Skyping Emma In The Berkshires

I miss simple days

like when we were Skyping

with Emma in the Berkshires,

over watermelon and hookah

in the shadows of the Baha’i temple

in the old German Colony

in that Mediterranean port city,

mixed more than most today,

where Isaac and Ishmael

at least tolerate one another

but Ishmael is stuck

at the back of the bus,

forced to drink from his own fountain,

and Jim Crow and Jesus Christ had the same initials

and at that ramshackle bakery

I was introduced to zaatar

for the first time

in this land of loaves

and fish,

and introduced to gorgeous women

with nineteen-year old flirtatious smiles

waiting in line for Gelato

with machine guns slung

over halter tops and skinny jeans,

in this land of milk

and honey in my tea

and the olive trees lack sunlight

in shadows of concrete

but the walls are miles away from here

and here

feels almost European

feels less obvious

feels almost fair

separate but…

equal if you can ignore the conscripted kids

too young to understand

socialized to see

a dehumanized enemy…

and this mint lemonade

helps soothe my hookah-smoke singed throat,

watermelon helps cool me down-

town for a whiskey later

helps smooth the sharpness of this reality-

just one ice cube

don’t water down,

truth is

it doesn’t seem so bad

it’s almost European

almost better

than Jim Crow

south

here

where my ears strain to understand

both Arabic and Hebrew

as I try to puff ringed-smoke signals to the universe…

at the cafe

eating watermelon,

and smoking hookah,

as we Skype

Emma in the Berkshires

it’s easy to forget

about checkpoints

and concrete walls,

teargas,

shit-water,

and rubber bullets,

here at this cafe

where yesterday

can seem a world away…

so, lets stay

for one more hookah,

one more watermelon,

and a last round

of mint lemonade.

Inshallah

It was easy to forget,

too easy, in fact

though I remembered from time to time,

I still forgot

and I promised I would never forget,

promised I would be back before long,

Inshallah,

but I forgot

and this summer will be four years,

and I’ve yet to return

but I want to

and have wanted to

and I feel so damn helpless

and it hurts to think about

and it’s not fair,

they’re good people

I know that life’s not fair,

but still…

they deserve justice

and I know

there are countless other places to go,

people to meet,

there are countless other people suffering

but they’re family now

they took me in

from chain-smoking on the sidewalk

and offered me coffee,

dinner,

and family

and the days

and the weeks flew by too fast

and goodbye was hell

and I promised I would be back

and Nasim said, “everyone says they’ll be back”

and that hurt

because right then

I wasn’t sure if I believed my own words

and I know he wanted to…

and things weren’t great that summer

but they’ve gotten worse

and worse

by the year

and lately by the day

and since that summer

I haven’t been back

and Nasim got out last summer

just as shit was hitting the fan,

living in poverty now in Eastern Europe

trying to help his family

himself

and his people

and he was alone and forsaken

when we last spoke,

with an expired visa

and expiring hope for a better life

for more than a refugee camp

and broken dreams,

and now his family is broken

and he needs help

and money is a shitty substitute for action

perhaps better only than prayers

in that it actually got him the insurance card and visa

and food in his belly,

but I had forgotten…

life got in the way

and I’ve yet to return

and I still intend to…

to break bread with this beautiful family again,

in this beautiful

but sad and desolate place

this prison with all but bars and shackles,

but time keeps moving,

more land keeps vanishing

more babies keep growing up

into yet another generation with no reason to hope,

more elders keep dying with broken hearts and dreams

erasing history,

erasing memories of beautiful homesteads

and olive farms,

leaving only symbolic keys

hanging by thinner and thinner thread

to a place long ago destroyed.

If I could trade places with him I would,

If I could self-immolate on the white house lawn

to end their collective suffering

I would do it right now

but I can’t

and Western-Unioning money

to a forgotten brother

in a far off land

who is homesick for a sick home

only makes me more ashamed to be human

to live in a world where Isaac slowly suffocates Ishmael

while the rest of the family eats settlement hummus

and stolen olives

and pretends that some lives matter less

or not at all,

pretends that history doesn’t rhyme…

and I lay awake now thinking back

to black coffee

and two packs

of cheap Palestinian cigarettes a day

and my soul dying from bearing witness to this madness

but my heart growing from seeing the love

this beautiful family has for each other

and the love they showed me

as I stood there chain smoking

on the sidewalk

in their refugee camp

and Nasim knew I was lost,

and when I was hungry they gave me to eat

and I can’t look at a Christmas tree

or Christmas lights

without thinking of that modern day manger,

surrounded by walls of cascading concrete

surrounded by hate

trying their best to hold on to love

and I will be back…

and I will never forget…

Inshallah.

cropped-cropped-101002597711783622.jpg

Empty

Three o’clock in the morning

driving west down the turnpike

chasing down the moon

it’s not quite full

my mind overflowing

want to run on empty…

but,

hours later

for a moment

it drains quick

and here I am,

now feeding birds

at the Quabbin,

precious life

eating from my palm.

