OUR AMERICA

So I mentioned last week that Tuesdays would be about dreams from now on, but after the travesty in Las Vegas yesterday, I couldn’t in my right mind not say how horrible I feel over the subject. So I did what I often do in that circumstance and wrote a poem about it. Before reading it, please consider donating to Las Vegas. Here’s a link to a GoFundMe. Ok, here’s the poem. Feel free to comment:

Our America

We may not be slaves

to the sins of our fathers,

but we are certainly born

out of the wombs of their actions.

 

And while we may not bear the chains

that granted them power over men,

the scars they inflicted are still fresh

on the skins of our history.

 

The flesh of this America

still burns with the toil of war,

where brother fought brother

so that our brethren could be free.

 

The first tears broke over the face

of the American Dream in 1830

when Jackson uprooted the free

in the name of freedom.

 

And again we see the strength of arms

spattering our lands red with blood,

to protect the egos of the fearful.

 

From Orlando to Las Vegas,

that river runs deeper than the oil pipelines

those dream eaters feast their pocketbooks on.

 

Well I say to them:

We do not like your America.

 

Your America is not

the land of the free

and the home of the brave,

but the land of greed

and home to the slave.

 

So we have come to take it back.

With pitchforks and torches,

with iron and steel,

with the bodies of our comrades

gunned down by the bullets

of your deranged militia laws:

we are coming.

 

Like the beating heart of the mountain

and the roaring calls of the ocean:

we are coming.

 

Like the lionhearts of Europe

come to claim their throne from John:

we are coming.

 

For this is our America.

 

Not a land of destiny and perfection

but nonetheless a home

to those who would strive

to see a more perfect union.

 

Not a country unsullied by pride,

but nonetheless a home

to those who would strive

to see the error in their ways.

 

Yes, this is our America.

An America where men can be queer.

An America where women can dream.

An America where blacks do not fear.

 

This is our America,

an America that has never been,

and yet I swear this oath again—

our America it will be.

——

 

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PRIME TIME DISCUSSION

If there is one thing that I have learned about over the last few weeks, it is that being a good person does not always equate to being a (financially) successful person. Which is not to say that there isn’t room in the world for more good people, but rather to qualify that the world as we know it may not be in a good place.

Recently, I heard a talk by Cory Doctorow, who is a brilliant guy and very engaged in the world as we know it. The key point that really stuck with me through his talk was this: There is no good or bad in the world, there is only people with leverage and people without leverage. This was backed up by a slew of examples, that included major businesses like Amazon, YouTube, and so on, where the simple number of people using these platforms outweighs any individual power. Think about it. Amazon literally said “oh hey, lets make a day called Amazon Prime Day” and it exploded. That’s a business with leverage that is more powerful than many governments.

And I’m not trying to say that Amazon is all bad or anything. I mean, I use it, my family loves it, and they have done a lot for the various communities, which has allowed many groups to be successful that otherwise never would have been. But it is a bit concerning to me that one business can hold so much power. Especially since they are not transparent. Now, I don’t know that a business should be entirely transparent, just as I don’t know that we as individuals should be. I mean, I certainly don’t wish to be monitored 24/7. That would make me paranoid and probably cause an early death. But at the same time, it frightens me that one of these businesses could be lobbying for changes that damage the core of our values, without us even realizing it. In some cases, it might be that they simply have to not get in the way.

For example, there are plenty of businesses that stood to gain by having Donald Trump elected, but with his unpopular choice of words, they could very easily back Hillary Clinton and publically donate to her campaign, thereby saving face. At worst, she wins and they are on good footing with her because of how much they contributed. At best, Trump gets elected, and suddenly all these regulations, like, I don’t know, the Paris Agreement, go away, and these groups get to maximize their profit by not sticking to emissions standards. Just a hypothetical. But likely one that did occur.

Regardless, it is always good to be keeping an eye out for what is going on in the world, and to see when the number match the public representation a company presents (and when they don’t).

