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Who is Policing the Police?

The Community Oversight Task Force took a deep look at police training in our community.  We were particularly interested to know what training the Sheriff’s deputies had in the months and years prior to the February 2020 incident resulting in the death of Sage Crawford.  It is our opinion that anyone who listened to the dispatch audios and watched Sheriff Moon’s car cam videos of the entire incident would have had a hard time determining that Sage Crawford was in a rational state of mind.  Those videos showed a distraught woman with two kids fearful that the police officers were going to take her children.  She had not committed a crime.  

The first issues is, why wasn’t the Sheriff’s new pilot program in operation?  This is the program where a County Behavioral Health expert and a Sheriff’s deputy work together in dealing with mental illness calls that has been functioning since February.  We learned the answer: the deputy was sick that day so the team was not called. We also learned the program operates only 4 days/week 10 hours each day.  What happens if a mental health crisis comes at midnight on a Saturday night?  Does Nevada County need a 24/7 “CAHOOTS” mobile crises team program that would take these calls away from Law Enforcement?  

The next question was why didn’t the Sheriff’s deputies exhibit any expertise in interactions with persons with mental illness?  Why was there no show of humanity or compassion? Why didn’t the Sheriff’s deputies utilize de-escalation techniques?  Why didn’t they use less than lethal force against her?  In our research, we learned that since 2017 the California Penal Code has mandated the “Commission on Police Officer Standards and Training” to develop and disseminate guidelines and training on:

  1. The cause and nature of mental illnesses and developmental disabilities.
  2. How to identify indicators of mental disability and how to respond appropriately in a variety of common situations.
  3. Conflict resolution and de-escalation techniques for potentially dangerous situations involving a person with a mental disability.
  4. Appropriate language usage when interacting with a person with a mental disability.
  5. Alternatives to lethal force when interacting with potentially dangerous persons with mental disabilities.

Yet, none of these techniques were followed in the matter of Sage Crawford, or of Gabriel Strickland, also shot and killed by police officers in 2019.

Then there was the matter of the Black Lives Matter Protest on August 9, 2020, in Nevada City.  The “investigative report” just came out concluding, the police officers present needed more training.  In our research, we learned that since July 1, 1999, all police officers in the State of California are to be trained in handling acts of civil disobedience, including (1) Reasonable use of force; (2) Dispute resolution.; (3) Nature and extent of civil disobedience, (5) Public and officer safety; (6) Documentation, report writing, and evidence collection.; and (7) Crowd control.

Anyone who attended the August 9 protest would attest to the complete lack of crowd control or de-escalation methods employed by law officers that day. Is there a question in anyone’s mind that the “counter-protestors” who appeared to disrupt the peace BLM protestors expressed hate for people of color?  If this was not their message, why were they there?  The events of that day, that we all watched on social media depicted angry men who tore banners, signs, and cell phones from protestors’ hands; we watched as they yelled “You don’t belong here;” and we watched as they wrestled protestors to the ground.  Even more disturbing, we watched as police officers appeared to side with and walk beside the counter-protestors.   Penal Code section 422.6 defines hate crimes and penalties.  That section states “(a) No person, whether or not acting under color of law, shall by force or threat of force, willfully injure, intimidate, interfere with, oppress, or threaten any other person in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him or her by the Constitution or laws of this state or by the Constitution or laws of the United States….” Yet that is what we all saw that day.  None of the Grass Valley Police, the Nevada City Police, or the Sheriff’s deputies who were present at the protest saw it necessary to defend the counter-protestors attacks on the first Amendment of the Constitution, nor does the Nevada City investigative report even mention this.  

In the Community Oversight Task Force’s work we have also learned that virtually all of our law enforcement officers’ records are considered “personnel files” and not subject to public disclosure.  We can well understand the need for privacy of officer’s home addresses, medical records, even disciplinary records, but training certificates?  Wouldn’t it be directly in the interest of the public to know that our officers are properly trained in crowd control, de-escalation, mental illness, homelessness issues, and civil disobedience law? The incidents described above raise serious concerns about the level of training our officers are getting and the public has no way to determine the answer to those questions.