Trust,

a beautiful thing.

Faith,

all too rare in man

but here the chickadee

and the titmouse

the kinglet

and the nuthatch

and all their songbird friends

find their faith rewarded,

and they eat their fill

and I am reminded

that I’m just one part

of this universe

no better,

no worse

than the songbirds

my friends,

happy to ring in the new year

with song and feast

and for a moment

on this cold

crisp

New England

New Year’s Day

I have again found peace

here,

in the overgrown orchard

here,

in the present

with no fear of tomorrow,

and no tears

for yesterday.

For a moment

full of mana

and empty of worry,

for tomorrow

I spread my own wings

again

like my feathered friends

and fly

back to the garden…

songbird who sings

Open Letter to Humanity: Of course ALL LIVES MATTER, but included in ALL LIVES… is BLACK LIVES

“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy, instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”-Martin Luther King, Jr.

“The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world”- Dr. Paul Farmer

To the government, not all lives matter by any stretch. They should. It’s awful that two human beings were killed by a crazy man in Brooklyn. It’s awful that 2 human beings were killed by a crazy man in Sydney. It’s awful that 145 human beings, mostly children, were killed by inhumane men with inhumane objectives in Peshawar. It’s awful that 1 human being was killed by a man who had been socialized to ascribe less value to his life, on Staten Island. As a human being, I ache for the families of the two cops killed in NYC, but no more so than I do for the family of Eric Garner or any other innocent civilian killed at the hands of the government or anyone else, here, in Iraq, Afghanistan, or anywhere else. Cops lives do not matter more than those of the citizens they swore an oath to protect. The lives of black men allegedly selling untaxed, loose cigarettes, do not matter less. What happened it NY is the act of one deranged man, and it should be condemned, just as every other senseless act of violence, here and abroad, should be condemned. I condemn it for the senseless act of violence that it was. Black people, especially activists advocating for peace, justice, and equality, are not responsible for condemning this heinous act done by one crazy man, just as Muslims aren’t responsible for condemning crimes committed by individuals claiming some bastardized, radical version of their faith, just as middle class white people in suburbia are not responsible for condemning heinous acts carried out by deranged, heavily medicated, white teenagers. We should all condemn all of these acts as human beings, since taking the breath of an innocent human being is inhumane.

For those calling on law enforcement to condemn acts, accidental or otherwise, in which their brothers or sisters in arms wind up with the blood of innocent civilians on their hands, those they swore an oath to serve and protect, and for which they are compensated generously from our tax dollars, this is not the same as demanding that every black person you know immediately condemn the deaths of these officers. Civilians have not sworn an oath to fight for justice, as the police have. When there is injustice, and you have sworn an oath, and earn your salary in the pursuit of justice, you should not be required, but should absolutely feel compelled, when the evidence is clear, to take a stand for justice. As Malcolm X once said, “I am for truth, no matter who tells it. I am for justice, no matter who it’s for or against. I am a human being, first and foremost, and as such I am for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” That is the way I feel.I would call for justice for these officers, but their killer is dead. He killed his ex-girlfriend earlier in the day. He had issues. Where justice should be sought for these officers is in asking why the proper authorities weren’t notified about his deadly serious, and very real threats on social media. It is easy to second guess, after the fact, but it appears as though things could have ended without anyone being killed. For the amount of civil liberties that have been taken, I am appalled that, especially with what this crazy fuck posted online, how nothing was done. I sure he was expressing similar sentiments well before the day it happened. This was a crime committed by a man who should have triggered every red-flag there is. Sane men don’t say or do the things he did. Perhaps part of the discussion should include the mental health aspect of this?
I am extremely offended that they immediately politicized this and blame, not just Mayor de Blasio, but peaceful protesters. Patrick Lynch is a fucking coward. Without civil protest, we are no longer a democracy. The people lose what extremely limited, quiet voice still remains. My heart goes out to those mourning the deaths of their loved ones. Mayor de Blasio did nothing wrong. Protesters did nothing wrong. Pat Lynch should be fired. Though white, perhaps having a black children has led de Blasio to empathize a little more so than most other politicians, in that he has a very real anxiety and fear for his children, his son especially, who could very well wind up being the wrong color, at the wrong time. There is no sash for his children to wear denoting them as the children of a white mayor. There is nothing anti-police in Mayor de Blasio stating his very real fears as a father of black children.

