Liberation Tales: Four Explorations of Freedom
An End to Exile - Babylon, 537 BC
The stars fought from heaven; in their courses they battled, and there was war in heaven. And the portent proved true, a sign of our Lord, and Babylon the Mighty fell. Like a vast tower, great was its fall, and all the peoples who had been brought into captivity were granted their freedom, scattered out, a multitude of tongues. Cyrus the Persian, the Great King, gave us our liberation, and at last we could return. The exile was over.
At last our trek was over, and we beheld again Jerusalem, the golden city, and it was in ruins. The Temple was torn down, the houses shells, blackened and burnt, and the walls of the city broken asunder. As far as Ein Gedi to the east, Arad in the south, and Lachish in the west, there was destruction, and those who had been left managed barely to subsist.
But among the ruins, there is hope. We will build again, and restore the sanctuaries, and the fires of holiness will again burn brightly. And we will celebrate this day of liberation, and tell tales, even to the last generation of our peoples.
An Occupiers Tale, 410 A.D.
Our grand enterprise began so well, so promising. We would have established an Empire upon whom the sun would never set. But, alas, it was not to be. And yet all seemed so well.
The inhabitants of these Islands had, with little effort, been subjugated, and we had trained up administrators from within their ranks. At first there had been a measure of resistance, but they soon saw the wisdom of compliance with our demands. They passed our laws as their laws, and on our behalf, they could be as zealous as any soldier in the pursuit of insurrection.
Of course, they had not to deal with the persistent menace of those troubles tribes from Judea. There, I think, we had already shown our mettle, and crushed them underfoot, in mass exterminations of all the troublemakers, which once came to almost all the inhabitants of a city.
But I am sure those we placed in positions of power would learn to carry out our orders, however much they would at first feel distress of doing so. Our empire is built on power, and we know how the lust of power, and the fear of its loss, can make most of those we have conquered conform to our ways, our laws, and our justice. They will convince themselves of the greater good, as they always do.
And we would have brought peace to the world, had not our supply lines been cut by the incursions in Europe, forcing us upon our own resources, and providing opportunities for those discontented with our order.
So we have now to leave these primitives to their lot, and they will know soon enough the loss of our departure, as our legion leaves Britannica, at last, to return to Rome.
The Day Before Our Liberation - Jersey, 1945
The prison gates were flung open, and we were free, free at last. What had been a crime, anything done against the enemy, from listening to the wireless to acts of sabotage was now void. And we were set free, in anticipation of the Island being set free on the next day.
And I looked at the police officer as I left; the same who had barely three weeks earlier discovered a wireless set, and arrested me for non-compliance with the German laws, and wondered at how he must be feeling, and whether he would regret doing his duty, as he saw it, for the greater good.
Perhaps there will be a time for recriminations, perhaps one day the past wounds can be healed, and there will be time for truth and reconciliation, a time for facing the truth, and a time for forgiveness. But now it is enough that it is a day to rejoice, and I walked out. I can see the blue sky one more, and hear in the distance the crash of the waves upon the coast, the cry of the gulls as they soar in perfect freedom on warm currents of air.
Tomorrow, we are told, our occupation will be at an end, and we will be able to rejoice. That is no false promise, for we will be able to cheer the troops as they arrive, and we will see an end to five long years. And we will mourn those who died here of disease and starvation, or who were taken from the Island, never to return. And we shall celebrate the return of our ancient rights and liberties; for this is the heart of our liberation.
An African Village, 2009
Food is very scarce again, and we starve ourselves lest the children go hungry. Often the crops fail, and famine casts its shadow across the land, a thin and gaunt spectre of death, and we suffer hunger pangs; people are often thin and emaciated through lack of sufficient food. Give us today our daily bread, we pray, and bread is often a luxury, course-grained and rough in texture though it is.
While we are able, we take rainwater, and boil it, but in drought, we must subsist on brackish, unpleasant tasting water, and we are often ill; dysentery is rife. Where there is illness, we make the dangerous trek some span of 30 miles or more to the local mission, where there is a nurse and doctor, and we pray they have been given medicines or the means to buy them; they too, often find themselves struggling, keeping patients in the makeshift hospital only to see them die for lack of medicine or blood for operations.
And it is a dangerous trek; in our land, there are tribal warlords who prowl like hungry lions, seeking to devour. The officials often take bribes, and siphon off the funds so desperately needed, yet somehow help still comes, through the little people, those who dedicate their life to come and live simply among us, and who can get help from their friends and supporters in the richer world.
Will there come a time when the rich nations will take our plight in earnest, and all the people who know such plenty will come to share it? Will we be forever the beggars, taking the barest scraps from the rich people's table, forgotten as we scramble unseen for crusts? They are not free; they are enslaved with greed, with an inability to reach out, to emphasise with our plight; would that they came to live and see what our lives are like. As for us, we still wait, and pray, and hope, for our God is a God of justice and mercy, of the beggar, the widow, the stranger; a God who tells us that it is justice to leave the gleanings for the poor. This cannot be their God. Who do they pray to, if pray they do, when they throw away good food, and governments pay farmers to have surplus food destroyed? Is their God a destroyer, a despoiler, one who despises the poor of the land?
We pray that their eyes will be opened; and then we will have our liberation. And all the nations can rejoice.
André Maurois knew the problem - Maurois was a quotable French author of the early 20th century. One quote of his that came very much to mind on a couple of occassions last week is (in...
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