Tag Archive | Conflict

As Lands Lie Bleeding 

On Remembrance Day I write a poem which is based on the concerns of a 94 year old veteran who served in the Second World War. This former soldier believes that we are now standing at the brink of a third world war and potential global catastrophe due to what he calls the greed and self interest of a group of sociopathetic leaders who have no compassion or empathy for those they lead or for the greater human race as they seek only power no matter the cost to the rest of us. I hope I have done justice to the words of Harry Leslie Smith in this poem which I’ve titled As Lands Lie Bleeding. I hope you enjoy the read. 

As Lands Lie Bleeding 

I can’t stand by and watch the world explode

these are not my words 

but those of a former soldier

in the winter of his years

who genuinely fears for our human race 

this is a man who has faced unspeakable horrors

the likes of which we hoped we would never see again 

like hearing whilst stationed in Germany 

that atomatic bombs had been dropped on japanese cities

and turned the souls of inhabitants 

in to what he describes as chalk marked stenciled drawings on pavements 

in the fragile peace of a cold war world

we had believed those days were behind us 

yet now we stand at a crossroads

not seen since the 1930’s and rise of Nazi Germany

as once more the conservative right 

squares  up for a fight without realising the consequences 

these people have a glorified sense of self 

but no sense of other nor compassion for their plight 

without a moral compass they play games with our lives 

in contrast to those who rebuilt a shattered continent 

at the end of the last global conflict 

who in this country brought us

The NHS and welfare state 

but now the politics of fear and hate are on the rise again 

as the disadvantaged look for scapegoats

to blame for their decline 

shortage of housing and rising crime statistics

blame it on the forigners not the British 

say those who preach exclusion 

as if by doing so we magically solve all problems 

I support an independent Scotland 

but I recognise that independence alone would not solve our problems overnight 

however in the dreamworld of the British Conservative right

they are prepared to make no such admissions about their United Kingdom

and by perpuating their delusions 

they are sacrificing the ambitions of their children 

to live in a better world than this 

an old soldier is warning us 

with autocratic governments in positions of power 

the world stands at the darkest hour 

since the days of Hitler and the reich 

life he says cannot go on like this 

something has to give.

we are standing on the brink of war 

he urges us to take a step back 

not for the Saltaire, stars and stripes, or union flag 

but for humanity 

he worries about the sanity of sociopathetic leaders 

with no respect  for others 

as they lust for power at all costs

and watch lands lie bleeding 

as they play war games by remote control 

 © Gayle Smith 2017 

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A Triumph For Humanity In Spite Of The Greatest Of Obstacles As A Poet Asks The Questions On The Topics That Won’t Go Away (A Review Of The Other Side Of The Flood By David Lee Morgan) 

As regular readers will no doubt be aware due to my lack of posts on the topic, my Edinburgh fringe was a wee bit late in kicking off this year. This was due to the after effects of a leg injury taking longer than expected to sod off and so it wasn’t until the Tuesday of week three that  I finally got off and running but when I did I hit it with a vengeance As I got to the Banshee which is and ever shall be my Edinburgh local I settled in , having my first of many Diet Coke’s before going to see my  first show of Edinburgh 2017. 

The show of choice was The Other Side Of The Flood by David Lee Morgan (pictured below) This play in six voices set in the year 2035 was a beautifully constructed piece of theatre in which Morgan an accomplished poet , and musician narrates the story of a world on the brink of a global socialist revolution. Fighting has broken all out all over the world and all communication has stopped. To add to this the American government has used nuclear weapons on it’s own people most noticeably the Los Angeles Socialist Revolutionary Commune which has been decimated by this attack. 

Picture David Lee Morgan rocks the Banshee Banqueting Hall 

During an action packed 50 minutes Morgan explores the themes of socialism, internationalism, love,  cross cultural boundaries, death, hopes, fears, and mental health through Jesse a young Mexican-American , and his lover Sultana who comes from a traditional Pakistani Muslim background.