And for the record, the officers killed were Asian and Hispanic. Not that it should matter, but to too many, sadly, it will. In his deranged state of mind, he was not targeting white people, or white cops, just cops in general, apparently. And somewhere out there in the world of law enforcement, someone let them down, either through incompetence, or intentionally. I’m waiting for that investigation.

yes, #AllLivesMatter and included in ALL LIVES is BLACK LIVES. They Matter. It’s almost 2015, lets evolve beyond our ignorance, but lets NOT FORGET that not too long ago in the history of this young country, Black Lives mattered to the same extent as cattle, pigs and horses. We need to know our history if we ever wish to evolve past it’s toxic legacy, the structural and social ills which grew out of it. Slavery wasn’t a ‘regrettable phase’ America went through as a teenager… these wounds don’t heal over night. The racism and ignorance we still see today is absolutely, 100% a direct result of the fact that there was slavery. Eric Garner was denied justice, but there was no justice in the aftermath of the civil war. Our great founding father and author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, who owned at some points over 200 human beings, and fathered 6 children with a slave, fully understood that black men and women are human beings and our equals…but he wanted expatriation to follow emancipation, because he also feared that if there was a just god out there, and even 1/10th of the evils perpetrated against black people were carried out against white people, it would not be pretty. Is that what so many people are worried about deep down? That if there is universal karma that one day the rates of incarceration will reverse, and white people will be the ones disproportionately serving hard time for non-violent offenses? is that the greatest fear, similar to the fears Jefferson had, that black people might one day try doing to whites, any of the heinous things white people have long done to them? Some folks try to discredit the protests of black activists, and claim that more white people are killed by police. While this is certainly no feather in the cap of the police, (all deaths they cause should be thoroughly investigated by a separate oversight committee, unrelated to the police or city government, with an interest only in justice) these claims, valid as they may be, do little to shed light on the statistics of those wrongfully killed, since in nearly every single instance, the police investigations find that their is no fault in the deaths of unarmed, innocent, young black men. If a white man pulls a gun, and a black teenager pulls an i-phone, one is perhaps justified, the other clearly is not. Both are considered justified. If we dig deep enough into this, all it would show is that maybe, just maybe, white people are more violent? When arguments are made that ‘black people commit more crime, white people are killed more often’ possession of cocaine, and even still marijuana, are considered ‘crimes’. Black people, per capita, are not using drugs more, they are just arrested far more because of things like stop-and-frisk, and charged, tried, and imprisoned. And a lot of white kids caught with blow have access to a good lawyer, if they are even charged. Often times, the argument of ‘he comes from a good family and has no record’ is more than enough for leniency. I would venture to guess that if a cop is going to shoot a white man, he has damn good reason, though that might well change. There is little risk in shooting a black man, even if he holds a bible in his hand and not a gun. ‘it was in his waistline’…an argument could be made that the bible looked like a weapon. Lets agree that the police, or anyone else, killing any innocent civilian, is wrong and should be punished. It shouldn’t matter who is killed, but that they are killed. It does matter because if i was wrongfully killed by a cop, people would care. There would be no question as to why my community was protesting, and the protests would be seen for what they were, SEEKING JUSTICE, not ANTI-COP. These protests are not anti-anything, they are PRO-JUSTICE!

Rest in Peace to the NYPD officers killed, but so to Eric Garner, so to all the unnamed and unnumbered masses of civilians left in the wake of the american empire. Rest in Peace to all the innocent Muslim civilians we have been socialized not to care about, their lives matter no more or less than yours of mine. Rest in Peace the troubled souls overdosing, cold and alone somewhere tonight, out of sight and mind of the media and in turn, all of us. Rest in Peace to, not just TWO but TWENTY-TWO American Veterans who killed themselves today, and the TWENTY-TWO who will kill themselves tomorrow, and the next day, and every day until something is done. Veterans lives matter just as much as the lives of police. But so do the lives of prisoners, our brothers and sisters rotting in prison for victimless crimes, rather, for crimes where they themselves were the only victim. Drug addicts deserve our love and kindness, they deserve help from a community that genuinely cares, not to be locked in a cage.

