Monday, November 16, 2015

The Garden Of Humanity: On Being Paris



On Being Paris

Everyone is Paris,
I as much as anyone.
I'm that little bridge over the Seine
fenced with all those locked-up hearts.
But not everyone is Beirut,
or Syria.
Even I am not that part of the south suburbs of Beirut,
where two bombs killed 43 (and counting).
I had confused it with the Dahiya
where we had once been treated to an Iftar meal
after sundown in Ramadan
in a home where the power went out,
only briefly, on a very warm night in October,
and where Israel's bombers destroyed blocks of apartments and small shops
in the summer of 2006.
But no, Burj al-Barajneh, described in news reports as "a stronghold of the Shia Islamist" Hezbollah movement, 
though in fact a neighborhood where people live and shop,
is near the Palestinian 'camps' (three generations and counting)
of Sabra and Shatila where old men, women and children
were slaughtered after the Israeli invasion of 1982.

They are not like us,
the Shia of Lebanon, the Iraqis, the Syrian
refugees who live in the alleys of Beirut,
the Palestinian refugees who once lived in 'camps' in Syria,
and now live anywhere they can.
Their lives are not so materially rich
(though they wish they were),
they do not get their ideas from media and follow breaking events on television
(but of course they do)
they do not gawp at photographs of the latest Paris fashions
(but of course they do)
They do not struggle to get their children enough years of school,
in a good school, 
even if taught in a tongue not spoken in their home, 
for a shot at a prosperous future,
as we would surely do if we were in their shoes
(yet that is exactly what they do, and what we,
the lucky ones, are not forced to).

Still, they are not like us,
and some of them are refugees
massing before the gates of Europe.
And one of them (we are told)
brought a gun to Paris.

Good. Tell us who to hate,
So we will know where we are.
Back in the same old hell.