 As our story begins the world is on the eve of the revolution but this development is not welcomed by everyone and is being  fiercely opposed by those forces who have most to lose. The Los Angeles commune has been attacked and many of the revolutionaries killed whilst Jesse lies on a life support machine. There is only one way to save humanity from an impending Armageddon and that is to place the brain of a fighter for peace in to the computer drone which could change everything and Jesse is the perfect candidate for the task. Through still alive, he has no chance of making what we would call a full recovery and is living out his last days determined to do what he can for the cause he believes in with every fibre of his being

During this time a void is needing to be filled as people lose faith in organised religions and the old order is on the verge of collapse. This depending on your viewpoint can be seen as crisis or opportunity and the global socialist movement view it as an opportunity to create a new belief system to benefit humanity. The old order however will not go quietly in the night and resistance to change will be sharply defended.

On the eve of what would surely be the war to end them all, a young couple think of the coming days as the great battle for a better world. Though from very different backgrounds Mexican-American and Pakistani Asian there is no doubting the strength of their beliefs or indeed their love 

With her passion running as deep as her principles Sultana calls her mother to tell her of her plans to stay in America with Jesse as something wonderful was going to happen but the fight will begin soon. Her mother reminds her that is there is  also fighting in her homeland and pleads with her to return home. Sultana however is headstrong and in love and has no intention of leaving Jesse behind for her mother or anyone else. This causes tension between Sultana and her mother though the familial bonds of love and loyalty remain strong across both cultures and generations. 

At this point Sultana reminds her mother that though she lives in the west she still attends mosque and prays five tines a day and that Jesse understands the importance of her faith. Her mother however reminds her that she cannot  marry outside the faith. Frustrated by rules and regulations Sultana reminds her mother that it was fine for her brother to marry a non Muslim and asks why her it’s different for girls Meanwhile Jesse’s condition is deteriorating as we hear flashbacks from his past conflicts and computerised voices telling young men to man up whilst other voices relate the tragic tale  of a soldier having a break down and this forces upon on us the grim realisation that for some former combatants the war never ends and the permanent potential threat of post traumatic stress disorder stalks them like shadows in the middle of the darkest time of night. 

 Tackling these issues with the sensitivity they deserve David Lee Morgan asks much needed questions about both conflict and the role of masculinity within it. These are questions which need asking and cannot be ducked. These are questions which it a brave writer and performer to ask. Luckily David Lee Morgan is exactly that type of  artist. He is an outstanding poet and musician who relishes challenging convention and saying the kind of topics I talk about are real and will not go away. He enjoys holding authority to account not by shouting  or stamping his feet but opening your eyes to new possibilities such as the potential for a real global socialism to take root and as he showed with the ending of this play where he presents us with two roads and leaves the decision to us as to which will be the destination of our choice.

In this show as in all of Morgan’s work he shows the  human spirit is capable of overcoming even the greatest of the obstacles as it triumphs in spite of itself and the barriers it so often puts in place to hinder the path to progress . That to me is the true mark of an artist of genuine substance and David Lee Morgan  is such an artist.

Till next time. 

Gayle X

A Little Town Laments (The Story Of Christmas In Bethlehem) 

In my  23rd  Blogmas post  I honour a promise to the Scottish Palestinian Society which I made on a trip to Edinburgh last month when supporters held an information session in the chill of a November afternoon as on en  route to the Scottish Poetry Library for an all day  Women’s poetry symposium.  

As I chatted to one of the volunteers who was staffing the stall he gave me a Christmas card and asked me to put it up alongside the others I would get.  Needless to say I promised I would and not only that I promised I would I write a poem on the information it gave me and this is that poem I’ve given it the title A Little Town Laments I hope you find it an enjoyable and thought provoking read. 

A Little Town Laments 

It was in Bethlehem a child was born in stable 

laid in a manger to rest on hay

fast forward to the present 

ask what would Jesus say 

about the fact there are 22 illegal settlements 

where people stay in fear of their lives 

there, are barriers to movement 

no room for inclusion or improvement 

for those branded terrorists

ordinary Palestinian citizens

 are hemmed in by fortresses and walls 

bombs could drop on them 

at any time of day or night 

Isreali air strikes a permanent reninder

of the occupation of their lands 

Christian and Muslim both understand

 they cannot worship openly 

practising their faith is almost impossible 

restricted as they are 

by a rule which is in many ways similar to Herod’s 

at the time of Christ’s arrival 

when survival was the name of the game 

It’s sad to think the story’s still the same 

as a little town laments the causalities of hate 

In another bleak mid winter 

@ Gayle Smith 2016 

Happiness Grief And Sunshine On Leith (The Story Of A Fairytale As Hibs End A 114 Year Wait To Win The Scottish Cup)

Hey Readers At around 4.50 PM on Saturday in the sunny south side of Glasgow Hibernian ended a 114 wait and finally claimed the Scottish Cup that generations of fans had only dared to dream of when they finally took the old trophy back to Leith for the first time since 1902 as they beat Rangers 3-2 in what was one of the most entertaining finals in recent years.