Our next Public Forum takes place Friday evening October 1, 2021, from 6-8 PM. You may attend in person at the Madelyn Helling Library Amphitheater (to the right of the Library), or via Zoom link at
Email the Nevada County Peace and Justice Center at if you would like to join the Community Oversight Task Force working group. 

Lorraine Reich
Peace and Justice Center of Nevada County
Community Oversight Task Force

Join Us for a “Town Hall” meeting to discuss the Nevada City Police Department’s recent actions

The Community Oversight Task Force will be hosting a “Town Hall” style community meeting at the Madelyn Helling Library on August 27, 2021 from 6-9 p.m.  There will be a discussion over the failure of our Nevada City Police Department to properly respond to the BLM protest of 8/9/20.  Nevada City citizens spend over $500 per person on this police department.  Also to be discussed, should Nevada City continue to finance its own police department which takes up over 50% of the budget?  We will discuss ideas for the reformation of the NCPD to a Community Resource and Safety Department which may more appropriately meet the needs of our town.  We are inviting members of the City Council to attend.  The first meeting takes place at the Madelyn Helling Library on August 27, 2021 from 6-9 p.m. All concerned citizens are invited to attend.  

Here is a letter sent to the NC City Counsel:

Dear Nevada City Council,

With the George Floyd uprisings last year many communities have called for police accountability and reform to ensure against police discrimination and brutality, particularly against black, brown, and indigenous People who are rampantly being targeted, oppressed, jailed and even killed in America every day.   

In our own Nevada City, we have seen August 9, 2020, constitutionally sanctioned Black Lives Matter protestors suffer severe brutality and attack not by police officers, but by members of local hate groups.  While it was not the local police officers who assaulted or abused protestors, there was ample evidence presented that showed the complacency and complicity of the Nevada City Police officers who visibly walked with and supported the “counter-protestors.”  Ample video and testimonial evidence exists that reflects our Nevada City police officers were poorly trained and poorly equipped to handle the situation that day.  

We are the Community Oversight Task Force of Nevada County, a group of concerned citizens who have volunteered to delve into law enforcement standards and practices.  We have taken it upon ourselves to learn California law that governs police, and through the California Public Records Act we have obtained many records.  We have obtained the training records of all present Nevada City police officers and what we have discovered deserves your immediate attention. We have learned, that in fact none of our current officers have received current or updated training in the following pertinent areas:

  • Racial and cultural diversity
  • De-escalation techniques
  • Excessive Use of Force
  • Bias Training
  • Dispute resolution
  • Crowd Control
  • Civil Disobedience training

Anyone who attended the August 9 protest would attest to the complete lack of crowd control or de-escalation methods employed by law enforcement.  The events of that day, that many citizens  watched on social media, depicted angry men who tore banners, signs, and cell phones from protestors’ hands; we watched as they yelled “You don’t belong here;” and we watched as they wrestled protestors to the ground.  Even more disturbing, we watched as police officers appeared to side with and walk beside the counter-protestors.   

Penal Code section 422.6 defines hate crimes and penalties.  That section states “(a) No person, whether or not acting under color of law, shall by force or threat of force, willfully injure, intimidate, interfere with, oppress, or threaten any other person in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him or her by the Constitution or laws of this state or by the Constitution or laws of the United States….” Yet that is what we all saw that day.  None of the Nevada City Police (or the Sheriff’s deputies) who were present at the protest saw it necessary to defend the Black Lives Matter protestors rights under First Amendment to the Constitution.

We are concerned with the clear message that was leveled at our community that day.  “Nevada City doesn’t welcome Black Lives Matter protests.”  In fact, there hasn’t been another Black Lives Matter protest in either Nevada City or Grass Valley since that August 9 event.  This matter must be addressed.  Our police officers must get the State Legislative and mandated trainings they are required to have.  Our Police Chief is accountable to ensure the officers are trained, and you, the Nevada City Council are accountable for hiring a police chief that makes sure the officers are properly trained.  

