Monday, January 2, 2023

A Reflection on a Legal Holiday from Many Years Ago


A Reflection on a Legal Holiday from Many Years Ago

In my first year of seminary, at our annual off-site retreat, an event occurred, that still sticks with many of us. In many ways, it was deeply personal to me, because I had retired from a 22-year career in the Navy just a few years prior, and this day was Veteran’s Day. For me, the gesture was very powerful and meaningful; the colleague put a flower in a vase on each table at lunch, in honor of the veterans who had served the US in years past. The poppy was a symbol of honoring veterans for many years, but they were not available, so roses were used in their place.

I was deeply touched by this gesture, as I understood the historical significance of the flower, and what it represented. Most of those present did not understand or appreciate it, because it appeared to endorse the extant wars at the time, the “Global War on Terror.”

There are a number of things that those who haven’t served in the military didn’t recognize. First off, until the end of the Viet Nam era, soldiers were conscripted, they didn’t volunteer to serve. This meant that if your number was called, you went, or you had bigger troubles!

With Desert Storm, even though no US assets had been attacked there was a huge surge of patriotism stirred up, and the war was highly supported. It had broad global support as well – after all, how could we sit by and watch one country gobble up another one?  Ironically, we are doing just that these days with the Russia/Ukraine war, since intervening against Russia bears risks and results beyond catastrophic.

After 9/11, of course the surge in patriotism was unbelievably high, and the numbers of people enlisting was unprecedented. Yet even so, the military still needed to call up Guard and Reserve forces like never before to have adequate numbers to staff the battle forces that were called for by President GW Bush.  Were these wars necessary? That’s a topic for another discussion, though.

Since Viet Nam, however, a new phenomenon occurred in the US. Instead of blaming the President, Congress, or the National Command Authority, where blame lies for going to war, American citizens blamed, and attacked, returning soldiers. This attitude continues today. It is considered the military’s fault that we are at war, and if the military would just stop being so militaristic, well, then we could have peace, after all.

The rub is that the Constitution mandates a defense force. We must have a military. The issue is how it is used. And almost every president who has been to war himself understands the significance of that, and has been hesitant to commit to war, and has limited the military actions. On the contrary, presidents who never served in combat, including Clinton, GW Bush, Obama and Trump have kept the military engaged in the Middle East continually for over 30 years.

So, when we want to cast blame, it needs to go inside the Washington Beltway for sure, but it needs to go to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, NOT to the Pentagon.  The Pentagon does not make the decision to go to war, and it does not declare war on other countries. That is the President and Congress.

And the military troops and veterans at the bottom of the chain of command?  They were following the LEGAL orders they swore an oath to follow. To not follow those orders carries other problems. The military does have procedures such as the conscientious objector, and I have a friend who filed for that status after returning from the Afghanistan war. So PLEASE, do not blame the military personnel and veterans – give them flowers. We really are trying to make peace in the world.

It's the politicians in the White House and Congress who try to make war. Please remember that every election year.

Trans Generations and Generational Trauma related to the Biblical Book of Genesis


I recently submitted a scholarly paper for review about generational trauma in the Book of Genesis, in the Hebrew Bible.  Anyone who has ever read Genesis is aware that we are taught to revere the main characters in the book. Yet, if we read the book closely, that just does not make sense.

A husband who sells his wife into sex slavery.  A father who exiles his wife and son, then tries to sacrifice his other son. The “sacrificed” son who then copies what his father did. His wife and their younger son conspire to steal his blessing. That son, Jacob, steals his father-in-law’s flocks. Jacob’s sons conspire to kill, but eventually kidnap and sell into slavery their brother Joseph, while they do many other horrible things.  Their sister Dina, unaware of the risks, walks into a trap, and is taken advantage of by a smooth talker, or raped, depending on which commentaries you read.

This reads like a night-time soap opera! And this is biblical text. What is going on here?

After the Holocaust, the field of generational trauma was developed. Survivors didn’t talk about their experiences, but it was noted that their offspring showed signs of trauma, even when they had not experienced direct trauma themselves.  If that trauma was not addressed, it could be transmitted to the third generation, etc.

We have been aware of PTSD in various forms since WWI, with “shell shock” and its other names. But it wasn’t studied with any intensity until the post Viet Nam/Desert Storm era. Then we began to really understand PTSD. This is about the same time that third generation survivors – people my age, started showing trauma signs.

In my paper, I took these seemingly random and disastrous events, and put them within a framework. Each generation had experienced trauma. That trauma had not been treated and it was transmitted to the next generation. That generation in Genesis experienced more trauma and so on.

By reading Genesis with this lens, we are able to gain an important understanding of this book. We are also able to gain an important pastoral tool.  In my research paper, I show the implications of this knowledge in treating survivors of generational trauma in historically oppressed communities such as Black and Indigenous communities in the US.

But friends, the trans community fits this mold as well. I know quite a number of trans/NB folx who have trans/NB offspring. Quite frankly, I have yet to meet a trans person who does NOT have cPTSD, and for most of us, it remains present to some level or other. So, for those of us who have kiddos, we are at risk of transmitting this trauma to our kiddos as well, whether we are aware of it or not.

Complicating this, as the NTDS details all too well is the denial of adequate mental healthcare for trans/NB folx in the US. Thus, it is really difficult for many of us to get our trauma into remission. And for those who are both trans/NB AND BIPOC? The trauma load is almost unbearable.

So what do we do? First of all, we can’t give up hope.  Now that we know this is an issue, we can deal with it.  If you are the trans/NB parent of a trans/NB kiddo, then watch your kiddo for signs of trauma. If they show ANY signs at all, get them help ASAP. Whether it’s at the Center, the Crisis Center, or if you are fortunate enough to have insurance, your doctor, you MUST act. Your life and your child’s life depend on this.

I have struggled to find meaning and value in Genesis for many years. I know others have as well. I hope this offers some people meaning and hope, and I hope you will take this lesson to heart.