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Tossing Pebbles in the Stream

This blog is my place to sit and toss pebbles into the stream. The stream of Life relentlessly passing before us. We can affect it little. For the most part I just watch it passing and follow the flow. Occasionally, I need to comment on its passing, tossing a pebble at it to enjoy the ripple affect upon Life's surface.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Walls, Walls, Walls

Mr. Gorbachev, Tear Down this wall, ! Tear down that wall, Mr Obama! Tear down that wall! Mr Natanyahu.

Today, they are celebrating the breeching of the wall that separated East and West Germany. Whether the wall is seen as a way of keeping the East Germans in or the West German out, (with all their dangerous capitalist ideas) depends on your point of view. We in the west have been told it was a great good. Freedom and the material bounty of the West would become available for the East Germans. In twenty years it is not as simple as that. Not all East Germans shared in the new found life. The East German sector still lags economically behind the West. And now we here there are those who think life was better for many behind the wall, under the socialist policies of the Communist governments. There was an equality, work, free education, free medical care, security. Perhaps, the baby was thrown out with the bathwater.

The lesson of today is that walls do not work in the long run. The German wall ultimately could not keep people in or ideas out. We should be questioning if the wall the US is so eager to build between to hold back the tide of Mexicans some feel are a threat to the existence of the Nation. Also, the Israeli wall, enforcing keeping out Palestinians making them prisoners in the West Bank and Gaza.

In this spirit, I share with you this poem by Canadian, Joy Kogawa

Where there's a Wall

where there's a wall

there's a way

around, over, or through

there's a gate

maybe a ladder

a door

a sentinel who

sometimes sleeps

there are secret passwords

you can overhear

there are methods of torture

for extracting clues

to maps of underground passageways

there are zepplins

helicopters, rockets, bombs

bettering rams

armies with trumpets

whose all at once blast

shatters the foundations

where there's a wall

there are words

to whisper by a loose brick

wailing prayers to utter

special codes to tap

birds to carry messages

taped to their feet

there are letters to be written

novels even

on this side of the wall

I am standing staring at the top

lost in the clouds

I hear every sound you make

but cannot see you

I incline in the wrong direction

a voice cries faint as in a dream

from the belly

of the wall

Joy Kogawa

Joy Kogawa knows about "walls". She and her family are Canadians of Japanese ancestry. They were interned during the second world war behind the wall of the the Rocky Montains. This was a mistaken attempt to make all Canadians feel more secure, unless of course you were one of the Japanese-Canadians whose life was uprooted, your property and business taken by the government. This "walling up" of our fellow citizens achieved little other than harm to members of our Society. It was a national shame for which the Canadian govenment finally apologized. Japanese Canadians, shamed us all by quietly putting their lives together after the war and continued to contribute to Canadian society as the loyal citizens they were all along.

Joy Kogama's award winning semi-autobigraphical novel, Obasan, about her families internment has been considered the most important Canadian historical work.

Walls takes many forms. They need not by physical. Dissidents among us are often walled off in various ways for the "protection" of the rest of us. One who knew the sting of this and rose above it was Paul Robeson, the remarkable, singer, actor, ethnologist, socialist, black American. He had his passport taken by the government to limit his free travel abroad. He was seem as a threat to America. He and his ideas were subversive. There were ways around this wall.

Cross that Line

Paul Robeson stood

on the northern border

of the USA

and sang into Canada

where a vast audience

sat on folding chairs

waiting to hear him.

He sang into Canada.

His voice left the USA

when his body was

not allowed to cross

that line.

Remind us again,

brave friend.

What countries may we

sing into?

What lines should we all

be crossing?

What songs travel toward us

from far away

to deepen our days?

Naomi Shihab Nye

We all need to examine the walls that surround us, physical and psycho-social. Do they serve us well and achieve what we think they do. A serious inquiry would show that they do not accomplish much worthwhile. My friend, Lynne, it today visiting the Great Wall of China, the greatest of all walls, and yet it did not keep the Mongolian Hordes out.


At 6:26 p.m., Blogger Anvilcloud said...

Beware the revenge of the walnuts!

At 11:22 p.m., Blogger KGMom said...

I am struck by the sheer hypocrisy--the U.S. counsels Germany to tear down its walls--then we allow or tolerate Israel building its wall, and we in turn build our own between the U.S. and Mexico.
We should take our own advice.

At 2:23 p.m., Blogger Climenheise said...

Interesting collection of poems. Wonderful line: "Where there's a wall, there's a way." One must deal with underlying causes, not simply try to cover them over and let them fester.


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