In addition, you should also be aware that since 2018 there have been five new hires on the NCPD – doubling the Police Officer staff – one in 2018, two in 2019, one in 2020, and one in early 2021.  Of those five new hires four had no prior experience, and all had no more education than the basic law enforcement modules.  Some were hired the same month they completed their education.  

It is part of our mission and mandate to expose these significant findings to our community, and they will be made public at the appropriate time.  Meantime, we wish to see that changes are made, and that local police are well trained to serve the community. Some of us who are Nevada City residents wish to be present at the Town Hall you have promised, on improvements to Nevada City Police Department, and whether Nevada City should continue to maintain and pay for its own police force.

Lorraine Reich, Attorney

Progressive Alliance Calendar

Nevada County Progressive Alliance Mar./Apr. Newsletter.
Dear Progressive Allies,So much to do. Hope you find something motivating here. I’m planning on posting a lot more often to the Progressive Alliance FB page, so If you missed getting something to me for this newsletter, go ahead and send it to me and I’ll post it there. Also you can request to be a member of that group and Nicole or I can add you. Then you can post your events there directly. Also I’m hearing a lot of good things about this. Here is a new link for Useful Idiots with Matt Taibbi and Katie Halper :
Wed. Mar. 24th Important NID virtual meeting 9am. The NID Board will consider whether to formally adopt the AWMP (Agricultural Water Management Plan) before submitting it to the California Department of Water Resources by May 1, 2021. Join SYRCL in following this closely. Please click the following to join the webinar:
Wed. Mar. 24th 7-8:30 pm Los Angeles Democratic Party zoom Townhall: Healthcare: How do we move California forward. We have a new Single Payer healthcare bill in CA, AB1400 called CalCare. This is an opportunity to hear from the lead author, Ash Kalra, and learn all you want to know. To RSVP and submit questions:
Thurs. Mar. 25th 6pm MineWatchers Community Meeting Learn about: updated timeline — anticipated next steps in the public process, countering Rise Gold’s claims about the impacts to our community, and how to take action. We want to hear from you. Please come with any questions you have.  We will have experts who will be on hand to answer questions the best we can. Register in advance for this 3/25 webinar: Registration   After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.
Fri. Mar. 26th 3-5 pm Justice for Sage Crawford, 201 Commercial St. Nevada City. Gather with your community in front of the DA’s office to protest her death and the dysfunctional systems that produced it. Please wear a mask and practice social distancing. Violence will not be tolerated. sponsored by Justice for Sage Crawford and the Peace & Justice Center of Nevada County.
Sat. Mar. 27th 11:45 am -12:45 pm Stop Asian Hate Please join us in expressing support for our local Asian friends and neighbors. We will non-violently speak out against racism and hate crimes. Please bring signs, masks and social distance. Broad St. Bridge, Nevada City
