“You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.”
El-hajj Malik El-shabazz (Malcolm X)
by Robert Hayden
O masks and metamorphoses of Ahab, Native Son
The icy evil that struck his father down
and ravished his mother into madness
trapped him in violence of a punished self
struggling to break free.
As Home Boy, as Dee-troit Red,
he fled his name, became the quarry of
his own obsessed pursuit.
He conked his hair and Lindy-hopped,
zoot-suited jiver, swinging those chicks
in the hot rose and reefer glow.
His injured childhood bullied him.
He skirmished in the Upas trees
and cannibal flowers of the American Dream–
but could not hurt the enemy
powered against him there.
As much as America is divided there is one thing that unites us currently in a troubling way – anger. Anger seems to abound on all sides of the political spectrum in ways not seen since the 1960’s. I think many of us that tread somewhere more centrist in the political realm are growing alarmed at the widening gap of hostility between the right and the left.
I find it disturbing that wrapped within the current GOP rhetoric of absolving Trump of guilt in the impeachment trial for the insurrection at the Capitol is this tit for tat argument on the equivalency around the violence of the Black Lives Movement in cities across America this past summer. It’s like GOP pundits believe one justifies the other. I see no such equivalency, despite my community being directly impacted by the terrible violence last summer in the wake of George Floyd’s death. There is a darker side to that violence that is getting very little press; the fact that numerous indictments have been handed down in Minneapolis to white supremacists from outside the local community, some from outside the state, who used the cover of the George Floyd protests in the days following his death to cause anarchy, increase the level of violence and damage, and steal with impunity.
Embedded within the tragedy of what happened in Minneapolis, is the fact that there was a highly coordinated right wing anarchist component that only wanted to enhance the violence for their own purposes; to confuse, to radicalize the right and justify their actions, like the attack on the capitol in January. It feels like there is a coordinated media response within right wing politics to incite their base by playing the fools game of who committed the greater wrong. It’s a game no one wins.
What continues to be so troubling for me around Trumpism, is the inability of the GOP mainstream to stand up to the racist attitudes that are fueling some members of their caucus with conspiracy theories that have no basis in reality. Conspiracy theories that dehumanize their opposition to give credence to their hate. It’s one of the reasons I think poetry can be an important tool in this discussion in America, particularly angry poetry. Poetry that speaks of perspectives that make white Americans uncomfortable may be an easier entry into a broader discussion on things that make all of us uncomfortable. For equity to progress, we must move beyond conversations that dwell on the fringes of both sides, and address the causes of the anger, without losing sight of each other’s humanity or what profoundly limiting lessons our children learn from hate.
by Countee Cullen
Once riding in old Baltimore,
. . Heart-filled, head-filled with glee,
I saw a Baltimorean
. . Keep looking straight at me.
Now I was eight and very small,
. . And he was no whit bigger,
And so I smiled, but he poked out
. . His tongue, and called me, “Nigger.”
I saw the whole of Baltimore
. . From May until December:
Of all the things that happened there
. . That’s all that I remember.