FAR MORE EXCITING THAN THE APOLLO LANDING

50 years have passed since Apollo 11 landed on the moon.

It was the end of the 60s, a time of rebellion and rage for some, confusion for me.  Richard Nixon was President. Technically, I lived at my parents’ home, planning and plotting how I could leave, which was not easy in a religious Jewish home where girls were not allowed to leave the house till they were married. I worked full-time, went to college full-time at nights, and within a month of the lunar landing I’d be physically gone as well.

One day I received a call from an old high school friend who was studying up at Barnard. “I have something to tell you and then ask a favor, “ says she, “but you have to swear you won’t tell anyone.”

Instantly I’m intrigued. Laurie (not her real name) was everybody’s idea of a good girl. Not for her being sent to the principal’s office (a frequent hangout of mine), not for her getting suspended and even kicked out of home. Was she flunking out of Barnard? Was she pregnant?

“I met a guy in Columbia,” she says, “and we fell in love. He’s Palestinian.”

“Palestinian?”

“He’s such a nice man.”

“You fell in love with a Palestinian?”

“They’re refugees. His family lives in Jordan.”

I was dumbstruck. I wasn’t even sure what a Palestinian was. Jordan had controlled the entire West Bank till Israel had conquered it just 2 years earlier. In 1969 there was no such thing as Palestine, and no such thing as Palestinians; that was to come later. But I knew that Palestinians were Arabs. The odds of a Jew dating a Palestinian were lower than reaching the moon. Only here was my old friend, Laurie, who never missed a homework assignment in four years of high school and never disturbed anyone’s equanimity over a span of two decades, falling in love with a Palestinian!

“He went home to Jordan and is coming back tomorrow,” she says on the phone. “I don’t have a car, but you do. If I meet you at Kennedy Airport tomorrow, would you pick him up along with me and take us both back to school?”

“Sure,” I told her. I’d have to check if I could get my mother’s car (lying through my teeth about why I needed it), but wild horses couldn’t prevent me from seeing this.

The next day was July 20. In early evening I drove to Kennedy Airport, parked the car, and found Laura in the TWA terminal that was shaped like a bird. An enormous screen hovered over the inside of the terminal and I looked at it briefly. The Eagle had landed, but Neil Armstrong hadn’t yet stepped onto the moon, not that it mattered. I mean, how could landing on the moon compare with a nice Jewish girl like Laurie falling in love with a Palestinian?

I peppered her with questions—How did you meet? When? Where?—and deduced that yes, she was definitely sleeping with him. Nobody knew except for her, and now me. We waited for the flight to arrive, leaning against the rail as she implored me to silence. We ignored Neil Armstrong taking those first steps and instead stared breathlessly at the flights monitor.

“He landed!” she finally announced. She didn’t mean the astronauts.

I hurried after her as she made her way towards the door from which he’d emerge. If Armstrong had come face to face with a green moonie, it would be nothing like my encounter with Laurie’s Palestinian lover.

He came out of customs and he and Laura embraced. She introduced me briefly, said he was tired, and suggested we go to the car. Above us the two astronauts walked on the moon; we barely gave them a glance.

My mother’s car was a red Dodge convertible, but Laura asked me to keep the roof down. New York City streets were empty that night; I remember driving up one of the avenues on the West Side and making every green light for a 2-mile stretch while Laura and her friend necked on the back seat. Did she tell him that I was born in Israel, I wondered.

I dropped them off at the Columbia campus. I barely received a thank you, but I didn’t mind. I’d seen something far out, unimaginable, and felt strangely grateful.

“Did you see the landing?” my father asked me upon my late return.

I nodded.

He shook his head. “Will wonders never cease!”

ANOTHER WAY TO PLAY

The hand-off

This is how Harry and Aussie play:

They’ve both rushed up the slope to protect the house from terrorists, i.e. deer, gophers, and wild turkeys. They come back down, job well done, and Aussie gets that glint in her eye that tells me a message has just come in from God. She makes eye contact with Harry, goes down on her belly while keeping her rump up (rump up!), and wags her tail madly.

