THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL
I cry when I think of the Cherokee children dying
Wrapped in smallpox-filled blankets
Given to them by US soldiers on their walk to relocated land.
They called it Manifest Destiny
The "bomb" annihilated whole cities
In order to bring peace, they said.
I cry when I remember the horrors of the Vietnam War
The napalm soaked landscape,
Soldiers killing women and babies in My Lai
Firestorms stripping skin from bone
Humanity gone beserk in the killing fields of the east
Later, "smart" bombs blew up embassies,
Marching civilians mistaken for the enemy
"Collateral" damage rampant.
I weep uncontrollably at the images flashed repeatedly
Jet planes full of loved ones crashing into the heart of America
Terrorists thrusting hatred and contempt deep into our psyches
Violation beyond imagination
How could they accomplish such devastation
Armed simply with knives?
Nothing is simple
Everything with a purpose
Focused determination wrought by fanatic devotion
The super powerful turned powerless to stop the onslaught
Where to look, when to retaliate, how many more innocents
Must die before we go to the source.
Get to the seed of this sinister movement.
Work to eradicate motives, not exterminate whole populations.
We are right by our side, they are right by theirs
Or so they think, and so we think, and so the wrongs pile up
Trying to make things right, but they never do.
FURTHER REFLECTIONS AFTER A CONVERSATION WITH A VIETNAM WAR VET
There's only one way to get rid of this scourge, he said.
Wipe them out, nuke them all
From Morocco to Islamabad
Kill the Mothers, the Babies, the Sons and Daughters
We won't be safe until they're all dead
It's the nature of war, the survival of the fittest
If we don't exterminate them, they'll exterminate us.
We can never trust them or tolerate their ideas
Their religion teaches only One Path to God
Their Path, the Righteous Path,
The Path that leads to the downfall of the abhorred infidels,
The despised Americans.
Forget about Peace, Love and Brown Rice
It doesn't exist
We can't change them
We must annihilate them completely
If we're to survive.
They've shown their intent, their resolve, their focus
Their Power to rage and destroy
Our leaders must now show their grit,
Mobilize our forces and push that button
Again and Again until they surrender
Kill them all, every Bin Laden, Gadhafi and Hussein
Nuke the Mothers, the Babies, the Sons and Daughters
We won't be safe until they're ALL dead.
A MOON AND STAR
So many moons ago I found myself
sitting in the most magnificent marble baths of
Istanbul, capital of Turkey,
Constantinople, center of the Earth for centuries.
The power and the glory manifested
in a common cleansing place
for the masses.
A domed room huge and spacious,
granite pools of various sizes and shapes,
women of all ages soaking, steaming, surrendering
to the comforting heat.
Like being in the womb, so safe and secure.
Workers hands massaging a neck, a back
an arm, a whole head and shoulders.
The distant sound of prayer from the mosque near by.
High shrilly notes floating through the mist.
Look at the faucets.
Lions heads, moons, stars, gargoyles of sorts.
Everything so foreign yet familiar.
We could have stayed a week,
melted into the stone and carvings.
But our time came, we had to leave.
Reluctantly we dried our renewed bodies
clean again after days on a Turkish train.
The sights, sounds and smells come rushing back
today as I watch the Nation's Prayer Service.
Muslims chanting their blessings,
those high serene tones pique
a sleeping memory.
Wake up, Wake up all Humanity is saying.
America wakes up to a different future,
her priorities set straight, hope shining brightly,
ready to sacrifice her own sons and daughters
In order to bring justice to the wicked perpetrators.
But what about the words of one of her greatest Presidents, Thomas Jefferson:
"War is an instrument entirely inefficient toward redressing wrong;
And multiplies, instead of indemnifying losses."
What should we do instead?
How do we go on from here?
We began our journey on a freezing winter's day
on our way to mysterious and distant India.
We boarded the crowded train en route to Belgrade from Milano,
not the Orient Express, but a fast train, with not many stops.
Looking out the window at the cold gray landscapes,
sleeping in a luggage rack at night with barely a blanket
it was good to arrive in Yugoslavia where we changed trains.
Now a Turkish model loaded with swarthy men with mustaches
Who talked, laughed and smoked; stared at us.
We saw another moonrise before we reached Istanbul.
We stayed for two days walking the bazaars,
got squeeky clean in the magnificent domed marble bath house.
Marvelled at the splendour of the gleaming Blue Mosque.
The next train took us through to Teheran in Iran,
the countryside desolate, bleak, sparsely populated.
The Shah's Palace dazzling with opulent excessiveness,
a puzzling contrast to the struggling masses that filled the streets.
No wonder they threw him out a few years later.
He did nothing but fill his own life with luxurious comforts
oblivious to the pain and suffering of his subjects.
Everything was depressing about Iran
The air acrid with despair and resentment.
One more wretched day spent counting begging children
appear out of nowhere when the train made its stops.
Sleeping in a filthy "hostel" in Mashad, oppressively cold,
finally dropping off the edge of the world in Afghanistan.
An immediate shift in energy,
barefoot babies held in their mothers' arms
defying the blood-stopping sub-zero weather.
But here a gentleness, softness, sense of hope
not present in neighboring Iran.
So many nomads, a tribal existence,
women respected in their homes,
men proud of their heritage, eager to tell their stories,
sitting, smoking huge hookas, ancient shotguns close,
telling jokes, inviting us in.
Be careful, they are not like us.
Different, very different.
Hard to explain.
A feeling more than a reason.
Horse-drawn carts filled the frozen roads,
the scent of animals and humans inseparable.
In Kabul a restaurant for the many foreigners
We met Michael from San Francisco,
Rafael from Milano, "Rafuulakan" his Afghani name
since he'd been there for six years,
living with the nomad tribe to the east
in the treacherous mountains, before the Taliban took over.
No extremists then. It was before Osama bin Laden
or the Russians, or the fanatic "fundamentalists."
Just independent Afghani families
Living off the land, as they had for centuries.
Medieval methods still employed,
donkeys carried their wares single file, focused,
on their way in step, like homing pigeons,
delivering goods on the other side of town,
then returning to be loaded again, walking their
well-known path unattended by any human.
We went on to India, to the Ganges, to the Taj Mahal
To Nepal and the Himalayas, Mount Everest
rising above the limits of my mind.
I never saw the vast terrain along the Kyber Pass again,
but Afghanistan remains vivid, wild, unconquered.
Now liberated, the struggle continues, tribes compete
for power, women shed their burkas, children go to school,
trucks bring food, medicine and shelter. The clean-shaven
men hold the strings to their kites, laughing, singing, daring
to hope for a future all Afghanis can share.