I want to record gratitude today to UK MP’s debating air strikes in Syria. I have been deeply impressed by the quiet civility and respectful conduct of a 10 hour debate in which the only certainty is that there are no easy answers – whatever the outcome of the vote later.
I am chastened by thankfulness that I am not being asked to make a publicly documented decision, one way or another, that will have profound and far reaching consequences for millions.
Most ordinary citizens like me are not, and cannot be, sufficiently well informed to be able to imagine comprehensively what these consequences might be – even having observed horrors enough to create strong sense that “something must be done.”
Who do I want to make the difficult decisions though? What do I imagine can be done? Let me at least be profoundly grateful for those charged with grappling with such issues on my behalf – decisions I don’t feel remotely qualified to take.
But let me not abnegate my personal responsibility towards peace in the world either. Ordinary hopes and longings for peace on earth are perfectly properly my – and our -shared business, contribution and responsibility.
Conversation is vital. Prose and poetry about our own hopes for peace must ultimately flow freely from the world’s biggest majority – that preponderance of “ordinary” lives, in human caring agencies, homes, leisure activities and workplaces in every nation on earth.
Author Kim Rosen writes of “freedom space”:
On a bombed-out street that was once a beautiful section of downtown Baghdad, a large tent was erected on August 28, 2006, in the midst of explosions and clashes. It was the first of many gatherings of poets in what came to be called the Freedom Space events. There, while Sunni and Shiite militias roamed the streets propagating terror, men and women from both factions gathered to speak poetry together. The Shiites sat opposite the Sunnis, as if it were a competition. But by the end of the event, they were embracing and dancing together because the poems from both sides voiced the same words, the same longings, the same wounds.
Wherever such “freedom spaces” flower the possibilities for hope in times of deep darkness survive even the absence of easy solutions. May there be times indeed when the world unites in “embracing and dancing together”.
A closing sentence today from the poet Donald Hall:
Poetry enacts our own losses so that we can share the notion that we all lose – and hold each other’s hand, as it were, in losing.