Wednesday, 14 August 2013

The Hagar and Sarah Consensus

I wrote this over a year ago Once again it is sadly relevant.

You must understand that what I am is a storyteller. That’s what I do. So to bring about change, I would tell a story. If you want to start a fire, or end a war, you tell a story.

So I want to tell you a story about two women. You see, all women have the same story, the same history, wherever they come from: the exact same story.

So let me tell you the story of Hagar and Sarah.

The Story of Hagar and Sarah

Listen, my sisters for this is a story of women. Once upon a time in a harsh land a woman named Sarah lived a soft life. She was wed to the man Abraham and all the joy of love was hers, but her womb was closed. Year after year, as age advanced and beauty receded her desperation grew. She prayed to all gods, then to goddesses, and finally to One God, and still, there was no child.

One night, as Sarah sat before her polished bronze mirror, turning her face that way and that, letting the golden shadows on the metal deceive her into a dream of youth and beauty, she saw her maiden Hagar folding heavy woolen cloths. She raised them high, and drew them to her chest, and Sarah saw fluid strength and youth in her gestures, in the smooth long muscles of her arms. Such had she been, and not so long ago. She called to her, drew her closer. She was comely and full-fleshed and she would breed fine sons. So that night she spoke to her husband.

“The age of women has passed me by, and no sons did I give you, but take this handmaiden of mine and give her a son, and she will give him to me, thus will your seed be passed, and I shall mother him in love.”
Sarah called Hagar to her and said: “Anoint yourself, go in unto the Master and lie with him, for tonight he will give you a son, and you will give that son to me.”

The slave Hagar obeyed, and the seed took, and soon all could see the blossoming of her flesh. All watched, but none more closely than Sarah; and as she watched, apace with the rising swell of Hagar’s belly so did her anger grow, poisoning her heart and clouding her mind.

Hagar was heavy, and the proud arc of her womb dropped low. Sarah called to her “Slave bring me water, wash my feet” and in her darkness she rejoiced to see the woman struggle with the heavy laver, stumbling and spilling water across her straining belly. Hagar knelt and leaned forward- with her wet robe drawn tight against her burgeoning flesh where in life nestled - to wash her mistress’ feet. Sarah looked down on her and pity and hatred fed and warred on each other within her. Then she saw, upon the arch of her foot a drop of milk that had fallen from her handmaid’s breast and a hideous thing tore her throat and blinded her eyes and she struck, splitting Hagar’s lips with her heavy bronze rings. A voice she did not know screamed: “when you lay with him, when he spilt his milk on you to make that child, did it please you?”

Hagar lay twisted at her feet and raised up her face “Neither I nor your God desired this thing. Only you.”

“Did it please you!”

“Once, when I was new to you, you said all women were sisters. Did it please you, my sister?”

And Sarah’s rage was a storm, and servants came running to drag her away from the supine woman. That night, Hagar’s time came upon her and a son was born.  The servants came in unto Abraham as he supped, and threw themselves down at his feet.

 “Master, at last, your House has a son” and Sarah heard this and her pain was greater than anything she could have imagined. She raised herself and drew finest linens from Egypt about her flesh, and sweet oils mingled on her cheeks, she lay cool lines of malachite and Kohl upon her lids and went in and lay with her husband.

That night the God blessed her and she conceived. When her flesh whispered changes, Sarah went to her husband Abraham and said “Sweetest of lovers, I am with child. Soon a true son will bless your hearth. Discard now the maid Hagar and her ill-begotten son least her presence sour the fruit of my womb”

And since sons are cheaply gotten for a man, a brief spasm and not a great travail wherein their very life may be lost; Abraham had Hagar and her child cast out into the harsh land, and Sarah was pleased. Yet that night, as she lay curled up around the son in her belly, horror visited her sleep; and the child within her was also distressed, and would not lie still.

Hagar walked in the sun blindness with her son and no hope accosted her. Soon the bronze heat battered her down and she knelt with her son in her arms. “Are you there, God of my Mistress? Look on me, bless me or kill me, but save my child.” And her tears called up a spring from the dead earth and she drank. That night a drover came and found her and the child and took her into his household. She raised her son and the spring of Hagar’s Tears has never failed, nor did her line.

Sarah’s joy was like a spring rain, music, and sweet growth and her husband loved her more and more. She grew round and young with the child within her, singing songs to her belly and caressing it with the secretive smile of a girl in love with love. And finally, her time was upon her and her son was born. Never was a child more fair, or loved in a mother’s eyes. Sarah raised her son in the plenty, there in the shaded tents he lacked no water, nor food, nor anything that love and wealth could provide. And thus he grew.

But sons are born of Mothers but disposed of by Fathers, and one day a voice called to Abraham: “Take your son and bring him to me on the mountain, that you may spill his blood to please me”. And since sons are cheaply gotten for a man, a brief spasm and not a great travail wherein their very life may be lost; Abraham took his son to the mountain to meet God. And the God who had spared Hagar’s son, spared Sarah’s, and her line never failed.

Those that do not give birth spend soldiers with a lavish hand. The only way to stop war is to get the women to broker peace: the Hagar and Sarah Consensus. If we can get women to see that, you can forge a nation of sisters, an army of Mothers, from the shambles of an endless conflict. I believe that peace can only be made between Nations at war. The conflict in the Middle-East is not war, and will not end until Palestinians and Israelis acknowledge brotherhood, the People of Abram/Abraham. Both sides have become drunk on blood, addicted to hate. It empowers them. They scrabble to tear open and infect each others healing wounds at each opportunity. They spill blood and beat outraged fists on their manly chests, and they love it. This is truth. They are addicted to the passion of righteousness. They will never stop. They will kill and die while there are men to push forward in front of guns.

Let us get Palestinian and Israeli women to negotiate a modus Vivendi: a way to live together. Palestine and Israel are divided, but these women are one nation of grieving fearful mothers. Those are the women you must bring: mothers, sisters, and the ones afraid to be mothers because they know their children will be fodder for hate. Women who know no war is holy that leaves behind broken lives.

Women must no longer allow the careless spilling of the blood of their wombs: they must refuse to offer up their sons to the guns. Men do not wash the rent flesh of beloved sons for burial. They don’t clutch at mementos in the night, they don’t watch children return with deadened eyes. They don’t want peace. They want victory and power, and that victory is paid for with their women’s pain. Women that are not consulted… Only in the last hundred years have some women won a say in how the world that is half theirs is run. A small fraction. Most have no say.

It is the line of Hagar, the line of Sarah that must share this land.

We are the fountain and the spring rain, we bring forth our children in pain, and fierce love. Are we to allow the fruits of our labor to be so cheaply held?

Hagar and Sarah who lost their sisterhood in rivalry, must join hands to save their children. No more must Abraham be permitted to discard the precious flesh we bring forth. We shall take back our children from the sons of Abraham, for sons are cheaply gotten for a man, a brief spasm and not a great travail wherein their very life may be lost; we shall bring them to the mountain and in the sight of the God who loves children, and no more blood shall be spilt.
No more. 
We sisters will it.

Manuela Cardiga

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