Thursday, April 8, 2010

Politics and Poetry

It is National Poetry Month, and the torrent of poetry that I was hoping to unleash on my unsuspecting readers has not materialized. It's been two years since my poetry took a great leap forward through regular deadlines for production, but I'm finding it hard to set that time aside this year. Perhaps studying Chinese is enough for now; it can certainly be poetic at times (i.e., the idea of jealousy can be expressed by saying "eating bitterness").

In lieu of being a productive writer, I have been trying to keep up with international news. The U.S. government has been undertaking enough provocative political maneuvering to raise China's hackles and eyebrows, that I find it necessary to stay abreast of global happenings in case visa troubles are on the way. In so doing, I came across two recent stories dealing with political resistance and the role of violence. The first is from the familiar Israel/Palestine conflict, but it reveals another side to the story that we don't often get to hear. The second is about the recent violence-tinged overthrow of the government in Kyrgyzstan (highlighted in U.S. news sources due to uncertainty surrounding a US Air Force base used for operations in Afghanistan). This is the same government which came to power as a result of the peaceful Tulip Revolution in 2005, but has failed to deliver on promises to turn away from autocracy.

What does it take to live in peace? What does it take for an enemy to become a neighbor, or even more astonishingly, a friend? These questions have deep political, sociological, philosophical, and even theological underpinnings. But, I will let poet Khalil Gibran's parable "Peace and War" from his collection The Wanderer speak to that issue as only Gibran can:

Three dogs were basking in the sun and conversing. The first dog said dreamily, "It is indeed wondrous to be living in this day of dogdom. Consider the ease with which we travel under the sea, upon the earth and even in the sky. And meditate for a moment upon the inventions brought forth for the comfort of dogs, even for our eyes and ears and noses."

And the second dog spoke and he said, "We are more heedful of the arts. We bark at the moon more rhythmically than did our forefathers. And when we gaze at ourselves in the water we see that our features are clearer than the features of yesterday."

Then the third dog spoke and said, "But what interests me most and beguiles my mind is the tranquil understanding existing between dogdoms."

At that very moment they looked, and lo, the dog-catcher was approaching.

The three dogs sprang up and scampered down the street; and as they ran the third dog said, "For God's sake, run for your lives. Civilization is after us."

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