Monday, July 14, 2008


With Iraq continuing to head toward civil war (or at least an uneasy, violent peace) and fighting and killing over religious and ethnic differences, it's obvious that we (and I mean everyone around the world) continue to fail to learn from our recent mistakes.

Not too long ago such differences led to mass killing and destruction in Kosovo after years of oppressed peace in the former Yugoslavia. That's when the word "Ethnic Cleansing" returned to the political lexicon for the first time since the Nazis carried out their brutal and inhuman campaign against the Jews and many others during World War II.

My rage and disgust over the same kind of genocide reoccurring in Kosovo spilled out into this poem I wrote in the late 1990s.

It is very timely considering the genocide continuing to take place in Darfur and in other hot spots around the world




Ethnic cleansing.
Sounds like some insidious new detergent.

Imagine the ad campaign.

Ethnic cleansing.
Bought and sold wherever intolerance is found.

Ethnic cleansing.

This cold phrase evokes
crazy images
of people being stuffed into
washing machines,
their lives
washed away
of any individuality,
any spark.

Ethnic cleansing.

With Ajax in one hand
a machine gun in the other,
to clean the land
of anyone different from them.

But how will they cleanse
their souls
when the bullets stop
and the peace accords are signed?

They will scrub and scrub
but can't remove the blood from their hands.

This is blood that has soaked into the muddy ground,
and into our hearts and souls.

Now, those who the soldiers tried to cleanse with bullets
are trying to rub out them out
with the same indifference and rage.

So the vicious cycle
until none of us can claim to be truly cleansed
as we feebly attempt
to understand the roots of
ethnic cleansing.

One thing is clear, though.
There's not enough cleanser in the world
to clean up this mess.

George Pappas
Copyright 2008


paintswithwords said...

Deep and insightful..great true the expression of soldiers unable to cleanse the blood on their souls.

billierosie said...

We all have blood on our hands -- it's not good enough to blame our leaders for the putrifying mess -- we all walk by the homeless everyday. Those with broken dreams -- somebody's father, somebody's son, somebody's brother.

But in a way we need them there, those folk whose lives have ended up in the gutter. It's a reminder to us that we can all be such as these ragged souvenirs -- and now I ramble...

billierosie said...

...And I've said nothing about your wonderful poem -- the rhythm, the patterns you make with language."The blood soaked muddy soil." I have thought the same, when travelling through Northern France -- the horrors of the 1st World War -- can the soil ever be cleansed from such carnage? And the men who put such events into being -- they have more blood on their hands, their very souls...