Wednesday, July 24, 2019

That's Morgan Freeman not Nelson Mandela: Whose Face Do You See in the Struggle for Freedom?

As I continue to see news reports with horrific images of Palestinian homes being destroyed by the arms of bulldozers reaching across the Wall in Bethlehem, and residents watching with their belongings curbside, I cannot help but think of the images that continue to linger from my time in the West Bank. And I pray we become better. And I pray we remember this is real a human struggle with real human faces and stories who are both victimized by empire and courageous change agents in the midst of oppression.
That's Morgan Freeman's Face

That’s Morgan Freeman
not Nelson Mandela
a fellow pilgrim whispered
wondering if any of us had noticed.
We walked by the dividing wall 
of Bethlehem
in sacred silence
the kind provoked
when words fall short
unable to speak to the questions
and confusion that comes when
oppression and occupation
transcend social media feeds and
cable news reports
to expose a thirty-foot
concrete intrusion
upon human co-existence.
That’s Larry David
not Bernie Sanders
another pilgrim echoed
wondering how the artist could be so
of the erroneous portraits
of movers and shakers
by Hollywood stars
upon this imperial snake
of fear and apartheid.
The quotes were rightly attributed
calling for freedom and justice
daring the viewer to join in quests
for liberation of all people
South Africa
United States
The faces
they did not belong
they were wrong
they were meant for the screen
not the protest
nor perspiring push
or movement for deliverance and fairness
reconciliation and social welfare
they were the faces recognized from the couch
theaters with stadium seating 
reclining with popcorn in one hand and
snow caps the other
they were not on the frontlines with placards or cuffs
and the point was made
through graffiti and irony
justice reduced to made-for-tv drama
human struggle to 90-minute theatrics
late-night satire
heroes and sheroes more recognized
by celebrity stand-ins and #hashtags
than the nature of their cause
collective dreams for equity and dignity
beloved community and human flourishing
near and far
here and there
that indeed is not Nelson Mandela
but those are his words
calling us to be better
to see the struggle as real
and raw
unable to be tamed
by cinema or comic sketches
and we dare not forget the faces
of those whose words worked their witness
and invited us to carry their vision forward
beyond the walls
even tearing them down
wherever they are
West Bank
Rio Grande Valley
and to recognize new faces
and voices
neighbors with whom we are called to love and link arms
whose prophetic imaginations will never be mistaken
for celebrity or used to bolster box offices
but serve as plot line to a narrative more expansive and inclusive than any other
one that ends not with credits or curtain calls or golden awards
but universal assurance
all is well and good again.