——

 

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HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY!

Happy birthday America (also to my younger brother, so I’ll be keeping this short today)! These days have been a wild ride. Being American this year means something different than it meant last year. This year, it means that you likely do not support the current president of the United States. It also likely means that many of the political decisions being made are not in the best interest of the common man. Which, ironically, is the backbone of any good society. When the lower and middle class (AKA the bulk of a society) is doing well, there is no need for revolution. Revolution is the bane of an established country.

That being said, it is also a boon to refurbishing a failing system, and with all the political power that various corporate entities carry, it might be a good thing for America to re-experience its own revolution of thought, especially speak that the revolution that birthed this country was heavily focused on the little guys. It was about standing up to the corporation that was the British Empire. It wasn’t about putting American businesses first, but rather giving the businesses of America a shining city on a hill to display their wares equally.

That is the kind of America we need to go back to—one open to revolutionary ideology, with compassion for the commoner. Not some business-centered bull, that would suppress news media. The core of a country isn’t its corporations, but the people inside them everyday, making sure the lights come on in the morning.

——

 

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PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE

I pledge allegiance to the flag

 

My young eyes followed

Each word on the board dutifully,

As we spoke,

Because I had been told

That’s what a patriot would do.

 

Of the United States of America

 

My home.

Well, my country, at least,

My home was there, too,

But just down the street,

Next to Mikey’s house.

I had never been to somewhere like Texas

Or Tennessee.

Ma said it wasn’t safe there.

 

And to the Republic, for which is stands,

 

And what exactly

Do we stand for?

I wondered.

Uncle Rob and Mom

Were arguing over that

Just the other day.

“You poor people

Are all the same.

Fat. Lazy.

And so irritating,

Begging for my money.”

He had spit.

I remember the contempt in his eyes

When his gaze fell on me.

 

One nation, under God, indivisible

 

Of course, the divide in our family

Was made long before yesterday evening.

Mom had married a Muslim.

And because he translated God

To Allah

Uncle Rob acted like dad was a terrorist.

Then again, so did my classmates,

Which is why mom drops me off

Nowadays.

 

With liberty and justice for all.

 

At the time,

When I rocked back and forth on my heels,

Hand clasped over my heart,

I did not know the term “irony,”

 

But as I would learn,

In my public schooling,

The ideas of “liberty” and “justice”

Are riddled with it.

 

Where was the liberty

When my father was executed

By Mikey’s dad,

The “self-proclaimed” patriot?

 

Where was the justice

When my mother grew weak and weary

From over exhaustion,

While Uncle Rob

Grew fat

With his riches?

 

“For all,”

Echoed through my mind,

As we took our seats in class.

The tattered walls,

The creaky floors,

The wobbly desks,

All reminded me

What a perfect lie that was.

 

There’s no justice for us.

——

 

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THE FLAG-BEARER

The streets filled with the thunder of footsteps as we marched down to the capital. Thousands of us had heard the imperial message of our leader, reminding us of the tentative balance that democracy constantly hung in. Unlike the indecisive nations of the world, however, we were unafraid of our government. Our revolution had been different. Main Street—the street we now trampled on—had been the site of our reincarnation. It had been a bloody debacle, in which many lost their lives on both sides. In the end, however, we had claimed victory, though the red from the blood baths had permanently stained the street a faded red.

I was the flag-bearer—holding the large steel pole to display the symbol of our nationalism. The fabric was a vibrant red, with a gash of heavy crimson through the center, to symbolize the scars of our nation’s beginning. I was near the front, pushed off to the right so that the heads of the masses could approach first. The front-runner was a man dressed in a black leather robe, with a dull silver lining around the edges. On his head sat a matching hat, and he had donned a pair of intimidating shades, despite the overcast weather. He walked with a terrifying air of power.

