No Such Thing As A Just WarOct 19, 2023
what they did yesterday afternoon
by Warsan Shire
they set my aunts house on fire
i cried the way women on tv do
folding at the middle
like a five pound note.
i called the boy who used to love me
trying to ‘okay’ my voice
i said hello
he said warsan, what’s wrong, what’s happened?
i’ve been praying,
and these are what my prayers look like;
i come from two countries
one is thirsty
the other is on fire
both need water.
later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
where does it hurt?
In this moment we want to express our deep remorse, sorrow and anger at what is happening in Palestine and Israel right now. We know our community likely views this conflict from many perspectives and pain is complex and multi-layered. We know that all of us witnesses or enmeshed in this conflict are grieving and in pain. Thus we stand with other movement groups like M4BL and Jewish Voice For Peace to call for an immediate ceasefire.
We must say, unequivocally, that All War Is Wrong. This is because in every war, civilians are killed and tortured. Warfare is the prolonged use of armed force to place your opposition into a position in which we can extract political objectives from them. It seeks to build a relationship of dominance towards your opposition, a position of power in which you can force terms for their actions. There is no such thing as a just war or even a necessary war.
At its heart, war depends on a domination based substitutive logic of: because these specific people (whether soldiers, settlers or paramilitary) did something I will blame everyone who is connected to them. The logic of war is a domination logic that we must not–cannot not–accept.
The logic of war is also something we cannot conflate with self defense of a people against a colonizing force nor with an extermination campaign. An attack on unarmed, non-combatant civilians is not an act of self defense. In the same way the forcing of an entire people into a smaller and smaller open air prison that you regularly bomb while ensuring that civilians (overwhelming children) cannot flee is not an act of war; it is a campaign of extermination.
In Gaza, the logic we are seeing being employed is even more sinister and dangerous than the logic of war. We are witnessing a devastating escalation in the on going genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. It weighs heavy on our hearts each morning and each night. A weight that can only be lifted in hour long stretches of time through the articulation of our pain, fear and despair…through grieving. As a community whose members are all descendants of colonization and who all pay taxes to and receive some measure of benefit (however unequal and fraught) from governments that support the Israeli military machine, this grief is...sticky.
It sticks to the traumatic legacy of the genocides all of our people have experienced whether through British colonialism, Japanese occupation or American slavery. It sticks to our teeth, gumming up our jaws and fumbling our attempts to express it. It sticks to the deep well of existential dread that rises with the sea level and reddens with blood of one species after another going extinct. For some of us, it sticks over the shattered remnants of our own humanity, reducing our capacity to empathize with the totality of the conflict.
Our comrade Aaron Goggans attempted to express this reality when he wrote:
Genocides are completed not only when the last voice is silenced but also when a people lose the last audience for their voice. When their song is permanently silenced in the human song. Genocide is a crime against humanity not only because claiming so is a safe guard against it happening again because when--through ignorance, misinformation or hatred--we stop being an audience to song of others, our own humanity is lessened.
The violence of organized forgetting–the ways histories are re-written by the victors or even just the survivors to cast themselves as righteous and good and others as evil or inconsequential–over Israel and Palestine collides with so many other historic traumas. In this collision our bodies react to the silences.
We react to any response that acknowledges the tragedy of the Israelis but remains silent to the plight of Palestinians. We react to responses that acknowledge the deaths on both sides without acknowledging the historical context of apartheid. We react to immediate calls for solidarity with our Palestinian comrades that leave out our Jewish comrades who are experiencing a particular silence: the self imposed silence that comes from knowing how readily your grief will be weaponized.
We react so vehemently in part because each silence is only one in a long line of silences. Our bodies cannot distinguish between these silences and our nations' silence about the rape, murder and displacement of the indigenous people in our countries. Our bodies cannot tell the difference between this silence and the silence of our nation around the enslavement of African people. Our bodies cannot tell the difference between this silence in the silence of the world during the holocaust.
This is a small part of the context in which we have all been experiencing these past few weeks. Our bodies–already stressed from a pandemic, from chronic stress and oppression–are reeling under these compounded silences and many of us are trying to speak against that silence. Sometimes that speech has lacked nuisance, complexity or context. In these moments it is easy to feel even more unheard or unseen as algorithms consistently show us the least healed, the least balanced and least complex responses.
We want to remind people that arguing on social media is not the only response to the silence. In fact, we would suggest that until you are grounded, engaging on social media might not be the best idea. This does not mean that we should turn away because it is too much. Rather it's a call to turn inward, to grieve collectively and alone. It's a call to tend to ourselves so that we can tend to the world from a grounded space.
We believe that grief rituals might be useful to folks at this moment. Ritual doesn’t need to be complex or led by someone trained to be effective. It can be as simple as pulling your family together, having everyone write down their worries, their fears, or their dashed hopes on slips of paper. Then, one by one, you can read those slips of paper and offer them to a fire. Feel free to adapt our comrade Erika Totten’s grief ritual if you would like some more guidance.
The reason grief is so important is because it connects us back to our humanity. As Martin Prechtel says “Grief expressed out loud, whether in or out of character, unchoreographed and honest, for someone we have lost, or a country or home we have lost, is in itself the greatest praise we could ever give them. Grief is praise, because it is the natural way love honors what it misses.”
The most humane ways to honor the dead start with allowing ourselves to grieve them. The most humane way to honor the justice-filled and peaceful solutions to the conflict that have been rendered untenable by this violence is to grieve for them. The most humane way to prepare yourself to take action to stop this genocide is grieve all the compounded silences.
We give this grief to the fire because while fire is often destructive it can also be cleansing. The heat of the fire can tell our bodies that we acknowledge the heat of its sorrow, anger and longing. That acknowledgement can be an opening for our bodies to release its pain. We release our grief into the fire because we know that fire can be a catalyst for transformation. Like in the case of a forest fire, it can return carbon to the land and enrich the soil.
In fact, such a cleansing fire is the perfect metaphor for the kind of alchemical work the world needs right now. Sometimes, it is not our role to put out the fire. Especially when that fire is burning down a world we were never meant to survive. Instead our role can be to tend to the aftermath, to support the succession of new life into the land. As an organization, we are deeply inspired by the Jewish concept of Tikkam Olam which, as our Jewish comrades have explained to us, speaks to our co-responsibility to heal the world, to shine a light on beauty of the world that has been silenced and to take steps to move this world closer to perfection.
For many of us, stewarding that succession starts (or continues) with pressuring our governments to push for a ceasefire. So we wanted to share some action steps from our comrade and fellow traveler Sarah Nahar that come from the organizations US Campaign for Palestinian Rights and Jewish Voice For Peace. :
- Call and Email your Congress members (if you have them)
- Email NYTimes Editorial board
- Amplify on social media by sharing this call tool and these images.
- Attend a Protest near you.
- Join 30 min Zoom everyday at 3pm EST "Power Half Hours for Gaza" to be in the loop on JVP solidarity organizing.
- For help with understanding what's happening and how to talk to people, read JVP’s statements here and here.
- Mobilize your communities. invite others to take action with you.
Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.
Stay Connected with WildSeed Society!
Join our mailing list to receive the latest updates and offerings.
We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information for any reason.