poem to the world

We Did It Our Way (6/14/2020)

For all those around the world
who have have been sickened and harmed by
America’s bigotry
America’s duplicity
America’s meddling
into your lives, your governments, your countries
this legacy of self-interest

“I don’t think there are any Russians
and there ain’t no Yanks
Just corporate criminals
Playin’ with tanks”
“The child of hatred comes of age…
The sad neglect will surely take its toll…
Violent times”(*)

For all those around the world
who have prayed
prayed in earnest and
prayed continually
“A plague upon America.”
“Death to America!”
or cried out “when will it end?”

God has heard you and
God has answered

I can tell you
with more coronavirus cases
and deaths
than any other country in the world
with social unrest
caused by a pandemic, racism, inconsistent values,
police brutality and failed leadership

I can tell you
that you may feel confident
you did not have to lift a finger
you did not need to attack us
God has heard your prayers
and like the tower of Babel
Our “language” has become confused

like the walls of Jericho
all you had to do was blow your horns
we have come crashing down
the modern Rome is falling
you did not have to lift a finger
you did not need to attack us
let the ruin be a lesson

We did it our way
We did it to ourselves

* 2nd stanza quotes taken from The Call’s eerily prescient album MODERN ROMANS (1983)

America’s trouble with racism goes back to the beginning.

Very few people around the world, and even fewer American’s know how far back the systemic racism goes in the United States  –  where attention spans limit any thorough reading of the US Constitution.    For most American’s. Their knowledge of the Constitution Of The United States is a piece of yellowed paper with hard to read writing that is somehow supposed to be important.

But the United States Constitution is a very important part of our history and needs to be understood – and, I would suggest, needs updated.  Because it has not been updated or understood it has allowed for any old jackass, like the president of the united states, to interpret it as he wishes and even use it as a weapon to justify his own racism.

Racism has existed in America before and ever since it became the United States of America.  It is actually a part of the US Constitution.    Don’t be shocked – slavery was part of the “national” economy when the Constitution was drafted.   And I suppose that is where the trouble starts – when humans are viewed as products because of the color of their skin to be sold and traded at the will and whim of whites.

During the US Constitution Convention of 1783 – which was created to frame the government by creating constitutional guidelines. During the convention something happened that became known as the 3/5ths compromise.  The article under debate was relating to taxation and representation.    Many states wanted representation  to be reflected by the number of people in each state and taxes determined by property (i.e. the more property the higher the taxes).    While many southern states liked the idea of increased representation because of their slave population they objected to the notion of being taxed for their property  since black and brown slaves were considered property which meant not only higher representation in congress but higher taxes also.

There arose what became known as the 3/5th compromise which allowed southern states to be taxed on only 3/5ths of their slave population.   So this effectively denied humanity to 2/5ths of the slave population. That is like saying to every single black and brown person, “You’re not allowed to do ‘this’, or ‘that’ because you’re only 3/5ths of a human being.   “You’re not even a complete human being”.     That is outrageous!!!!!!

Thus the United States Constitution Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3 states:

“Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.”

Now there was some good news to follow but it didn’t come until after the Civil War – and frankly, by then the damage had been done. Generations covering 80+ years had viewed people of color as “not entirely human”. The good news came in the form of the 14th amendment to the US Constitution which completely reverses the 3/5th compromise and states the “whole” number of people will be counted. So people of color were declared by law to be “whole” persons again.
Not that they needed white politicians to tell them that – but it did afford them the same protections as white people. So why do I say the damage was done? Well peoples minds were not that easily persuaded and by 1877 slave states started subverting the new law and actively sought ways to disenfranchise people of color. And that has been going on even into the modern era. Today people of color have been disenfranchised from property ownership, disenfranchised from voting because of all the voting district gerrymandering by politicians, Disenfranchised from education, career opportunities and economic success. There MUST be reparations. Reparation will be difficult for everyone. But putting it off because it will be difficult is not a sufficient excuse. The longer we wait the harder it will become. It will require a political will to change tax law, economic law, police law, credit law, and major criminal justice reform.

More than ever before we need to use the popular quote by John F Kennedy (which he stated about going to the moon) and apply it to reparations:

“We choose to …, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.”

Where are our leaders with the political will to make this happen? It makes me angry to hear politicians deny the widespread systemic racism that exists.   They are afraid – and they should be – because we live in a time of tyranny.   And we must overthrow tyranny.

A great quote commonly misattributed to Thomas Jefferson (But no one knows for sure who first said it):

“When government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.”

ALL LIVES MATTER

“Maybe it’s time to get uncomfortable”

I know many people with similar stories.

It’s time to acknowledge the problem!
Nina Simone – I WISH I KNEW HOW IT WOULD FEEL TO BE FREE


It’s time to build up people of color and ALL people.
Nina Simone – TO BE YOUNG, GIFTED AND BLACK

It’s a human thing. To die by disease is one thing, to die by the hands of another person is reprehensible and UNACCEPTABLE.

“I can’t breathe” (a poem)

“I CAN’T BREATHE!”

The long long night in America
violence, hatred & anger
200+ years overdue if you ask me
and not in the least surprising

“I can’t breathe,” “I can’t breathe!”
The fires of protest burn brightly
and the media focuses on the event
not the root that caused this burning bush to grow

Another black man dies
in police custody
“I can’t breathe,” “I can’t breathe!”
each word like bullets fired from a gun
verbal shots ring out
while 3 cops pin a black man down
one brutally kneeling on the neck
and a 4th stands by complicit

It isn’t enough to suppress the black and brown man
his black and blue soul suffering
under the weight of white oppression
and the poison goes to the very top Mr. President

racism given a badge
There is no honor here
It’s not courage that carries a gun and uses force
only a white coward dresses in blue
and cynically claims
“I’m only doing my job”
when they crush the life
out of a black man already subdued
“I can’t breathe,” “ I can’t breathe”

If we are surprised by the violence
we should be ashamed
If we are shocked by the brutality
we shouldn’t be

If we do nothing
We are complicit
“Please, please, please,
I can’t breathe, please man.”