Harry picks up a small stuffed turtle lying on the ground that squeaks when squeezed, and runs, Aussie chasing. They make the turn around the back, then Harry heads to the garage, jumps through the dog door into the kitchen, runs into the dining room, makes a full circuit around the table, then into my office and out the door to the back, Aussie at his heels, not missing a trick.

A couple of minutes later he turns to her, drops the stuffed turtle. She goes back down on the ground, rump up, wags tail madly, jumps up, picks up the stuffed turtle, and runs ahead, Harry chasing. Same thing: whirlwind rush around the back, into garage, through dog door into kitchen, round and round the dining table, into Eve’s office, and out to the back, Harry breathing hard on her neck.

A couple of minutes later, the stuffed turtle is handed off, or mouthed off (see above), again. New leader, new chaser. The only difference is that when it’s Harry leading and Aussie chasing, he does 2-3 circuits around the dining table from sheer exuberance (not to mention that he’s younger), while she pauses, takes a breather, and when he runs into my office and out the back she’s just inches away. Often they pause to wrestle a little before the next switcheroo.

What a civilized way this is of playing together, I think. Imagine that world leaders played by similar rules.

Xi Jinping: “Hey Donald, you’ve held the stuffed turtle in your mouth for almost a century. We’ve been chasing and chasing, so how about we switch places? We get the stuffed turtle and lead, for a change, and you chase us.”

Trump: “Good idea, Xi! Since I’m a little older and you’re up and coming, I’ll let you take a couple of extra rounds, no need to exert myself too much, but otherwise I’ll be right behind you.”

Xi: “Great. And we can switch again, say in 50 years time.”

Trump: “Wait a minute. How will I know we’ll really switch? Of course, I’ll still be in the White House—you won’t be able to pull the wool over my eyes—only not as young and spry as I am right now.”

Xi: “You’ll know because I’ll go down on my belly, push up my rump, and wag my tuches! It’s a universal language.”

Trump: “Of course! OK, here. I just dropped the stuffed turtle. Off I go to Mar-A-Lago–unless there’s a hurricane, of course—but after that I’ll be right at your heels.”

Xi: “Get ready, get set, go!”

 

TIME TO RELOCATE

I was booked to leave on Friday morning for South Dakota, to our fifth bearing witness retreat with Lakota elders. I worked very hard the day before, which usually happens before a trip that starts early the next morning, and went to bed early. And stayed awake all night.

I looked into the darkness for hours, thinking that this would be my first bearing witness retreat since Bernie had died. We loved those retreats so much! I was there when he first conceived of one at Auschwitz/Birkenau, we planned and plotted over it incessantly. Other couples talk about the kids or grandkids or a movie they saw or how they’re feeling; we talked about bearing witness retreats.

He attended one Native American retreat and no more due to his stroke, so this one doesn’t have the same imprint. It didn’t matter. I felt he was there with me the whole night.

What do you think? I asked him. I thought of the 40 some odd folks coming, their enthusiasm and joy at seeing each other and how disconnected I feel from that right now.

A friend later told me: “It’s like you shared the same skin for years, and when he went, part of your skin fell off. You feel horribly exposed and vulnerable because there’s no skin to protect you. No wonder you want to slink off to a corner and hide somewhere. You want to protect ourself.”

Aussie came up—she never comes up to the second floor on hot summer night because it’s much cooler downstairs—she could sense something was up. Probed with her muzzle—“What’s going on? Why aren’t you sleeping? And maybe, since you’re up anyway, how about opening up the dog door so that I could run out and bark?”

“Aussie,” I whispered to her, “I saw a large golden coyote cross the road  in the morning. Was that the big animal that crashed through our yard yesterday and sent you tearing out of the house like a mad canine?”

