In July of 2013, I featured a poem by a local poet in one of my Poetry Sunday posts. The poet is a Palestinian-American and his poem touched me on many levels. It spoke of the way that we treat others, even non-human others, and it still seems particularly relevant this summer. Here is that two-year-old post once again.
On July 9, the local Houston Chronicle featured a story about a local poet, Fady Joudah. Joudah is a Palestinian-American, a physician, husband and father, and all of these roles inform his poetry. He has a new volume of poetry, Alight, out this year.
I admit I had not heard of Joudah before, but I was touched by some of the examples of his poetry that were included in the story and, in particular, this one:
wouldn't hurt a spider
That has nested
Between her bicycle handles
For two weeks
Until it left of its own accord
If you tear down the web I said
It will simply know
This isn't a place to call home
And you'd get to go biking
She said that's how others
Become refugees isn't it?
This poem is powerful for me first because I have two daughters who would do that. And secondly because of the girl's reasoning and her understanding of the situation as expressed in that final question, "She said that's how others become refugees isn't it?"
In those few words, she identifies one of the major tragedies of the human race - our tendency to disregard the rights of others when they conflict with what we see as our own. And so we push them out, make them refugees, condemn them to lives with no place they can call home. What we fail to realize is that when someone more powerful comes along, they will evict us. We will become the "others" who are "refugees." And so the sad cycle continues.