Seeking War No More

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Walt Whitman Returns . . .

This is what you shall do: by Anthony J. Marsella, channeling Walt Whitman

 

This is what you shall do:

Love the earth and sun and the animals,

Despise riches,

Give alms to everyone that asks.“

 

 I.

 Again! Again!

Hate’s fiery cauldron overflows?

No lessons learned.

Battlefield tolls unheeded:

Gettysburg, Manassas, Chancellorsville, Vicksburg?

More than places!

Sacred lands, defiled!

Unshaven old men, pimpled-scarred youth,

Blue or grey, now red!

Bodies lying in heaps . . . or alone,

Limbless, moaning, seared souls,

Dead!

Posterity captured:

Rifles in hand, pistols gripped, swords unsheathed,

Bloodstained rocks, smoldering earth, shattered trees.

Flies gathering to feast,

Buzzing amid charnel,

Reflexively choosing choice sites!

 

II.

 Brave soldiers march to cadenced drums.

Flags wave,

Artillery towed,

Medaled-generals salute,

Parades!

“Charades” . . . I say!

Battles forgotten,

Triumph’s costs denied.

Music and verse:

“Mine eyes have seen the glory . . .”

 “Oh, I wish I was in the land of cotton …

                     “Onward Christian soldiers . . .”

      

And in the background,

Still in shadows,

Time unchanged:

“Steal away, steal away; Steal away to . . .

                    “Deeeppp river, Lawd! My home is over Jordan.

 “Illusions . . . delusions,” I say!

Podium, stage, pulpit,

Platforms for death and destruction;

Foundations for domination!

How inadequate Periclean words,

Unfit for all times.

Preserving lies!

Inspiring myths!

Nurturing cultures of war,

Cults of nations,

Food for empire!

 

III.

 Did you not see what I saw?

Endless rows of blood-stained sheets,

Gaunt nurses placating life,

Tears streaming from bedside widows,

Hollow-eyed children begging for bread!

Charred houses,

Broken bridges,

Shattered trees,

Smoldering carcasses,

Stench like no other!

Damn the cannon makers!

Damn the smelters making them!

Damn the voices cheering their firing!

Guiltless;

Blind to their sullied metal fruit,

Deaf to cries,

Distant from shot to crater,

Buffering conscience!

Make them walk brimstone,

Breathe fumes of seared flesh,

Beg for mercy,

Ask respite from hot metal,

Seek relief from scorched earth.

Make them know pain, suffering, death –

Avoided – escaped – denied

Hidden amidst comforts of

Gilded rooms,

Leather chairs,

Polished tables,

Sycophants:

“Sir!”

“No, Sir!”

“Yes, Sir!”

“More, Sir?”

Sherry, Sir?

 

IV.

 What use conscience?

What value brain?

What function heart?

What glory courage . . .

If ignored, denied, separated

From a silent human face.

A face, once admired and prized,

Bursting forth from a mother urging

Her swollen womb;

Grunting . . . screaming

Unfathomable mysteries,

Birthing life!

A face emerges!

Its future inscribed.

 Tear down your crosses, crescents, and angled stars.

You ignore their precepts.

Excuses for madness,

Salve for betrayal,

Gloves for stained hands

Veils for truth!

                          

Fall upon your knees,

Beg forgiveness,

Judas!

Failed prophets!

Flawed angels!

God pretenders!

Stainers of time!

 Mortal art thou, Man!

Blood, bone, sinew!

Seeker!

Mind!

Spirit essence!

V.

Sing the song of life!

Cast seeds upon the land,

Plant trees in barren hills,

Water fallow fields!

 Look to mountains,

Forested woods,

Desert sands,

Mirrored lakes,

Gaze in wonder!

 Inhale air,

Sip water,

Break bread,

Behold skies;

All else is vanity!

                  

Go now!

Walk tortoise paths,

Follow hare tracks,

Eat berries,

Urinate,

Create streams – droplets!

Erase scars of war!

 

All is sacred!