Sat. Mar. 27th 1-3 pm Event by Nevada County Library and California Heritage: Indigenous Research Project  Guests: Shelly Covert is the Spokesperson for the Nevada City Rancheria Nisenan Tribe. She sits on the Tribal Council and is community outreach liaison. She is also the Executive Director of the Tribally guided, non-profit, CHIRP (the California Heritage: Indigenous Research Project), whose mission is to preserve, protect and perpetuate Nisenan Culture. Herman Fillmore is the acting Culture/Language Resources Director for the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California Melba Rakow is a Culture/Language Teacher for the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California and Suzan Shown Harjo President of The Morning Star Institute. Poet, writer, lecturer and policy advocate, who has helped Native Peoples protect sacred places and recover more than one million acres of land.Online:
Tues. Apr. 6th 6:30 Nevada County Democrat’s First Tuesday Education Forum.First Tuesday Forum: Obi Kaufmann. April 6th, 6:00 pm.  Join the Nevada County Democrats as we host Obi Kaufmann, artist, conservationist, and author of suck books as The California Field Atlas. A frequent guest of the Wild & Scenic Film Festival, he’ll share with us his thoughts on how art can shape policy making, California’s recent environmental legislation, and how to find optimism in the face of climate change.Facebook RSVP: link: 7th 7:30 Foothills DSA (Democratic Socialists of America) General Meeting. Not a Democratic Socialists of America member? Join here! We’re fighting for real change in our community. We want single-payer health care, a Green New Deal, racial justice, housing for all, and more. We hope you’ll consider being part of our movement. 
Sat. Apr. 10th 10 am: The League of Women Voters of Western Nevada County will present a Zoom presentation of the Climate Reality Project. This is a very updated version of Vice President Al Gore’s presentation of An Inconvenient Truth.  The issue is now more urgent than ever, and more solutions are available. Presenter Gary White: Gary H. White is a Climate Activist trained by Former Vice President Al Gore and his Climate Reality Project (CRP). Gary’s role with the CRP SF Bay Area chapter is to educate and motivate people in the Bay Area to learn about and address the climate emergency. Mr. White is also the Founder and Group Leader of the San Mateo chapter of Extinction Rebellion. XR uses non-violent direct action tactics to call attention to the increasing severity of the climate emergency and demand an aggressive response by the U.S. government and the business community to limit the damage. This is the Zoom link: 15th 3 -5 pm Monthly Occupy Beale AFB Vigil Against Drone Wars and Militarism   Sponsored by Nevada County Peace & Justice Center. Corner of So Beale Rd. and Ostrom. 
Sat. Apr. 17th CalCare SpeakOut event. All across CA, there will be SpeakOut events in support of AB1400, our new Single Payer healthcare bill also called CalCare. We are hosting one here in Nevada County. We are just working out the details now. If you’d like to know more, be involved in any way, or have a personal healthcare story you’d like to share, please email me at  
Sat. Apr. 24th 9am World Qigong / Tai Chi Day  World Healing Day Pioneer Park watch demonstrations or participate. Free, but any donations will go to Gold Country Senior Center
Apr. 29th – May 2nd California Democratic Party virtual Convention
The Nevada County Resilience & Innovation Hub 104 New Mohawk Rd, Nevada City, CAMonday Night Round Tables  7pm A think tank for community based projects Tuesday Night Media Roundtable 4-6pm Golden Road TV Show Weekly on Youtube Go to Golden Road & TV on youtube Thursday Health & Wellness Roundtable 7-9pmMore info at

