1 May 2017
“How can you say that you’re not responsible?
What does it have to do with me? What is my reaction?
What should it be—confronted by this latest atrocity?” ~Sting/The Police
“We are bound to rouse and rise
those who still endure the sham
—all of the orphans of our Uncle Sam…” ~Humanwine
Greetings on this May Day, Dear Reader. Oh, sorry, I guess it’s Loyalty Day now, isn’t it?
Please forgive the long drop in signal, but well…that’s how it is with poet’s and our blogs. Occasionally we lose hope; only to find it again in the scruffle of those around us attempting to survive…and more, to survive in Freedom.
This requires resistance.
May Day has long been a celebration of that very resistance. Some clever ogre in the Goon Squad surrounding Orange#45 must have whispered in the Jester’s ear that proclaiming May 1st as Loyalty Day would be a massive fuck you to the remaining Resistance. And that little toady was right. It pissed off a lot of people, your humble poet not the least.
Why? For those who don’t know, or would like a refresher on the history of May Day as a Worker’s Holiday, this is a good start: The Brief Origins of May Day
Today, humans around the world have taken their streets and demanded change. Some with restraint, others without restraint, or a lick of sense in some cases. What worries many of us who have stood on those front lines for decades is the level of violence being seen in engagements with counter-protesters in the US.
We all have the right to Free Speech.
It’s a different matter entirely when you go to a protest with the intent of squashing that Right, that Freedom, of another because you disagree with their ideology. That is unacceptable. And if such adrenalin-fueled clowns continue, they’ll be forced to square off with the Black Bloc. These protesters are on the front line, the Hassle Line: that fluid space where cop cadre meets the thousands marching.
Generally speaking, there are two “types” in the Black Bloc at a major protest: Older, experienced, Civil-Disobedience oriented activists of all genders and wide ideology. The other are the younger, less-experienced ones that smash windows, FSU, and are badly in need the guidance from the former. And, of course, it’s always the young hot-heads that wind up on CNN or Fox news. You never see the work and dedication of the real Black Bloc; or, for that matter, the work of the Street Medics, or the Green Hats, aka National Lawyers Guild.
These are the people who are there to help protect those thousands amassed behind them (those without helmets, or gas masks, or radios) to engage in their right to protest peacefully. On the Hassle Line, it’s not so peaceful. In addition to nightsticks, CS gas, pepper-spray, Riotcops use an array of ancient, highly-effective shield tactics for crowd control. If you come against them, you’d better come correct. Often, they will open a gap, allowing grab teams to snatch effective activists and drag them behind their lines: there to get a solid beating, zip-tied, and tossed like meat-puppets into whatever transport has been arranged.
This is only a small glimpse into what it can be like in the thick of a protest when things do go sideways.
This poem is based on a true event that occurred many years ago; an experience that I still encounter in nightmares, awaking only to relive it as memory…and the awful truth is that it could happen today, tomorrow, perhaps right now. This poem is for everyone that stands on the Line, that others might be safe.
To be honest, I am not among those that relish the coming clashes between the Black Bloc and Counter-Protesters. Frank Herbert was right, “Divide and rule. Sub-divide and rule even more powerfully. Fragment and rule absolutely.” and that is exactly the bait we gobble by venting our rage on each other. We should be building bridges between the common ground between us rather than doing their bloody work for them.
Now, back to Loyalty day: sorry, Orange#45 and Cronies, I am no bull you can wave a rag at to enrage for your own amusement. You piss me off, but I will not rent space in my head to you clowns for free.
We remember the words inscribed on the Haymarket Memorial~
“The Day Will Come When Our Silence
Will Be More Powerful Than
The Voices You Are Throttling Today”
We will not drink your kool-aid, nor any other noxious brew:
If someone wishes you a Happy Loyalty Day,
just smile and wish them a Happy May Day!
For there is no difference between the two.
a doctrine of disobedience
When you heave
me to the ground
Chain my arms
behind my back
to teach me
who is boss
I am one
What, did you think
we could ever forget?
