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Poets for President Poets for President

by Karen Y Hamilton

We have no clue how safe we are. Who can imagine Joan Baez being bombed on?? Her words offer such a deep realization of what it feels like to actually be bombed on. Her story gives me a deep appreciation for the courage of all those in the world who deal with the very real aspect of being bombed every day single day. As I sit in the relative safety of my American home I listen to, watch, and read of past wars while living under the shadow of the present one. The young soldier in Baez’s story says, “I don’t understand what’s happening.” The statement echoes and echoes through my brain.

Because I don’t understand what’s happening either. How can we – as a country, as a people, as a human race – keep repeating the same atrocities? Have we not yet learned that war is not the answer? My father always told us, “Fight not with your fists but with your words.” I’ve never forgotten that – how powerful words can be – to destroy or to heal. This is a very idealistic and simplistic thought in a way but it is all I have right now.

I read Joan Baez’s story “Christmas in Hanoi” and am reminded that it is the words she offers the page that bring meaning to me. That she was able to write them, to sing them, to share them is a powerful thing. So I go back to wondering why so called civilized powerful men cannot solve their problems with words instead of wars. I know it is a much deeper argument with much deeper issues but I ponder it. If they would only allow poets to be kings and Presidents – perhaps then we would have peace.

May 2004

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