Progressive Alliance

Progressive Alliance March 2021 alerts and info.
Dear Progressive Allies, the first two items are very timely. If you wish to take action on them, you must do so tomorrow, Tues. March 9th. Please read my note to you at the very end.
Action Alert: Tuesday, March 9th, the Nevada County Board of Supervisors will entertain a resolution supporting reopening Nevada County Please send an email to the Board tonight or first thing tomorrow morning, Tuesday the 9th. Ask the board to listen to the experts, ignore outside political pressure, and continue prioritizing public health. We all want our economy to thrive, and the best way to do that is to ensure that we defeat Covid as swiftly and efficiently as possible. To be clear, the letters should be FOR public health and AGAINST this Resolution. Send to: CC:  Re: “Healthy Communities” Resolution
Action Alert: The CA Peace Budget request didn’t get on the agenda for tomorrow’s Grass Valley City Council meeting, Tues March 9 @ 7pm, but it could  help to call in and request it be put on the “next” council agenda.Here’s the contact info for Public Comments:email before 5pm Tuesday March 9th . Phone:  530 274 4390  before 7pm Tues, March 9.
Other important events:
Tues. March 16th 3pm-5pm Peace and Justice Center of Nevada County Despite our new president and administration, the same policies of drone warfare and global domination continue, as evidenced by 800 US military bases worldwide. For over 10 years, we have been peacefully protesting at Beale AFB to shine a light on the need to settle our differences without waging war. Bring signs and banners, or help hold others.Please wear a mask and practice social distancing. Ostrom & South Beale Road, Wheatland, 
For years now, the Nevada County Democratic Women’s Club has been raising funds for the Annette Gillette Scholarship and the Community Service Award, giving $1,000 award to each of two local high school students. Unfortunately, this year they have not been able to fundraise in their usual way at in-person meetings, so they are asking for donations of any amount. You can send a check to: NCDWC   P.O.Box 1573   Grass Valley, CA 95945
Public Bank Advocates Join SEIU CA in Supporting Legislation to Bank the UnbankedAB 1177—the California Public Banking Option Act—will provide Californians with a no-cost banking option. This bill creates the BankCal program, allowing Californians to open a no-fee, no-penalty account with an associated debit card.  AB 1177 reduces the risks of Californians falling into catastrophic debt traps. This will help reduce the racial wealth gap by providing a stable, affordable financial platform that eliminates the need for exploitative alternatives to traditional banking.  Learn more at
Single Payer healthcare/medicare for all. We have a new Single Payer healthcare bill in the CA Assembly (hooray). It’s AB 1400 and called CalCare. It is an excellent bill, with comprehensive coverage, specifies investment in underserved communities like our rural community, and requires that the board equitably represents the diversity of California. It also has a just transition for workers in the for-profit healthcare industry. It will cover everyone, and still save money by eliminating the waste created in a multi-payer, for profit industry. There are so many ways you can help us get this bill passed. To learn more go to  or to connect locally email me at
And last, but definitely not least. I owe each and every one of you an apology. I attended the CA Progressive Alliance Convention last Saturday. It was so wonderful and I was so sad that I had not publicized this more to our Nevada County Progressive Alliance. The broad array of subjects and knowledgable people, was inspiring. I promise, I won’t make that mistake next year. 
Leah Schwinn

Multiethnic Israeli Youth Movement Succeeds in Halting the Netanyahu Annexation Plan

It all started after Netanyahu and Trump announced their illegal Annexation Plan. We initiated “Teen against the Annexation”, a petition which collected more than 400 signatures of young activists from all over Israel. The statement was widely shared on social media, discussed by youth online and reported in the Israeli press. We swarmed social media with stories about the occupation to educate Israeli teens about the atrocities their government send soldiers to commit and to mobilize them against the annexation and in resistance to militarism.

On the 6th of June, to commemorate the 53rd year of the occupation, we joined others in Mesarvot netowork (which supports those who refuse to be soldiers of the occupation) and participated in a joint Jewish-Arab mass demonstration in Tel Aviv. More than 10,000 people joined, holding “Palestinians Lives Matter” signs and calling for  just peace. It was the biggest demonstration against the Israeli occupation in the last decade (!), and we are proud that Mesarvot members took an active role in organizing it and in promoting it to teens and youth.

In the following weeks we organized a direct protest in front of the house of Benny Gantz,  Minister of Defense and Netanyahu’s vital coalition partner. Under the radar, Gantz ordered a special enlistment of reserve army troops, as Israel was preparing for resistance in the annexed territories. The ongoing pressure led Netanyahu to back down from his promise for the settlers and revoke his policy of an immediate annexation in July. Washington and Dubai are stealing the credit of the achievement of left wing activists, as the Israeli halted all preparations for the annexation of Palestine!

Now, we directed our efforts toward the ongoing mass demonstrations in Jerusalem. For the past month, a permanent protest zone occupies the area around Prime Minister Netanyahu’s official residence. Thousands of Israelis are coming weekly to protest the political corruption, police violence and destruction of democratic norms by the government.We chose to join these protests as part of a progressive block with a unique message: End the occupation and liberate the Palestinians people. We hold banners calling for democracy for all and murals of Iyad al Hallak who was murdered by Israeli police. We face police violence and many of us were unlawfully arrested in every demonstration, while others were assaulted by organized groups of pro-government hooligans. Our message is that true freedom cannot coexist with military oppression, and that each one of us has a personal obligation to depart from evil and do good.

