Friday, April 12, 2024

#103 / Let It Be A Tale

Refaat Alareer is pictured above. Peoples Dispatch identifies him as an "internationally beloved academic, poet, and activist." Wikipedia tells us that "Alareer was killed [on December 6, 2023], in an Israeli airstrike in northern Gaza, along with his brother, brother's son, sister, and her three children, during the 2023 Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip." 

Wikipedia also notes that the Euro-Med Monitor released a statement saying that Alareer was apparently deliberately targeted, "surgically bombed out of the entire building," with his death having been preceeded by "death threats that Refaat received online and by phone from Israeli accounts."

Alareer left behind a poem, which I am reprinting in full at the end of this blog posting. His poem, "If I Must Die," was referenced in a New York Times' editorial statement published on April 8, 2024. Paula Chakravartty and Vaasuki Nesiah, authors of that statement in The Times, are both professors at New York University. In their statement in The Times, they were objecting to the discipline imposed by the university's administration against students who read Alareer's poem at a poetry reading held during the Spring semester, this year.

In the hard copy version I read on the morning of April 8th, the Chakravartty-Nesiah column was titled, "Political Dissent Is Under Attack on Campus." Online, the column was titled as follows: "Is This The End of Academic Freedom?"

The concerns that Chakravartty and Nesiah have raised about academic freedom are justified. But even more importantly - at least, so I think - Alareer's poem raises an even more important question for all of us, as citizens of the United States, and as those who are ultimately responsible for what our country does. Protests sweeping the country, objecting the United States' military contribution to what Israel is doing in Gaza, are making a point. The kind of military destruction that Israel has imposed on Gaza, accompanied by the tens of thousands of deaths of innocent people, is insupportable; it is wrong, and the United States, not Israel alone, bears a significant share of the responsibility, having furnished the means for all that death.

"Death" is no adequate solution for any problem we encounter in life. As I said recently, in another blog posting, "leadership" does not require "killing people." 

Alareer wanted his death to inspire "A Tale" a story full of hope. But what we have been seeing is not that. What we are witnessing is an "old story," and it is time for all of us to begin telling a different one. This is not the time to “pick a side,” and assign blame, or to pronounce approval.  Killing others as a way to confront the real problems we face in this life brings no hope now - nor ever really did. Such assignments of blame and approval are an “old story,” the “traditional story,” the story we always seem to tell ourselves. As I have said in another past blog posting, we should pay attention to a statement popularly attributed to Mahatma Gandhi: "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind." 

What we have been witnessing, I think is not what Refaat Alareer so fervently wished for. Instead of the "Tale" that he wanted us to tell, we are still hearing, on repeat, that story that has been told for so long, and that has been repeated so often. That story that we continue to hear, that "old story," told so often, has documented our failure, time after time, to make death any kind of satisfactory and efficacious solution to the problems we confront in life.

So, as we listen to that "old story" being told again, let us truly understand it. 

Then.... we do need to be sure that we truly understand it. 

And then.... when we do. 

I hope you do. 

Let us tell a different story, starting now. 

Let it be a tale!


     - Refaat Alareer

If I must die,
you must live
to tell my story
to sell my things
to buy a piece of cloth
and some strings,
(make it white with a long tail)
so that a child, somewhere in Gaza
while looking heaven in the eye
awaiting his dad who left in a blaze—
and bid no one farewell
not even to his flesh
not even to himself—
sees the kite, my kite you made, flying up above
and thinks for a moment an angel is there
bringing back love
If I must die
let it bring hope
let it be a tale

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