She nuzzled me some more in that darkness. Of course it was, I thought to myself. Bernie loved coyote tricksters. He loved to cause things to appear, and then disappear.

Was he pushing me to go? Was he telling me to show up? In his last years he was so soft, every ounce of hardness had left him. “I don’t want to create more work for you,” he said over and over again. “You should do what’s good for you.”

Do what’s good for you. If you’ve been indoctrinated towards obligation and duty, that’s not so simple. But this morning, at 6 am, I decided not to go.

I’m looking for a softer place now, someplace that’s more intuitive, more home. That’s got more give. Not the old neighborhood of You gotta show up, you can plow through this, come on, you’re strong, other people have it so much tougher than you, etc., etc. I flinch now when people call me strong.

It’s time to relocate. Find that place that’s soft and light, that lets me breathe. Tender.

PROBE AND PROBE AGAIN

I turn from my computer and meet Aussie’s eyes, one big, imploring call. I need to be free! I’m your freedom girl, I need to run!

Funny, I think, she hasn’t escaped in a while. I look at her, get back to work, look at her, get back to work. Finally, I go out the door and towards the side gate by the laundry lines, the one with the bungee cord and ladder blocking all avenues of escape. And then I see it. Tim had tightened up the bungee cord around the gateposts so hard that not even Aussie, flattening herself like a piece of cardboard, can get through.

Her eyes narrow, looking hard at me. “That’s good,” I tell her. “That’s how things need to be around here.”

And then I astound myself. My hands reach up to clutch the bungee cord. It’s so tight that at first I can’t move it. But I pull hard and it gives. And then I tie it up again, just one coil less.

The two gateposts are still very tight, I reassure myself.

I don’t look at Aussie, just go back to the house. She’s a dog, I tell myself, she doesn’t know what I did. And indeed, Aussie follows me back to the house, stretches out and takes a nap.

A half hour later I hear the clinking. I look out the window in time to see her tail go between the gateposts. Once again, softly and quietly, she’s managed to get through the rungs of the ladder, flatten herself like a pancake, lift open the latch, push with all her might between the tightly-held posts, and get out.

Harry runs after her, but stops, undecided. He’s smaller, he could get out easier than her, and I watch quietly, wondering what he’ll do. But for Harry, the call of the kitchen is louder than the call of the wild. He turns around and trots back to the door.

Meantime, I’m full of self-recriminations. Are you insane? How could you let her out? What kind of mixed message are you giving her?

I didn’t open the gate, I tell myself. All I did was loosen the bungee cord just a little. I didn’t think she’d keep on probing and probing, that sucker has been locked tight for 3-4 days now. She should have given up by now.

But she didn’t. She wanted to find her way to freedom.

What does that say about me, I wonder.

  1. I’m a crazy woman (most plausible).
  2. I want to do the same thing. I want to free up some constraints, work my way through obstructions, and get free.

Since Bernie died the left side of my body—especially the shoulder and hip—has been very constricted. For the first time in my life, I have pain going upstairs or uphill. X-rays have shown no particular deterioration, so the physical therapist diagnoses bursitis and tendonitis.

I diagnose it as pain. I diagnose it as hardship taking a long walk, an obstacle to running away from home. “The body always prioritizes,” a physical therapist told me after I related how healthy I’d been throughout Bernie’s illness. “As long as he was sick, he came first. Now that he’s no longer around, you’re discovering what’s probably ailed you for a while.”

I know nothing about that. What I do know is that now, 8 months after his death, I’m beginning to experience some of the freedom that comes with not having someone sick at home, not rushing from one thing to another like a crazy woman, not measuring time by the milligram. Instead I actually walk out and look at the gorgeous flowers, even take the dogs out for a second walk when it cools down.

But there’s the pain. If I can’t go uphill, how am I going to go downhill?

I want to regain my mobility. I want to run away from home. Learn from Aussie to probe and probe, feel the obstruction, try to run and get stopped, but probe again and again, till one day I get through.