We need your help! Please forward this update – to groups and networks you are part of, to friends and to family – and ask them to subscribe to our updates in this link:

We want to double the number of people who get this newsletter and we can’t do it without you!

In solidarity,
Eden Lumerman

p.s. – You can support our group by donating here, without your donations we won’t be able to continue our work.

4th Friday Film: Selma, online discussion

In continued support of the Black Lives Matter movement that has swept the USA, for our Fourth Friday Film Forum this month, the Peace and Justice Center presents a film discussion on the film “Selma” (2014).  It is important that all Americans know and understand the history of racism in the U.S.  Selma gives us an important piece of that history, because of the nonviolent resistance efforts of Martin Luther King, John Lewis and others that the Civil Rights Act, and Voting Rights Act of 1965 were enacted.  Selma is directed by black activist, Ava DuVernay and written by Paul Webb. Although the Civil Rights Act of 1964 legally desegregated the South, discrimination was still rampant in certain areas, making it very difficult for blacks to register to vote. In 1965, Selma, Alabama became the battleground in the fight for suffrage. Despite violent opposition, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo) and his followers pressed forward on an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, and their efforts culminated with President Lyndon Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Due to COVID-19 we cannot show the film at our usual venue, the Helling Library, so everyone is asked to independently watch the film (available on YouTube, Amazon Prime, Hulu and Netflix) and then join us for a Zoom discussion.  Members of the Peace Center will host and moderate a ZOOM ROOM discussion on Friday evening, August 28, 2020 at 7:00 pm. You must email your request to join the Zoom discussion to  On that day and before 6:00 you will be sent a Zoom invitation link to join us at 7:00 p.m. on the 28th   We look forward to seeing you in the Zoom Room!  

Together, We Can Stop the Theft of this Election

We stood up on the streets by the hundreds in solidarity with black lives.  Now we will fight, from home, to save the endangered votes of people of color and students from a vicious voter suppression scam.

How to stop the planned fix on the 2020 Election before it happens:

1-Buy and read Greg Palast’s new book, How Trump Stole 2020 online at  Palast is the country’s leading journalist exposing election cheating.  17 million voters of color have already been purged from registration rolls and will not be able to cast their votes.  Millions more will not receive a requested vote-by-mail ballot, or have it disqualified.  Voters of color and students will be forced to wait in line for many hours during the pandemic, while suburban voters vote in ten minutes.  Like the presidential elections of 2000, 2004 and 2016, this one will be stolen as well, along with critical down-ballot races.  The polls are wrong because they do not take these factors into account.  While you are on, make a tax-deductible contribution to help them support lawsuits against voter suppression in many states.  Urge friends to buy the book, and give it as a gift.  We are trying to make it a bestseller so the mainstream media can’t ignore it. 

2-Visit the Peace and Justice Center of Nevada City website,, to see the options for volunteering to re-register disenfranchised purged voters, and register new voters, especially in “swing states”.  You can write postcards and letters to these voters, or text or call them.  Here are three great organizations that are coordinating for us to do this work.  Choose one and start saving democracy: 

-Reclaim Our Vote (non-partisan)

-Vote Forward/Swing Left (non-partisan)  There is a local Nevada County campaign organized out of the Unitarian fellowship in Grass Valley that meets Thursdays at 4 on line.  To join, email Reine Thibeault at

-Stand Up America (partisan)

Jeffrey Gottesman

Nevada County for Black Lives Concert and Fundraiser

KVMR 89.5 FM Thursday 6PM-7:30PM

“I Am Not Your Ne-ro” (2018)

I Am Not Your Negro film poster

In support of the Black Lives Matter movement that has swept the USA, the Peace and Justice Center presents “I Am Not Your Ne-ro” (2018).  Some of you may object to the use of the much discouraged word “Ne-ro” for referring to African Americans, but you are asked to understand the context of those times.  In 1979, Author, James Baldwin (Black Like Me), wrote a letter to his literary agent describing his next project, Remember This House. The book was to be a revolutionary, personal account of the lives and successive assassinations of three of his close friends-Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. At the time of Baldwin’s death in 1987, he left behind only thirty completed pages of his manuscript.   Master filmmaker Raoul Peck envisions the book James Baldwin never finished. The result is a radical, up-to-the-minute examination of race and racial injustice in America, using Baldwin’s original words and a flood of rich archival material. “I Am Not Your Ne-ro” is a journey into black history that connects the past of the Civil Rights movement to the present  #BlackLivesMatter movement.   Using Baldwin’s words, Peck has produced a work that challenges the very definition of what America stands for.

