What constitutes an act of war?

One of the major questions in history is: What constitutes an act of war?

It is a question that echoes in today’s inner-city neighborhoods, and one that gives my work its present-day relevance. Drugs and police still occupy our neighborhoods, which are treated as war zones, while feeding our young men and women into the jaws of the privatized prison system. “¡No parasan!” was a life-or-death line in the sand and echoes other battle cries in the ongoing fight for justice and equality: No justice, no peace! By any means necessary! I AM somebody! Silence is betrayal! You can kill the revolutionary, but you can’t kill the revolution! All power to the people! Yes we can! Black Lives Matter! Justice for all! Indivisible!

Why do I always set my novels in the past, rather than in the present day?

I hear this question a lot. Like everyone else, I’ve heard all the platitudes about knowing our history: You can’t know where you’re going without knowing where you’ve been. If you don’t know your history, you’re doomed to repeat it. I get it, but to some folks they sound a bit vague. In The Weight of a Pearl, Doc describes the history he’s lived through as a well-known trick, as familiar as a game of Three-Card Monte. He knows he won’t fall for it because he’s seen the trick before. Everything we’re seeing today has happened before. So know your history. Then you won’t fall for its tricks.

That is why I continue to lurk in the past—to expose the tricks of inaccurate history and shine a light on each hidden black chapter of America’s narrative. African American participation in the Spanish Civil War is one of those chapters, and takes us right back to the question: What constitutes an act of war?

What about the wars in so-called “peace-time” America? Inside our cities, our neighborhoods, our families, inside ourselves? How and why are people stockpiling assault weapons and ammunition and murdering innocent children? How much can we take? And at what point does it become war? But look back. How did brothers kill brothers in the American Civil War? How did members of the human family murder millions of their Jewish brothers and sisters in Nazi Germany? Apparently, deception and division are very clever tricks.

But perhaps if we learn the tricks of history, we won’t fall for them again. The Weight of a Pearl is only one story, with its own answer. But I hope it will make readers ask themselves the question: What do you think constitutes an act of war? And what are you prepared to do about it?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this timely and urgent subject….

This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. I’d first like to say that this is beautifully written! In short, I’m not sure what constitutes an act of war. I agree that when things, large and small, happen the breaking point is a bit ambiguous. In history, you learn about the the “shot heard ’round the world” or the assassination that caused a war, however, in truth I think it starts long before that. It all starts with lies, and misinformation. We’re given so much misinformation that we’re yearning for a fight, and all we need is one push to send us over the edge. This is more relevant than ever today! With the rhetoric coming from the highest powers of government, the pot of hate has been heating up for sometime, and privileged Americans are just WAITING for the pot to reach 212 degrees to boil over! All the while we’re being fed lots of mis information and chomping at the bit to blame our many scape goats, (Blacks, Mexicans, even our friendliest neighbors in Canada) instead of taking a long introspective look at ourselves. So if you ask what I’m prepared to do about it, I’m going to be a little more like Doc, know my history, research for myself, think about how I can make a difference, and KEEP MY COOL!

    1. Sounds like a good plan. That, and voting! And if we stay aware of our mistakes in history, maybe we can stop the tragedies of war from happening again. Thanks for your comment!

  2. I think my favorite part of the whole book (and there was much to love about it) was when you quoted Hitler, stating “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.” Maybe in reminding people of the ignorance and horrific acts of Hitler, it might open their eyes to the statements made by their own President (Trump) who gets away with lying to the American people every day. Great job on recapturing history and combining it with the issues of the present day! Love it!!

  3. I read it twice what a great book.

  4. To attempt to answer in short, an act of war is seemingly dependent upon a variety of circumstances. The aggressors, who will go unpunished or even praised, are often regarded as patriotic. Their actions, which stem from unjustified violence, will only be seen as problematic if change is expected to be brought to underrepresented groups in America. The affluent members of society are often regarded as the important ones, and often times political stances are taken simply because of the monetary aspect. Once these members feel unsafe, it is likely for the actions to be deemed an act of war, not because they’re seen as unpatriotic, but because of the power and money being impacted.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Jordan! Everyone should look up these two words: “democracy” and “plutocracy.” If you look at the definitions alone, any intelligent person would recognize that this country has never been a true democracy, but a functioning plutocracy from day one. Words like democracy, patriotism, and even American, are front-loaded with false and automatic impressions of assurance, comfort, and pride, as though it were a done deal. A true democracy is an ongoing struggle, never perfected, because of our diversity and dreams of freedom. Sadly, plutocracy IS a done deal. It was written into our founding documents. Thank God for the amendments, which, by the way, only came from dissenting people who were called unpatriotic! We are conditioned to believe that acts of war occur on a grand scale, but are more often the result of years of small wounds, applied pressures, and denial of human rights. Black Lives Matter. Latino families being divided, after being lured here as cheap labor. Women still earning less than men for the same work. So we must think about the words we use. We must know their true meanings. We must vote. We must continue to communicate. The point of the con called “Three-Card Monte” is: deflect, distract, and deceive. So KNOW the tricks of history. Then you won’t fall for them. Continue to excel, Brother Jordan!

  5. Walker, I wholly agree with your illustrations of acts of war on a less than “grand” scale. What can I do other than dissent, keep spreading acts of compassion, kindness, make art that can help bring us together , support each other in meaningful ways in hopes of contributing to shifting the scales in our world enough to replace the many acts of war all around us every day from the playgrounds to the battlefields. This is a powerful and needed piece from a great writer asking us all this urgent question in such a gate-opening way. Thank you for voice, Walker Smith. Will “The Weight of a Pearl” and your other books be avaiable as an ebook? I would love to see the play or the film. You are very needed here.

    1. Thank you so much for your comments, Devorah! We need to spread the word about the many wars going on all around us, especially now. History is repeating itself. That is why there is such a strong link between my new book “The Weight of a Pearl” and current events. The answers can almost always be found in history, whether they show us what was done right, or whether they teach us what tragic mistakes to avoid. And to answer your question, yes, all my books are available as ebooks on Kindle, Nook, and Google Books. Thanks again, and let’s keep that old slogan alive: “Make love, not war!”

  6. I see that I have fallen behind – I must catch up by purchasing “The Weight Of A Pearl.” I know by your other works this must be a gem.

    1. Thank you, Eddie! I really think you’ll like The Weight of a Pearl. Since it’s set during the rise of Hitler and Mussolini, there are a lot of parallels between the book’s history and current events.

    2. Also, would you mind sharing on your Facebook all my blog entries? I’d really like to get a conversation going! Thanks and God bless you!

  7. This brought to mind a (long) quote from Coehlo’s Foreword to The Alchemist:

    “This continues to give me hope. When I read about clashes around the world—political clashes, economic clashes, cultural clashes—I am reminded that it is within our power to build a bridge to be crossed. Even if my neighbor doesn’t understand my religion or understand my politics, he can understand my story. If he can understand my story, then he’s never too far from me. It is always within my power to build a bridge. There is always a chance for reconciliation, a chance that one day he and I will sit around a table together and put an end to our history of clashes. And on this day, he will tell me his story and I will tell him mine.”

    Are not these stories exactly that bridge? From the past to the present- from possibility to progress? Keep doing what you do. We need these stories- they’re part of our healing.

Leave a Reply

Close Menu