Saturday, May 24, 2008

Question of the Week - Memorial Day

This week’s column is dedicated to the memory of those who have served their country. There are two major holidays in the United States that commemorate and recognize those with military service – Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day. Veterans Day, also known as ‘Armistice Day’ is held on the 11th day of the 11th month, to thank our nations’ veterans.

Armistice Day was the symbolic end of World War I – the War to End all Wars, and was observed on the 11th minute of the 11th hour, of the 11th day of the 11th month, or when the Allies and Germany ceased hostilities on the Western Front in 1918. Armistice Day became Veterans Day in 1954, by an act of Congress.

Memorial Day or ‘Decoration Day’ began in 1866 and was meant to honor Union Soldiers who died serving their country. After World II, recognition of Memorial Day became more widespread, and in 1968, the United States Congress decreed Memorial Day a national holiday.

For myself, Memorial Day also has a personal meaning.

NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

No. 1144-05
November 03, 2005
Media Contact: Marine Corps Public Affairs - (703) 614-4309 Public/Industry Contact: (703)428-0711

DoD Identifies Marine Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the death of two Marines who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Major Gerald M. Bloomfield II, 38, of Ypsilanti, Michigan
Captain Michael D. Martino, 32, of Fairfax, Virginia

Both Marines died November 2, 2005, when their AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter crashed while flying in support of security and stabilization operations near Ar Ramadi, Iraq. Both Marines were with Marine Light-Attack Helicopter Squadron 369, Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, California. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, their unit was attached to 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, II MEF (Forward).

The crash is currently under investigation.

I was very much taken aback by my good friend’s death. Jerry or “Beav” was an outstanding pilot, a good man, and an amazing friend.

Ultimately, all wars are wrong, and we can never replace those who gave their lives. But we CAN honor the memory of those who served, and actively create a world of Peace.

Beav, we won’t soon forget you. I know you’re up there somewhere, watching over us, and smiling. I thank you for your friendship and your integrity. You are missed!

Semper Fidelis,
Omar W. Rosales

Friday, May 2, 2008

Question of the Week - Dr. Robert Thurman

I had the honor and privilege this weekend to spend time with Professor Robert Thurman. Dr. Thurman is the Professor of Indo-Tibetan Studies at Columbia University, as well as the President of Tibet House. In town for several events at UBC, I had an exclusive interview with Professor Thurman about his new book, “Why the Dalai Lama Matters”.

Warm and engaging, Professor Thurman is one of my personal heroes. An excerpt of the interview will be posted shortly. . .

One of the things Professor Thurman spoke about was China’s characterization (really a mischaracterization) of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. He said that the Dalai Lama recently received an upgrade from being a “Wolf in Monk’s Robes” to a “Jackal in Monk’s Robes”. Of course, everyone knows that the Dalai Lama is person of Peace, similar to Ghandi or MLK or Kennedy, symbolizing the greatness of human potential and human spirit, that is present in all of us.

Its difficult for the His Holiness to respond to these baseless accusations. The whole situation with the Tibetan Uprising has placed Dharamsala in a very difficult position, with the Government-in-Exile taking most of the blame, but having little control over the protestors, or the Chinese response, or even the Chinese propaganda machine. In fact, the Chinese have been negotiating with the Dalai Lama’s representatives since 1995, but they still downplay his Holiness' importance.

With regard to a Global Civilization Matrix, Buddhism can indeed play an important role in our lives. As a model for Democracy, Peace, Understanding, and Compassion, Buddhism is not a religion, but a philosophy. That’s what the Dharma is - it is the “do” or the “Way” of life.

The other big thing to consider is that Buddhism is not the road to ‘Nothingness’. And ‘Nothingness’ is not the same as ‘Emptiness’. These terms are vastly different. Nothingness, is just that – nothing. While Emptiness means ‘To be free of’. So when we say, one of the goals of Buddhism is ‘Emptiness’, this means we want to be Empty of Hate, Empty of Fear, Empty of Envy, and Empty of Greed. Remember the Wheel of Life, and the three animal vices? Exactly.

The goal is to rid ourselves of the delusion of ignorance, the delusion of separation, to Empty our Prejudices, so there is no separation between the Object and the Observer. So, we realize, that ultimately, we are all One. Buddhism is not disintegration, but Unity. A Unity with the Cosmos . . .

Its hard when people say things about us that are untrue. But I think you should measure a person by their actions and their words. What do their friends and peers say about them? Does this person walk in a path of harmony with the planet? Do they live the Dharma? Are their actions beneficial to the sum of humanity? And lastly, of course everyone knows that the Dalai Lama isnt a Jackal. Especially the Chinese . . .

- O.