All lives matter. Think about that. Let that sink in. American lives matter, but no more or less than any other lives. Regardless of what we think, how inflated our American ego is…we are human beings. We matter to the same extent that all other human beings matter. There is no “protester” I know who would so much as break a window, much less kill a cop. Dr. King would be disgusted. Malcolm X would be disgusted. Neither men advocated violence. History twists the truth of Malcolm. He supported the right to defend yourself, not senseless acts of violence. No sane person wanting justice and equality thinks that murder or violence is in any way, shape, or form okay. To blame Mayor de Blasio and the protesters for this, because this crazy fuck used #EricGarner in a social media post, is no different than blaming every single cop for condoning the rape of innocent women during traffic stops, because a cop wearing a uniform and a badge did so. Any scumbag can wear a badge and violate sacred oaths to serve and protect. Any scumbag can use a hashtag in an attempt to become infamous at the expense of good, honest people seeking justice and truth. This is a disgusting attempt at political opportunism, and repression of constitutionally guaranteed rights to free speech, to peaceably assemble, and “the right of the people…to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Just as every cop should condemn injustice and corruption within their ranks, if one of my fellow patriotic American protesters should compromise the spirit of Dr. King, should they turn to senseless violence or aggression, everyone I know will condemn such things. Those ‘among’ protesters looting are NOT protesters, they are opportunists, without a care in the world for truth and justice, or who they hurt, because they inevitably hurt the cause. This crazy man in Brooklyn was NOT a protester of any sort, peaceful or otherwise. He was not even a loosely affiliated ‘looter’ using the banner of protest to rob, cheat and steal. To attempt to segway from peaceful protesters to looters to cop killers, is not only offensive and disturbing, it is un-American and dangerous. In a crowd of hundreds of peaceful protesters, a few assholes who are not part of the group and are only, allegedly (it is a fact that there are a number of police infiltrators in every movement, and are often unmasked-such as in Berkeley recently-for their aggression and advocacy for violence, which is not in keeping with the spirit of PROTEST) , using it as a cloak to rob a store, no more represents the protesters than a pedophile priest represents Jesus Christ, or a cop raping an woman during a traffic stop represents Lady Justice. Anyone can claim to be part of a group, and (most) anyone can join. There are certainly crazy people in every group, this man was certainly crazy…but he was not part of the group. He was not a protester. But even if he was, I think that would be a better example of the priest or rapist cop analogy…even if he was, that doesn’t change the fact that he is crazy and not representing in any way, shape or form, the group. Marylin Manson and EMINEM were not responsible for Columbine, Salinger was not responsible for the death of John Lennon, and Jesus Christ and the Pope are not responsible when a christian fundamentalist blows up an abortion clinic.

Maybe in this man’s sad, twisted mind, he was doing something good, or maybe he just snapped, and is an attention whore and knew the BEST way that he could get attention. Either way, this has nothing to do with the protesters OR Mayor Bill de Blasio condemning racial profiling and police brutality. This is one more attempt they are using to further silence dissent. I am NOT okay with that, and you shouldn’t be either. I sincerely hope that the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, comes out, and we see exactly why this crazy man was not stopped. I certainly hope that he wasn’t left alone for political reasons, but sadly I know better that to think that that is not a possibility. I certainly hope that the NYPD wouldn’t “sacrifice” some of their own brothers in a political move. I certainly that everyone heeds the words of Dr. King because we have seen time and time and time and time again that violence begets violence. Hate can only be conquered with love. I love those officers and I genuinely mourn their senseless deaths, but to me it is inexcusable to mourn their deaths and not the deaths of Eric Garner and Aiyana Jones and Tarika Wilson and John Crawford and Tamir Rice…and the senseless deaths of millions of innocent civilians over the past 13 years in the “war on terror.”. If you’re reading this, I love you like a brother or sister…but no more than Eric Garner, no more than the unnamed and unnumbered collateral damage. It is not human nature to not care about all of our fellow human beings…THAT is socialization. THAT is dehumanization. We learned not to care…I believe that we can all learn to care.

