As a citizen of the Third World (Cuba) translated to the First World (the U.S.) at 13, I struggle with the desire … no, the need … to acknowledge my first world’s (that is the Third World’s) existence in my second world (that is my First World) writing.
Several times, most recently after the Newtown mass killing, I have said to anyone who would listen that Iraqi and Afghani children (and Pakistani and Yemeni and on and on) have been the victims of mass shootings financed by me, the humble U.S. taxpayer. And you too, mon semblance, mon frere … since that awful September 11, 2001. No. Long before that. Since the U.S. usurped Britain as the world’s guardian of oil. Crude , that is.
At any rate (what’s the price of a barrel of oil vs. its value?) how do we go about, as the privileged, in evoking the plight of the other? And, of course, we are the other to the other.
To say we can’t is to say a free person can’t speak out against slavery:
My Guardian colleague George Monbiot has a powerful and eloquent column this week provocatively entitled: “In the US, mass child killings are tragedies. In Pakistan, mere bug splats”. He points out all the ways that Obama has made lethal US attacks in these predominantly Muslim countries not only more frequent but also more indiscriminate – “signature strikes” and “double-tap” attacks on rescuers and funerals – and then argues:
“Most of the world’s media, which has rightly commemorated the children of Newtown, either ignores Obama’s murders or accepts the official version that all those killed are ‘militants’. The children of north-west Pakistan, it seems, are not like our children. They have no names, no pictures, no memorials of candles and flowers and teddy bears. They belong to the other: to the non-human world of bugs and grass and tissue.
“‘Are we,’ Obama asked on Sunday, ‘prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?’ It’s a valid question. He should apply it to the violence he is visiting on the children of Pakistan.”
Newtown kids v Yemenis and Pakistanis: what explains the disparate reactions? by Glenn Greenwald (The Guardian).
The shanty towns of Tijuana sing for you
The slums of Little Sudan hold evening prayer
One dead brown boy is a tragedy
Ten thousand is a statistic
So let’s fuck my love until the dogs pass
From “Beautiful Boyfriend,” by Marilyn Chin (Poetry)
My poem, written 4 days after Newtown:
December 14, 2012
Morning will end for most:
desk, lunch meats, desk again,
the slow afternoon
before our lives begin,
parking lot booth,
toll road, home.
By a door, a dog
turns his head
but no small feet
Still, most of us will arrive
to digest the all-too-real,
clean our teeth,
wash our hands,
slip out of ourselves
for another night.