Friday, July 14, 2006


Israel, Lebanon, Naomi Shihab Nye

Last night my husband Tom and I talked about the Middle East plunging into Hell. Tom was in despair - he sees this latest madness as further proof that we will not see peace in our lifetimes, that 9/11 and the U.S. invasion of Iraq are resulting in apocalypse in the region.

Meanwhile, the U.S. vetoed a UN resolution calling on Israel to stop its attacks on Gaza. The resolution also called on Palestinians to release the captured Israeli soldier and stop its rocket attacks on Israel. But still the U.S. vetoed it.

Meanwhile, at least 47 people died yesterday, "mostly Lebanese civilians," the Post reported.

As usual, I have no good reply to Tom. I have studied history - I believe in the power of social movements. But Tom is right: we have no draft in the U.S. today to ignite the opposition to war, as it did during the Vietnam War. American teenagers and young adults -- those we would hope would be at the center of opposition to the war -- are so easily distracted by all the shiny things designed by American capitalism to distract them.

As usual, my reply is poetry. Last week, in the country, I finished Naomi Shihab Nye's You & Yours. The poems say so many things I want to say about living in such a time. First, about language in wartime:

Dictionary in the Dark

A retired general said
“the beautiful thing about it”
discussing war.
We were making “progress”
in our war effort.
“The appropriate time to launch the bombers”
pierced the A section with artillery and arrows as
“awe” huddled in a corner
clutching its small chest.
Someone else repeated, “in harm’s way,”
strangely popular lately,
and “weapons of mass destruction”
felt gravely confused about their identity.
“Friendly” gasped. Fierce and terminal.
It had never agreed to sit beside fire, never.

And then, the empathic power of poetry; a reminder that the women of Lebanon, the children of Gaza, the men of Haifa are equally mine, equally my sisters and my uncles and my cousins. As are the 14 men and women and young people murdered on the streets of my city this month. How can it be otherwise?

During a War

Best wishes to you & yours,
he closes the letter.

For a moment I can’t
fold it up again—
where does “yours” end?
Dark eyes pleading
what could we have done
Your family,
your community,
circle of earth, we did not want,
we tried to stop,
we were not heard
by dark eyes who are dying
now. How easily they
would have welcomed us in
for coffee, serving it
in a simple room
with a radiant rug.
Your friends & mine.

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