Abel Cries Out
Since Hussein’s Anfal campaign, I have spent a lot of time researching genocide, democide and ethnic cleansing around the world. I began as a political conservative, moved back and forth over the course of my life and I always thought I was a mix of liberal and conservative ideals. In the course of life though, I really think I am rejecting human institutionalism and embraced a perspective based on limited institutionalism and deeper relationality.
Humanity has created institutions based upon ideological foundations that often begin with noble intent but over time morph into oppressive estates. It an be nationalist, tribal, cultural, religions, political or economic, but in the end all systems move toward centralized power. This is the will-to-power inherent in all humans. It is an aspect of the human condition that we must resist, and we must name.
From the grave, they cry out. Victims of the quest for power. Leaders climbing over a mountain dead bodies to reach the summit. In the 20th century, more people died at the hands of their own governments than in all the wars of history. This is the reality, ground stained with blood in the name of flag, belief, practice the suppression of “lesser” people. With muted voices, parents of Nigerian children, girls and boys sold into sex trafficking, those “collateral damage” people that surround terrorists, victims of terror and war, and so many more cry out for justice.
This reality has been the pain of my life, this cry haunts me in it silence, convicts me in its suppression. This is the wound that will not heal in my heart and soul. I am part of the violence in the world. That was the dissonance that my mind could not navigate. We are part of a world system rooted in the will to power, our institutions, systems, politics, ideologies and idols reek of this fundamental truth: we climb over each other in the quest for the power. To that end, we form relationships that are fundamentally extrinsic to our being. You have heard this in a more down to earth way: its business, nothing personal! Equipped with that untruth, we have omitted every atrocity that can be can be dreamed up in the name of a flag, language, ethnicity, tribe, religion, philosophy or any other identity we append to ourselves.
But Abels of this world, from the one I drew all the way back to the first murder depicted in the Bible and sadly likely until the end of time, cry out, “I am your brother, your sister, your parent, your child, your friend.” If they are correct, relationships are intrinsic, they are a part of our being. If this is true, then every part of business and how we conduct our lives in the treatment of others is personal. This is the message of Jesus in telling the parable of the Good Samaritan. The implication of the story is that the world is our neighborhood and we are our neighbor’s keeper. This is the longing I felt in seeing the bodies and comforted the grieving onlookers, for a connection, for their story before the ethnic cleansing. Here IS a human being, my brother or sister in the human family, separated by others addicted to the quest for power.
The original photo I took for an organization in 2004, near Kirkuk. It is one of the first drawings I did after my counselor suggested I use art to express what was going on in my head. I think at last, I can put words to the anguish in some moments of life, the rage, the pain. Have I walked through the dark valley long enough? Have I carried the guilt long enough? My arms and legs are tired, strength is gone, God be my guide.
Gazing upon a broken world, sometimes I get tired
Of tears rolling uncounted, down innumerable cheeks
Hunger, homelessness, poverty, illness
Ellas danzan con los muertos
The ache of loneliness plain gray walls of prison
the soul walled in where do I find peace?
and in those times of justice denied
Ellas danzan con amores invisibles
How do we build peace? Is there nothing more
than surrender to the flame, the shot and shell we know too well
Horsemen four they ride far and wide
Ellas danzan con los desaparecidos
A mother hungry, must choose medicine or food
A father ends his hunger but the moment’s gone
Hunger returns, always returns, shame in its wake
Ellas danzan con silenciosa angustia
Within all that, my hurt and loneliness seems small
though very real for my heart is pierced
is there room for sacred, love, a wife in my life
Danzan con sus esposos
Perdon, ma langue mais je suis tres desole
Anglais, c’est ma langue de travaille
Ce n’est pas ma langue de coeur
Et ma couer, elle parle ce soir
Can we beat our guns, tanks and bombs
Into tractors, plows and combines
Must the nations send our future against each other
Ellas danzan con los muertos
Must we fill the air and ground with our refuse?
What legacy do we leave future generations
Sons, daughters, what will they clean up?
Danzan con sus hijos y sus hijas
Where do we go from here?