“They Ignored the Warnings”

I LIVE A FAIRLY quiet and peaceful life in a nation that is waging a war in Iraq to seemingly no avail, with almost everything backfiring to the detriment of our own mostly young National Guard units and the nationals of Iraq itself, plus billions of dollars every day going down the black hole of a fractured Capitalistcolonialist project in the now threadbare name of democracy.

I live in a nation that because of the military drain on its resources and a stubborn reluctance to face bare facts, natural disasters of “Biblical (and Qur’anic) proportions” have overwhelmed our people to the point that the “richest” and most “powerful” nation on earth has had to accept aid from foreign governments!

This may all be so, but I am fairly safe still, haven’t been “profiled,” sit at my computer editing my poetry, sending and receiving e-mails from colleagues, friends, relatives … I might feel a bit like Sayyidina Nuh (Noah), but I’m not yet in my backyard building a boat.

Am I ignoring the signs? God in the Qur’an – which the Prophet Muhammad said, peace of God be upon him, was sent as a “good news and a warning” – says: “There are signs in the self and on the horizon for those with discernment.” I was reading an essay concerning the difficulties of passing an Iraqi constitution against all odds, when the words, referring to the Americans, “they ignored the warnings,” popped out at me like a gunshot in an empty room. The words rang down through recent history, when my wife and I marched against the Iraq w ar among multitudes, both in our 60s, not thinking we might have to march again since the 60s! Everyone was then predicting almost everything that has come true about Iraq, in minute and devastating detail. But the President of the United States said quite candidlv that he doesn’t listen to what he called “focus groups” to make his decisions. He willfully and knowingly ignored the warnings. As the 46th verse in Sura Ya Sin puts it: “Not one of your Lord’s signs comes to them without their turning away from it.”

But the reverberation went further back than that …after all, that’s only a few years ago now. An historian could easily tally instances in detail of leaders and entire countries “ignoring the warnings,”” including the smoke billowing out the cone of Mount Vesuvius, whose now rigid dogs and the few people cast in solid lava scratching at the ground clearly signify “warning signs” ignored. Pliny the Elder landed on the shores of Pompeii to get a closer look, and perished in the gases. He definitely “ignored the warnings.”

Of course, it is quite easy to ignore them, not to see them, or to interpret them as of much less import than they really are. The people in New Orleans who might have had a choice to leave before drowning or being flooded, but who chose to stay (as distinguished from the ones who had no choice) might, as we all might, have decided to stick to their normal routine, inside a comfortable house, however shabby, food in the fridge, the dog or cat at our feet, a radio to play as we do every day… And all of these things could easily come between them and the clear signs on the horizon (to say nothing of intimations in the self) that would convince them that nothing apocalyptic w as going to happen.

It brings up another notion I’ve been meditating on recently, which is the blind power of ideas to trump the facts. It’s been said that Christopher Columbus, filled with Biblical visions and speculations on the New World, couldn’t see what was in front of his eyes – the land masses and geographical details – because of what was in his mind that he wanted so desperately to see, and was holding onto regardless of what his poor eyes actually saw. For this reason, among others, he failed to “discover” America, but made do with some Caribbean islands, the great India of his inner vision! Our governments in America, England and elsewhere are suffering from this blindness to an inordinate degree. Lives are lost because root causes are not being addressed but exacerbated by a willful blindness.

We see a “war on terror” but don’t see “symptoms of real grievances” that might be dealt with in another way than through fearful reactions, paranoid half-preparedness and blunderbuss violent reprisals. In Iraq we are the aggressors now, determined to establish our hold on oil fields and influence. The removal of Saddam may be a prize for Little Jack Horner in the corner, but now the whole thumb that was put in the pie is running with blood down to the elbow and is flowing more plentifully. The now Right-Wing radical sounding words, ” What a good boy am I, “ring tragically hollow.

Our “elected” leaders and our electorate have consistently and willfully “ignored the warnings. ” It was more convenient to their ”ideas” of what they would see than what might be seen with clarity on a day of stern realism. But even our beloved Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, said: “Show me things as they are.” Is it ingrained in our human nature, then, if it was our beloved’s conundrum, to see the world in a distorted mirror? And is a cleansing of that mirror and a turning to God in all His perfect single imagelessness, then to His multiple manifestations in the world of forms, the only solution to blood upon blood?

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    A piece previously published in the print issue of Islamica Magazine between 2003-2009. The following has been an effort to digitize and archive as a free service. Author citations can be found at islamicamagazine.com as we continue to work on improving the digital archives here.

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