Me Say War

by JAKE NORTON

November 2023
Strangely, reggae pulsed through my brain as I hiked through the snow to our yurt this morning. No, South Park, Colorado, was not having a reggae fest, and I was not listening to music. (I never do in the hills, as nature’s music is more than enough.) This was internal music, a soundtrack of the […]

Strangely, reggae pulsed through my brain as I hiked through the snow to our yurt this morning.

No, South Park, Colorado, was not having a reggae fest, and I was not listening to music. (I never do in the hills, as nature’s music is more than enough.) This was internal music, a soundtrack of the cerebellum, brought forth by several emails I received over the past weeks, and countless news stories, about the conflict in Israel and Gaza and the horrific situation.

I’ve watched, befuddled and infuriated, as news casts show the abominable events of October 7th in Israel and the equally-abominable events that have transpired since in Gaza.

I’ve watched, befuddled and infuriated, as protesters and pundits from both sides of the fence diminish the humanity of one side - writing off dead Israelis (and others) or dead Palestinians as simple bits of collateral damage, their blood, their tears, their lives unimportant in relation to one’s cause.

I’ve watched, befuddled and infuriated, as folks on the left veer insanely into anti-Semitism, idiotically confusing their very justified support of the Palestinians for support of the barbarism of Hamas.

A quote by Stephen D. Smith, Executive Director of the Aegis Trust, at the Kigali Memorial Centre in downtown Kigali, Rwanda. It reads; If you must remember, remember this...The Nazis did not kill six million Jews...nor did the Interahamwe kill a million Tutsis, they killed one and then another...Genocide is not a single act of murder, it is millions of acts of murder."

I’ve watched, befuddled and infuriated, as folks on the right veer insanely into Islamophobia, idiotically confusing their very justified support of the Israeli people for support of the barbarism being committed in Gaza.

I’ve read, befuddled and infuriated, as some of my readers have lashed out at me for not taking a stronger stance one way or other, for not condoning, agreeing with, sugar coating, or outright ignoring the atrocities meted out by one side because there was (is) reason for anger, fury, revenge. Since when does one side’s suffering at the hands of a few in power justify the equal, retaliatory suffering of innocents on the other side?

A plaque inside the Genocide Memorial in Kigali, Rwanda. It reads: "If you knew me and you really knew yourself you would not have killed me." by Felicien Ntagengwa

No, this is base bias of the crudest sort, a de-humanization of the other side because, well, because one cannot do the things one side does to the other, one cannot condone the things one side does to the other, without first dehumanizing that other side. It’s the first rule of war, of genocide: make people believe the “other” is not human, and thus somehow not worthy, not deserving of the same peace and liberty and rights and freedom from suffering that “we” are. Once this is done, it’s easy to kill, it’s easy to mow down concert goers and kibbutz farmers, to raze apartment buildings and annihilate many in the hunt for a few, because they are all below, less human, less worthy. And, equally, this dehumanization makes it easy to sit at a podium or a computer, to chant and protest and assault and kill, to make simplistic, ill-informed statements and push simplistic, ill-informed agendas that further that dehumanization, that incendiary dismissal of the humanity of the other.

At the end of the day, though, all the players, all the people in this latest conflict are just that…people. Humans. Sentient beings just like you and me, just like one another. They (whoever “they” may be) love just like you, just like me. They breathe just like you, just like me. They bleed just like you, just like me. They laugh and celebrate and suffer and mourn just like you, just like me.

Message of reconciliation from the The National Memorial for Peace and Justice near Montgomery, Alabama.

And, just like me - perhaps just like you - when “they” are faced with dehumanization, with genocidal ideology and brutality, with outright dismissal of their lives and their suffering and their pain and their blood, they, too, will remember, will seek revenge, will respond with the same dehumanization and brutality and dismissal. And the circle goes round, the cycle repeats.

I’ve found myself recently forcing a painful response: When I find I’m getting upset at Israel’s response in Gaza, I connect (warning: graphic content) with the horror of October 7 to remember the very real human suffering. When I’m getting upset at the Palestinian position, I watch Al Jazeera’s Rescue Mission Gaza (warning: graphic content) to remember the very real human suffering. I go back to my history books and read of the Holocaust and the Nakba to remember the very real human suffering.

A plaque inside the Genocide Memorial in Kigali, Rwanda. It reads: "When they said 'never again' after the Holocaust, was it meant for some people and not for others?" by Apollon Kabahizi

And, then I remember, then I realize, the pattern, this pattern, never ends. It cannot end until we people, we humans, we fellow inhabitants of this tiny space ball determine to see one another as just that: fellow humans. Fellow humans who love just like us, laugh just like us, dream just like us, and suffer, bleed, cry, mourn, and die just like us. Until we as humans, as a species, can see commonality over difference - and force our leaders to do the same - we will never end this cycle, it will play out until…well, until we make a choice, or we disappear.

Bob Marley performing at Dalymount Park, on 6 July 1980. Photo by Eddie Mallin, used with permission via the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en) from Wikipedia (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bob-Marley_3.jpg)
Bob Marley performing at Dalymount Park, on 6 July 1980. Photo by Eddie Mallin, used with permission via the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license from Wikipedia.

So, that is why today, in the deafening silence of Pike National Forest, trudging through the snow at 11,000 feet, reggae played in my head. Not just any reggae, not just any song, but an anthem by Bob Marley, crafted from the wise words of the late Emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie, in his 1963 speech to the United Nations. (Scroll down below the lyrics to see Haile Selassie speaking his famous words at the UN, and also a fabulous live recording of Marley singing War and No More Trouble in London, 1977.)

Until the philosophy
Which holds one race superior
And another inferior
Is finally and permanently
Discredited and abandoned
Everywhere is war
Me say war
And until there’s no longer
First class and second class citizens of any nation
Until the color of a man's skin
Is of no more significance than the color of his eyes
Me say war
That until the basic human rights
Are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race
Dis a war
That until that day
The dream of lasting peace
World citizenship
And the rule of international morality
Will remain but a fleeting illusion to be pursued
But never attained
Now everywhere is war
Me say war
And until the ignoble and unhappy regime
That hold our brothers in Angola
In Mozambique
South Africa
Sub-human bondage
Have been toppled
Utterly destroyed
Well, everywhere is war
Me say war
War in the east
War in the west
War up north
War down south
War, war
Rumours of war
And until that day
The African continent
Will not know peace
We Africans will fight
We find it necessary
And we know we shall win
As we are confident
In the victory
Of good over evil
Good over evil, yeah
Good over evil
Good over evil, yeah

- Bob Marley, War

Bob Marley performing War/No More Trouble (Live At The Rainbow 4th June 1977)
Haile Selassie addresses the United Nations General Assembly during the Eighteenth Session on October 4th, 1963 calling for world peace.

3 comments on “Me Say War”

  1. Very touching - it’s hard to watch local gatherings in the town plaza alternately condemning one “side” and the other shouting and holding posters … our city also hosts Ukrainian refugees here whose family members are under fire there as winter sets in just as winter cold is affecting all those bombed out in GAZA …

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