We, who stand
before your fist—riot
that we might remain Free
There is a creature
hooves to haunch
furious and raw
from the filthy lies
A pitiful, ugly spawn
of my heart—it flowers
into a brutal blossom
as I see you, astride
a human, whipping
that nightstick down
It is as if I am chewing
on a mouthful of tinfoil
What will happen
when we have had
enough is enough
Of petty cop gods?
puffed up princes
of the billyclub
Fleeing, she caught
a teargas canister on
the back of her head
and it opened—how could you
ever think we would forget?
You were laughing
before the shooting
You stand stricken
now—between us her
choked-off scream still
You cannot hide
behind a shield
No black mask no
corrupt law passed
can undo the sight of
Her red hands seeking
will hide the evidence
You must know why
We are fighting back? Why
we are taking the streets
despite the cages
That you will lock us in?
I would rather live one day
marching free on a forbidden street
than live a lifetime in a police state
I saw you, riotcop
Through a pall of painsmoke
your face had gone sick:
Behind the gas mask
behind the shiny badge
I saw you—thinking
that this time
might have been a mistake
~23 April 17
Update: 2 May 1730hrs: Since posting this I’ve been asked by quite a few if I’m engaging in a little hyperbole for the sake of art. No harm in asking, and I don’t feel offended by the question. Sadly, if anything, I underplayed the severity of street skirmishes on the Hassle Line, where thousands protesting meets Law Enforcement. A friend sent me this video from You Tube, courtesy of Alpha Tribe Productions, and MikeHated’s channel. Included is footage from the very protest this poem was born in. The Massacre in Miami, FTAA Protest 2003. If you’re not familiar with it, please look it up. Everything changed after ‘Chief’ Timoney and his “model” effectively chilled a robust movement of non-violent Civil-Disobedient protesting in the US; they accomplished this through pre-emptive arrests, and the militarization of Law Enforcement, which has become so prevalent today. (Warning: the following video may contain PTSD triggers for some.)
4 June 2k11
This poem is dedicated with Love,
with gratitude, and my utmost respect to
1 April 1949 ~ 27 May 2011
I. the Idioglossia Concordance
Welcome to America,
the nation who put the ‘us’ in Justice.
America: be loyal or be vanished.
Now that you are in our country
learn to speak the language:
We have named it Freedom
yet it feels like oppression.
We think we hold the reigns
but in truth we have been shackled with chains.
A yoke of responsibility, of shame
for countless atrocities committed in our name.
We say Reservation:
yet it really means domination,
and may be read as ‘refugee camp’.
Christopher Columbus began the brutal language lesson
when he came to the New World, which was really an Old World.
Soon Settlers taught the First People new words, such as
and Liberty, which ironically rhymes with poverty.
What was defined as a Republic, a Democracy,
in practice reeks of hypocrisy, waving a bloody flag over
The Home of the Brave
The Land of the Free
—unless your name happens to contain ‘Ali’.
Paying the dues of the poor and the weak
Paying the dues of the Wannabe Free
It is a white voice of doom in the inner city night
blaring flashred from cop cars;
it is no accident that we paint them black and white—
To Protect and Serve,
police use words like commUnity.
Yet, after the butchering and rape,
Judges use words like copImmunity.
I do not pledge allegiance to the flag
of the United States of America,
or to the market brand for which it now stands.
One nation, under corporate domination.
With Liberty and Justice for some people,
and indefinite detention, extraordinary rendition
at an immigration and interrogation prison,
a humiliation and assimilation prison,
for other people. Amen.
II. the Bonehouse Accord
We each have but one chance
to do our part, our share in healing
the world and her children.
What will you do?
Better still, ask yourself:
what am I willing to give?
what am I prepared to lose?
What would you give if your life were not enough?
What if first you had to give up your home,
your family, and all of your stuff.
What would you give?
Do not wait until you are lying in the bonehouse
rotting and rattling before you ask,
Could I have done more?
Still, this feels useless—
for you have heard all of this shit before.
Maybe we will wave some signs, or send a check
to assuage (guilt) the wretched misery of
some poor kid halfway around the planet.
