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Forums  >  Politics  >  Words Alone Are Not Enough to Create Lasting Peace
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at 11:31, 24 Mar 2007
Posts: 14
Words Alone Are Not Enough to Create Lasting Peace

The thread on Hrant Dink & the discussion on the Armenian Genocide vs. the Native American Genocide could go on indefinitely. To that end, I've decided to start a new thread devoted to PEACE under this forum for Politics.

I read a poem this morning that I want to share. It is about what YES is about.

NOTE: This poem was written and delivered in honor of the 50th anniversary of the United Nations.

~ ~ ~

By Maya Angelou -- American Poet, Author and Actress

We, this people, on a small and lonely planet
Traveling through casual space
Past aloof stars, across the way of indifferent suns
To a destination where all signs tell us
It is possible and imperative that we learn
A brave and startling truth

And when we come to it
To the day of peacemaking
When we release our fingers
From fists of hostility
And allow the pure air to cool our palms

When we come to it
When the curtain falls on the minstrel show of hate
And faces sooted with scorn are scrubbed clean
When battlefields and coliseum
No longer rake our unique and particular sons and daughters
Up with the bruised and bloody grass
To lie in identical plots in foreign soil

When the rapacious storming of the churches
The screaming racket in the temples have ceased
When the pennants are waving gaily
When the banners of the world tremble
Stoutly in the good, clean breeze

When we come to it
When we let the rifles fall from our shoulders
And children dress their dolls in flags of truce
When land mines of death have been removed
And the aged can walk into evenings of peace
When religious ritual is not perfumed
By the incense of burning flesh
And childhood dreams are not kicked awake
By nightmares of abuse

When we come to it
Then we will confess that not the Pyramids
With their stones set in mysterious perfection
Nor the Gardens of Babylon
Hanging as eternal beauty
In our collective memory
Not the Grand Canyon
Kindled into delicious color
By Western sunsets

Nor the Danube, flowing its blue soul into Europe
Not the sacred peak of Mount Fuji
Stretching to the Rising Sun
Neither Father Amazon nor Mother Mississippi who, without favor,
Nurture all creatures in the depths and on the shores
These are not the only wonders of the world

When we come to it
We, this people, on this minuscule and kithless globe
Who reach daily for the bomb, the blade and the dagger
Yet who petition in the dark for tokens of peace
We, this people on this mote of matter
In whose mouths abide cankerous words
Which challenge our very existence
Yet out of those same mouths
Come songs of such exquisite sweetness
That the heart falters in its labor
And the body is quieted into awe

We, this people, on this small and drifting planet
Whose hands can strike with such abandon
That in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living
Yet those same hands can touch with such healing, irresistible tenderness
That the haughty neck is happy to bow
And the proud back is glad to bend
Out of such chaos, of such contradiction
We learn that we are neither devils nor divines

When we come to it
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body
Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear

When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world
That is when, and only when
We come to it.

This poem was written and delivered in honor of the 50th anniversary of the United Nations.

© Maya Angelou, from A Brave And Startling Truth
Published by Random House

at 18:39, 24 Mar 2007
Posts: 0
On imagining a new world
Thanks for this beautiful poem. I love Maya Angelou, and have a copy of "I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings" from the beginning (early 70,s?).
I have wanted to answer Vakisimo, but have not had time, and the answer, or response I should say, for maybe there is no answer, is too important to take lightly, and yes, it could go on forever, and already seems to have done so. But I still think a response is important, to keep the dialogue alive.
Although I love Maya Angelou's poetic explanation and plea, I think the world, the human world, will not change, until we change it from the bottom up. There is a well worn cliche that says something like- "if we don't learn from history we will be forced to repeat it". That is actually just well meant nonsense. "We" have been learning from history for ever, from the time of Herodotus, and even before that. There is no end to history books, nor to understanding. But nothing has changed. The world situation today is at a low point, and it doesn't matter how well we understand it. The US is controlled by criminals that see war as the new frontier for profits. Nothing will change until the basic structure of society, the economic and political structure, is radically altered. Those who profit from war are also those who wage war. It has always been this way. The First World War was the war to end all wars. And nothing has changed since then- nothing! This new century is already steeped in blood, and the criminals most responsible will never be held accountable. I hate to step on Maya's beautiful poem, but bringing a new world to light will require more than just poetry. People, all people, will have to wake up and understand who produces wealth, and who gets it, who makes decisions, and who pays the price with labor and blood. That is simply not understood, and is never taught. It is not even imagined, at least not by Americans. Humanity is sick with a cancer called "capitalism", and it hides in the blind spot of the mind's eye. We look everywhere for an explanation, and never see what is in front of us. We don't even look because decades of propoganda, and a total lack of critical thought, and the ability, or even desire, to be skeptical, has been exorcized from our our minds.
Before capitalism there was feudalism, and before that other forms of domination where the few decided and profitted, and the many worked and bled.
Remember, nobody ever voted for this system, it was handed down to us intact, feudalism's child, a way to keep order, and maintain the imbalance of wealth and power. Nothing will change until those who make decisions are also those who pay the price that those decisons cost.
Brian Young
at 23:30, 24 Mar 2007
Posts: 14
Reply to


I agree with you. And I think Vakisimo might find some answers reading beyond the multitude of opinions that are out there. Several books on the topic have been mentioned in these forums...there are dozens of other out there. At a certain point I believe that enlightenment is up to the individual. There comes a time when I have to take responsibiity for my own education. It's tempting to get carried away in endless debate. When one person doesn't trust the facts of the other person's platform on any given topic, then further discussion is a waste of time in my opinion. Honestly, I had some difficulty following Vakisimo's points due to the language barrier...not blaming him of course. He deserves credit for tackling this in what isn't his native tongue.