Run, you crazy dog, I tell her as off she goes, tail wagging in the air. Just don’t forget, dinner’s at 5.

A BORN HAZARD

Goodbye! Leaving home!

“Harry, why did you make a hole in the blanket?”

“Because it’s raining, nothing to do except tear up blankets. That’s not all.”

“What else, Harry?”

“I peed by the refrigerator.”

“What else?”

“I chewed up Bernie’s red lacquered box of Japanese name stamps.”

“What else?”

“I broke the butter dish. I couldn’t help it, it was right on the dining table—“

“—in the center of the table, Harry—“

“—so it was no big deal to jump on the chair, then jump on the table, and gobble down the butter. Just too bad the dish fell on the floor and broke.”

“And did you also throw down the salt and pepper shakers, not to mention the Italian seasonings?”

“What else was I supposed to do? They weren’t real food. Another thing I did was, I chewed up the sides of the blue recyclable bins.”

“Why did you do that, Harry?”

“My teeth need exercise. I just took nibbles, nothing to get excited about, but you should have seen what I did to the bird food canister.”

“You mean, it weren’t mice who created that big hole in the bottom?”

“My, my, I cannot tell a lie, it was moi. Guess what else?”

“Tell me after my nap.”

“I can reach the kitchen counter.”

“How do you know, Harry?”

“Because I jumped right up on it. I thought there was beef stew there but you’d already put it away. Not to mention the car.”

“Are you perchance referring to what happens when I leave you alone in the car for a few minutes and you go bananas? Let’s see, last time you pushed every button you could find, turned on the window wipers and the radio, got rid of my favorite stations, and locked up the car doors.”

“Not to mention that I almost pushed the gear shift from Park to Drive. I’m a born hazard, is what I am!”

Where does forgiveness come from?

Where does self-forgiveness come from after you’ve murdered the little monster?

And where’s the store that sells compassion because there are times when, search high and low, you’ve simply run out?

 

WE FOUGHT FOR A McDONALD’S IN SAIGON?

At least we had a great time on the Fourth!

In Letters to the Editor, Greenfield Recorder: “Almost exactly 50 years ago, on June 15, 1969, Harold (Pug) Shattuck Jr. (GHS 1966) involuntarily sacrificed his young 20-year-old life so that downtown Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) could now have a McDonald’s! . . . OMG . . . Succinctly.” John Romanovich III (GHS 1964).

I wanted to tell Mr. Romanovich: Exactly when did we ever think that we knew the final outcome of anything?

 

People ask me what I think about the Democratic candidates’ debates.

“I didn’t see them.”

“Who’s your favorite candidate?”

I struggle, so they break it down for me. Elizabeth Warren is so smart, but unelectable [Why?]. Joe Biden’s from another era and Sanders isn’t very personable, but that Kamala Harris—watch out!

Most important, they say, is to get rid of You Know Who. You Know Who, of course, is thrilled to get all this negative attention, he positively thrives on it, but that hasn’t deterred members of the Resistance, who practically cough and choke in their efforts to come up with a word that will capture how much they despise, hate, loathe, abhor, abominate, etc., him.

I remain quiet, but inside what I’m thinking is: Really? The most important thing is to get rid of You Know Who?

First, You Know Who is the puppet dangled by conditions: Ignorance, Racism, Out-of-Control Capitalism, Insularity, Materialism. You  might get rid of You Know Who in the ballot box, but You Know Who 2, like the Kims of North Korea, is waiting in the wings as long as conditions remain the same.

Second, the most important thing is to get rid of You Know Who is like saying that there’s a terrible conflagration rushing towards my home so what I must do right away is get rid of the sign on top of the driveway because it’s made of wood. Maybe hurry out with the water spray bottle that I use to discipline Harry. One look at it and he runs away, maybe the conflagration will do the same thing.

We think so small. We think so slow, while life moves so much faster..

