Bruce Parker

Silence?

Filed By Bruce Parker | September 17, 2006 10:09 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
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Over on the INTRAA website Bry*lo* posted a poem that you can read by using the above link or by clicking below.

The poem brought tears to my eyes. I hope it causes us to stop and think about how atrocities and violations of civil rights and humanity does indeed have degrees of urgency.

A Moment of Silence
by Emmanual Ortiz
9/11/02

Before I start this poem, I'd like to ask you to join me
In a moment of silence
In honour of those who died in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon last September 11th.

I would also like to ask you To offer up a moment of silence For all of those who have been harassed, imprisoned, disappeared,
tortured, raped, or killed in retaliation for those strikes, For the victims in both Afghanistan and the US

And if I could just add one more thing,
If it's not too much to ask . . .

A full day of silence
For the tens of thousands of Palestinians who have died at the hands of US-backed Israeli forces over decades of occupation. Six months of silence for the million and-a-half Iraqi people, mostly children, who have died of malnourishment or starvation as a result of an 11-year US embargo against the country.

Before I begin this poem,

Two months of silence for the Blacks under Apartheid in South Africa, Where homeland security made them aliens in their own country. Nine months of silence for the dead in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Where death rained down and peeled back every layer of concrete, steel, earth and skin And the survivors went on as if alive. A year of silence for the millions of dead in Vietnam - a people, not a war - for those who know a thing or two about the scent of burning fuel, their relatives' bones buried in it, their babies born of it. A year of silence for the dead in Cambodia and Laos, victims of a secret war .... ssssshhhhh.... Say nothing ... we don't want them to learn that they are dead. Two months of silence for the decades of dead in Colombia, Whose names, like the corpses they once represented, have piled up and slipped off our tongues.

Before I begin this poem.

An hour of silence for El Salvador ...
An afternoon of silence for Nicaragua ...
Two days of silence for the Guatemaltecos ...
None of whom ever knew a moment of peace in their living years. 45 seconds of silence for the 45 dead at Acteal, Chiapas 25 years of silence for the hundred million Africans who found their graves far deeper in the ocean than any building could poke into the sky. There will be no DNA testing or dental records to identify their remains. And for those who were strung and swung from the heights of sycamore trees in the south, the north, the east, and the west...

100 years of silence...

For the hundreds of millions of indigenous peoples from this half of right here,
Whose land and lives were stolen,
In postcard-perfect plots like Pine Ridge, Wounded Knee, Sand Creek, Fallen Timbers, or the Trail of Tears. Names now reduced to innocuous magnetic poetry on the refrigerator of our consciousness ...

So you want a moment of silence?
And we are all left speechless
Our tongues snatched from our mouths
Our eyes stapled shut
A moment of silence
And the poets have all been laid to rest
The drums disintegrating into dust.

Before I begin this poem,
You want a moment of silence
You mourn now as if the world will never be the same
And the rest of us hope to hell it won't be.
Not like it always has been.

Because this is not a 9/11 poem.
This is a 9/10 poem,
It is a 9/9 poem,
A 9/8 poem,
A 9/7 poem
This is a 1492 poem.

This is a poem about what causes poems like this to be written. And if this is a 9/11 poem, then: This is a September 11th poem for Chile, 1971. This is a September 12th poem for Steven Biko in South Africa, 1977. This is a September 13th poem for the brothers at Attica Prison, New York, 1971.

This is a September 14th poem for Somalia, 1992.

This is a poem for every date that falls to the ground in ashes This is a poem for the 110 stories that were never told The 110 stories that history chose not to write in textbooks The 110 stories that CNN, BBC, The New York Times, and Newsweek ignored. This is a poem for interrupting this program.

And still you want a moment of silence for your dead?
We could give you lifetimes of empty:
The unmarked graves
The lost languages
The uprooted trees and histories
The dead stares on the faces of nameless children
Before I start this poem we could be silent forever
Or just long enough to hunger,
For the dust to bury us
And you would still ask us
For more of our silence.

If you want a moment of silence
Then stop the oil pumps
Turn off the engines and the televisions
Sink the cruise ships
Crash the stock markets
Unplug the marquee lights,
Delete the instant messages,
Derail the trains, the light rail transit.

If you want a moment of silence, put a brick through the window of Taco Bell, And pay the workers for wages lost. Tear down the liquor stores, The townhouses, the White Houses, the jailhouses, the Penthouses and the Playboys.

If you want a moment of silence,
Then take it
On Super Bowl Sunday,
The Fourth of July
During Dayton's 13 hour sale
Or the next time your white guilt fills the room where my beautiful
people have gathered.

You want a moment of silence
Then take it NOW,
Before this poem begins.
Here, in the echo of my voice,
In the pause between goosesteps of the second hand,
In the space between bodies in embrace,
Here is your silence.
Take it.
But take it all... Don't cut in line.
Let your silence begin at the beginning of crime. But we,
Tonight we will keep right on singing... For our dead.


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This is a lovely poem. It really made me think. However, one line stuck out for me and I feel the need to dispel some misinformation. The line reads: ".....For the tens of thousands of Palestinians who have died at the hands of US-backed Israeli forces over decades of occupation."

Well, that is black-and-white thinking and makes me very angry. It pains me to see these words. I have been to Israel. Today I even heard stories from someone who was recently there - of the Israeli women and children hiding in bomb shelters during the recent war. Many of the children have been traumatized, living in these underground shelters for up to a month, with no daylight, hearing the bombs going off around them. They did not ask to be attacked. The Israeli hospitals have been treating the wounded of this war - the Arabs as well as the Israelis. The Israelis evacuated Arab children so they wouldn't be in harms way. I haven't heard about any Arabs taking care of Israelis. When I was in Israel I visited some of the hospitals. I met a 14-year-old Arab girl who was being treated for cancer in an Israeli hospital. Her father never left her side. This hospital treats everyone - Arabs and Israelis alike. They even have taken care of the perpetrators of bombing attacks.

Freedom of speech - I know. I am just tired of the one-sidedness of the whole situation. There are many complex reasons why the Palestinians are in the situation they are in, much of it to do with how the Arab world has treated them. But no one wants to know about that. No one wants to know about the Israelis who have been killed and maimed - I have met some of the survivors of bomb attacks. I have seen the metal fragments that were taken out of their bodies. I met a father of eight who was badly hurt in a bombing. A beautiful young woman who required multiple surgeries, some on her face, to repair the damage. They were innocent people who's only crime was to go to school or to work one day.

I know that there is a lot of injustice in the world. I understand the purpose of the poem. But I also feel someone needs to try to balance some of the misconceptions about Israel. It's just like what we are trying to do to gain equal rights for the gay community - you need to have a face put on it - see that these are real people.

Bruce, I am certainly not upset with you or your intent. You did not write this poem. I just wanted to clear the air about that one line. At least the way I see it.

Melissa Williams | September 19, 2006 9:22 AM

bruce, never fear about local responses to Sudan/darfur. I am in the final stages of hammering out a Sukkot/Dinner for Darfur benefit. I am being sent a documentary (by the filmmakers) that hasn't even been released yet called Darfur Diaries. I am thinking about the second weekend of October.

Annette,

Clearly, I do not think the situation in the middle east is a simple situation. I am glad you decided to share your issues with that portion of the writing. I agree with you almost totally. I do wonder if the author was speaking out of the that in the United States we tend to pay more attention to the ways that the violence affects the Jewish population. However, in all honesty, I think it is an important point for you to bring out. Thanks,

Bruce