As for Maya Angelou's reading of it is that there's lots of work to do; that the human race has a long way to go. It speaks of opening our eyes, waking up, of being aware that we are capable of creating evil & also of creating good. I don't see this as an "easy way out" view. Yes, of course it will take more than a poem to change to world. Yes, the world has much room for improvement. Yet as bad as we might think it is right now, the world was a much harsher place in past centuries.

Poetry is creative, emotive, magical. In poems the poet captures dreams, visions, nightmares, the ordinary occurances of day-to-day, hopes for the future. The poet is not called to capture facts -- only personal truth.

I believe the people of the world are changing, that with the internet we will evolve more quickly into the family of man.
at 10:11, 26 Mar 2007
Posts: 5
Words Alone Are Not Enough to Create Lasting Peace
I can write papers of staff on your responds guys , but I guess they will be as impossible to follow as the last one so don't worry about it.

The only thing I'was trying to tell is it's a political progress now.And we are paying for it.
And I've never thought you two were extremely nationalists (briefly was not trying to attack your countries in your character)but it was not a good conversation I guess .
Stay in peace , both.

Brian Young
at 13:42, 26 Mar 2007
Posts: 28
Vakasimo- response to you
I understand quite well what you have written. The only reason that I have not responded directly is because I do take you seriously, and would not want to just whip out a quick reply. This question is too serious and important to be taken lightly, and I do not want to just trade my statistics for yours, back and forth. And I am consumed with my job and family, and simply have not had the time to write. Some things I can just shake out, like the above, but the debate I would have with you is not of that nature.
The EU question is another matter entirely. I lived in Denmark when they had a referendum on joining the EEC (1973), as it was called then. I was actively opposed to joining, but it happened anyway. So there are many viewpoints on the EU.
No, I am not a nationalist. Nationalism is, in my opinion, a dangerous sentiment. And, as I said, Turkey should not be singled out for anything.
Peace to you
Brian Young

at 14:29, 26 Mar 2007
Posts: 0
an edit on my last review
I can write papers of staff on your responds guys , but I guess they will be as impossible to follow as the last one so don't worry about it.

The only thing I'was trying to tell is it's a political progress now.And we are paying for it.
And I've never thought you two were extremely nationalists (briefly was not trying to attack your countries in your character)but it was not a good conversation I guess .
Stay in peace , both.

I wrote that first but afterwards I decided to write something more.

I want to ask you some questions , if you answer I will be very very grateful (sincerely)

1-Do you really think , my expresions are an armenian genocide vs. native american genocide debate ?
2-Do you believe that I'm sorry for the armenians who died ?
3-You kindly accuse me not reading the opposite sources , have you ever read a turkish scholar who denies the genocide ? (Sorry but Balakian is an armenian and I don't trust him as you don't believe me because of my nationality)
4-Do you have an idea about being jailed for denial in europe ? If you deny native american genocide will you be jailed (or sued ) too ? If not , then could it be a little bit politic ? (Probably I'll be misundersttood about armenian genocide vs. neative american genocide again)
5-What is the difference between 301 and the law I mentioned above ?(Elif Safak and Orhan Pamuk's charges dropped by the way they were not jailed)
6-What did you know about Hrant Dink before his assasination ? I used to know and support him,I was about to cry when I learned he was murdered , (I mentioned my respects to him at my old mails )
7-In this country every day we watch people who cry in front of their son's coffins (in Turkey militay service is an obligation these young souls are being drafted they are not volunteers)what do you expect from them ?
8-I agree Brian that the basic problem is capitalism and you say I will learn some different ideas from his writings , I have politics degree (and department was attached to faculty of economics which we had 3 years of economics) so , sorry but I sense really disrespect from you towards me , and it goes bad to you , you must be more universal I think.

