C&C Chapter 30: Run for the wall – an American Pilgrimage

C&C Chapter 30: Run for the wall – an American Pilgrimage

Summary
Pilgrimages are ritually structured travel that physically removes people from their every day lives as they journey to places that evoke important, life-changing emotions.
-Structured around repetitive acts that symbolize past events, stories, places and meanings.
-Ritual of separation, a liminal period, and a final reincorporation into normal life.
-They can occur in religious and secular contexts.
-Run the Wall is a pilgrimage taken by motorcyclists who go from LA to DC over 10 days each year.
-Started by Vietnam veterans, it includes other riders today.
-They stop along the way and occasionally participate in veteran commemorations in some of the towns.
-In DC, they visit “the wall” (Their name for the Vietnam War Memorial).
-Finally, they participate in “rolling thunder” (a parade of thousands of motorcyclists in DC in order to honor and remember soldiers who were captured, missing, or killed during Vietnam.
The Run for the Wall: An American Ritual
-Most are Vietnam veterans
-Began in 1989
-It started with the intention to “say goodbye” to their fallen comrades.
-A journey into past and their own painful memories (introspective).
-Twofold pilgrimage: A mean of healing individual wounds and as a ride on behalf of those “left behind: (POWs, MIAs etc).
The Anthropology of Pilgrimage
Madonna of the Annunciation on the Greek island of Tinos is a popular pilgrimage site in Greece and the destination for thousands of Orthodox Christians every year.
-Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca
-Catholic pilgrimage to Lourdes or Santiago
-Hindus to the sacred water of the Ganges in India.
-However, it’s not limited to religion or grand size.
-Family reunions
-Irish make pilgrimages to healing wells.
-Pilgrimages have a widespread appeal due to the notion of a journey. There is a mission or purpose to the journey.
The Anthropology of Ritual
Ritual- a patterned, repetitive and symbolic enactment of a cultural belief or value.
-The primary purpose of ritual is “transformation” and that’s why they are often performed during special occasions.
-Important to maintain order in the world, protect or express group identity, reconnect with loved and lost ones, or they’re mandated by the particular society.
-They are often reenactments of important myths of society and remind us who we are. (Easter, Passover, 4th of July etc).
-Symbolism: They have two poles – the ideological and the sensory.
Sensory – Rituals engage our sense of touch, sound, sight, taste and smell.
Ideology – Conveying important messages about social values.
Pilgrimage as Ritual
A journey is so powerful because it has the potential to create a liminal state.
Liminality – Individuals or groups move from one stage or condition to another (like a rite of passage).
-The liminal period is marked by the physical separation created by the journey itself.
The Vietnam War
The focus on POW/MIA issues reveals that in some sense, the Vietnam War is really not over.
-Difficult and contentious memories of the war.
-Issues of PTSD
Motorcycles in American Culture
-Veterans have often been attracted to motorcycles (starting after WWII).
-Represent self-reliance, patriotism, freedom and individualism.
-Many see themselves as “rebels against the norm.”
-Sense of solidarity and brotherhood similar to during combat.
-Political agenda of highlighting the POW/MIA issue.
-The motorcycles emphasize the more conventional aspect of a pilgrimage: the vehicle.
The Navajo Reservation and the Brotherhood of Warriors
-A stop along the way to DC.
-While the opposition of race could exist as an issue (Navaho/Anglo), at this stop, a brotherhood of warriors come together, sharing commonalities from the war.
Angel Fire, New Mexico
-Another stop where a memorial and chapel stand.
-The power of Angel Fire lies in the setting – the remoteness, beauty, the mountain roads.
Limon, Colorado
-A feast is prepared for the riders by local women.
-Candlelight rituals
-Specifically, the missing are memorialized here.
-The setting and candles create a powerful ritual atmosphere.
At the Wall
-The memorial itself memorializes both the living and the dead.
-For many veterans, the spirits of their dead comrades lie at the wall.
-Individual, personal activities are performed here.
-Objects are left.
-The wall has mystical powers for many.
Place of connection between the living and the dead, for remembering, and for healing.
The Return
-No special rituals marking the return
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