Am I the only one who can’t get interested in politics because she doesn’t think that’s the level on which to play this game? Or maybe it’s one of many levels, but not the most important despite all the media attention showered on it?

So we get someone into office who believes in global warming and cares about disappearing species (including humans) more than about money. We may rejoin the Paris Accords but still contend with a system saturated with money and privilege, and a military complex that will probably label the predicted 200 million climate change refugees as serious terrorist threats, and therefore require more arms, more planes, more submarines, more nuclear weapons, etc. And you know what? By 2050, when 200 million refugees are predicted, a few may indeed loosen terror on a world that caused and then ignored their suffering, leading to even more fear, more partisanship, and a louder call to arms.

I no longer believe that revolution can take place at the top, but I think it can happen on the bottom. On the bottom is you and me.

I think about a spiritual revolution. I think about people recognizing what’s at stake and putting away small concerns, pooling resources, and taking responsibility for what’s transpiring on this beautiful earth rather than expending their energy on hate and blame. I imagine full engagement in small towns and on the streets of big cities, and of training the next generation not just to make money but to continue the fight because it will take more than a lifetime or two.

Cathedrals were once built that way, generation after generation of family craftsmen. We can all be craftsmen and craftswomen in the rebuilding of our society and the world, transmitting our experience and skill to the next generation, and the one after that.

“The situation is hopeless,” cellist Pablo Casals once said. “So what’s the next step?”

WHAT MAKES THE DESERT BEAUTIFUL

“The stars are beautiful because of a flower you don’t see . . .”

“What makes the desert beautiful,” the Little Prince said, “is that it hides a well somewhere . . .”

A dear friend of mine lost his mother-in-law recently. Every weekend over the past years he and his wife had traveled a long highway to visit with her, only returning home to start a new week of work. It was exhausting.  Recently, she died. Some time later he passed by her home.

“It feels weird,” he said after that. “For so many years I’ve gone there and now she’s not there. “

Every presence denotes an absence, and absence denotes presence; you can’t have one without the other. We think we know that. For example, we know that life is followed by death; someone is present, till s/he’s not.

But when someone is present, do we see the absence there at the same time? Or when someone is absent, do we see their presence simultaneously? Usually we’re stuck in one or the other. But right after loss, it feels as though you have one foot in one and one foot in the other. You experience absence and presence all at the same time.

What makes the desert beautiful is that it hides a well somewhere. What makes this hot summer day so green is that it hides piles of snow, and what makes the light so bright is that it hides a dark, moonless night (except for the fireflies that do their magic along the edges of the forest).

Bernie and I once discussed Buddhist groups and people who do hallucinogens in order to experience a different reality.

“Zen is about seeing things as they are,” he said. “Nothing extra, just as they are.”

“Much is hidden inside,” I said.

He looked at me. “You have so much imagination,” he mused.

On the 49thday of his death I walked in the deep woods and emerged at the top of the farm that Zen Peacemakers had owned for a decade or so. A crow cawed from the top of a very large willow tree we once considered taking down to make room for water and sewage pipes. Each time I see that tree I think of how close it came to dying.

A blue car, a little like Bernie’s, came down the drive, circled the island that contained the big willow, and then drove out without stopping. There was no wind anywhere, but leaves fluttered madly.

I wish I knew how to read these things.

 

UNABLE TO LOCATE

Photo by Peter Cunningham

I love to see how a leaf quivers in dead air. You walk down a path and everything is still: no air moving, no breeze, it’s hot, humid, and heavy. And then the tip of one leaf, just the tip, starts quivering , and then shakes. You look around. Don’t see anything, don’t feel anything, nothing else moves.

Why are you moving? you ask the leaf.

What can’t you see? IWhat aren’t your senses showing you?

 

Bernie did a lot of big things, but often I think of how he was in the last years before his stroke, after he turned 70, when the small things of life absorbed him. He loved to take three drives every day and smoke a stogie with the dogs in the back seat. He didn’t go to the ballet, he didn’t want to do theater, and with a few exceptions he didn’t want to travel to see the world.

