A Response

May 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

I wrote this poem in the summer of 2003 after Saddam Hussein’s sons, Odai and Qusai, were killed. These two men were two of the most feared and powerful men in Iraq and certainly were responsible for countless murders. I by no means am here to defend these men or say they should have been spared, but the reactions to their deaths made me sick. The whooping of “We got ’em!” that friends and news headlines alike shouted seems appropriate for the deaths of persons who’ve committed murder, but I think we’ve missed the point. And so too in the aftermath of Osama bin Laden’s death, I hear and read celebratory, arrogant and hateful responses to his death. We are human. We judge, but that is not our place. I could start singing “All you need is love” from the rooftops, but who would take me seriously? It’s counterintuitive to face an enemy–the Husseins, bin Laden, Jared Lee Loughner–and forgive, but I hope that we as a community, as a country, and as a world can learn to put aside our ego, our natural instincts for revenge, and respond with mercy and forgiveness. Martin Luther King Jr. says it more eloquently than I, but I think true peace begins with love.

Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend. We never get rid of an enemy by meeting hate with hate; we get rid of an enemy by getting rid of enmity. By its very nature, hate destroys and tears down; by its very nature, love creates and builds up. Love transforms with redemptive power. – Martin Luther King Jr., Strength to Love

Odai and Qusai

We got ‘em they shouted,
the hunters on their return
of the three month stakeout.
Men drank, wives baked
and everyone raised the flag.
Around the fire animated hands
and mouths told the story
of the chase and the kill.
We almost died, in fact one did,
they told us and we shuddered
to think of bullets and blood.
Conversation died too
when carrot cake was cut and
coffee was poured.
But we got em.

They got us, I whispered.
Brothers we lay side by side
dead in the dust and sun.
Ran and hid and thirsted
for too long, and my son.
Now we are photographed
in black and white for papers
and for families to feel safe.
Bullets filled our bodies and heads
until we were unrecognizable.
Home again to be buried
but they still lingered to watch,
to make sure we made it in the
earth good and tight.
They really got us.

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