黙祷

As the time approaches I close my eyes;
The world fills with our empty sighs;
I want to pray, but the words won’t come –
And deep inside, my heart is numb.

How can I go on living?

For all those who were there, I cried –
For those who lived, and those who died;
But the rain today refuses to fall,
And all I feel is incredibly small.

It’s not the time that has dried my tears –
Though the days have quickly turned into years;
It’s the incredible failure of humanity to move,
To learn from the past and force itself to improve.

I don’t know how much longer here I can stay,
From this silent prayer to the end of the day;
This legacy is too much of a burden to bear,
Made worse by the refusal of thousands to care.

Our history is tangible in this moment of time,
In all of its glories and its war-filled crime,
And as it cements into our future and past,
I pray for the dead and for those who still last.

A Single Star-Filled Sky

As the darkness sets in I gaze up at the sky,
Wishing I had the ability to fly –
But I don’t even know where it is that you are,
So where would I head, for how long and how far?
The light is fading, and without you I’m stuck here,
But strangely tonight this produces no fear;
Just counting the bombs like I would count passing cars,
Knowing that you and I are now seeing the same stars.

On the other side of the horizon line,
You live in a world that’s no better than mine,
Full of clumsy creatures who act without thinking,
Who commit acts of destruction without even blinking.
They say that two minuses are supposed to make a plus,
So should we let two countries war without making a fuss?
I love you all, but it’s beyond my control –
Humanity is determined to rip apart my soul.

Dozens of years have come and gone,
And here we are at the edge of dawn,
Repeating ourselves like a song on replay,
Crawling desperately toward the end of the day.
The ground cracks open beneath my feet,
You wrap your child in a bloodstained sheet,
They whisper “I’m sorry” and pretend to care,
While celebrating nothing but death and despair.

Gazing at the same sea of stars, you and I,
We wonder how quickly our time will fly,
Praying we’ll live long enough to see
A world where love will be finally set free.
But tonight I understand that it’s only a dream –
One we can’t reach, one still too extreme.
I hoped we would meet in the future some day –
But tonight I am dying, so alone we will stay.

Even

Even when the last leaf falls from the tree,
Even when the last creature drowns in the sea,
I will take you by the hand and say,
“I’m glad I am alive today.”

There’s so much that we do not know,
So much the gods have yet to show,
But if our time here must now end,
I’ll go freely, so that our world can mend.

Our era was brief, but brief is just a word;
All I see now are the smoking feathers of a bird.
It’s trying to rise, but only spreading the flames,
Killing itself with its ignorant aims.

Even at the flash of a nuclear bomb,
Even at the end of the final calm,
I will throw out both my arms and say,
“I still believe in peace today.”

To what we have done, no thing can compare,
And we continue to do it on a childish dare,
As if life and balance are toys to be played,
Then tossed in the trash once we move up a grade.

Beautiful creatures now incapable of love,
We’ve chased away our single white dove.
It returns despite abuse to fly over our heads –
But by the end of the day, we have torn it to shreds.

Even as an assault rifle lets loose its roar,
Even as the schoolchildren dive to the floor,
I will close my eyes and say,
“I will not give up hope today.”

許してください

As thick gray petals rained down from the skies,
I begged of you to close your eyes –
But we both knew we could not unsee
The flames that would soon set us free.

“I will not forget you to the end of my days;
I will not rest until we have changed our ways;
What happened to you will not happen twice,
For such tragedy is really worth no price.”

Forgive me.
Even to the dying, I can do nothing but lie.

All of the souls now wandering at night
Reach out their hands to the dying of the light;
I make as if to hurl them a safety line –
Knowing they will never again see the sun shine.

“A moment of silence, we will hold for the dead,
To honor the blood and tears that they shed;
And we will do more, I promise to you:
The laws will change, and our hearts will too.”

Forgive me.
Even to the dead, I can do nothing but lie.

Making our livings manufacturing death
Selling off ways to silence one’s breath
Forgetting the promises we once cared to make
Failing to learn from our worldwide mistake.

Pointing fingers, as if that matters now
Debating ethics, as if history will change somehow
Putting up fronts of sincerity and sadness
Spray painting over our internal madness.

Forgive me.
I should not be alive…
For so many of the living can do nothing but lie.

Zuihitsu #34

How many are left?

This is a loaded question –
Perhaps you don’t want to ask it,
Perhaps you don’t want to answer –
But there is so little time…
We must face it now.

So I ask –
How many generations are left?

How many years do we still have on this earth?

How many more children will be born –
And how many more children will die,
In school shootings and genocide,
After how many more promises and prayers,
How many more “we shall never forget”s?

How many living beings are left on the planet?
How many have we killed out of ignorance and selfishness,
And how many are left for us to kill – or save?
How many people still think we have the right?

