Is Rome worth one good man’s life? We believed it once. Make us believe it again. –Lucilla, ‘Gladiator’
I have had a few folks comment that I am an unlikely individual – as the Pagan, Polytheist, and Priest that I am – to be involved in military service. My enlistment oath binds me to the protection of the Constitution of the United States. Even now, nearly twenty years since I left military service in 1994. But protection of the US Constitution is only one part of what my eight years in the United States Air Force were about. It was also about being in service to others. Protecting their freedoms, not just here in the United States, but throughout the world. I am in no position – or shape – to be a member of the fighting forces of any nation or group. But there are plenty of other ways to continue serving.
Lucilla’s statement, shortly after Maximus’ death is meant to be a reminder to the people of Rome that were witnessing the “event” that there is a cost to be paid for every action. As a military member who swore the oath of enlistment, which binds me to the protection of the Constitution, I am aware of the payment that ultimately may be asked for. During Desert Shield/Storm, I knew the fear and the knife edge that one’s senses are constantly in. The world of military combat is not a playground, as the movies seem to make light of. Even those that try to give a realistic depiction, such as “Black Hawk Down”, do not provide a complete understanding of the experience.
The United States military taught me how to fight. Not to win some encounter. Nor did they allow me to hit “reset” when the battle was going wrong for me. I was taught to fight to survive. To use whatever means were necessary to live. That includes using anything as a weapon. It is one reason that I am extremely careful about what physical encounter I will wind up in, those techniques and concepts are hard-wired into me – thanks to the military’s training techniques. It’s not something you just turn off like a water faucet.
Because of all of that, I avoid protests and marches. Not that I am unwilling to defend myself or someone else. But that I am always worried about the potential of crossing the line of being in control of my sense and awareness, and lashing out in techniques and concepts that I might not be completely aware of. As has been said before, it’s a matter of learning to pick your battles, as well as knowing your limits.
For a short while, I thought the Morrighan was looking to add me to Her team. I was worried about this for a lot of reasons – the biggest one being that I was unsure of what would be asked of me and didn’t want to find myself in a place where instinct overcomes rational thinking. Aside from that, the Morrighan scares the shit out of me…so I was relieved when I figured out that it was merely a group of Valkyrie that had come to deliver a message to me: get into better shape. But the point was crystal clear, I need to be in a better position (read: physical shape) to continue in my role as a Protector. So off to the doctor I go for checkups. And I find out about an issue with my heart. It’s not a big thing, but it certainly needs to be watched. Plus, the doctor noted that if I had to go into open-heart surgery to replace my bad valve – it would be touch-and-go as to whether I would survive. Second wake-up call.
I am a Protector. That is a role that I understand quite well. I am not an activist. Direct confrontation with the expectation of potential violent repercussions is not where I want to find myself, as I have noted. Yes, activism is definitely a role that is required of some, which I will not deny. Everyone has their own roles to play during these periods of heightened confrontation, and potential rights removal. Some call it #TheStorm, others call it “Tower time” – whatever you call it, and it’s here. There’s debate as to the intensity of everything that has been underway. But I am reminded that what one person might call a “hurricane” could be construed as a “steady downpour” by another. But that’s for other folks to determine for themselves. A long, steady downpour has dangers, just as a hurricane does. The interpretation is up to the individual, and their own perception.
The question that Lucilla asks is still just as valid: “Is our world worth the life of one good person?” What is our individual honor worth in all of this? What do we want to achieve at the end of all of this? Can we stop arguing with one another long enough to actually achieve something? We’ve made massive strides towards equality across the board over the decades. We are more aware of how issues such as race, gender, sexuality, and age (among others) affect the daily lives of people all around us. If the desire is to find true equality, let me tell you that we may not see that happen for many more generations. That is long, arduous battle that will continue long after we have passed beyond the veil.
So does the length of the battle mean we need to slow down, and take it easy? Hardly. We need to continue to find ways to achieve the many small victories that will come about. Those small victories will provide the pathway to what we are seeking to achieve. If we move the ball no further down the field than we already have, is it the end of everything? Again, hardly. But we do need to acknowledge that everything has gotten better. If we only see the obstacles and the failures, we fail to see the achievements that show how much has been possible to this point.
We also need to realize our roles in all of this, and acknowledge where we are, individually. Some folks are made to be activists and on the front lines fighting every step of the way. That’s not my role. My methodology for “winning” battles would provide a negative perspective that could be used against what is trying to be accomplished. My role is in defense. Defense of those who cannot defend themselves adequately. And for that, my methodology may seem crude and unreasonable…but for those being defended, it may be the difference between their survival and something worse. Everyone has their own role.
Finally, I am not trying to be overly dramatic here. Just trying to push a particular point forward – if we are struggling for equality of all, we need to (a) realize our roles, and (b) come together to reach those goals. That means setting aside petty differences over word usage, individual roles, and whatever other nonsense we can dream up. Believe it or not, there are people whose lives literally hang in the balance. Imagine if Matthew Shepard had someone there to stand in his corner during his ordeal. Imagine if someone in the apartment complex where Trayvon Martin was killed had stepped outside and intervened? Imagine if more protectors took up their roles in the world around us, and refused to sit back and wait until one of their “own” were attacked or persecuted? It’s not quite a war zone out there…I know the difference. I’ve been there. But it certainly has the feeling that a lot more folks need to be dedicated enough to step in wherever they see injustice, persecution, and bullying happening around them.
Is Rome worth one good man’s life? Is standing up for those that need defending worth one person’s life? My answer is simple. If it comes to that, the answer is yes.