To put this final in context the last time Hibs won Scottish Football’s showcase event, Britain had an empire which reached all four corners of the globe, and the nation was still in shock at the death Queen Victoria the previous year and our armed forces were involved in a conflict overseas in this case the Boar War in which they had no chance whatsoever of success. Now the empire may be dead and gone but the Saxe Coburg Gothe aka Windsor family dynasty still reign over us and if you substitute South Africa for Afghanistan and Iraq we are still as clueless as we’ve always been in the field of international relations. So the more things change the more they stay the same

It was Celtic who were defeated 1-0 as the world adjusted to the early 20th century but 114 years Hibs had the chance to complete their personal old firm double as
it was Rangers who provided the opposition to give Scotland it’s first ever Scottish Cup Final which would be contested by two teams from outside our country’s top division. This in itself was a tremendous achievement for both clubs whom I would describe as top tier teams on loan to the lower leagues.

As for the game itself it was a cracking spectacle filled with fast paced football from kick off to final whistle and it was Hibs who seized the early initiative as Anthony Stokes on loan from Celtic giving them the lead after only 3 minutes as he scored from a tight angle to put the underdogs in front. The perfect start it may have been but the question in hearts and minds of every Leither was can I dare to dream this might be our day ? When Kenny Miller a born and bred Hibs fan equalised for Rangers the answer appeared to be no but determined to win
and end a run of 10 consecutive losing finals Hibs continued to gave as good as they got and could consider themselves unlucky not to be in the lead but at half time 1-1 scoreline set us up for a cracking second half. 

As the second half started the game ebbed and flowed with both sides enjoying periods of dominance and but when Andy Halliday put Rangers 2-1 up with a 25 yard screamer in the 63rd minute Hibs fans must have thought oh my God here we go again it’s going to be another glorious or not so glorious failure
and for the next 15 minutes it certainly looked like it was going to be Rangers day.

Never ones to be anything less than triumphalist the Rangers  fans started gave voice to there usual obnoxious sectarian chants and in doing so gave the perfect demonstration of the ugly side of nationalism. I refer of course the racist and colonial British nationalism so beloved by our sycophantic unionist press, media, and political establishment. Suddenly however realising they had to go for broke Hibs started to lay siege to the Rangers goal and within Anthony Stokes , Dylan McGeoch , and Liam Henderson and Jason Cummings all influential it was only a matter of time before they silenced the Ibrox choir by scoring a deserved equaliser Stokes heading home from a corner kick with Foderingham in the Rangers goal powerless to stop his effort.

As the commentary team talked of extra time and even the possibility of penalties to decide the outcome of this game both teams went in search of a winner and though the momentum was clearly with Hibs, Rangers were still a serious threat on the counter attack.

As the game entered injury time and extra time looking a distinct possibility the game took one final turn and with Hibs top scorer and talisman Jason Cummings still to score despite having a brilliant track record in this particular fixture Hibs gained a corner and it was from that an unlikely hero emerged as David Gray scored what would prove to be a dramatic winner and bring Hibernian’s 114 year wait for Scottish cup glory to an end.

In the anxious wait for the final whistle Hibs fans and indeed every neutral in the country were praying that time would pass quickly and the long wait would be over  Indeed my fellow blogger BurdzEyeView reminded the players not to fall over in the last few seconds whilst I and every other Celtic or neutral fan in Scotland and beyond  said a silent prayer  for Hibs to hold their nerve. Eventually it came and Hibs had won the Scottish Cup for the first time in more than a century.

