Political Poetry

The Peaceful Warriors

Aye, let me sing the splendid deeds
Of those who toil to serve mankind,
The men who break old ways and make
New paths for those who come behind.
The young who war with customs old
And face their problems, unafraid,
Who think and plan to lift for man
The burden that on him is laid —
The splendid warriors of trade.

-Edgar B. Guest-

I was having lunch at SOHO in Evergreen a few days ago with an older American writer friend/and member of the League of Women Voters, when I found myself exclaiming in a mixture of frustration and recognition, ”my very existance is political!” It was then I realized how true that statement is for one such as me – a Malaysian poet in exile in the United States. Had I not been brought to exile, I would not have written my poems, “Loving My Land, Dying Inside”(published May 2002: New Internationalist issue Islam: Resistance and Reform). Those poems brought to light and made clear in my own mind, my identity, and calling. Even though in the current political climate in the United States, my point of view or perspective is not popular/fully understood, I would call myself ‘a peaceful warrior of the trade’. The example, in time to come, may inspire others. I have to have faith in this and no matter how lonely, press on.

I keep myself in good cheer by yes, reading the Bible and other books, writing and seeking solitude. I rest in God’s love and that of my immediate family. God has brought me to a spacious place, as it says in psalm 18. I take joy in little things. Yesterday I made a pea pilaf substituting cashew nuts with almonds because I didn’t have cashew nuts readily available. Today I am baking cumin bread. I do lots of other things that give me joy despite the grief, fear and pain of exile. As a Christian, amazingly enough, I can actually say, I count it all joy. My losses have added up to gains in Christ.

Some people may not understand yet how I can say something like this but if you were privy to my life, as God is, you’d understand how much Jesus can change one from within. The disciples of Jesus often thought He was going to bring a political solution to the problems of the Roman Empire. Instead Jesus has brought to us the inner personal transformation of individuals who impact the course of world events on the scale of Gandhi or Abraham Lincoln…..

My family and I like looking at bumper stickers that speak to us as we drive. One said, Life is a mystery, pray it. Another said, ‘Think for yourself’ and a third, said, “I am an army of one.” I rather like that. The Bible says that with God’s help we can ‘advance against a troop’ and ‘scale a wall’. I would never have imagined this possible but yes…I believe, with God’s help, anything is possible.

I am a Malaysian political poet and an admirer of life. My prayer is for those cultures and people who will not and cannot put their faith in God for transformation. I understand how hard it is these days to believe but believe we must if our dreams are to awaken to a new world. Laws must change, we must change. Henry David Thoreau said things do not change, people do. Ok. then BE the change you want to be but don’t be Gandhi. He was called to be who he was at a specific time in history. We are called to be who we are. The question, you and I must ask ourselves is, who are we? How can we be that change without being blind to the realities of life in a conflicted, hurting and often hopeless world?

A columnist on Islam in Malaysia despaired that there wasn’t the kind of outreach in her religion for the poor, the handicapped and the lost as there is in the Christian religion. I have been thinking about this…

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