Since the revolution, he had been named the Enforcer. The role of the Enforcer was just what it sounded like…to enforce the law. He had rescinded his name the day he had been given the role, twenty years ago. His strength of youth had left him, and his stark black hair had been speckled with the salt and pepper of age, yet he walked with an air of resilience. Each of his large strides (for he was nearly six-foot five-inches tall) seemed to rise above the clatter of boots behind him, and each step seemed to shake the Earth itself.

Around his waist were the only two guns in the whole of our nation. After the bloodbath of Main Street, even the most remote villagers could not argue with the destructive force that these weapons were capable of. Only the Enforcer, the final level of judgment, was allowed to bear arms. He was a zealot, but not an unrestricted or careless man in his demeanor. The only zeal he defended in his life was the just treatment of things in life. Hence why he alone could wield the twin pistols with the power to take life in an instant.

But it with the strength of power that men become the most susceptible to corruption. While the Enforcer was a great man—and in many ways still is—he himself has failed his own duties. Perhaps that is why at the capital building there stood a legion of men in all red. They stood atop the stairs, looking down on us, and we halted at the base. The white marble steps contrasted the red of the street stunningly, the way a pillar of light cuts through the darkness around it.

Yet as we stood there, the crimes of the Enforcer paled in comparison to those of our ruler. Broken promises, violent language, and irresponsible behaviors. The minor follies of the average man beg the forgiveness of his peers. I, myself, struggle with my sexism. Even now, I refer to men and mankind, rather than the humanity we live in. Yet in the end, is it our struggles, or whether we overcome them, that should be judged? Do we mock the single stray bullet, or praise the steady hand that has time and again liberated us?

These questions I pondered, with the cool steel of the flagpole in my hand, in the moments before we tore down the regime of anarchy, cut down the battalion before us, and restored order to the people. After, I returned to my lonely desk job, the Enforcer went back to his building, where he drank his nights away, and I assume the rest of the crowd dispersed back to their usual lives…but that one day, the moment we chose to overthrow tyranny and return the power to the people…that’s what makes living worth it. That’s what makes our country great.

——

 

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FEAR VS. LOVE

Hello everyone,

 

Today I wanted to talk to you all about power. I have been watching House of Cards over the weekend, because I was deathly sick with something, and was bedridden pretty much the whole time. Anyways, if you have not seen it, House of Cards is a show about a politician named Frank Underwood, who uses his political prowess to rise to power, subverting the traditional means of democracy. He uses anything from intimidation to extortion to get what he wants. When people do not give him what he wants, he will not hesitate to take them out. That’s the basic idea of the show.

Now, these are all traits of a dictator, and they are pretty static concepts when said broadly (like I just did). Let’s take the famous Machiavellian quote “it is better to be feared than loved” and consider it for a moment. It’s certainly true, right? At least, for a leader. Beowulf is a famous example, who was loved by his countrymen but also, deep down, feared as well. Seriously, in the story of Beowulf, kingdoms much bigger than his refused to challenge his because he was so feared. There are many literary examples of this, but even historically it’s true as well. Stalin is perhaps the best example of fear. Stalin was an awful guy who ruled with an iron fist, but nobody questioned his title, even though it was undeserved. Those who did…well…added to the death count.

Of course, fear fails. Not immediately, but eventually. Nearly every revolution was born because someone stopped being afraid. Or rather, many someones. Eventually, someone slips through the cracks, and starts a movements that ends the regime. Whether another regime replaces that regime is a different story, but it can be said that the power of one individual runs out eventually, no matter how much they are feared.

Love, on the other hand, is ineffective for individual leaders. Certainly, it is good if a monarchy is loved, because there is less likelihood for the want of a revolution, but it is impossible for a monarch to please everyone. It’s part of why presidential approval ratings are typically not in the nineties. However, it is good for leaders to be loved in communal societies. When the focus is not on the one, but rather the collective, then the need for love increases. Typically, these societies do not have one individual “king,” and if they do have some sort of leader, that leader is not considered superior to their group. Rather, these groups need love because they need to be able to work together and discuss, constructively, the different avenues to success. Without discussion, no progress would be made.