Amongst the scenes of joy however there was unfortunately trouble as some Hibs fans made their way on to the pitch and conducted themselves in a way unbecoming of football fans  by attacking a Rangers player who formerly wore the colours of their arch rivals Hearts. This I believe was not the only incident as there were other Rangers players who were also attacked and according to my sources a man in a Rangers blazer aimed a kick in the direction of a Hibs fan and a number of Rangers fans ran in the direction of the Hibernian supporters launching completely unprovoked attacks on the celebrating fans. This bitter aftertaste carried on after the game with sections of the Hibs fans running riot on reaching Edinburgh and hordes of Rangers fans rampaging through Glasgow city centre with intent on causing mayhem to anyone who crossed their path.

To me these  unsavoury incidents shames those involved but let’s be clear about this it  shames a mindless minority of supporters of both clubs but only those those involved as the vast majority of both Hibs and  Rangers supporters behaved impeccably. I do however have to say that the vile, vicious, and vindictive attempt by the Rangers board to get Hibs banned from Europe and their hysterical attacks on First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is the kind of behaviour I would expect from such a petty small minded club whose support have a rather unpleasant history when it comes to accepting defeat with dignity. Now some in the chattering classes may think I am being unkind with regards to this matter but it has to be said that given Rangers fans previous form for undesirable behaviour I found their club’s statement that their supporters had shown commendable restraint  to be both insulting and laughable.

It is in my opinion, this kind of inflammatory language which fan the flames of division and our so-called national broadcasting corporation did nothing to dampen these flames as they seemed only too happy to make merry with the Billy Boys and other sectarian tunes but ended their air time by cutting short Sunshine On Leith  a beautiful song with no sectarian lyrics whatsoever. Even in football the BBC just can’t disguise its unionist leanings. Believe me when I say this will do precisely nothing to win back the hearts and viewing figures of those those lost during the referendum who believed the BBC to be guilty of pro union bias. 

So it passes in to History a Scottish Cup Final which unfortunately be remembered more at least by the press and establishment for the post match rammy than for the best and most entertaining showcase the Scottish game has seen in years
So let us not forget that the amidst the shenanigans there was a football match and my friend Audrey Marshall a Hibs fan for 30 years was delighted at the outcome on a day saw which showed fairytales can come true and was a potent mixture of Happiness, Grief , and Sunshine On Leith.

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X

The Moment I Wake Up I Say A Little Prayer For Humanity

Hey Readers The moment I wake up, before I put on my make up, I say a little prayer for you. These are the opening lines to one of my favourite songs Dione Warwick’s Say A Little Prayer

Now I appreciate this may be a slightly unconventional way to start a blog post, but on this occasion it is at least to me, the only appropriate response to the tragic and indeed horrific events which stunned the world this morning  when the Belgium capital  of Brussels was devastated by bombings thought to have been carried out by the terror group Islamic State.

Like everyone else I was shocked when I heard the news of these attacks in which 31 people have been confirmed dead so far. I say this as with not everyone having been accounted for plus the number of injuries already reported it is likely that the death toll will rise still further.

This was not the start to the morning I or anyone had been expecting. I think most of us had thought we would rise refreshed from our sleep have our breakfast and get on with our daily routine and I am sure these were also the thoughts of those murdered in this disgraceful attack by criminal minded thugs who give not a thought for human life.

As you can see I referred to these cowardly attackers as criminal thugs rather than terrorists and I did this for a very good reason. My reason  is simple by replacing the terrorist with criminal downgrades them to what they really are which in my opinion is no more than common criminals. By taking this step we immediately lessen any sense of fear they may have been trying to create by informing them your actions are futile you will not win.

Also by referring to them in this way we both as individuals and as national /international communities are valuing ordinary Muslims by saying we refuse to demonise  your faith because of the actions of idiots. This is important to me not only because I have Muslim friends but also because I believe and have always believed that all human life is of equal value and that the some are more equal than others myth should be kept for those gullible fools who call what is printed in the Daily Record or even worse the Daily Mail quality journalism. 

You see it’s my belief that by demonising Muslims and the faith they belief in you are feeding groups like Islamic State by giving them the very publicity they need in order to gain new recruits.  The radicalisation of Muslim youth does not happen by accident it happens due to fear and ignorance whipped up by the ruling political establishment against those it views as other.

This attitude which breeds a climate of suspicion is by no means a new one. I remember the British establishment using against Irish people at the height of the Ulster civil war and and my parents and gran would tell me of American McCarthy witch hunts of the 1950’s where anyone with remotely left wing views was branded a communist and therefore Un-American.

