Thursday, December 27, 2007

So shaken as we are

My first memory is of John Kennedy, Jr. standing during the funeral procession for his father. My Mom, trying to help me understand why everyone was so upset, told me that his father had been killed.

From afar, my life has been punctuated by assassinations. I'm lucky to have been far from the violence, far from all sorts of violence.

I don't have illusions that Bhutto was going to somehow solve the myriad problems in Pakistan. But when I read the news this morning, I felt gut punched.

She was about my age, close enough, anyway. And she'd had more impact on the world, for better or worse, than I ever will. And now she's dead, leaving behind her family.

She'd survived another assassination attempt when she first returned to Pakistan, and yet she went on, facing certain knowledge that there would be other attempts.

I wonder if I'd have the courage to go on in the face of even slight danger?

Shakespeare opens 1 Henry IV with Henry IV's speech calling an end to civil war. Alas for Henry, he was wrong, and the play quickly moves to civil wars with Percy and the other rebels.

And yet, it's a great speech, evocative, shocking in recalling the violence to the very land itself. I love working through the opening with students, talking about the image of the mother with her children's own blood on her lips, and the trenches marring the motherland, and the hooves bruising her very flowers. It's a hopeful speech, too, and today, I'll share it with you:

So shaken as we are, so wan with care,
Find we a time for frighted peace to pant,
And breathe short-winded accents of new broils
To be commenced in strands afar remote.
No more the thirsty entrance of this soil
Shall daub her lips with her own children's blood;
Nor more shall trenching war channel her fields,
Nor bruise her flowerets with the armed hoofs
Of hostile paces: those opposed eyes,
Which, like the meteors of a troubled heaven,
All of one nature, of one substance bred,
Did lately meet in the intestine shock
And furious close of civil butchery
Shall now, in mutual well-beseeming ranks,
March all one way and be no more opposed
Against acquaintance, kindred and allies:
The edge of war, like an ill-sheathed knife,
No more shall cut his master.

We sometimes think there can be peace, but it's always marred and never lasts more than an imagined instant. There are always enemies, even within one's own country.


  1. Anonymous8:06 AM

    I really connect with your comment on how we imagine peace for an instant. Some of the theme oriented art projects I do with students are contrasting war and peace. I always find myself questioning how does one interpret peace since I don't think there has ever been a time on this planet of true peace. Philosophically, can we even define what peace is? Peace is not in this moment as I am quite affected by the loss of Bhutto, even though I live countries away from Pakistan.

  2. Anonymous8:29 AM

    Thanks for commenting on Bhutto. I found out yesterday, sitting in an airport bar where CNN was playing. I was devastated and there was no one there who seemed to notice or share my feelings of despair.

    1 Henry IV is a great balm.