First They Came For The Black People: An Ode To Lady Justice

visions of people

in my dreams

lines and lines

of left, right

left behind

leave all your belongings

you won’t need them

giant computer screens

names and numbers

from tattooed bar-codes

scanned by young women

progress

IBM stock rising

again

like the thermostat

and sweat beads on my forehead

and I can’t move

packed so tight

just like boot camp-cattle cars

but that was the choice

of a naive 18 year old

this?

Oh, this…

I suppose a choice as well

see,

first they came for the black people

and I didn’t speak up

and now I can no longer breathe

wear my heart on my sleeve

you can have it,

it’s broken

for humanity

rather,

the lack thereof

still lacking love

after all these years

and all these fears instilled from an early age

tear out page after page

and escape this cage,

it was never locked

just a mental block

an imagined brick wall

mental prison walls fall

this is where it begins

cleanse me of my sins

racism

and sexism

and homophobia

sins

fear

and apathy

sins

Indifference

and selfishness

sins

of the founding fathers…

“Compromise, conformity,

assimilation, submission

Ignorance, hypocrisy,

brutality, the elite

All of which are American dreams”

Rage,

Rage against

the machine…

Aiyana Jones

“I Can’t Breathe…”

Oscar Grant

“I Can’t Breathe…”

Sean Bell

“I Can’t Breathe…”

Tarika Wilson

“I Can’t Breathe…”

John Crawford

“I Can’t Breathe…”

Amadou Diallo

“I Can’t Breathe…”

Ramarley Graham

“I Can’t Breathe…”

DeAunta Terrel Farrow

“I Can’t Breathe…”

Rekia Boyd

“I Can’t Breathe…”

Tamir Rice

“I Can’t Breathe…”

Kiwane Carrington

“I Can’t Breathe……………………………….”

Eric Garner

stuck in this American

nightmare

wake up

at the top of your lungs now

use that last breath

scream

JUSTICE

let it echo to the depths

of the Grand Canyon

and off the high rises

of Lower Manhattan

JUSTICE

echoing in the nostrils of dead presidents

in stolen Black Hills

and in Indian graves

beneath Wal-Mart parking lots

JUSTICE

echoing off the banks

of the rivers of Babylon

and off the walls

of the Khyber Pass

JUSTICE

echoing

sound waves

breaking windows of courthouses

and crooked cop cars

JUSTICE

from sea

to shining badges aren’t licenses

to kill

JUSTICE

echoing throughout the Pentagons courtyard

JUSTICE

Echoing in the halls of congress

JUSTICE

from sea to shining

handcuffs for screaming

JUSTICE

no matter who it’s for or against

like Malcolm screamed

TRUTH

and Lady JUSTICE

choked out by the long arm of the law

sister Liberty stuck

on an island

her hands up

sign of distress to the heavens

can’t help

shooting star wishing

well running dry

alligator tears

crying

injustice for all

blood on our hands

forgive me,

sins unforgiven

wash them away with tap water

and Dr. Bronners

it has to be organic

this revolution,

don’t panic

but get off the train

we’re alright for now

but if you don’t wake up

it will kill you

don’t fret, it’s just rain

outside

fear nothing

and no man

and fuck 9 to five

emancipate ourselves

mental chains

and shackles

fall apart

with each new book off the shelf

read

read

read

lets write our own revolution

turn off the TV and follow me…

no, walk beside

hand in hand

lets turn off this scripted reality

can’t stand this corporate insanity

these Edward Bernays

smoke signals to our soul

false alarms telling us where to go

what to do

and which boogeyman is hiding

beneath our bed

and in our closets

forget terror threats

and color codes,

lets flip the script

dive headfirst into the unknown

don’t just dip our toe

and don’t forget the innocent

left rotting on death row

and in bombed out villages

in Baghdad

the ghetto

and the West Bank

and don’t forget

the guilty

that thin blue line

and the those inside the beltway

and down on Wall Street

still raking in the dough

who knows,

maybe their hearts can grow like the Grinch…

but for now I’ve got to go,

there’s work to be done

I won’t forget

I won’t give up on you

won’t give in

won’t waste my breath

precious

fill these lungs

scream

JUSTICE

so long as I breathe

I’ll fight for truth,

and justice

and peace

and I’ll fight beside you

because you matter…

and I know

that you would fight too

if first

they came for me…

First They Came For The Black People: An Ode To Lady Justice

visions of people

in my dreams

lines and lines

of left, right

left behind

leave all your belongings

you won’t need them

giant computer screens

names and numbers

from tattooed bar-codes

scanned by young women

progress

IBM stock rising

again

like the thermostat

and sweat beads on my forehead

and I can’t move

packed so tight

just like boot camp-cattle cars

but that was the choice

of a naive 18 year old

this?

