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Guernica, now and then

A poem by Trevor Harrison

Middle EastWar ZonesHuman Rights

“Guernica” is a large 1937 oil painting by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso. It is one of his best-known works, regarded by many art critics as the most powerful anti-war painting in history. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

I stand before Guernica, the
familiar canvas of dismembered
bodies, dead babies and
soldiers; a weeping mother, a
shrieking horse; once remembered
for its chronicle of carnage,
warnings of mass murder
to come, enough to move
the dial from tragedy
to statistic, now forgotten.
Silence has settled upon
the world, snuffed out by
apologists for the
sacred State’s need for
human sacrifice.

In Madrid and Cordoba
jasmine petals loose
their fragrance; the
oranges fall to
the ground.

In Gaza and Israel
combatants loose
their bombs and
bullets; the bodies
fall, broken petals.

Peace protests and beauty bloom
in the Spanish squares. I ask:
By what right
do I enjoy this now?
By what right
do I not?

The burden of
living is
to live
while others are
dying.

Trevor Harrison is a Professor of Sociology at the University of Lethbridge. He was formerly Director of Parkland Institute (2011-2021), an Alberta-wide research organization, of which he was also a founding member. He is best known for his studies in political sociology, political economy, and public policy. He is the author, co-author, or co-editor of nine books, numerous journal articles, chapters, and reports, and a frequent contributor to public media, including radio and television.

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