Friends (I'm really feeling that) do you really think is there a clean , neutral authority to judge us on this earth ?The fact or probabilty of Native american genocide is a concept which is to be ashamed and repaired for you , but the fact or probabilty of armenian genocide is dissolution and annihiliation of us maybe , don't you see that , we were not alive in 1915 ? And still there are doubts ,special conditions and some evdences about this incident . Don't you two understand the POWER do not cares armenians , we are at middle east and here is mere conflict
Are there priests or imams who touches us and save us even we are members of the enemy's army at the battlefield ? Are there pople on this earth use golds in their toilets ? If these things happen then we can trust a hope (his tip could show what I read and feel)
Please do remember , I started to write here just because I loved movie yes and tell sally that the movie was great and we turks liked it apart fom the muslim character (he was muslim in my opinion by the way), that was it , I'm not a political anarchist roving around net sites and starts quarrell

at 14:57, 26 Mar 2007
Posts: 5
To Brian
First of all thank you for your positive respond , I wrote my second mail ( the edit thing) before your respond and I was really in an angry , emotoinal mood , but got fiendly in the end (I hope you felt it) , don't be touchy please
I was angy because , actually I was understood as I really trying not to be.That is all .
Peace to you too

Brian Young
at 10:04, 29 Mar 2007
Posts: 28
a short response to Vakasimo
1. No, I do not think that that you intended to relate events in Turkey to the history of Native Americans. I brought that up, more as an example of how we all have things in our past, and really to illustrate that Turkey should not be singled out for condemnation, especially not when probably every European country, and the US, still have bloody episodes in their past that have been swept under the rug, and never recognized.
2. Yes, I truly believe that you are sorry for Armenians who have died in unnecessary violence, whatever the circumstances.
3. I don’t think I accused you of not reading opposing sources, and I will admit that I have not read all sides either. I would be happy to read anything by a Turkish scholar. My first knowledge of the history of Armenia came from reading Churchill’s autobiography, his History of World War ll, his biography (by William Manchester), and “The Peace to End All Peace” by David Fromkin. I did not know about Peter Balakian until posts on this forum sparked my interest in this chapter of history
4. In European history we do not even have to go back to 1915 to find many instances of being jailed for a belief, or lack of a particular belief. Hitler’s Nazi Germany, Franco’s Spain, Mussolini’s Italy. Recently France tried to outlaw the wearing of head scarves by Muslim school girls. People always have a tendency to see the dirt in other people’s backyards, and never look into their own. The US in particular likes to think it is on some kind of moral high ground, while in reality it is practicing the “terrorism” that it claims to be fighting. It is a strange and warped world where someone who throws a hand grenade into a crowd is a terrorist, while someone who drops a bomb on a crowd from an airplane is not.
5. I have not read law 301, but I would be opposed to any law proscribing what a person can say about history, or that could allow someone to be prosecuted for being “un-anything”. We have had in this country something called the “House Un-American Activities Committee”, a concept that I find very troubling and frightening. I am sure that many right wingers in the US would just love to see that happen again. The “Patriot Act” is the first step in that direction. Patriotism, nationalism, flag waving- these are notions that help the rich and powerful exploit an ignorant and unsophisticated population.
6. I did not know anything about Hrant Dink, but, again, this forum has been an education for me, and I want to learn about this man.
7. Yes, here as well, the daily toll of soldiers killed in Iraq. Expectations? I have none. I know who is responsible for the war in Iraq. They will never be held to account. And no, I do not think there is a clean and neutral authority to judge us here on Earth, and I don’t believe in fairytales about judgment in some kind of afterlife. But, to paraphrase Eldridge Cleaver, in his excruciatingly beautiful poem “To All Black Women From All Black Men” (the last three pages of Soul On Ice), the lives of the sniveling punks in congress (with a few exceptions) will not outweigh two dead flies in the Scales of Eternity.
Brian Young
at 23:13, 4 Apr 2007
Posts: 5
To Brian
Brian I'm glad you understood my point of view and I understood yours moreover I agree with you ,no crime makes the successor right and yes the life will never be perfect it can be better though.
And forget about item 8 at my previous mail , it was silly and I regret writing it .(Was a bit angry)

Brian Young
at 08:51, 5 Apr 2007
Posts: 28
To Vakasimo
Thanks for your response. I agree that we should always hold out our hands in peace, and that everyone should realize that their own past- maybe not their personal past, but their cultural past- contains ugly events, and that none of us can claim any kind of historical purity or so called "moral highground". We can always learn from each other. I can clearly remember, as a teenager, reading something by Bertrand Russell, where he explained that you can never truly understand anything until you try to see it from the other person's viewpoint. And he meant actively setting your mind into the other viewpoint. It is both an educational and scarry experience. It makes you realize that there can be many viewpoints, and that any one of them can be argued and rationalized. It puts the burden on the individual to take a stand, to choose their own priorities, to define their own ethics, and not just to walk on the crutches of inherited dogma. Our minds are often in a straightjacket, a "paradigm", that we have been brought up and trained in, and it can be extremely difficult to even realize this. This applies to physical science, and even more so to the study of history. We not only have to free our minds of the paradigm, or particular set of glasses we have been trained to see through, we also have to face the fact that there is no objective history, but many histories, and that we must look at all of them, and carry the burden of choice on our own shoulders. I do think, despite this array of viewpoints, and the potential for freedom of choice, that there are some indisputable facts, precisely documented events, things that can be interpreted, but not erased. Inconvenient Truths one might say. And we all have them, all of us. But most people just want to point at some "authority", and let them tell us what to think. Bertrand Russell also said "question everything!". We weren't supposed to learn that in school.
Brian Young
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