Oh, this…

I suppose a choice as well

see,

first they came for the black people

and I didn’t speak up

and now I can no longer breathe

wear my heart on my sleeve

you can have it,

it’s broken

for humanity

rather,

the lack thereof

still lacking love

after all these years

and all these fears instilled from an early age

tear out page after page

and escape this cage,

it was never locked

just a mental block

an imagined brick wall

mental prison walls fall

this is where it begins

cleanse me of my sins

racism

and sexism

and homophobia

sins

fear

and apathy

sins

Indifference

and selfishness

sins

of the founding fathers…

“Compromise, conformity,

assimilation, submission

Ignorance, hypocrisy,

brutality, the elite

All of which are American dreams”

Rage,

Rage against

the machine…

Aiyana Jones

“I Can’t Breathe…”

Oscar Grant

“I Can’t Breathe…”

Sean Bell

“I Can’t Breathe…”

Tarika Wilson

“I Can’t Breathe…”

John Crawford

“I Can’t Breathe…”

Amadou Diallo

“I Can’t Breathe…”

Ramarley Graham

“I Can’t Breathe…”

DeAunta Terrel Farrow

“I Can’t Breathe…”

Rekia Boyd

“I Can’t Breathe…”

Tamir Rice

“I Can’t Breathe…”

Kiwane Carrington

“I Can’t Breathe……………………………….”

Eric Garner

stuck in this American

nightmare

wake up

at the top of your lungs now

use that last breath

scream

JUSTICE

let it echo to the depths

of the Grand Canyon

and off the high rises

of Lower Manhattan

JUSTICE

echoing in the nostrils of dead presidents

in stolen Black Hills

and in Indian graves

beneath Wal-Mart parking lots

JUSTICE

echoing off the banks

of the rivers of Babylon

and off the walls

of the Khyber Pass

JUSTICE

echoing

sound waves

breaking windows of courthouses

and crooked cop cars

JUSTICE

from sea

to shining badges aren’t licenses

to kill

JUSTICE

echoing throughout the Pentagons courtyard

JUSTICE

Echoing in the halls of congress

JUSTICE

from sea to shining

handcuffs for screaming

JUSTICE

no matter who it’s for or against

like Malcolm screamed

TRUTH

and Lady JUSTICE

choked out by the long arm of the law

sister Liberty stuck

on an island

her hands up

sign of distress to the heavens

can’t help

shooting star wishing

well running dry

alligator tears

crying

injustice for all

blood on our hands

forgive me,

sins unforgiven

wash them away with tap water

and Dr. Bronners

it has to be organic

this revolution,

don’t panic

but get off the train

we’re alright for now

but if you don’t wake up

it will kill you

don’t fret, it’s just rain

outside

fear nothing

and no man

and fuck 9 to five

emancipate ourselves

mental chains

and shackles

fall apart

with each new book off the shelf

read

read

read

lets write our own revolution

turn off the TV and follow me…

no, walk beside

hand in hand

lets turn off this scripted reality

can’t stand this corporate insanity

these Edward Bernays

smoke signals to our soul

false alarms telling us where to go

what to do

and which boogeyman is hiding

beneath our bed

and in our closets

forget terror threats

and color codes,

lets flip the script

dive headfirst into the unknown

don’t just dip our toe

and don’t forget the innocent

left rotting on death row

and in bombed out villages

in Baghdad

the ghetto

and the West Bank

and don’t forget

the guilty

that thin blue line

and the those inside the beltway

and down on Wall Street

still raking in the dough

who knows,

maybe their hearts can grow like the Grinch…

but for now I’ve got to go,

there’s work to be done

I won’t forget

I won’t give up on you

won’t give in

won’t waste my breath

precious

fill these lungs

scream

JUSTICE

so long as I breathe

I’ll fight for truth,

and justice

and peace

and I’ll fight beside you

because you matter…

and I know

that you would fight too

if first

they came for me…

First They Came For The Black People: A few words about Ferguson…and NYC…and America

