Shortly after the Kent State killings in May 1970, I read a poem in an advertisement in Time Magazine. As a thirteen year old kid, it affected me and I memorized it and remembered it until this day, thirty-eight years later. After much searching, I found it and reprint it below, merely as a thought provoking poem. One can argue about its merits as poetry, but one thing is certain for me; it is powerful.

It was written by Harry Pesin, the owner of a New York ad agency. He placed a full-page-and-a-column ad in Time after the Kent State killings. The ad consisted of a color photograph of children’s faces, and in a column opposite was this poem.

A Polite Plea for Peace

War is an excuse
    to kill.
If you need an excuse,
  that’s a good one.
Feel free
  to kill
  and say you kill
to be free.
Freedom
  is a good excuse
  if you need one.
Count the dead:
  killing
  by the numbers
  kills no one
  in particular
nothing personal
  you know,
which is a good excuse
  if you need one.
  The killer
needs an excuse, and peace
  is no excuse.

You can find an article regarding a play based on this poem performed in 1970-71. The article is by Gil Lazier and can be found by searching JSTOR at www.jstor.org. There may be a nominal fee to get a copy or if you are a student, your university library could probably access for you for free. The name of the article is Living Newspaper 1970: Obituary for a Gentle Agit-Prop Play by Gil Lazier, originally published in the Educational Theatre Journal, Vol.23, No. 2 (May, 1971), pp. 135-151.

I not espousing a war or anti-war position. I am printing this to generate some thought about what’s going on.

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