflects Mark’s state, a cold, minimalist, urban and frenetic environment, quite beautifully. And before we get too comfortable in the complacent world of Mark, he becomes intrigued by an offer from a fellow co-worker who notices his discomfort. Mark’s co-worker, Brad (Steven LeFever, also the film’s producer and assistant director), informs him of a medication called Gnosis that may assist Mark in finally getting a full night’s rest.
Upon taking the pill, Mark is launched into a well-rested, highly productive mode that quickly leads him on a mysterious adventure interlaced with where he discovers the elusive yet ardent Jun (Sara Ben-Abdallah), who rises above other women at a Venetian carnival-style party as his contemporary Aphrodite. Jun fills the void within Mark’s life through spontaneity, affection, and the thrill of new romance. Mark eagerly chronicles their gallivanting around Tokyo with his camera, capturing bliss in motion with his newfound love, only to discover a startling truth about Jun and himself in the end.
The film’s enchanting quality strokes the imagination with what is possibly missing from our own lives as well as our perception of joy. While there are moments within the dialogue that feel somewhat forced – and a complementary minimalist approach would have helped – the awkward tone and nature of the Jun & Me suggest an ever-present discomfort with the self, with or without pharmaceutical assistance.
While we get to see this 17-minute short play out profound subject matter in a limited window, we can certainly look forward to future evolved projects that will take the beauty and intensity of the filmmakers’ passions to the next, deserved level.
Check out the latest on Jun & Me and their appearances at upcoming film festivals: https://www.facebook.com/junandmefilm
In early 2006, as a twenty-four year-old Army sergeant I found myself sitting in a sterile university classroom, and looking back on my year in Ramadi, Iraq. Ramadi was one of the absolute worst places one could be during the Iraq war in 2004-2005, and my time spent there racked up memories like old broken records constantly on rotation in my head.
The following is an excerpt from the upcoming book, "The Desert Warrior".
A few days after I arrived back in Jacksonville, I had to start narrowing down the details of the wedding. Writing about Iraq was helping, but it was also robbing me of my sleep.