07 February 2017

Maya Angelou: We Wear the Mask/When I Think about Myself/Song for the Old Ones



It's Black History Month, all y'all,
And there is some amazing shit to see,
During February,
The shortest month in the year,
And all the year round,
And the world goes round,
And round and round and round and round.

When I was in high school, back during the last century, Bill Moyers aired a special on PBS covering a colloquium on Evil. Yes, on Evil, itself--these were the sorts of things that interested me when I was in high school. I videotaped it on VHS and still have that videotape.

It was my introduction to Maya Angelou, that chameleonic, kaleidoscopic, polymath and autodidact of American Letters and performance. I was bound by her spell and her deep humanistic openness, immediately. I encourage you to watch her segment from that colloquium, in which she reads three poems. 

Three poems, one by Laurence Dunbar and two by Maya Angelou:



We Wear the Mask/When I Think about Myself/Song for the Old Ones

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It shades our cheeks and hides our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O my God, our tears
To thee from tortured souls arise.
And we sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world think otherwise,
We wear the mask!

When I think about myself,
I almost laugh myself to death,
My life has been one great big joke,
A dance that’s walked,
A song was spoke,
I laugh so hard, I almost choke,
When I think about myself.

Seventy years in these folks’ world.
The child I works for calls me "girl";
I say, “Yes ma’am,” for working’s sake.
I'm too proud to bend
And too poor to break,
So, I laugh, until my stomach ache,
When I think about myself.

My folks can make me split my side,
I laughed so hard, I nearly died.
The tales they tell, sound just like lyin',
They grow the fruit, but eat the rind.
I laugh, until I start to cryin',
When I think about myself,
And my folks, and the little children.

My Fathers sit on benches,
Their flesh count every plank,
The slats leave dents of darkness
Deep in their withered flank,

And they nod, like broken candles,
All waxed and burnt profound
They say 'But, Sugar, it was our submission
That made your world go round.'

There in those pleated faces
I see the auction block,
The chains and slavery's coffles,
The whip and lash and stock.

My Fathers speak in voices
That shred my fact and sound,
They say, 'But Sugar, it was our submission
And that made your world go round.'

They've laughed to shield their crying ,
They shuffled through their dreams
They step 'n' fetched a country
And wrote the blues in screams.

I understand their meaning,
It could and did derive,
From living on the edge of death,
They kept my race alive.

By wearing the mask.


Paul Laurence Dunbar and Maya Angelou, We Wear the Mask/When I Think about Myself/Song for the Old Ones, 1892, 19-something, Angelou's poem dating is not coming up on Google, which is it's failure


23 January 2017

Fourteen Points about You, Me, and Everybody Else

I, actually, don't look anything like this.

So, I've been meditating on the last few days for the past three months.
And I have a couple things to say about it:


1.
If you wanted "CHANGE," Honey, you are about to get some REAL CHANGE, for real. 
I hope it's to your liking.


2.
I never thought the day after an in-inauguration would move me more than the day itself. The day after became a new kind of the-day-itself, and I thank each and every one of you for making that happen.


3.
The Law is something we subscribe to--and when it is often wrong--we resist it. The United Republican Democratic States of the continent of north America only exists because of resistance, dissent, and revolution. 

Never forget that while we agree to disagree, we disagree in order to agree. We build consensus out of dissent. But you have to know shit in order to disagree and then change your mind. 

Know shit. Be educated, nuanced, sophisticated, smart, and compassionate. 

Listen. Know more later than you know right now.


4.
We are all immigrants to this land..

No human life took hold in the western hemisphere, until immigrants, who crossed the Bering Strait/Sea, long ago, in our prehistory, settled it.

After that, the settlers were all people from across either of the oceans that nestle us in "the West," some of them, even in the earliest days before the Republic for which the American flag stands, brought here forcibly to labor without pay and to make more people, their children, who would also be forced to labor without pay, and to foster grandchildren, great, great-great, and great-great-great, great-great-great-great grandchildren, to be ensnared until the present day, and after, in American law and the "Justice" system, to be imprisoned, paid lower wages, to be denied the franchise, and to, on the average, die at a younger age, unless they were made to join the lowest ranks of the armed forces as cannon fodder or, often unarmed, shot dead by the police.

We are all immigrants to this land. This land, which is your land, this land, which is my land, from California to the New York Island(s), from the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters. This land, which, in point of actual fact, was not made for you and me, but which is a land upon which we are all living, so, we certainly had better start figuring out how to get along better, because none of us is going anywhere. Except for the very old, who tend to vote Republican.

