Wednesday, December 19, 2018

One Day in Kenya

It was December 21st, 2015. Just about two weeks earlier, candidate Donald Trump had announced that under his presidency there would be a Muslim ban.

Meanwhile in Kenya, a bus was making its way from Nairobi to the Kenya-Somalia border region. As usual, the bus was full of people from the region, coming from a mix of religious backgrounds including Christian and Muslim.

Around this week the year before, in an almost identical situation, armed men forced the bus to stop and the passengers to disembark, at which point Muslims and Christians were separated from each other, and passengers identified as Christians were massacred.

And on the 21st of December in 2015, the armed men once again forced the bus to stop, and ordered all the passengers to get off. As they were getting off, fearing imminent death, two people made a run for it and were gunned down by the armed men as they did so. Everyone else filed off the bus and lined up in front of it. But as they were doing this, Muslim women were quietly passing headscarves to the Christian women. When everyone was off the bus, they collectively refused to be separated into groups of Muslim and Christian.

They had no idea what the result of this act of human solidarity would be. But all over the world, throughout human history, there are innumerable examples of people risking their lives or livelihoods to show solidarity with others. December 21st, 2015 on the Kenya-Somalia border was one shining example of this phenomenon.

In the present period, with all the various politicians in so many countries who are trying to use fear of the other in order for them to gain more power, it's vital to remember that the human story, past and present, is full of anecdotes like this one. And if we as a species are not able to heed the lessons therein, then there is no hope for our species. But if we can be like these Kenyan bus riders, if we all suddenly, collectively decided to live or die by the old IWW catch phrase, “an injury to one is an injury to all,” then hope would be something to be found in abundance.

One Day in Kenya

It's a long way from Nairobi, travel across the country
To an arid northern little border town
If you leave early in the day you'll still be on your way
Long after the sun is going down
It began as just a ride to the other side
But then was interrupted by the sound
Of the shattering of glass as the driver tried to pass
The men with guns there on the dusty desert ground

There were two already dead, another shot as she fled
No question here whose lives were now at stake
When all is said and done it is instances like this one
When every move is one that just might make or break
All passengers get out, men with guns began to shout
You Christians now get up against the wall
But then everyone stayed still, saying now do as you will
You may leave, or you may kill us all

It wasn't far away, just over a year ago today
When people were massacred exactly in this manner
The pattern it was clear, all the Muslims here
Would be safe if they just stood beside this banner
Headscarves passed from hand to hand among this human band
Live together or together fall
And then nobody moved, showing each of them approved
Of saying you may leave, or you may kill us all

It wasn't set in stone – there's no way they could have known
That this time this act of solidarity
Would see the gunmen leave, goals left unachieved
On the border there in Mandera County
But sometimes you take a chance, then at a second glance
You see you've changed the world with the passing of a shawl
There are those who will remember those who on one day in December
Said you may leave, or you may kill us all

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