Sunday, September 11, 2016

One of the interesting things about the state of affairs in the world, is how the vestiges of colonialism and imperialism continue to impact international events.

We see it in the illogical demarcation lines in the Middle East, the wreckage in much of Africa, the mixed messages in the United States towards Mexico, Cuba and Puerto Rico, and the many scars left by Spain throughout Central and South America.

The British Empire was probably the most successful in gradually evolving from an empire into a Commonwealth of Nations. But they, too, had many failures as evidenced by their impacts in the Arab world, Kenya, South Africa, Pakistan, India and Ireland. And even in places where they had a somewhat successful presence, they had much for which to apologize.

I traveled a great deal in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s, and had a chance to see, first hand, the transition of many of these places from colonies to nations. It was a bittersweet period. The world was changing faster than our ability to adapt.

On one of those early trips, I wrote a variety of poems about the places we visited. They were almost all post-colonial parts of the Middles East and Africa. I saw the beauty of the Seychelles, the poverty of the Sudan and Eritrea/Ethiopia, the confusion of post Mau-Mau Kenya, the barren emptiness of al-Masira, Oman, the developing storm in Aden, and the magnificence of the Suez Canal.

It was an interesting testament to the long term ramifications of what we do as nations and as citizens of the world. It was once said that “the sun never sets on the British Empire” and it was true. But the sun eventually sets on all of us. We are currently creating more issues for our children to resolve: more issues that actually had their origins in this same era of empire-building. Great anger and many actions remain to be resolved. We need to ask ourselves if what we are doing is rebuilding a better world or creating future nightmares. We will all be judged by what we leave behind for future historians, and even poets,that  to analyze.

Since much of what I have written today involves the Middle East, I will leave you with a poem Entering the Gulf (Daydreams, Snap Screen Press, 2004) I wrote at the time, and which involves a great deal of symbolism. I do believe, however, that my comments from 1966 have stood the test of time.

Glenn K. Currie

Entering the Gulf

The ocean’s surface boiled,
Alive with red sea snakes,
Wildly striking out at
The churning of our wake.

The foam grew thick with blood,
Welling up from below,
Hell’s gates broken open,
Releasing venom’s flow.

These serpents seemed to guard
The entrance to this sea,
Warning those who pass here,
“This blood will flow from thee”.

Suddenly they were gone,
The Persian Gulf lay dead,
Silence like a gunshot,
So quick the vision shed.

The quiet like a veil,
Drawn o’er the Earth and sky,
An eerie, empty mask,
Concealing angry eyes.

The land then came in view,
It’s rage burning the air,
Desert sands spewing flames,
Black blood flowing everywhere.

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