30 May 2010


TODAY IS MEMORIAL DAY IN AMERICA. Thousands of miles away in Belgium, however, young schoolchildren began their day at the Flanders Field cemetery, honoring the fallen American heroes from World War I who helped save their country at a desperate time in Belgian history. As is customary, they sang the Star Spangled Banner and placed small American flags next to Belgian ones in memory of those who died to preserve the liberty of this great nation.

It gives me pause to consider that we're nearly 100 years removed from the ‘Great War,’ yet small children in Belgium still take the time to learn our national anthem and pay respect to our nation for its sacrifice.

Last Memorial Day evening, a family friend named Eric — an 18 year young man who had just graduated from high school — shipped off to boot camp as a Marine. This August he goes to Afghanistan. With the world in turmoil, it pains me to think that his tour of duty will mean long days and months of hazardous duty in such an unforgiving terrain. “Thank God his mother has passed on,” I sometimes think, but in reality, he probably would not have enlisted had she not died three years ago. That makes it extra sad for me.

I am a child of Vietnam. As a teenager I listened to audiotapes mailed home by my brother Martin from DaNang and for the first time heard what bombs and mortar fire really sounded like. I heard my brother's voice—while desperately trying to convey calm—speed up, then slow down, then go silent as the sound effects of bullets and explosions and helicopters filled the void. I finally told him of this experence at my Dad's funeral a few years back, and for a time, at least, it seemed to bridge a gulf molded by differences in age, distance—and yes, war.

Perhaps as penance, I became very involved with Vietnam vets. I interviewed and befriended many who served there. . .and truth be told, most are still not entirely free. Many are haunted; drunk with dark images of sniper fire and eerie, ghostlike images appearing — and dying in the jungle before them. These nightmares, this PTSD, persist after all these years. . .and that is what makes me wince when I think of young Eric.

I am proud of him — obviously. I pray for him every day. I honor his selflessness and courage, but I wish I could protect him—as if he were one of my own. He is strong as an ox, and yet I pray he is protected from the psychic horror of war as well.

On this Memorial Day, while we honor all of the brave men and women who serve; all who fought and died in foreign wars, perhaps we should also ask, “what will we do to support Eric and others when they return home from war?” It is a vital question to ponder as a new generation of young men and women return from the trauma of war. For, we cannot simply drug them; numb them; expect them to forget. Increasingly, that is what we're doing... and it's not right.

If we are going to ask them to fight on our behalf, then our solutions must be more personal and meaningful than that. We can't just fly a flag, nor pat them on the back. We must commit to be with them for the long hall—whatever that takes. If it means more taxes in order to try behavioral therapy, then so be it. If it means bringing back the real GI Bill so that these heroes can start a new life with a free college education and a new home, then they should be afforded that. If it means volunteering to be with them — when they return with a mental or physical prosthetic—if it means any of this or more—we must do it. There can be no more copping out, by politicians, the VA, military leaders or psychiatrists.

There is nothing more important than our human capital—our young men and women. There is no excuse any longer. As a nation, we have asked them to do our bidding; as a nation we must share the sacrifice necessary to help make them whole—if we humanly can.

As a very young boy, I tried, unsuccessfully, to extract the meaning of war from my father, who served in the Army overseas during World War II. He resisted, time and again, looking rather distressed and puzzled by the notion that his youngest son — the second last of seven children — had this persistent curiosity about his time in Italy fighting the enemy. Being a Southerner by birth, Dad was always a private man, with little interest in divulging excessive emotion or grandiose stories. But after years of pestering, he finally told me some painful stories about his experiences in WWII.

He had been sobered by war, to be sure — and I suspect he knew that the questions I asked as a boy were important to my understanding of him as a father—and as a man. Later, as he saw the unconditional respect I paid to Vietnam vets... it made him proud.

So on this Memorial Day, I choose to give thanks to not only the veterans who suffered — and perhaps died in faraway lands, but to the new recruits like Eric who are bracing themselves to fight in the nightmare of war. We should also thank our friends, who despite political and cultural differences, despite being called out for their opposition to the Iraq War, have stood at dawn, young and old, year after year, to honor us.

That's what friends do.

Happy Memorial Day.

May God Bless us all with peace.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

29 May 2010


My Relatives,

Time has come to speak to the hearts of our Nations and their Leaders. I ask you this from the bottom of my heart, to come together from the Spirit of your Nations in prayer.

We, from the heart of Turtle Island, have a great message for the World; we are guided to speak from all the White Animals showing their sacred color, which have been signs for us to pray for the sacred life of all things. As I am sending this message to you, many Animal Nations are being threatened, those that swim, those that crawl, those that fly, and the plant Nations, eventually all will be affect from the oil disaster in the Gulf.

The dangers we are faced with at this time are not of spirit. The catastrophe that has happened with the oil spill which looks like the bleeding of Grandmother Earth, is made by human mistakes, mistakes that we cannot afford to continue to make.

I asked, as Spiritual Leaders, that we join together, united in prayer with the whole of our Global Communities. My concern is these serious issues will continue to worsen, as a domino effect that our Ancestors have warned us of in their Prophecies.

