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Wednesday, March 17, 2010


by Rasma Haidri

I can see them now
my children's grandchildren's children
their heads bowed over history books
(or screens or holograms or whatever
the state-of-the-art futurorama schoolroom will offer)
scoffing at what they read:
that a cartoon drawing started it all
first in a Danish newspaper
then copycatted in a Norwegian one
then again in a Swedish one
(nah nah boo boo
we'll draw Mohammed
as a pig or a dog or a bomb if we want to
freedom of speech, of the press
and you can't do us do-do)

They will shake their heads at us
the way we shook ours at our own grandparents
who did nothing to stop Hitler

Because when the offences grew
and men raged full fury in the streets
and curbed their cabs in protest
and swaddled their young in tripwire
and sent their priests to demand apology
the Swedish paper that printed the drawing
did not say Sorry
not even Sorry you can't take a joke
or Sorry you overreacted                      

No, no, no my great great great great grandchildren
it is true what your books say came next:
that in week 10 of 2010
ALL the newspapers of Sweden printed the drawings

They called it solidarity
the way the weak join the bully on the playground
to get in on being mean while the mean is getting good

America had already taken Iraq
and Afghanistan
and Pakistan
and even though Israel had not yet taken Iran
we were fighting each other in the streets
and fuelling the fire in our schools
with hijabs and skullcaps
and crucifixes on chains

You may well shake your heads over what you read
that we did nothing
as fear grew and festered all around
that it started with a cartoon
and the rest was history

Rasma Haidri is an American writer of South Asian and Norwegian descent who grew up in Tennessee, spent childhood summers in Manhattan, studied in Wisconsin and lived in France and Hawaii before settling down on the arctic coast of Norway where she currently lives with her daughter and domestic partner. Her poetry and essays have appeared in many literary journals including Prairie Schooner, Nimrod, Kalliope, Fine Madness, Runes and Third Genre. In addition, her writing has been widely anthologized in collections from publishing houses such as Seal Press, Bayeux Arts, Pudding House, Marion Street Press, Bluechrome, Grayson Books, and Chicago Review Press. She co-authored the textbook International Focus (Gyldendal, 2007) for the Norwegian National Curriculum upper secondary course in international and cross-cultural English. Her most recent work appears in Not a Muse (Haven Books, 2009), Eating Her Wedding Dress (Ragged Sky Press, 2009) and Lavanderia (City Works Press, 2009). Among recognitions for her writing are the Southern Women Writers Association emerging writer award in creative non-fiction, the Wisconsin Academy of Arts, Letters & Science poetry award, finalist in the Elinore Benedict Prize in Poetry and the Barry Hannah prize for fiction, and a fiction residency scholarship at Vermont Studio Center.