We are all immigrants to this land.


5.
Respect people who came here because they had the temerity to believe in The American Dream. A Dream that still exists in those foolish enough to believe in it. Do not let them down! Respect immigrants. We are only a land only of immigrants.


6.
Jews are actually people.
Muslims are actually people.
Women are actually people.
Women's rights are human rights.
And black lives actually do matter, too.

Why is this so hard to get through your skull? Black lives mattering is not about all lives not mattering, it's about the fact that, heretofore, it didn't seem to matter to much of anyone not black that lives lived by black people matter, too. Not just your bullshit. This isn't that hard. Stop resisting it. It's called normalization, motherfucker. It's called Brown vs Board of Education, motherfucker. It's called Loving vs Virginia, motherfucker.

Could we, please, put a stake into that insidious vampire, in my lifetime? Please? It just makes you look like an ignorant asshole. And you're probably not that ignorant or that much of an asshole to completely disregard reason.

The point isn't that black lives matter more than all other lives when they're black, it is that lives actually matter when they're not white.

Honestly, this is so American basic. It's something even a racist could understand. In America, all men are created equal, even when they are black, even when they are women. And yet black men are disproportionately killed by the police and women are disproportionately underpaid, even when they are white, and even in Hollywood. The evidence is epidemic; the evidence is moribund.

Black lives matter, too.

I guess there's only one way to find out.


7.
Corporations are not people. People are people.

Any questions?


8.
Money is not free speech. 

If you have more money that does NOT give you more speech.
And THAT is the American way, okay?

Any questions?


9.
I'm sorry you grew up in coal country--or oil country. I'm sorry your fathers and mothers killed themselves to give you life, clothe you, feed you, and do everything they could to make your lives better than theirs. They were good people doing good things in this life. But the fossil fuels are fossils. 

We have to move on from fossil fuels. If your local, state, and national governments haven't done all they can--and I am certain most of them have done very little--to help your communities with jobs, most especially in the renewable energy sector, then blame THEM and vote them out of office. 

The canary in the coal mine isn't that big business found lower-wage workers to do the job you used to, the canary in the coal mine is that no one gives a fuck about funding a proper public education for you or your children, or figuring out a way to help you find a job.

You're not lazy. PS Black and brown people aren't lazy, either, Cracker. But we pay taxes to the government to make our lives better, not worse. I will happily pay all the tax dollars you let me to get your kids an education, get you healthcare, get you off drugs without incarcerating you, get you a job you like that will make you solvent enough to feed yourself and your kids, pay your rent, buy your home--if you want to--and live life for sunsets, dancing, laughter, friendship, love, music, reading, philosophy, pleasure, family, joy, education, civic duty, goodness, and NOT doing unto others as you have them NOT do unto you. 

We are our sisters' keeper. And our brothers', too.


10.
Rich people do not know more than we do and do not, as a function of their wealth, make your life, my life, their lives, or anyone's life better. Wealth only takes away some of the harm that life deals out to you, personally. Wealth doesn't make you happy or smart.

If anything, wealth just makes you better at taking advantage of other people.

And is that who you really want to be?


11.
The canary in the coal mine isn't a canary, it's the whole fucking environment telling you to stop burning fossil fuels. When the planet is dying from the fumes--instead of a tiny bird--I'm pretty sure it's time to pay attention.


12.
Educate yourself--because the Republican-led government doesn't care about your mind or body, male or female, white or black or brown. Speak truth to power. Volunteer; not just for religious groups--the world actually includes things beyond religion--and in this country, we're supposed to have a separation of church and state, which is a good thing. And here's why: it may not be your church. Are you really willing to take that chance? Stop trying to get your government to enforce your religious details and get them to embody the compassion that Allah, Adonai, Jesus, God, and the Buddha have been telling you to embody for the past ten centuries.

Vote. Run for office, locally. For Christ's sake, believe in something that doesn't only include you.


13.
I lived in the same city as Donald Trump for twenty-two years. If you voted for him, I feel sorry for you. But you probably didn't live in the same city with him for twenty-two years.

Because, if you had....


14.
The perfect is always the enemy of the good. 

Strive to be good. Strive to be happy. I bet no one told you it was very important to strive to be happy. Strive not to be angry. Strive not to be anxious. Strive to be compassionate. Do some yoga. Strive to be happy.


That's it. So, anyway.
Please, have a great day.