Due to the COVID-19 we cannot meet in person, so everyone is asked to independently watch the film (available on Netflix), and also available on YouTube (free).  Members of the Peace Center will host and moderate a ZOOM ROOM discussion on Friday evening, July 24, 2020 at 7:00 pm.

Hey, all you organizers and protestors of the Nevada County BLM movement, please join us and tell us what you think!

You must request to join the Zoom discussion by emailing us at  You will be sent an invitation to join us and the link to your email account, no later than noon on July 24th.

Looking forward to seeing you in the Zoom Room!

Covid Memorial Day


Fifty one years ago I was in a Vietnam firefight where five of “our” guys were killed outright, and twenty seven wounded. “We” never knew how many ended up dying because “they” (our fearful leaders) never told “us”.

There was no way of knowing how many of “their” guys (the NVA) were killed or wounded. “WE” (“them” and “us”) never talked much.

The truth is, “we” never saw a soul in those fiery moments (only afterward when we found “their” dead and wounded). Just raging explosions blasting from the obscenely tangled jungle: AK-47 bursts, rocket propelled grenades, motor rounds followed by the thunderous explosions of “our” 155 millimeter artillery shells. Oh yeah, the “friendly fire”. Actually, not very friendly, and very, very indiscriminate, coming in so close because “we” were in direct combat with “them”, and then everybody got the shrapnel slicing through bodies, trees and limbs. In that moment  “WE” were one.

As the company medic, I tended to the wounded NVA soldiers after ”OUR” bloody affairs. This was done on the ground, where we found “them”, in the vast jungle hundreds of miles from the nearest village. It was the most primitive triage setting imaginable. Young guys, some obviously in their teens––as were “our” guys whose average age was 19––ripped up like their bodies had been put through a meat grinder. And “they” had the same look on their face as did “our” guys when “they” were the ones getting torn up. The same face, an old comrade told me a few years ago, that I had on mine when I got hit by three AK-47 rounds a few weeks later (no, I can’t find words to describe that look).

But it was that look, on many faces, which first made me realize WE are one. And it was the  loss of many friends––and “enemies––that made me understand how impossible it is to truly grieve for one without grieving for all. The heart, after all, is a vessel, and when the container is ruptured, the illusion that we control its content is shattered.

I grieve these losses in a way that is no longer voluntary, for their absence lives within me in a way it is not possible to deny. I grieve those on all sides who became trapped in the raging hell of all wars: dead soldiers, survivors and civilians; the wounded; those bereaved and those embittered. I grieve for those tortured in atrocities, and for those so damaged in their hearts they unleashed their agony upon others.

And now the entire environment is mounting an attack against US––a counter attack actually, against the war of relentless, human consumption against OUR world––and “we” continue to be in opposition to “them” in devising a unified response to OUR global pandemic. To so many, it would seem, the war waged between ourselves is more important than survival itself, and that “our” welfare can somehow be enhanced by inflicting suffering onto “others.” It is my fervent prayer that this premise is untrue

So I contemplate my losses this year with an especially heavy heart.  I am not nearly wise enough to truly understand humanity’s addiction to war, but I do believe the very notion of warfare itself originates with the delusion that we are separate. That there truly are entities such as “them” and “us”.  War has taken much from me, but much has also been given. I relish the core realization that came out of my war experience: the longer I live, the less able I am to discern one life as separate from all life. As we go forward in this mad, loving doomed dance that is both our plight and our salvation, I grieve for us all.