Behold grandeur,

Fill senses with awe –

Failing this,

Know you never lived!

 

At end of day,

Earth will accept your

Crumbled remains,

And . . . try again!

And you will have no choice!

 

and here are the words from Walt Whitman’s Preface to Leaves of Grass (1855):

 “This is what you shall do:

 Stand up for the stupid and crazy,

Devote your income and labor to others,

Hate tyrants, argue not concerning god,

Have patience and indulgence toward the people,

 

Re-examine all you have been told

At school or church or in any book,

Dismiss whatever insults your own soul;

And your very flesh shall be a great poem.”   

 

Comment by Anthony Marsella:

Walt Whitman (1819-1892) is my favorite poet – and in many ways, my favorite humanist. He witnessed the horrors of the American Civil War — its sights, sounds, and smells inspired his commitment to peace. But long before the War, his special senses gave voice and word to the changing world about him.  He captured time and times!

I find life in his every word — each line and verse, a sacred-clarion call to life!  In his words – their pace, stridency, boldness – spring passionate observations, accusations, and visions of hope revealing uncommon and uncompromising courage and wisdom.

I wonder what Walt Whitman would say if he appeared in our time?  I know he would recognize the betrayal of history’s lessons – humanity’s continued infatuation with violence and war.  He would scold us!  Reprimand us!  Remind us solutions are to be found in compassion and connection — not metal.

I wrote a draft of this poem in hours the next morning and early day.  I waited a few days, overwhelmed by my efforts to hear his voice, to channel his presence.  It is best to rest when you awaken the dead.  My words lack the power and grace of Walt Whitman; but I am consoled by the fact, my intention is his!

 

 

Posted in Armed conflict, culture of violence, Environmental impacts of war, Genocide, Patriotism, Poetry and the arts, racism, slavery, Understanding violence, Weaponry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

For Memorial Day USA, May 30, 2016

War

Anthony J. Marsella, Ph.D. – TRANSCEND Media Service

What more can be said of war
That has not already been said,
That has not already been written,
That has not already been sung in song,
Recited in verse, shared in epic tales?

What more can be said of war
That has not already been committed to screen
In iconic movies with legendary actors,
Fighting and dying with glory amidst waving flags,
Or in heralded documentaries carefully
Edited with photos, letters, poignant
Words of lament spoken amid haunting tunes?

What more can be said of war
That has not already been in sculpted in marble,
Painted on canvases,
Photographed in back and white,
And vivid color,
Revealing blood is red, bone is white,
Death is endless.

What more can be said of war
That has not already been inscribed in minds and bodies
Of soldiers who survived,
Civilians who endured,
Prisoners captive to trauma,
Scars visible and invisible?

What more can be said of war
That has not already been carved
On ordered granite gravestones
In national cemeteries, honoring sacrifice,
Their death veiled in shade and sunlight?

What more can be said of war,
That has not already been said about heroes and villains,
Soldiers and generals,
Warriors and misfits,
Freedom fighters and terrorists,
Victims and collateral damage,
Apologies and reparations?

What more can be said of war,
That has not already been said about
Glorious and evil causes,
Lusts for power and control
Access to wealth and resources,
Messianic responsibilities, moral duties,
Domination . . . ascendancy . . . revenge?

What more can be said of war,
That has not already been eulogized
On fields of battle
Where lives were lost, minds seared,
And historians’ crafts polished
With the biased narratives of victors:
Waterloo, Hue, Fallujah?
There is no winner in war!

And why, if so much has been
Spoken, written, and engraved,
Why do the lessons of war,
Continue to be ignored, denied, distorted?
And now . . .  Syria.

August 28-29, 2013

___________________________

Comment:  I wrote this poem in the course of two days as I witnessed the tragedy of death and suffering in Syria, bewildered again and again, by the endless uses of so many death technologies. I was dismayed that a score of nations appear to be pursuing selfish interests amidst the ethnic and tribal cleansing and genocides occurring. We are living with endless war.  Nothing more can be said about war. Violence begets violence, war begets war! No cries of noble responsibilities to protect and defend from either side are sufficient or warranted. They are merely part of the tactics, strategies, and policies that sustain war. Who benefits from war?