And another black mans soul
ascends to heaven to early.
“Please, please, please,
I can’t breathe, please man.”

I wrote the above poem in reaction to the brutal killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police and the nationwide protests and violence that followed 5/31/2020. 

4 essential tracks for this time in America:
The Last Poets – HANDS OFF!


Gil Scott-Heron – HOME IS WHERE THE HATRED IS

The Last Poets – RAIN OF TERROR

War – SLIPPIN’ INTO DARKNESS

Bonus Track – From the film SLAM starring contemporary poet Saul Williams.

 

ramblings on suffering

RAMBLINGS ON SUFFERING (6/21/19)

Of all living things
the most fortunate are
those who escaped….

I saw a still-born hippo
floating in a pool,
it’s legs reaching to the sky
as it’s grieving mother swam, circling around it.

Why did the opossum cross the road?
Did it not see the car speeding onward?
Now just another memory of life
flattened on asphalt.

There’s a black man hanging from a tree, like my savior,
with a sacrilegious cross burning in the yard.
The sounds of wailing through tears
mocked by fleeing hooded jeers and laughter.
And I’ve seen a black man stopped by police
because of the color of his skin
Unjustly harassed, searched and thrown against the car
only to find nothing.

My dear Ophelia, drifting underwater
what was your last thought
watching the last air bubble, wobble
and rise toward a liquid sky?

To a woman: Did you feel free
the moment you jumped
from that high blue bridge
and flew toward the earth?
The broken red wings of your spirit
spilling through your cracked skull
onto the pavement one summer morning.
Your twisted body, lying there
in front of me behind the wheel,
on a street called North when you went South.
The subject of a undisciplined and indiscriminate passerby
who just had to wiggle out of her red van,
before the police arrived, get up close
and take a photo with her cell-phone.

The mosquito gorging itself
on the blood-feast of its host
takes no notice of the hand that will kill it.

The fly for all it’s many eyes
still cannot see
that it feeds, mostly, on shit.

Does the flower feel pain
as each of its petals fall until
all that is left is a withered stem?
Does the tree feel pain
when its limbs are stripped from the trunk
during the storm or when
this living thing is cut down
by the chainsaw massacre of deforestation?

I’ve seen wild mice care for the injured young in a nest disturbed.
I’ve heard the piercing, shrieking squeal of injured rabbits.
I’ve seen the Killdeer risk its life to distract a predator
and I’ve looked into the sad, fearful eyes of an unloved dog.
I’ve seen a deer hit by a car get up and limp away
only to die by the side of road while looking back
as if to apologize for disturbing traffic.
I’ve seen a butterfly with a broken wing
clinging to hope while wishing it were back in its cocoon.
I’ve seen the fish
stranded too long on the beach
its glassy eye blinded by sunlight
its gaping mouth filled with sand and
its scales sticky with death

In Alaska, I found a cassette tape
by the side of the road
the middle of nowhere
the wilderness, no one around for miles
wet and muddy, its case cracked
I don’t know what made me
pick it up and take it home.
I let it dry, cleaned it, rewound it and carefully placed the tape in a new case.
My proud first attempt at restoration.
Then I put it in the player and pressed “PLAY”
I was assaulted by the sounds of thrown objects
hitting something and someone,
cursing, screams, cries, anger, hatred, vicious argument,
begging and pleading.
There were no names.
Only he
Only she
and the sound of a crying child hiding in a corner whimpering “please stop”
Threats and the dull sound of fists hitting flesh
meting out punishment where once there was love.
I sat listening. Frozen. Unable to move.
As the sun set I cried.

I’ve smelled living death
The stink of blood mixed with piss
as the cancer-fill man stood naked by the toilet.
His unbathed pasty flesh clammy with sweat.
He is too weak to bathe himself so I have to help
as I try to disguise my gagging reflex;
and I wonder if this is what the mortician sees, feels and smells.

And I’ve smelled the death of a slaughterhouse
the mindless cruelty and knock of a thudding blow
to the head of a cow with a stunbolt
the still live animal lying helpless, it’s throat now slit,
blood gushing in rivers onto the dirty, stained concrete floor,
the twitching limbs of a dying years supply of hamburgers and steaks.

I’ve even smelled the death
of a carcass in the hot summer sun
at the dumping grounds of livestock no longer “live”.
Cattle, horses, pigs, sheep, goats piled indiscriminately
the rotting remains, not yet destroyed
lying in an open trailer to a buzzing soundtrack
the pungent waves of nauseating stink
this unmovable feast for flies and their maggot young
The bodies juices oozing
from the rusted corners of the container.

I’ve heard the uncontrollable impulsive
wailing of the living that accompanies
the release of the recently dead

Maybe I’ve seen too much
Maybe I’ve heard and smelled too much.
Maybe I’ve even said too much.
But of all the things that have touched me –
Have I let them move me?
Or do I stand in shock,
immobilized by the glare of oncoming lights
that are driven by forces beyond my control?

I sometimes wonder
if the luckiest child is
the one never born
into this world of suffering –
and of those already born;
if the most fortunate ones
have already escaped
the suffering that is yet to come.