Maybe some of us will get off of our asses
and spend the rest of our lives,
every last drop of our spirits,
striving to ease the suffering
which is skulking all around us—
gnashing its teeth to jackboot thunder as
one human, every four seconds, dies of hunger.
Famine squats in the belly of the world.
While we inject air into sugar and lard,
shrink wrap it beneath stinking plastic
and sell it as food on tv, crammed between
commercials of starving refugees.
Yet we cannot seem to understand
why our children are obese.
We cannot understand why
they are turning to automatic weapons
as an answer to public education.
There are some places where
people are stoned to death merely attempting to vote.
Here millions just sit watching the tube
and getting drunk or stoned.
In the end, barely a fraction
of our fractious population actually votes.
Rooted upon the couch, we are
stunned by the absurd and
paralyzed by the gross:
Scientists are creating ethical obscenities—
growing the teeth of pigs in a lab rat’s belly;
whilst I can buy fourteen different types
of seedless raspberry jelly.
Why then will we not grow enough food
to feed the millions of hungry people
in this land of milk and honey?
Is it because we agree when the tv shows us
an asshole in a suit saying,
“Show Me The Money”?
Brandishing a Visagold-plated guarantee
that our lives shall be secure and livable,
our government has decreed that corporate crime
is forgivable. So also to insure that our citizens
from the Evildoers are defended,
some, or all, of our inalienable
human rights must necessarily be suspended.
Welcome then, to America,
the nation who put the ‘us’ in Justice.
America: be loyal or be vanished.
Now that you are in our country,
learn to speak the language.
20 March 2k9
“When the Special Theory of Relativity began to germinate in me, I was visited by all sorts of nervous conflicts…I used to go away for weeks in a state of confusion.”
“We still do not know one thousandth of one percent of what nature has revealed to us.”
On 30 July 1905, Albert Einstein published a paper entitled “On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies”. Among the many revelations it contained was the mind-shatteringly elegant formula E=MC2, which is now emblazoned on simply everything: coffee mugs, T-shirts, computer screens, posters, and panties. (yeah, they’re out there, much to Albert’s puzzlement and dismay, I’m sure.) Yet, at the time it only caused ripples among physicists…at first. Of course, we soon learned that his work had turned physics right on its egghead, had forever changed how we perceive the very Universe.
On 20 March 1916, Einstein published a paper on his General Theory of Relativity. In short, with that monumental discovery he blew our collective freaking minds. But then again, he’d been doing that since 1905 and by that point we were sort of used to it. He was a physicist become house-hold name; Einstein was the penultimate ‘celebrity scientist’ of the century. (a relatively private man, this never sat well with him.)
As to his overall work on both Special and General Relativity? We could spend hours attempting to explain it to each other; however, unsurprisingly, Einstein himself was incredibly succinct when he said, “Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. THAT’S relativity.” Dig it, DaddyO, when he affirmed that all things are relative, he wasn’t kidding.
We also know that Einstein felt strongly about the state of humanity—both writing and speaking eloquently, and with passion, regarding the human condition. Among his words are these: “The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” While the ideas expressed here are not new, many great philosophers and theologians have been quoted similarly. Such as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel: “…morally speaking, there is no limit to the concern one must feel for the suffering of human beings, that indifference to evil is worse than evil itself…” The important point is that Einstein held these beliefs to be true, he believed that indifference and apathy should be challenged wherever we find such weakness. Especially if it be in our own hearts. And was quoted many times, in many ways, regarding the importance of confronting intolerance, of fostering compassion, both to the individual and to society.
Like his mathematics, his ideas cut through our timid excuses, our half-assed rationalizations; he forces us to face ourselves, to place ourselves either on the sideline or in the fray of confronting hate. And then to live with our decisions.
Clearly, Einstein deeply understood the necessity of compassion, the crucial need for empathy if humanity is ever to mature beyond our self-destructive tendencies, or the social paradigms that drive some of us to commit terrible harm upon others. Einstein knew that, like it or not, we are truly all in this life together:
“A human being is part of a whole, called by us the ‘Universe,’ a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of the consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
If there were a key to the universe, would you use it? What would such a key unlock? What if there were many keys, as I suspect there must be. There are those who believe that the language of mathematics is a universal key to communication; and to my thinking, communication is the key to deciphering both the Universe and its problem-child we call Humanity. With regard to humans, if communication is a key, then the tumblers of the lock would be empathy.
