Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Power of Words

Nermeen Murad’s thoughtful tribute to Mahmoud Darwish in the Jordan Times yesterday reminded me of how I first heard of him. If I remember correctly, one of his earlier poems about Palestine, probably written in 1967, was called Identity Card and it began with the words – I AM AN ARAB. I am not an Arab, but I was given an identity card along with the tens of thousands of inhabitants of Jerusalem and the West Bank soon after the Israeli occupation of those lands. The identity card labeled me and all the others as ‘less than’ and certainly ‘other than’ those who issued them. This was one of my first experiences with racism. I am not a reader of poetry and in the intervening years I forgot much, but never his name and the impact of that particular poem.

Nermeen’s tribute to him was heart felt and personal, although she wrote that she never met him. I was interested to know that Mr. Darwish wrote the fantastic speech that Dr. Abdul Shafi gave at the Madrid Peace Talks in 1991. I listened to it then applauding his words with all my being.

The idea that eloquent words will produce change in others’ thoughts and actions is a concept that authors and movie makers exploit frequently as themes for their stories. Only in their dramas, the hero exposes the TRUTH and society demands justice! If only that were so! But I will not despair. The great words of thoughtful people survive them and are added to the wealth of literature and knowledge and will continue to influence others.



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