He enjoyed small things: watching TV, following the New England Patriots on their annual, irrevocable march to the playoffs (That Brady!), making a tuna fish sandwich or going out for a small Subway sandwich, and of course, taking his daily bath.

Those are the invisible things in one’s life that no one else sees, only the person living with you. His getting up at 4 am when you still have your eyes tightly shut, walking over to the closet to get his kimono, going to the office to check news and emails. Sometime around 6, just when you get up, you hear the bathtub water come on. If you walk in there 10 minutes later, he’ll look up from his bath at you, as relaxed as could be, at peace with the world.

Then it’s time for the morning ride, whatever pretext he could find: I need to fill up the car with gas; Don’t you feel like having a donut? And when he returns 40 minutes later you greet him with: Did you go to Dunkin Donuts via Vermont? Because, of course, he really went to smoke a  cigar.

Have I thought how much that cigar smoking may have contributed to his stroke? I have. And Bernie may have thought of it, too, but my guess is he didn’t give it much attention. It was past, so that was that. After the stroke, the only thing he really missed, I think, was his morning bath.

Which reminds me of a recent item on the Montage Police Log, as reported by the Montague Reporter:

6:34 pm. Red and white Chihuahua missing on L Street. No collar on because of just having had a bath this morning. Unable to locate.

It was amazing how full and at ease he was in those years. There were still debts to repay, but something basic had shifted inside. In his mind, he had given Zen Peacemakers over to life. The man who’d held and carried so much, daily scanning hundreds of emails coming in from different teachers and peacemakers in different countries, all with their respective stories and challenges, not to mention the projects he still had his fingers in, not to mention the many ideas that constantly popped up in that creative head—little by little he gave it away. Some he would delegate to others; a lot he shrugged away, as if to say: life will take care of it; they’ll find the way, they’ll find an answer. Or they won’t.

Of course, he kept on teaching.

“What are you going to do?” I’d ask him before he flew.

“Oh, you know,” and he’d quote a Yiddish proverb to me, which I’ll reproduce in English: The same shit with a new decoration. Same old same old. But how Bernie loved creating new, more fantastic decorations! He’d come home and say: “You know what happened? Someone asked me a question about so-and-so, and you know what I told them?” He’d repeat it to me, and muse: “I don’t think I ever talked like that before.” He loved that constant bubbling of his own creativity.

But when he was at home he took things easy, which discomfited me a bit. “Bernie, don’t you want to do something?” I’d say.

“Like what?”

“I don’t know,” I’d mumble.

“The dogs need a ride,” he’d inform me. “And I need a cigar. Do you want a slice of pizza?”

Unable to locate.

 

THE WHEEL COMES ROUND

Let me in! Let me in!

“Aussie, I’m not opening the door for you. What are you doing outside on the front steps early in the morning?”

“Why are you coming downstairs so late? It’s already 7!”

“I couldn’t sleep half the night wondering who opened the dog door.”

At night I take the dogs out for a final pee, and then shut the dog door in the kitchen, meaning I close up the aperture in the door through which they usually run out to the backyard by inserting a thin wooden board through the slots. This blocks them from their usual exit.

“Guess!” she says, wagging her tail excitedly and rushing in. “It was me, Nu-nu-nu, Breaker of All Rules.” Her eyes sparkle. “Why block the dog door anyway?”

“Because otherwise you and Harry would be running out and barking all night, which will make Tim, our neighbors, and me very unhappy.”

This worked till last night. Around midnight I heard coyote yips and barks. Unconcerned, I turned and went back to sleep. An hour later I woke up, feeling it was strangely quiet. I went down and saw that the wooden board had been nudged up. There was no Aussie, and no sleep.