And then they came for me…

maybe the reason the media covered this as much as they did was in part to condition us even more so into accepting a police state, and even martial law. Or to get us to forget we’re bombing the world to pieces. Maybe it was to show that the National Guard has matured since the days of Kent State and were able to ‘save the day’ in Ferguson. This isn’t about a specific black teenager or a specific cop (not necessarily white) it is about the fact that black people were never re-humanized after slavery and are viewed as less than expendable. You cannot enslave someone without first dehumanizing him, and you cannot kill someone without first dehumanizing him. For those that say Brown was a punk kid (as if that deserves a death sentence) what about Eric Garner? The problem is that since the 1860’s, there has been no attempt to re-humanize those long dehumanized by society. It doesn’t matter if the victim of this particular shooting had stolen cigarettes, or even a car, or even robbed a bank, it isn’t about him, and it isn’t about an extremely small number of ignorant idiots using tragedy as an excuse for chaos (looting, etc). It’s about why, if the cop Wilson was scared of this black teenager, why he was scared. I have some professors with PHD’s and spotless criminal records who, when wearing anything but an expensive suit, (and even then) illicit that same fear in police, in passersby, and even in some students. One professor (an older black man) wore a hooded sweatshirt for an entire semester to prove a point. He always had his credentials on him, which he needed to produce a number of times even on campus. If you feel at all afraid when you see a young black man, as this cop really might well have, that says far more about you and about your socialization than it does the individual. As a child and teenager, while i wouldn’t call it racist, i was certainly ignorant as fuck. Denying this, revising the history of my youth helps no one. I know I am a good person today, but i was on my way to becoming part of the problem, and i was part of the problem… ignorance certainly shouldn’t be considered bliss. To care more what your peers think than what your heart tells you…that needs to change. I knew better, but i just went with it.

More than once in middle school and high school, i remember returning the “insult” of “you’re a nigger” with, “no, you’re a nigger”. Though the same can be said about about every homophobic term in the book. I’m ashamed of how ignorant and stupid i was, but i was by no means unique. When we had respected couches we looked up to using this language, adults in positions of power and authority, who were we to question it? (though my mother certainly taught me better, and slapped me so hard my face was red the first and only time she heard me say the ‘n’ word. It wasn’t from my parents or family, but peers and couches and bosses are a bit more influential for some pre-teens and teenagers than their parents. My first job, working an a farm in Sunderland, I heard probably every hateful term about every group imaginable. Even a white teenager who stuttered wasn’t safe from the bosses abuse, and he was ridiculed for his stuttering. (for what it’s worth, the boss was a former police officer). I finally got the nerve to quit when he said, upon my 3rd request for ONE DAY off to attend the Warp Tour (music festival) as a music loving 13 year old kid, he said the day before the concert “don’t be a faggot, you’re not going to that gay shit and that’s final, try it and you’re fired” (after i told him off, he called my father to ‘talk some sense into me’ but thankfully my dad talked some sense into my old boss). This was also a man I hid my cartridge ear piercing from under a bandana, for fear of what he would say or do. So, by 9th grade, i had already had a boss (an abusive boss whom i looked up to and respected for too long) a couch, and more than a handful of friends casually dropping racist and homophobic language (usually as some type of insult). At a minimum, non-white people were ‘other’ and nothing was done to reverse that. My mom tried her best with talks about how everyone is the same and we’re all one, but i came to understand that as the language of ‘crazy hippies’. It made sense, but i never gave it a second thought, mainly because i never had to. I didn’t see how in the world my friend, or my couch, or my old boss using a ‘word’ as an insult aimed at me or someone else, was bad ‘but it doesn’t mean anything’ and after all, in those days the high school mascot was the “Redskins”. at 14, 15, 16 years old, we have no idea the weight that words actually have. We have no idea the conditioning that is taking place when we’re 8, 9, 10 years old watching COPS, since after all, it is just ‘TV’. As a child, and probably until i bought my first bag of weed in 8th grade, i was pretty certain that DRUG DEALERS were all black, maybe a Latino or two now and then. But every drug I ever bought in high school was from a white person, all of my friends who had serious problems with hard drugs, well, their dealers were almost without exception white. Hell, the DARE officer of a loved one of mine from when he was in 6th grade, that DARE officer’s son (a white kid) was among the worst offenders. Lets not kid ourselves. We are all the fucking same, we are all products of our environment, and REAL STRUCTURAL FAILURES have created the environment in which a lot of black and brown people live. There is such a thing as white privilege, and no it doesn’t mean that you haven’t struggled and haven’t worked hard for everything you have. Look beneath the surface. Need an example? walk into MACY’S. Walk around for twenty minutes, try on a shirt, maybe some pants. when you’re not followed, what do you call that if not privilege? My team leader from Iraq spent a long time in the military, and now works in law enforcement (one of the good ones, i swear). He’s never been arrested, never committed a crime, never taken a drug and doesn’t drink. Clean cut, clean shaven, dresses better than I do. To have witnessed the shit that he, and countless others i worked with through the years, has to deal with, and never having dealt with any of this myself, that alone is privilege (though that’s barely scratching the surface of the problems). If i am not mistaken, there was a fad years ago when i was in maybe 6th or 7th grade, and my sister was in 8th or 9th grade. White kids from our school, from her class, used to fucking steal everything they possibly could from Abercrombie & Fitch, and from a music store called Media Play. A shit load of clothes and a shit load of CD’s. I know a lot of people who have done and still regularly do coke, and some who smoke crack. the majority of them are white. not just white, but from “good families, good neighborhoods”. At 18, serving in the military with Black teenagers and men who, and getting to know non-white people for the first time, i couldn’t help but think about everything i had heard from friends, mentors, the media,…about how “they” were criminals: they stole shit and did and sold drugs. well, well, well…here were a bunch of black people in the military, honorably serving their country, NOT stealing shit or doing drugs,…and i had friends back home from high school stealing shit and doing and selling drugs. How strange. Then, even outside of the military, getting to know some of my sisters friends from Smith College, then no longer being afraid to befriend, and god-forbid date, people who didn’t look like me. I never hated or disliked non-straight-white, (etc) people,…but for the most part I was indifferent. A fear, not of interacting with people who didn’t look like me, but a fear of what people who did look like me would think if i did… they remained “Other” and likely would have had I never left my home town. Maybe, maybe not. Not a dislike, hate, or fear, but an indifference and misunderstanding. Only as i began to leave my teenage years were non-white people RE-HUMANIZED, and i credit a number of friends and loved ones and lovers and teachers and BOOKS for this, but certainly not society. Had I not gone against the grain, these other groups would still be the “other”, something unfamiliar.

