Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Can compassion ever be powerful enough to stop terrorists?

Our country and our world keep experiencing devastating and seemingly senseless acts of mass violence. Some of the violence is committed by people who are clearly mentally ill. But a shocking amount of mass violence is committed by rational people who know exactly what they are doing. My ideological heroes, like L.L. Zamenhof, Amon Hennacy, and Leo Tolstoy, were strong proponents of non-violence, even to the point of pacifism.

In my life as a middle class American (that is: incredibly wealthy compared to the world-wide norm), I've never really experienced the threat of violence, so perhaps I'm a little rosy-eyed and unrealistically idealistic. But it seems to me that our strongest weapon against violence is, and will always be, compassion.

Here's a poem that kind of addresses these issues. I wrote it after reading the article “Young Lives, Lost in the Fog of War” by Rod Nordland in the Sept. 15 2012 New York Times.

I'd be remiss if I didn't also credit the inspiration of the Flaming Lips, and their performance at the Oklahoma City Zoo, and Bart Budwig for a line I stole from one of his songs.

Fog of War

How do you stop a bomb?

Can you stop it with bullets
and 50,000 young men?

Can you stop it with songs
or poetry?

or by marching a crowd to the Capitol steps,
chanting slogans, holding hands, and swaying?

Could you stop it by praying
if you asked the right God?

Can you stop it with love?
would you know who to love?

Can you stop it with lasers and satellites,
or with SEALS on the ground and drones in the skies?

If every girl and every boy had plenty to eat,
and school books to read and shoes on their feet,

If we all spoke one language and saluted one flag,
would there be any reason to bomb anyone?

Is there any reason to bomb anyone?

I know,
the inadequacies of language
I know,
you can’t just gather up the scattered fragments
off a dirt road in Kabul
and expect to do them justice in a poem

I saw those smiling faces
each one had a plan
they were all gonna be somebody
they already were somebody
they didn’t plan on leaving life so soon
they didn’t expect a backpack bomb.

I didn’t see the young man’s face
I guess now his fate's the same as all the rest

I don’t know what it takes
to approach three little kids and press that button

And I sure as Hell don’t know how to stop it.

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