Stories We Live By
*The Decade of Peace and Non-Violence
The moment a conflict blooms anywhere on the earth —
between parents and children, neighbors or countries,
professionals or corporations —
a story is born.
Mikey made my arm bleed. I hate him.
Angie grabbed my sand rake. I hate her.
Each invents a "truth" and clings to it,
the conflict intensifies necessarily
because opposing narratives are
wind to fires that bellow and explode.
Angies think everything belongs to them.
Mikeys are violent.
And narratives quickly morph
to culture –
Angies take all the land, oil, resources.
Mikeys are terrorists.
Stories become filters, hide real people
who are plainer than a story,
sweat under hot sun, labor on farms
and construction sites, love, dream,
bend over paperwork at desks,
answer telephones, clean houses,
plant roses, take care of children,
bleed in the street.
No one asks Angie why she took
the rake or to own her part in the dispute.
I wanted to move sand.
I could have asked Mikey for
a turn. I could have moved sand
with my hands. Next time
I can do better.
No one asked Mikey why he hit Angie
or if he could think of a better solution
to the dispute.
It was unfair of her ignore
I could have played with another toy.
I could have asked Angie to give it back,
to wait for her turn.
Next time I can do better.
Instead a cultural narrative, or psychosis
is born, unlike the work of fiction writers,
who understand invention, a good yarn.
The stories we live by are "true,"
people kill and die for them, have too much at stake
to admit there might have been a non-violent
solution, another way of living in the world.
Instead our narratives drive massacre
because it’s easier to justify than solve disputes,
easeir to kill than relate to people.
Angies have all the money and resources.
Mikeys are fundamentalist extremists.
But somewhere in the text, as these cultural stories
branch and bud, our better angels quicken —
Mikey children are beautiful.
Mikey fathers are kind.
Angie hospitality is legend.
A Mikey home will always shelter
the lone traveller.
Look at these fine Angie watermellons.
Mickey bread, baking in the oven, smells
Somewhere in these narratives
golden threads emerge.
This is where peace is born, you can’t win it,
can just follow threads our better angels weave
as they run their fingers through silk fields of wheat,
across the brows of children, into the lines
of a melody full of dancing feet.
©Susan Bright, 2006
Susan Bright is the author of nineteen books of poetry. She is the editor of Plain View Press which since 1975 has published one-hundred-and-fifty books. Her work as a poet, publisher, activist and educator has taken her all over the United States and abroad. Her most recent book, The Layers of Our Seeing, is a collection of poetry, photographs and essays about peace done in collaboration with photographer Alan Pogue and Middle Eastern journalist, Muna Hamzeh.
*Graphic The Decade of Peace and Non-violence
* This from Annette who sent us the haunting "Letter to Kofi Annon or the wind."
" The World Health Organization warned that if fuel is not delivered
soon, 60 percent of the hospitals in Lebanon will "simply cease to
No real humanitarian access in the south
Christopher Stokes, of Doctors without Borders, was quoted in
Lebanon's Daily Star newspaper saying:
"In effect there is no real humanitarian access in the South; the
international community is deluding itself with talk of humanitarian
corridors. Talk of humanitarian corridors should not mask the real
situation. We have had contacts (with the Israeli army). They have
not been very productive, in terms of having contacts for security
guarantees and we not been given any encouragement that we would have
the guarantees to work in the south". Stokes had nothing but praise
for the Lebanese workers. "Lebanese associations are doing most of
the work in the south, without any security guarantees," he said. "I
have been in a lot of war zones, I have rarely seen people so
committed ... They are the ones doing most of the work, not the
international community." He said it was impressive how many
Lebanese doctors and surgeons in local hospitals had sent their
families to safety but stayed behind to serve their communities.
In their daily update, the Lebanese Higher Relief Council stated that
towns and villages along the border with Israel are in disastrous
conditions and the residents have been deprived of the most basic
living standards. They are lacking basic needs, including safe water,
food, and medical supplies. People are drinking from contaminated
ponds, used to water crops and which animals drink from. The lack of
water and medications to treat people "where some houses contains 50
individuals, have caused scabies which is spreading among the
people", said a local resident who was able to leave the southern
village with others under Israeli bombs. The road to Beirut which
usually takes two hours took them 8 hours. The Daily Star newspaper
indicated that on Thursday, the International Committee of the Red
Cross drove the first aid convoy to the border village of Rmeish in
south Lebanon, where about 30,000 refugees have been cut off.
* And this beautiful poem from an Israeli poet came yesterday —
Poppies at the Edge of my Garden
These are not the poppies of Europe —
swathes of beauty rooted
in the dead of nations
anodyne to blood.
These are fragile red shreds
of pain — wounds of love and ignorance
bleeding their bewildered
torn passions to the wind.
Every spring they come
modestly in twos and threes
little bells remembering
small chalices of sorrow.
Drink, they say to me
an unused heart is a dead heart
drink the pain we bring you
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