Peace On Earth: You Can’t Get There From Here
Here in New England, you sometimes hear the disconcerting expression, “You can’t get there from here.” It’s something said jokingly to a stranger who’s lost and has stopped to ask for directions.
It doesn’t really mean you can’t get to your destination from that point. It means you have to backtrack, and take a different route.
I thought of that expression in a different context while I was illustrating a very somber essay for The Rumpus. I thought about how difficult it is to find peace when one has gotten hopelessly lost and mired in hate and violence. You can’t get there from here.
The essay was written by a Kashmiri expatriate.
Kashmir has a convoluted history. India and Pakistan have fought at least three wars over the region, the first in 1947. The two countries (along with China) control different parts of Kashmir. There are Kashmiri insurgents who favor independence. The author of the essay shares the latter’s wish for self-rule.
The author goes back and forth in time, sharing memory fragments. One involves his grandfather, a devout Muslim, whom he remembers “seated quietly on a woolen rug in
his room, surrounded by an army of cats he fed with pieces of lawas bread.”
I sometimes need photo references to fine-tune an idea. In this case, I googled “prayer rug” and “old Muslim man,” and used the following for inspiration.
Here’s a detail image. The rug “squares” were completely ad-libbed. I drew them as fast
as I could, dashing off whatever popped into my head.
The rest of the essay is unremittingly bleak, and centers on betrayal: a childhood acquaintance (a Kashmiri) joins a militia group to fight for Kashmiri independence.
The group is ultimately “co-opted by the Indian army” (this is never explained) to
fight against the insurgents.
The traitor is later killed by Indian soldiers who mistake him for an insurgent– which conjured this image about the dangers of joining the “wrong club.”
There are several references to pigeons in the essay. I used that to advantage here, since “pigeon” is also an American slang term for a dupe: someone easily taken in, deceived.
The saddest aspect of the essay is its familiarity: we may not know the details of the Kashmir conflict, but we recognize the entrenched cycle of atrocity and revenge that makes peace so hard to attain.
Near the end of the essay, the author makes an allegorical reference to daggers “cutting wounds in the red dome of the sky.”
It conjured up this image. Violence feeds on pride. It’s always an easier choice than the slow, arduous work of peace and reconciliation.
If this were a stand-alone statement on violence, I would have made the victim a dove– the traditional symbol for peace. Instead I used a pigeon, to keep the imagery consistent.
Are you familiar with the Kashmir conflict?
Have you ever been personally touched by sectarian violence– conflict based on religious or political differences?
Any thoughts on how individuals might strive to effect peace on earth?
Hope you’ll leave a comment.
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