Rich, being continuously involved with politics, felt very strongly about the war in the Middle East. While attempting to put the civilian’s lives into perspective for Americans, shows her empathy for the civilians of the Middle East in her 2001 poem “The School Among the Ruins.” She stresses that American’s cannot sympathize with the fear that other cities are experiencing. America has never been the ground in which constant daily fighting takes place. Rich writes, “Beirut. Baghdad. Sarajevo. Bethlehem. Kabul. Not of course here” (1). Rich attempts to help Americans have empathy for the citizens of these countries. She puts this sense of loss and fear into the perspective of their own personal lives when she writes, “Today this is your lesson: / write as clearly as you can / your name home street and number / down on this page / No you can’t go home yet” (49-53). The teachers have to try and find families of the students because they are lost in the constant devastation of war. Essentially Rich is asking America, “How would you feel if this story was of American children?” Fighting from war not only affects soldiers and politicians, but also children and daily lives of civilians. The uncertain setting in Rich’s poem confronts the idea that these children are having their lives pulled out from under them in exchange for a constant state of fear and hunger.
Rich, Adrienne Cecile. The School Among the Ruins: Poems 2000-2004. New York: Norton, 2004.