I bring this up because we live in extremely divisive times. It seems that nobody wants to sit down and talk to each other, rather they rally behind their leader of choice, and hope to dominate the opposition. Which is unfortunate, because I think what made America great is the community. The idea that we can be individuals, but united by a single goal. Not a person, but a goal: each other. That’s something I think we need to get back to.

——

 

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BUS RIDE

I ride the bus everyday,

With a variety of people.

There are homeless,

There are businessmen,

There are mothers with their children

Trying to get them to school.

 

Everyone smiles,

Some people wave,

And a couple brave souls venture to talk.

There is a new driver, Don,

And he’s a different kind of driver.

He hates the squeaky wheel.

 

The bus I ride everyday has a squeaky wheel—

The one at the front

On the passenger’s side.

When the bus runs smoothly

She mostly keeps quiet.

But when the bus brakes too hard

Or when the drive swerves dangerously

She makes a racket.

 

Most of us don’t mind the noise—

It reminds us that we need to get a car someday.

But Don—oh Don—he hates it.

He told me the bus line he used to run

Had no squeaky wheels.

Every bus was spick and span.

 

Don loathes the noise.

Every time it rears its head

He’ll shout out to the crowd.

What he doesn’t realize

Is that he’s part of the reason it squeaks.

 

Don drives too fast.

He likes to speed across railroad tracks

Instead of look both ways first.

He likes to take sharp turns

Going forty in a fifteen.

So it’s no wonder she hollers at him.

 

But the problem isn’t just about Don—

Though Don certainly could be better—

He could be the one to step up

And address the problems of the squeaky wheel.

But this is also a problem with the bus company.

Leave a squeaky wheel too long,

And it just might come off.

 

And if one wheel falls off the bus,

You had best be ready for the oncoming accident.

——

 

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HEROES IN AMERICA

My stomach growled with hunger pains,

Like a lion ready to strike.

I dug through garbage in the rain

Desperate for something that I’d like.

 

It was a black and frigid night,

Like something out of a novel.

Yet heroes overcome their plight,

While I sit freezing and grovel.

 

My toes are blue and frost bitten;

My overcoat tattered and torn;

My socks and shoes have holes in ‘em,

I loathe that I were ever born.

 

Of course, that’s just another day

As a Vet in the U.S.A.

——

 

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GOLDEN STRUGGLES

It’s hard to believe

Life is hard for everyone.

Even Donald Trump.

 

Although Donald Trump

Might not have it quite as hard

As a Harlemite.

 

Better dipped in gold

Than underneath a bootstrap,

Or invisible.

 

In the beating sun

Better to carry the whip

Than pick the cotton

 

That life’s more easy;

Even if they both get burned.

Only one gets scars.

 

But that’s hard to see

From a penthouse apartment

In your own hotel.

——

 

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THE INVADER

Take your broken heart

Make it into art;

Make your mind smart

Before things fall apart.

 

Lest you become an Okonkwo.

The greatest man of his tribe,

Yet he was brought low

Through the faults in his pride.

 

I don’t know what it is

That makes good people,

And I don’t know how his

Would follow a man so evil.

 

Except for that the invader

Is rarely held to his word.

He will claim to be the savior

Of an unsuspecting herd.

 

He’ll take them

And break them,

And batter and shake them,

 

He’ll blame them

And shame them,

And in the end enslave them

 

Until they are bruised

And broken

 

But at least he got his profit

At least he got a dollar off it,

At least he’s willing to speak his mind,

At least he isn’t expected to be kind.

 

And a hush falls over the crowd,

Now he has his chance.

He raises his hands and screams “Unite!”

And, defeated, they bow to his plans.

——

 

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