At 7 in the morning I looked out the front door and there she was, lying patiently on the top step. Needless to say, she not only managed to nudge open the dog door, she also found another way out of the fence and was gone.

 

“You were always the trouble-maker,” my mother told me.

She didn’t stop badgering me about being more Jewish, observing holidays and kosher rules, and generally being a more acceptable daughter till I was past 50.

“What do you mean by trouble-maker?” I asked her some years later, when we were finally able to have this conversation.

“You were crazy,” she said. “Or at least,” she mercifully corrected herself, “you were different.”

“How different?”

“You were independent, you knew what you wanted and what you didn’t. You were like this from a very young age, stubborn. Other children grow up and later decide if they want our life or not, but you rejected it right away. You were such a rebel we didn’t know what to do with you.”

I almost felt sorry for her, watching her contemplate all those misadventures.

“I’ll say one thing for you,” she added. “You were consistent. You never let anybody tell you what to do, not then and not now.”

 

So of course, I have Aussie. Outside I frown, say Nu-nu-nu, Aussie!, tell her how glad I am that Harry’s not like her. But inside, I cheer her on. I admire her spunk, her never-say-die. Watch her through the window as she saunters to the gate again and again, probing the fence, the latch, and now the tight bungee-cord for weaknesses, for just the tiniest laxity. If it’s there, she’ll find it.

“You know, Aussie, you’re the first dog I’ve ever had that’s managed to open up a dog door.”

“You know that stupid sign you have up on top of the driveway?”

“You mean the one that says No Matter Where You’re From, We’re Glad You’re Our Neighbor”?

“I think you should take it down and put up another.”

“Which one, Auss?”

“Live Free or Die.”

EXTRAORDINARY VALOR

Abandoned homeless encampment in a park in Greenfield

On July 18 we’ll begin the 5thannual retreat with Native American elders in Lakota country. We’ll be in the Black Hills and the Cheyenne River Reservation.

Yesterday, two of the elders, Manny and Renee Iron Hawk, were in Washington, D.C., along with other descendants of the survivors of the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890, to urge Congress to rescind the 20 Congressional Medals of Honor, the highest military honor in this country, that were given to soldiers of the 7thcavalry who implemented the Wounded Knee Massacre.

To see their testimony, go here: https://www.facebook.com/fourdirections/videos/2295789657303145/.

Some 300 Lakota were killed; it’s estimated that two-thirds were women and children. Some 25 cavalry soldiers were killed as well, mostly by other soldiers, i.e., friendly fire (is there a more classic oxymoron than that?). The massacre took place during a disarming of the Lakota, so many of them could no longer defend themselves. The U.S. Cavalry was also aided by 4 big mountain guns that were aimed at the Indians below.

Marry Iron Hawk testified about hearing from his grandmother how she survived at the age of 12 when her grandmother took her by the hand when the shooting began and ran to the ravine to hide. There were other stories:

My grandfather was 13 and escaped by running down to the ravine.

My great-grandfather was killed at Wounded Knee, but his daughter escaped.

I thought of the years growing up when I heard stories from my mother related to the Holocaust: We hid in the cellar of this family for several months. There was so little room that once I had to go out to look for food, and my legs crumbled under me and I couldn’t stand.

I could hear the heavy boots of the German soldiers coming up the stairs towards where we lived, coming for us.

People say that we can’t really blame them, they thought they were being shot at. When people feel threatened, they shoot. But where’s the honor? I wonder how I would feel if the people who perpetrated what they did to my family in Europe received Germany’s greatest medal for courage.

I don’t live in Germany, I live in this country, with a tradition of virulent violence perpetrated on native peoples. And I think of what happens when realities don’t align, when you’re told that your family was massacred and that the killers were subsequently cited for extraordinary courage and valor beyond measure.

What world do I live in, I might ask myself. Who are these people? Who am I? I could even start wondering what’s real and what’s not, because after all, I experience things one way and others experience them completely differently. How come I’m so different from everyone else? What’s wrong with me?