I know in my heart there are millions of people that feel our united prayers for the sake of our Grandmother Earth are long overdue. I believe we as Spiritual people must gather ourselves and focus our thoughts and prayers to allow the healing of the many wounds that have been inflicted on the Earth. As we honor the Cycle of Life, let us call for Prayer circles globally to assist in healing Grandmother Earth (our Unc’I Maka).

We ask for prayers that the oil spill, this bleeding, will stop. That the winds stay calm to assist in the work. Pray for the people to be guided in repairing this mistake, and that we may also seek to live in harmony, as we make the choice to change the destructive path we are on.

As we pray, we will fully understand that we are all connected. And that what we create can have lasting effects on all life.

So let us unite spiritually, All Nations, All Faiths, One Prayer. Along with this immediate effort, I also ask to please remember June 21st, World Peace and Prayer Day/Honoring Sacred Sites day. Whether it is a natural site, a temple, a church, a synagogue or just your own sacred space, let us make a prayer for all life, for good decision making by our Nations, for our children’s future and well-being, and the generations to come.

Onipikte (that we shall live),
Chief Arvol Looking Horse
19th generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe

Labels: , , , , , ,

22 May 2010


I recall seeing this on public television almost 20 years ago, when I was about to be a father for the second time, and I also recall being moved to tears by the simple and eloquent challenge laid forth by Severn Cullis-Suzuki.

Watch this and tell me what you think. . .and remember, in the words of the beautiful Dixie Chicks song, that "our children are watching us, they trust in us. . .and they're gonna be like us."

I hope. . .

21 May 2010


DURING ONE OF THOSE LATE-NIGHT research sessions for GENERATION RX, I stumbled upon a wonderful commentary written by a group of academic researchers in Canada. It sucked me in immediately—and the work itself was full of insights into the way our friends up North view the issues surrounding ethics in medicine. For the most part, Canadians seem far more engaged in these ethical debates than do we Americans, and the commentary spoke of “tarnished institutional reputations, one-sided marriages” between business and universities, and “unsettling incidents” involving “intimidating tactics by industry that profoundly affect researchers' lives and careers.”

Many of you will recall my interview with Professor Sheldon Krimsky of Tufts University for GenRx that detailed how funding cuts in Academic research during the Reagan years helped propel a “blurring of the line” between academic/scientific research and commercial interests—and how this manifested recently as gross conflicts-of-interests worldwide. “What the Reagan administration thought they would do is to create a closer linkage between the corporate world and the academic world,” Krimsky told me. “So they created incentives for corporations to invest in universities. At the same time, they kept proclaiming that . . .the federal budget was going to be mean and lean, and that got university administrators became very concerned. How were they going to make up the financial downfall in the university budget?” The answer, Krimsky stated, was that universities often buckled under the immense pressure of drug and petrochemical companies. “You want the dollars,” they'd say, “then you'd better play ball.”

University presidents, Krimsky pointed out, were between a rock and an economic hard place in the Reagan/Bush years—and opted for survival by creating a new era of commercialized academia. It soon became acceptable for scientists to have a commercial affiliation while being paid as a basic researcher... but therein lies the problem. “The duty of universities is to seek truth,” wrote the Canadian researchers, and to ignore that premise could alter the ethos of science, perhaps forever.

In the old days — and by ‘old’ I mean the 1970s — academic and journalistic interests worked hand-in-hand to root out the best of scientific research. Integrity of the information was paramount — in fact, it was the stated goal. During that era, skepticism was a hallmark of the academic mission. It kept what some brilliant Canadian conflict-of-interest researchers called “the premature enthusiasms of industry,” in check.

As journalistic stalwarts like Robert Whitaker have discovered, those safeguards were abandoned years ago.He put forth many of the shocking details in GENERATION RX, but he and Sheldon Krimsky knew all of this would come to pass, sooner or later.

Krimsky tells viewers how there are two rules that operate within the federal advisory committees—the groups responsible for making recommendations on whether any given drug should be available to consumers. “Rule number one says that anyone who has a substantial conflict of interest cannot serve on a federal advisory committee,” Krimsky says with a knowing smirk. “Rule number two says that rule number one can be waived. And rule number one is waived; in some cases the evidence shows 50 percent of the time.”

So there you have it. The very rules written into law to protect the public from conflicts-of-interest actually make allowances for the rules to be broken — at least one-half the time. “One culture’s pursuit of the truth is supposed to be unencumbered by money,” Krmsky concludes, “and the other culture, for which money is the medium of exchange, is the bottom line.”

As the film points out, at least 56% of those serving on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM) have conflicts of interest with the very drugs they are charged with approving. God knows how many of these DSM panel members began their questionable behavior during the Reagan years, but in 2010 it is a massive problem, and one which challenges the integrity of all of medicine.

The Canadian conflict-of-interest researchers recognized this ethical landmine as the most dangerous and daunting test for today’s academic research programs. They coined the perfect term to describe what it is like when academia, researchers, and the pharmaceutical companies are joined at the hip.

“Some bargains are Faustian, and some horses are Trojan,” the researchers wrote. “Dance carefully with the porcupine, and know in advance the price of intimacy.” It's the perfect description of the steep and painful price that we all pay when the cherished institutions we rely upon for truth — go awry.

Labels: , , , , , , ,