The Same Mistakes

From beneath the earth the voices cry out to be heard, a song from the dead about life, but we cannot hear them. Maybe we choose not to.



They are silenced by time, by the roar of highways and headphones, the blaring commercial and the new war that has caught our attention. The voices from beneath the earth have nothing new for us, though their song continues. To give up would mean their death meant nothing, something they cannot risk.


Rwanda, Auschwitz, Dar Ez Zour, Dangkou Section. All around the world, the graves stacked with those who once looked up to the sky in wonder, those who once fell in love and kissed the cheeks of children, calling to us now to remember what happened and why. Calling to us now to remember what makes us human -- the spark -- and to never trade it away for the bowl of stew, the lie offered by those who want a little more power, a little more, just your money, just your children, just your entire reason for existence or else you become expendable.


The question they sing to us is this: what does every genocide have in common? That is what they wish to know because now they see the commonality, the shared characteristics that apply to all the mass dead. The expendable millions. And it’s this: the accumulation of power that is needed, the reason that is given, the rationale. The dead have more in common than we think. Because once it was said that they were the dangerous ones, and we - your rulers - can keep you safe, we can make the world better for you by vanishing them. The docile men nodded and smiled, the devils among us sharpened their blades, the cowards said what they needed to say to survive a little longer, for their names to be moved to the end of the list. And in time the ethnicity is cleansed, the nation takes a great leap forward, the defectors are purged and you cheer, until you find out that you are a defector too. The committee of union and progress neglects to tell you what progress actually means to them, how much blood is going to be required to step into the future they have envisioned.


The dead sing a warning. They sing it still, even now. I hear them.


The artists and the writers came to warn us, too. At least, some of them did. The brave ones. The clear-eyed and curious, the ones unafraid to look into the darkness. They did their part to peel back the layers of the earth and take a look themselves, to hear the song coming from the underground, the international song. Huxley, Orwell, Rand, Solzhenitsyn, they looked and wrote about the things they saw. They listened to the words of the song, they looked into the faces of the expendable millions, they looked into the faces of the madmen who classified them as such.


The ancient poets warned us long ago, too. In holy books they warned us that the kings of men would try to take the place of the king of the universe, the king of existence. We were warned in song, in history, in fable.


But today we know everything all at once without knowing anything at all. We choose to stuff our ears with noise, we choose for our ears to be stuffed with noise.


Today, another person sits before the committee to say we need the government to have a little more power, and the individual to have a little less. It’s the only way to be safe. It’s the only way to ensure fairness. And the ones who have the power in making the rules make a few more rules, for another ounce of power, and as they applaud themselves it drowns out the song we need to hear.


The song that never stops.