Leonard Cohen wrote that “Love is the only engine of survival.”
Such breathtaking heresies never fail to fill me with glee.
In this modern world those words are indeed a heresy to many. Others might find them too stickily sugar-spun from seeming naïveté to swallow. After all, it is more complicated than that. Right? Life is too fickle, full of unknowns, with far too many variables to be generalized into one such sentence…besides, it’s dog eat dog out there, survival of the fittest. Right?
Wrong, declares the heretic within. This mess we are in is not all that complicated—
If Love were the default mode trained into every child we raised, how would the world look then?
Famine squats in the belly of the world…killing one human every four seconds.
If a starving person, anywhere, were as important and as necessary to us as our own family, wouldn’t there be fewer hungry people?
Please do not falter before the stupefying logistics required. Would it be difficult? Yes. Nevertheless, our society can manage the task of moving massive tonnages of personnel, equipment, and weaponry halfway across the globe, in a matter of hours, merely to kill people. Lots of people. Logic says that feeding people would not only be feasible, but probably easier.
Our problems are not really that complex, it just feels that way because the suffering of vast populations has been allowed to reach the point of atrocity.
If empathy honestly lives in my heart every day; if it thrives not just when it is easy or convenient, but lives like a resilient dandelion that has grown up through the tiniest crack in a stone, then how could I not change the world around me?
Yet, empathy is empty without action. How can I change such an overarching paradigm if I avoid the places where I know people are suffering?
Though it’s a good start, offering food or a few bucks to a shambling wreck who’s spare-changin’ in a parking lot is just not the same as actually seeking them out. It’s not the same as stopping and offering some (un)common respect along with the help. Or do hard times somehow exempt one from this basic dignity? Too often the humanity of an individual is stripped away in an attempt to help them. And one may never even realize the damage done.
I have stood on a corner more than once, hungry and trading work, or words, for whatever I could scrounge. There I learned this truism: everyone has a story. Everyone has history or herstory; like a snowflake, no two are ever the same. And like that bit of frozen, crystallized water, they are just as fragile. Your life can melt away before you even realize it is falling to the ground, mingling with the other snowflakes into the past.
If Justice was truly the rule of the land—by which I mean justice tempered with empathy, designed to benefit society, rather than to avenge it—instead of rule by blind, inflexible Law, how then would righteously angry, disenfranchised, “minority” (read as non-white) defendants fare in our criminal justice system? For that matter, what about any poor soul who made a mistake, or caught an unlucky break? And what of the mentally ill, the chronically suicidal, the misfits and the outcasts…would they still be jailed and institutionalized for their lack of conformity?
Lady Justice up there holding her scales is not only blindfolded, but she has been viciously interrogated, half-drowned, gagged with duct tape and covered with a black hood; then electrocuted with the bare wires of a car battery, and violated with a nightstick before being released, without a single charge. Only to be pulled over on the way home, made to Assume the Position while leering cops search her body and her car. Finally cited for failure to conform, and dutifully sexually harassed, she was mugged on the way home. Because the cops impounded her car for alleged ‘unpaid parking tickets’ after she wouldn’t put out.
If this offends you, good. That means you’re still human; and I’ve done my job—Empathy in action.
For that which is done to the least of us, is inflicted upon all of us.
Make no mistake, I am not suggesting a utopia. There will always be hardship and crime; there will always occur some random and senseless source of sudden agony.
However, does this sorrow so often have to come from each other?
Who can listen to Bill Withers sing and not feel his anguish and loneliness? So clean, like a razor slice and hauntingly beautiful at the same time. Listen to his song Ain’t No Sunshine, listen to the Twenty-Six I Knows and tell me that you don’t hear your own lost, broken love singing harmony somewhere in there.
And again I ask, if you held a key to the Universe, would you use it?