We Almost Forgot

We almost forgot,
that we were born into violence.
Habituated to scenes of death,
to the tense rhythms of curfews,
and networks of military checkpoints,
an island home that we could not roam.

We almost forgot,
the confusion etched on our faces
as our elders succumed to prejudice.
From the lurid chambers of parliament
to the intimacy of our dining tables.
How even the clergy of our temples
learned to sway to songs of war.
All the while, in our classrooms and playgrounds,
their words grated against our experience.

We almost forgot,
the moral cost of the peace we enjoyed,
the thousands of lives destroyed by violence,
and denied paths to justice.
How opportunists in gilded mansions
remind us of their “accomplishments”,
while wounds unhealed still fester.

I almost forgot
how numb I have become,
across these years of bloodshed.
I felt the pull of sadness, but little else.
I hover over chasms of anger and despair,
privileged in my safety,
unable to fathom neither
the depravity of the perpetrators,
nor the grief of survivors.
Only knowing that the sinews
of my heart would collapse
If I were to plumb those depths.

Through abhorrent violence,
we, so prone to forgetting,
are reminded yet again,
of the fractures we have inherited,
and the depraved that seek to exploit them.
Our duty in the aftermath is to
trace the contours of these divisions,
to collapse the pernicious caves
of “us” and “them”,
celebrate our common humanity,
and create paths for justice.
While we may never construct a peace
that is immune from the vagaries of terrorism,
let it be one that can defeat its vicious aims.

Garissa Massacre in Kenya : Where is the outrage?

This absolutely horrific mass murder by Al Shabab at Garissa University in Kenya. 148 young lives were taken in the most brutal manner on the 2nd of April but the news coverage and outrage beyond Africa and those who hold it dear... has been minimal. In more recent times the media storm and outrage over the shooting at Charlie Hebdo in Paris and the Lindt Cafe Siege in Sydney would indicate that there is no shortage of interest and compassion for people who are victims to these heinous acts by fundamentalists. Yet the requisite for intense media attention and expressions of outrage and solidarity by world leaders, dare I say it, seems to be that the victims must be white and that said act should occur in a Western cocoon that is typically free of the scourge of violence. The authenticity of said compassion is a related but separate discussion.

I long to be free of distinctions in terms of colour, sexuality, nationality and religion but it is hard to do so in a context in which it is blatantly obvious that we are not all equal. Across my years in Sri Lanka both as a resident of Colombo and as an aid worker on the East Coast, acts of violence were a norm. Suicide bombs taking hundreds of lives was so common that we had peace doves as markers on the streets that attacks took place on, fading with each passing year. This violence was largely viewed as being an internal matter. That it was our fault. Until exposure taught me that it wasn't as simple as all this. I learnt that sympathy and intervention was firmly tied to colour and a colonial mentality of what could be extracted from the situation, or perhaps more explicitly as evident in recent times, from the ground. That the violence of the present is inextricably tied to others and to the legacy of the past.

We have so much to transcend and unlearn as a species. There is still a vile underbelly of ethnocentrism that permeates and often renders our bold ideal of equality, opaque. Rife with conditions. I have grown up with what seems like overwhelming evidence of the fact that white lives matter far more than that of men, women and children of colour. It is a paradigm that I will continue to rail against. In the midst of our claims to sophistication, we are so deeply estranged from all the threads, biological and spiritual, that bind us together


Note: The heartbreaking image featured in this post was taken from this article by the New York Post 

Here is an article (finally) that looks at the victims of the massacre.