When we aren’t familiar with something, we often use our imaginations to fill in the blanks. Well, for generations, even ‘progressive’ and ‘liberal’ Americans were free of the burden of imagination or curiosity, and the media filled in the blanks for us. The TV show COPS worked wonders. COPS represents all black people about as accurately as the TV show Breaking Bad represents all white people. or for that matter, about as accurately as COPS represents all white people. In and of itself, it’s not a problem, but when COPS becomes the only exposure that white people have to black people, and white people can look anywhere and see positive representations of white people, they start to believe that black= bad, and white of course (like them and their neighbors) =good. This idea gets reinforced on nightly news, in movies, and other tv shows. Never once in all my years of education through 12th grade did I hear anything about any structural issues than have grown out of the ashes of slavery. Not until i went in the military and became friends with people who didn’t look like me for the first time, did i realize that things are pretty fucked up, and that aside from that, on a human level, WE ARE THE FUCKING SAME. As long as we only talk about current social problems, and never address the enormous structural shitstorm that incubates social problems, as long as the death of a young black teenager leads us to seek excuses, while the death of a young white teenager leads us to seek answers, seek the truth, seek justice, we have work to do. I don’t think it matters whether or not this kid stole cigarettes, because the last time i checked the punishment for petty theft isn’t the death penalty. It’s sad if this is what it takes to get any sort of a conversation going in america, but it is a conversation that needs to happen and has never happened. Malcolm tried getting the conversation going, and we see what happened to him. Dr. tried to get the conversation going and we see what happened to him. and i know ‘slavery ended a long time ago’ ‘Jim Crow is over’… well, that’s not good enough. Rather than yell at me if you have a problem with what i wrote, for starters, read The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. There are more black people in prison today than were enslaved at the height of slavery. black men are more likely to wind up in prison than college… As i mentioned, it’s certainly not because they are more “prone” to “crime” than their white peers… so, what is it?
Remember, it’s not about one teenager or one cop or one city…it is about truth and justice, freedom and equality…human rights…

http://newjimcrow.com/

Still and all, why bother? Here's my answer. Many people need desperately to receive this message: I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone. -Kurt Vonnegut

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