These lessons from history illustrate, that no matter how horrific this latest outrage and the recent attacks on Paris were why I think we need to take a cautious but pragmatic approach to tackling any issues we may have
to potential terror threats. It is in my opinion, unacceptable to go as the British press surely will hunting for scapegoats in the ashes of tragedy, we  simply cannot afford not to show compassion at this time of sadness.

Yes it is only right that we offer practical and emotional support to the people of Belgium in their country’s hour of darkness.  However it is important that we remember our Scottish and British Muslim friends and keep them in our hearts at a time when the more xenophobic amongst our number will be looking for every excuse they can find to label them as a danger to our nation and our way of life. Make no mistake it may be regrettable but I think it’s true to say that asylum seekers and economic migrants will be in for a tough few days in what passes for the press in this country especially if they are Muslim. This kind of behaviour is the child of an imperial British nationalist mindset and has no place in the  21st Century Scotland I and others are seeking to build, nor does it have any place in the fairer Britain supported by some of my friends.

You see on occasions like this it really doesn’t matter if like myself you see your primary identity as Scottish or like my good friend Sean McBride you identify with a more British tradition, what matters in situations like this is that we remember to treat others the way we wish to be treated and that means respecting and valuing other people and their cultures and beliefs. So by all means pray for Belgium but remember as you do so to pray for others as by taking this simple act of faith you will shine a light for humanity and showing those who committed this sickening atrocity that unlike them god doesn’t do selective tolerance when it comes to his love nor does he accept those who use as a justification for murder.
So I will end this post as I started it except this time I will paraphrase the words of the song by Dione Warwick

The moment I wake up
before I put on my make up
I say a little prayer for you.

Now you have to believe me readers I do say a prayer for you but I don’t stop with you or limit my prayers to my friends  on Facebook, Twitter, or otherwise. I make sure I include everyone in my prayers as by doing it I remember to say a prayer for humanity and the kinder fairer world I have always aspired to live in.

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X

Belonging

Hey everyone. This poem on identity shows how different people or groups can view the same space in very contrasting ways. Examples of this include Ulster, Palestine, or even Scotland. One only needs to think back to last year’s independence referendum to see two very contrasting views of the political geography, history, and future of both Scotland and Britain. Indeed even within both sides of the debate there were those on each who had more in common with some opponents than they did with those on the same campaign team. To me this reflects the difficulties identity politics can provide. As a geography and politics honours graduate I think the poem illustrates the importance of geography and class the influence they can and do have over the politics of a nation and various areas within it. Written in 2009 I’ve titled the poem Belonging, I hope you enjoy the read.

Belonging

One world
many communities
one landscape
many interpretations
contested geographies
traditions histories
contrasts and conflicts
in the family of nations

some are denied
their right to choices
others impose
their colonial view
each will claim theirs
is the only way forward
patriot soldier
or loyal and true

In the beginning
the rich and powerful
marked out their territories
the poor had no claim
they made the badges
of cultural identity
they were the ones
who made rules for the game

one dream
many illusions
each of us values
our own sense of place
we all weave a tapestry
diverse and different
as we search for belonging
in this human race

@ Gayle Smith 2009

The Quilt

Hey everyone. A poem in support of our national independence. The theme is on how our relationship with our neighbours in the remaining United Kingdom which has become badly fragmented in recent history will improve after a yes vote to restore our national sovereignty. I have called it The Quilt I hope you enjoy it and find it a thought provoking read.

The Quilt

My land is like a well worn quilt
crafted with care
It kept us warm in the harshest of winters
a comfort blanket some were proud
to be wrapped safe under its strength
but nothing lasts forever
It is now becoming frayed
stitches once woven in to the fabric
are now threadbare
years of ware having taken their toll
the centre now as damaged as its eastern edges
or southern border
endless fights for space
left some with more than their fair share of the cover
whilst others struggled to hold on to what they could
the pattern has now become faded
the colours not what they were
maybe its time to replace it
with something bolder for a different generation
by carefully removing the blood red stain
from our traditional blue and white
creating a blanket which covers us all
in comfort hope and peace

@ Gayle Smith 2011