Thursday, July 3, 2008

Sean, You're a Great American

4th of July... enigmatic holiday, no? On one hand I love it. It reminds me of being a kid, going wherever, watching fireworks, etc. On the other hand, I have grown less and less comfortable with it (particularly during the 5 or so years I spent in the the Southern Baptist Church).

I mean it's a celebration of all of these weird things that I had nothing to do with. It's a celebration of patriotism, which has in the last 20 years or so come to mean those who will unblinkingly support America's consumerist culture and think whatever America does is right. I'm not with either of those things, yet I still love this country.

I love that I can speak out against things I believe are unjust (even if I hate that injustice, at least in the last seven years, does not seem to have been on the decline). I love that Keith Olberman can tell the president to, "Shut the hell up," in a Special Comment without fear of going to jail (even though I worry that that may not be true in my children's America). I love that I can watch movies that deal with subject matter that would be illegal in other countries (even if I hate the way we blindly support movies that are simply asinine because of our need to see something else blown up). I love that we have the courage to put forward an African-American as a presidential nominee (even though I hate that ignorance has not died and his middle name is a bigger issue for some than his voting record, or fixing American foreign policy). I love that I can worship freely (even if I hate that some of the loudest voices in religious circles are the most hateful).

Hope everyone enjoys their day off! I'll end with Langston Hughes, this poem really sums up how I feel about America:

Let America be America Again

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed--
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek--
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean--
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today--O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home--
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free."

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay--
Except the dream that's almost dead today.

O, let America be America again--
The land that never has been yet--
And yet must be--the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine--the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME--
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose--
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain--
All, all the stretch of these great green states--
And make America again!


Rachelle said...

I love this poem.

david santos said...

I love this poem. Is fantástic.
Have a nice week.

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