Last week, we released our first issue of Being Human Magazine – filled with beauty and stories about ourselves and about nature and about the world. I felt a pit in the bottom of my stomach, releasing it that day, though. When I woke up to the news that 17 children (and dozens of more adults) had just been killed in Gaza. News that ground troops would be added to the war zone. News of stories and stories describing yet another invisible people group slowly being erased.
How could we release our magazine, in light of the tragedy taking place all around us?
And then I came across a poem, written by Noor Hindi. Her words confirmed all of my guilt.
Fuck Your Lecture on Craft, My People Are Dying
by Noor Hindi
Colonizers write about flowers.
I tell you about children throwing rocks at Israeli tanks
seconds before becoming daisies.
I want to be like those poets who care about the moon.
Palestinians don’t see the moon from jail cells and prisons.
It’s so beautiful, the moon.
They’re so beautiful, the flowers.
I pick flowers for my dead father when I’m sad.
He watches Al Jazeera all day.
I wish Jessica would stop texting me Happy Ramadan.
I know I’m American because when I walk into a room
Metaphors about death are for poets who think ghosts care
When I die, I promise to haunt you forever.
One day, I’ll write about the flowers like we own them.
She’s not wrong. Writing about flowers and the moon is for the privileged. And as a privileged white writer, this really struck me. Sometimes flowers and trees and grass are all I have to offer. It might not seem like much, but maybe it’s something. Because people who grow up loving and caring for the world around them grow up loving and caring for the people of the world as well.
Emma Marris once said,
“Let children touch nature, because that which is untouched is unloved.”
We HAVE to write about flowers. We have to experience flowers.
We have to understand that their flourishing is dependent on an entire ecosystem of grass and dirt and water and sunlight and touch and love. Because when we understand that about the flowers, we will understand that about one another as well.
I worked on a project years ago, called All People are Human, which featured people from the refugee community living in Clarkston, GA. We wanted our friends to be seen as more than the label of “refugee” – to be seen as people with families and feelings and stories.
Privilege thrives off of dehumanization. As soon as we start labeling people as something other than human, we justify whatever bad may come their way (and whatever good may come our way). This past year has been filled with dehumanizing labels:
Masker/Anti-Masker (it’s almost laughable, right? But even a worldwide pandemic has allowed us to classify a person’s value)
just to name a FEW…
and now, (not a new conflict, but being highlighted with what is happening right now): Palestinian.
My sister-in-law, Sarah Aziza, a Palestinian herself, wrote the most beautiful and compelling article for The Intercept, “Can Palestinian Lives Matter?“
“All this because we are among the world’s disposable people. What kills us is not only Israeli state violence but the international community’s collective failure to imagine us as human beings. It is the same failure that has allowed so many Black bodies to be murdered in the broad daylight of viral videos, with so little systemic change.”
That “collective failure to imagine [others] as [equal] human beings”… this is truly humanity’s downfall.
It’s not surprising that the past year has magnified the problem of dehumanization. We’ve been living in isolation, interacting with others mainly through screens. But humans were designed for relationship. We were created to be interconnected. “Because that which is untouched is unloved.”
So, yes. I think we should let the children touch nature. Let the children learn to love nature. Let the children experience nature in all of its glory and strength and dependency and fragility. Let the children learn the complex relationships in nature… and in humanity. Let the children experience humanity in all of its glory and strength and dependency and fragility.
Let the children learn to love humanity.
And maybe, someday, the oppressed will not have to write about children throwing rocks at Israeli tanks seconds before becoming daisies. Instead, maybe they will write about children playing with daisies. Maybe, someday, we will all be able to write about flowers.