How many tragedies are left before the end of the world?
How many more wars and fights and meaningless arguments,
How many people still must die?
And then, how many more times will killers try to justify their acts –
And how many more times will we accept?

We must ask these questions now,
While we are still here –
While we still have the capacity to change our answers…
Time is running out...

We Are All Human

Everyone is deserving of respect. And I mean literally everyone.

Don’t get me wrong — respect comes in different forms, and certainly I don’t think Hitler deserves the same level of respect as Nelson Mandela. But it’s hard, if not impossible, to quantify respect and the privileges that come with it, and that’s not what I’m trying to get at. All I’m saying is this — I believe that, at the end of the day, many of our societal problems arise from a simple failure to respect other people’s basic humanity.

When we start believing that other people don’t deserve any respect at all, we change how we treat them. We give them labels, labels like “illegal alien” — which suggests that they aren’t even human, that their very existence is a crime. We refuse to listen to them and find ways to silence their stories. We create laws and policies that take away their basic rights, making it possible to spy on them, lock them up, torture them, sometimes even kill them. Look back over human history and you’ll see we’ve done this many times over. African slavery, the Armenian Genocide, Japanese-American internment, the Patriot Act, the Holocaust, the Rwandan Genocide, the White Terror — just to name a few. While all of these were (and are) highly multifaceted, they couldn’t have happened unless one group of people decided that another group wasn’t worthy of their respect. You cannot make war, commit genocide, or oppress a population without leveraging the value of respect, without saying: she’s on the good side, so you should respect her and let her live, but she’s on the bad side, so you can go ahead and do whatever you want with her.

I believe a basic level of respect should apply to everyone — a respect that cannot be lost or taken away. If we decide to treat everyone with respect, we make a commitment to value their individual lives, to protect their basic human rights, to listen to what they have to say. And if we do that, it becomes very, very hard to hate, oppress, and murder our fellow human beings, no matter how we try to justify it.


A Short Story

It’s not always easy to respect everyone, but it’s something to work towards. In 11th grade I had a history teacher who was arguably racist, depending on your definition of the term. They said some very hateful things about non-WASP people, ridiculed many Asian countries, trampled over Native American terminology and cultures, and sugarcoated Japanese-American internment. As the days went by I became more and more critical of the little things they said, and I stopped taking notes and paying attention to their lectures. It was the first time in my life that I came close to actually hating another person – and when I started to feel that hatred, I knew it was time to put the brakes on and take a look at myself. And here’s what I realized: it’s dangerous to not have a solid, irrevocable foundation of respect in all of our relationships, because lack of basic respect breeds miscommunication, cruelty, hatred, and ultimately violence.

I could have talked to this teacher. I could have explained, I took issue with what you just said and here’s why. I could have had a respectful, open-minded dialogue, if I just went up to them and said, I want to know why you think Japanese-American internment was equatable to summer camp. Instead I sat in my chair and stewed until I felt hatred, until I felt capable of cruelty.

This story was about a simple two-person relationship. Replicate it on a grander scale, and I hope you can see how lack of basic respect can lead to systems of oppression, war, and genocide.


Do Children Deserve Respect?

At what age does someone become deserving of respect? I get that question sometimes. But if you ask me, it’s kind of a silly question. It’s not like you turn 18 and all of a sudden your life and voice matters. So my answer is this: if I say everyone is deserving of respect, I really do mean everyone, and that extends to children of all ages.

Once again, I’m talking about a very foundational level of respect, a respect for another person’s basic humanity. That six year-old throwing a tantrum in the grocery store is a fellow human being – so they’re deserving of respect, no matter how much you might dislike them right now, no matter how annoying they are. Respecting them means valuing their life, their rights, their voice, and everyone is deserving of at least that.

What about school? I always have a lot to say about our education system and how adults treat children there. Time and time again I’ve seen teachers, administrators, and staff disrespecting students, and that’s not okay. The same is often true in reverse, but in my experience, the failure of a student to show a teacher basic respect was often because they felt the teacher didn’t respect them in return. Especially in high school, a time when many students are beginning to hold jobs and external responsibilities, it’s not okay for adults to refuse to listen to them, to assume they were just lazy, to assume they just ditched class for no reason, to assume they’re self-righteous arrogant little pricks who need to be locked up and shown the meaning of discipline. When you don’t show a student of any age basic respect, you’re teaching them that humanity doesn’t automatically come with being human – instead it becomes something that you can freely give or take away. And that’s, in a word, dangerous.


The Bottom Line

Train yourself to treat everyone with respect. Value individual human lives. Listen to what people have to say, and be open-minded. Stand up for them when you see their rights being infringed upon.

This is how we fight against war, oppression, genocide, human rights violations, and simple day-to-day acts of cruelty.

Every human being matters.