What Poets Can Teach Us About the War in Afghanistan.
To understand the predicament in which the United States finds itself today, a mere three decades after the end of the Cold War, Americans need to give up any expectations of Washington offering an answer. Rather than looking to politicians and pundits, they need to turn elsewhere for enlightenmentâ€”to poets, for example.
In her poem â€œVoices,â€ Wislawa Szymborska offers a more accurate and acute description of Americaâ€™s trajectory than anything you will hear from the likes of President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, or General David Petraeus:
You scarcely move your foot when out of nowhere spring
the Aborigines, O Marcus Aemilius.
Your heel’s mired in the very midst of Rutulians.
In Sabines, and Latins you’re sinking up to your knees.
You’re up to your waist, your neck, your nostrils
in Aequians and Volscians, O Lucius Fabius.
These small peoples are thick as flies, to the point of irritation,
satiation and nausea, O Quintus Decius.
One town, another, the hundred seventieth.
The stubbornness of Fidenates. The ill-will of the Faliscans.
The blindness of Ecetrans. The vacillation of the
The studied animosity of the Lavicanians, the Pelignians.
That’s what drives us benevolent men to harshness
beyond each new hill, o Gaius Cloelius.
If only they weren’t in our way, but they are,
the Auruncians, the Marsians, O Spurius Manlius.
The Tarquinians from here and there, the Etruscans from
The Volsinians besides. The Veientins to boot.
Beyond all reason the Aulercians. Ditto the Sapinians
beyond all human patience, O Sextus Oppius.
Small peoples have small understanding.
Stupidity surrounds us in an ever-widening circle.
Objectionable customs. Benighted laws.
Ineffectual gods, O Titus Vilius.
Mounds of Hernicians. Swarms of Marrucianians.
An insect-like multitude of Vestians, of Samnites.
The farther you go the more there are, O Servius Follius.
Deplorable are small peoples.
Their irresponsibility bears close watching
beyond each new river, O Aulus Junius.
I feel threatened by every new horizon.
That’s how I see the problem, O Hostius Melius.
To that I, Hostius Melius, reply to you,
O Appius Pappius: Forward. Somewhere out there the world
must have an end.
If we fail to reach that end point in the Hindu Kush or Baluchistan, perhaps weâ€™ll find it in Yemen. Or Iran. Or could it lie somewhere on the Horn of Africa? The opportunities appear endless. Onward! Somewhere out there surely the world must have an end.
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