Saturday, 3 February 2018

The Best That We Can Do?

The Best We Can Do?

May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
give deliverance to the children of the needy. -Psalm 72.

A fleet of impossibly large white boats
lies quietly moored 
at an impossibly beautiful 
Mediterranean tax-haven.
I read of the growing gulf 
between rich and poor,
how even in the mighty USA
the wealth of the top one percent
equals that of the bottom ninety percent.

Then into my mind’s eye chugs
a flimsy boat, overcrowded
with men, women and children
fleeing war, poverty or persecution,
all brave, desperate, hopeful, scared,
all enduring terrible privations,
the lack of privacy, hunger, stench, heat, wet, 
desperate scanning for land,
the gathering sea, the looming swell,
the vulnerable diesel motor,
the creaking of the water-filling vessel.

Then float images of the new gulags,
Pacific Island detention centres,
shimmering heat, barbed wire, dormitories,
hopeless, hollow-eyed children,
vulnerable women,
abusive, predatory guards,
the hostility of the locals
in these places of planned, deliberate inhumanity
designed to deter seeking asylum by sea.

And what I want to know is this.
Can we do no better than build walls
or nightmare places of deterrence?
Does not injustice foster hate and resentment,
encourage violence, revenge,
the bloody carnage of the bombed market,
the twisted tangled of the torn apart train?
Does not the past inform 
that the grinding shoal of inequality
eventually leads to dark stains 
from the guillotine flowing 
through blood-filled squares?

First published at Better Than Starbucks.

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