By Naomi Shihab Nye
It is not fine to say We are in a time of war
if you started the war.
In Arabic this is called Haki Fawthi – empty talk.
As if war were weather you couldn’t stop.
Snowing this morning, get your cap!
To make it seem you’re doing the right thing.
I cannot clap for military people on planes.
Invite us to clap for teachers, now that I’ll do.
A word called “progress” can never be applied to war.
Nor a word called “success.”
These are crimes against language.
You will have to be silent for a year if you commit them.
It is not fine to go to church, mosque, or synagogue,
then go out bombing, because every single religion
says THOU SHALT NOT KILL and
it’s not a casual remark.
Not a hopeful suggestion
like when the waiter says,
Anyone interested in dessert?
and everybody says no and he brings the menu anyway
to try to change your minds.
And sometimes peach crumble does.
It’s not like that at all.
You cannot kill, then act religious.
And that’s the full-on truth.
My German-American grandma had a book called
Making Friends and Influencing People.
Who did she want to influence?
The tax collector, the knee doctor?
She could barely open her mouth at the bakery,
she was so shy. I don’t think War had any chapter
My Palestinian refugee grandmother couldn’t read.
But her heart held one word in high relief, Peace.
She placed her hand over it. Told us it was in there.
Ran her fingers over it when she couldn’t sleep.
Never let it fall out.
In all the countries I ever visited,
people were hungry, wanted friends,
washed faces, strolled in a park,
stared at waves, paid for a ticket,
carried a sack of bananas,
felt lonesome, wanted more friends.
Not one ever said, I hope there will be
killing around my house. Not one.
Don’t listen to any government that says
killing is okay if you are the one doing it.
First job of a citizen.
Say no it’s not. Shout no. Write it
on the air around your bed.
Proclaim it on your forehead.
No it’s not. It’s not okay.
Everyone else wants to live
as much as we do.
This is a sheep
who has lost its way.
Speaking of sheep, how many
get killed in wars? How many goats,
and cats? They never get a head count.
Birds in war zones are said to be
continuing what they were born to do,
collecting sticks and hay, migrating.
Gathering at the river.
Looking for their trees.
Try this bumper sticker –
even if you don’t have a car.
WAR IS TERRORISM WITH A BIGGER BUDGET.
Find a song with lots of harmonies in it.
A taxi driver in DC asked,
You wanna know the truth?
Sure, I said. Tell me.
We had just met.
He said, It’s the military industrial complex behind everything.
Making wars. It’s the gun factories, the bomb factories.
They want money so they make wars.
You may have something there, I said.
We were passing the Washington Monument
before it cracked from the earthquake.
He said, Of course I have something.
It’s the absolute truth.
What can we do about it?
Say it, he said. Keep saying it.
Say it till everybody
knows it and says it.
Then say it again.