Anthony Marsella, Ph.D., a  member of the TRANSCEND Network, is a past president of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Hawaii, and past director of the World Health Organization Psychiatric Research Center in Honolulu. He is known nationally and internationally as a pioneer figure in the study of culture and psychopathology who challenged the ethnocentrism and racial biases of many assumptions, theories, and practices in psychology and psychiatry. In more recent years, he has been writing and lecturing on peace and social justice. He has published 15 edited books, and more than 250 articles, chapters, book reviews, and popular pieces. He can be reached at marsella@hawaii.edu.

 

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 2 September 2013.

Anticopyright: Editorials and articles originated on TMS may be freely reprinted, disseminated, translated and used as background material, provided an acknowledgement and link to the source, TMS: War, is included. Thank you.

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AFRICAN BORDERS AND THE POLITICS OF EXCLUSION: REVISITING THE COLONIAL PAST, Part 2

Emmanuel Mbaezue interviewing some immigration security personnel I met at the border between Nigeria and Niger Republic. Posted with permission from Emmanuel Mbaezue.

Emmanuel Mbaezue interviewing some immigration security personnel I met at the border between Nigeria and Niger Republic. Posted with permission from Emmanuel Mbaezue.

By Emmanuel Mbaezue

 

The artificial boundaries and the false foundation laid by Colonialism  accounts for the present day features of the African continent. Colonialism was largely a system that not only bred chaos in the internal politics of most African countries, but also continues to threaten the peace of the entire region.

From inter-state border-related conflicts caused by poor and depleting economies, high levels of forced migration and weak/porous borders, to intra-state conflicts fueled by undemocratic and exclusive governments, inept/moribund political institutions and weak nationalistic projects, it is evident that Africa’s mostly political woes are symptomatic of a malignant, external involvement that never prioritized the interests of the continent.

Courtesy of western civilization, the unique African communal ownership of lands that de-emphasized territorialization gave way to private ownership with all its extortionist tendencies. There was basically an anachronism between the continent’s colonial heritage and the dynamics of its societies. The African cultural boundaries experienced difficulty assimilating the new notion of an “independent State.”

As more African States gained their independence, there also came a general awakening to the realities left behind by colonialism. It was a distasteful heritage that could not be erased or made to operate properly. While some African countries called for the maintenance of the incompatible borders that the continent inherited, others agitated for a re-delimitation and re- demarcation of African territories.  It was in the midst of this dilemma that the now defunct Organisation for African Unity (OAU) in July 1964, at its first Summit of the African Heads of State, resolved that Nation States on attainment of independence should preserve the existing borders.

The hallmark of the OAU’s effort to resolve the continent’s increasing number of border-related conflicts was attained with the establishment of the African Union Border Programme (AUBP). Nevertheless, problems stemming from colonization continue to plague the continent today and more horrific is the role they have further played in compounding the challenges posed by the spread of present-day religious extremism in the continent.

While we are certainly not calling for a revocation of the resolution of the July 1964 meeting of the African Heads of State on the inherited borders, we however cannot downplay the inefficacy of that resolution. Worse still, there is apparently a clear lack of commitment on the part of the African leadership to proffer workable solutions to this quagmire. To date, some African countries are annexing lands that do not belong to them, and in the process displacing a lot of border communities. The influence of ethnic Diasporas can still be felt aggravating the civil unrest in most countries as in the case of Rwanda, the DRC, and Burundi. Religious extremists still take advantage of the similar socio-cultural backgrounds existing between their countries and those they share borders with to clandestinely spread radical ideologies.

These continental problems that never seem to abate are particularly reflective of a societal gap yearning to be filled. In my view, unless pan-Africanism is given the same place as nationalism, politico-economic trivialities and partisanship will continue to remain the bane of the African society, regardless of any efforts made to remedy the ills of her colonial past.

 

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