Thoughts of a Terrorist in West Africa

Kara, Togo, 14 June 2003
A terrorist, according to the dictionary, and the FBI,
is one who spreads terror,
in the hearts of men,
In order to attain social, political,
or economic goals.
Here in northern Togo,
where all faces, hands, and feet are black,
where they speak French, and native languages,
And I do not understand much of what they say,
where men, women, and children smile,
friendly and relaxed,
flashing beautiful teeth, and eyes.
Here in northern Togo, I live for a month
with the people,
yet not with the people, as always,
Thanks to my European and North American,
ancestors, slave traders, conquistadors,
who made me rich at their expense,
Thanks to the global economic system,
ensuring that I remain rich,
at their expense.
Here the people are very poor,
houses small, crowded, one room, simple,
They know that faces, hands, and feet called white,
are rich,
yet they do not hate, or beg,
They smile, and give directions, and help me
in the market, the computer cafe,
to make a long distance telephone call,
and buy a doormat for my rented room.
I buy bread and cheese, avocados and peanuts,
at a street-side table,
or from a woman walking by,
A huge bucket of mangoes,
balanced on her head,
I hold a rich white hand out to her,
full of coins,
She picks out the proper amount,
no more.
I came to West Africa to talk about world problems,
and to learn – about world problems,
which are their problems, in a certain way,
more than my problems.
Their world problems are very simple,
easily studied, readily understood,
These friendly smiling people,
live with deprivation,
and disease, and daily death.
Clean water hard to come by,
sanitation difficult,
Children play near the ever-present
streams of putrid water.
“What happens to the poorest who
cannot afford a few coins,
for a bucket of clean water?”  I ask.
“They die,” is the reply.
“When I work to feed the poor,”
says Dom Helder Camara of Brazil,
“they call me a saint.”
“When I ask why the poor are poor,
they call me a communist,”
or a traitor, or a terrorist.
Here am I an ordinary man in a strange land,
as I turn my face to my neighbors on this Earth,
in Brazil, in Ghana, India, or Nicaragua,
Or my neighbors here in Kara,
my heart is filled with weariness, yet hope.
All I have to give,
is my conscience, solidarity, and intelligence,
Which should be enough,
since all humans have these abilities,
and can ask,
why the poor are poor.
This simple question,
so clear, so obvious,
borne of conscience, solidarity, and intelligence,
Strikes terror in the hearts of those,
who rule the world,
Terror in the hearts of those who wish,
to possess their riches,
in innocence and ignorance.
It is fitting that they call me,
a traitor, or communist,
or terrorist.
As I give a child a piece of candy,
from my bag,
or tip the girl serving soda,
a few coins,
Or share a home-cooked meal,
of corn-mush and sauce,
prepared by my new friend,
A woman who teaches me,
a little French.
For the question why the poor are poor,
is terror to the Lords of the Earth,
is terror to those who want,
To possess, in innocence,
and ignorance,
And those who dominate the rest,
in the World Bank, Washington, DC, and the Pentagon.
The only question necessary,
borne of conscience, solidarity, and intelligence,
the question they call “terrorist,”
Is why the good people of Kara,
live with deprivation,
disease – and daily death.

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