Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Not ever since World War II; so many people looking for HOME.

I sit in sunny Manitoba where the heat that people complain about is only 30 C. The trees and grass are green. Unlimited water pours  from every tap in my house. When I sweat I can decrease the thermostat on the kitchen wall  and the central air conditioner takes care of that problem.
  I have been home three weeks and  am now able to re-enter Winnpeg society. I no longer have to cocoon in my house unable to face the huge grocery stores and my friends who ask me how I am.  .Already I can go hours without even thinking of  the people I sat with in Iraqi Kurdistan. I am forgetting the heat and the sweat and the burning hot wind. I am forgetting the tears and pain of mothers sitting on the sidewalk begging with their eyes, families  in unfinished houses asking for a refrigerator so their water can be cool enough to drink  and people living in  flappy  tents that can fall down  in the blustery winds.  I am forgetting the father looking at his 21 year old son who is thinking of paying the money to a smuggler to try to get to a life worth living. I am forgetting the words, "what else can he do?"
I am really  trying to get be aware of  the injustice that is all around me here in sunny Manitoba. I am trying to read the face book posts about  mercury in water, oil pipelines being pushed through by politicians and a thousand and a half missing and murdered indigenous women . I am trying to see that there are so many people and so much  work here in my own land. 
But there are still the hours when I remember. When I read news of 70 people dying in a smuggler's truck because no one would open the doors. When I hear from my colleagues working on the island of Lesvos of ordinary people risking life and the breath of their children to get onto inflated boats trying to find a society who will embrace them and say welcome. I remember young men  with whom I  have sat at a table with a beer and discussed life and the universe and sometimes just silliness. These ones who have set off on the journey to Germany for $10,000. This was not a trip with a backpack poking around to discover the quaintness of  Europe. It was one where passport and computers were left behind and that held the question of whether it was safe to let loved ones know by a text or a Facebook post that they had reached another safe place along the way.
I cry, knowing that my offering to the people I sat with was so little. That many are living in tents with not enough water for basic needs , but that they know that soon  the winter rains and the thick mud will come.  They will still be in the tents because there is no place to go. Unless they say, "what else can we do?" and they will somehow raise the $10,000 per person  for the good smuggler and they will try to cross the razor wire and  the dogs and the men with guns and the  broad sea water to get to somewhere else. Where maybe they will find a dwelling that is  warm and dry  in winter and cool in summer.. Maybe they will find a tiny piece of land to plant tomatoes and  where  the children can play. 
A friend of mine posted this poem today. I could not read it all at once because the tears began to flow. Not since World War II has there been so many people fleeing, trying desperately to find a good  place to call home
 by Somali poet Warsan Shire:
no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well
your neighbours running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won't let you stay.
no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it's not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn't be going back.
you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough
go home blacks
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off
or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces.
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
be hunger
forget pride
your survival is more important
no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
run away from me now
i dont know what i've become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here.

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