Another Wendell Berry. This one is from 2005 at the height of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
They gather like an ancestry
in the centuries behind us:
the killed by violence, the dead
in war, the "acceptable losses" --
killed by custom in self defense,
by way of correction, in revenge,
for the love of God, for the glory
of the world, for peace; killed
for pride, lust, envy, anger,
covetousness, gluttony, sloth,
and fun. the strewn carcasses
cease to feed even the flies,
the stench passes from them,
the earth folds in the bones
like salt in batter.
And we have learned
nothing. "Love your enemies,
bless them that curse you,
do good to them that hate you" --
It goes on regardless, reasonably:
the always uncompleted
symmetry of just reprisal,
the angry word, the boast
of superior righteousness,
hate in Christ's name.
scorn for the dead, lies
for the honor of the nation,
centuries bloodied and dismembered
for ideas, for ideals,
for the love of God!
When I read this one it hit me as too strong. Then the torture report was released and I remembered an article in Newsweek several years ago that profiled an attorney that the administration had finally located who would sign off on the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques." Didn't say how many others they talked to. Then I read more comments on the Ferguson and New York stories. Then there was another school shooting. This one in Portland. Then I read Benjamin Corey's breakdown of the stories in his blog that drew the most hate mail. Especially the one at the top of the list. And suddenly this poem wasn't strong enough.