What if it was more than an accent.
What if southern meant different color.
Dark brown bourbon skin.
Patch of red on the back of the head somewhere low about the neck.
Living up north like a sore thumb blends into a hand.
People can’t stand anything that reminds them of an experience they lack.
Prideful ignorance. Whole islands of sand to bury your head.
We call it rural America.
Main Street U.S.A.
See some places are places you go.
But a small town town is somewhere you stayed.
If my skin were different, not just my legato accent.
Not just my laid back, get to it tomorrow disposition.
But a different pigmentation in my skin.
Not even a totally different color.
Even just a slightly darker tinge.
What a question that is. How many people in this country
have not traveled enough to at some point in time been the minority.
For any reason at all. Big or small. Voice or opinion or skin color or sexual preference.
Or me. A southerner. Up north. Learning what all those boys
killing each other during the civil war
learned once they got up close. We’re not so different
as our representatives would like us to be.
The greatest unspoken fear of every political career
is that all us people ever get on the same team.
Which happens the moment our eyes really open.
Otherwise, America will live and die
no more than a dream.
I believe that everyone has the right to have their rights not be an amendment to the system that defines them. I believe better and more deeply than our founding fathers did, that our rights are not the fodder of governments. But ingrained guarantees of freedom invested in us by our creator. My rights are not evenly planted rows of corn peppered in patches of soybeans. They are feral weeds. Should we forget to ever garden here again. I am free. Full of flowers and fuzzy grass heads and cat tails and wild medicine and poison. I don’t need a farmer for this field to yield. I need a farmer to help interact safely and amicably with my neighbors, locally and abroad. To oversee vast water tables and plate tectonics and geothermal activity. To connect the dots between surplus and need.
The time of government going through and telling you whether or not you’re full human is over. Black people did not earn the right to vote. Nor did women. They were denied this basic personhood and representation and real acknowledgment in the eyes of the government structures that dictated their lives. Intentionally. Full with purpose. We are still arguing about a system that was, by design, not designed for all of us.
The founders were not imaginative. They were not soldiers in the war for liberty. They saw tax dollars going overseas and devised a way to seize them. Threw a few Latin words together they recalled from grade school and split a crown into five hundred pieces. With the stroke of a pen, they created a new merchant level economic class. Government jobs. That die like zombies. Carcasses always reanimating in one form or another down the line. Not like fashion. Or farming. Or the oil industry. A couple hundred men, some paper, and a pen, redirected a new world’s worth of exported taxes right back to them. And constructed a system that guaranteed themselves positions, and platforms to prop up their children. Representative government makes a monarchy of democracy. A crown broken down and split into a thousand different disease resistant careers.
They didn’t get freedom right, because that was not what they sat down to write.
The best we can do to honor our founders, our ancestors, is to imitate their impulse to revolt.
To revolution. Whenever. However we can. To write out and rewrite our rights.
Our expectations of governments. Of ourselves.
But we have to recognize the flaw of this system is at its base. It’s in little words.
Words like our. For instance. In full regards to the framers of our constitution.
Their our was less than half of our’s.
That doesn’t call for an edit. Or a rewrite.
It means we go back to the drawing board.
Or in other words.
One more American revolution.
I love this country.
Seated against a tree in Virginian highlands.
I love this country. And, I know what all that means.
Mountain pillars float above foundational streams.
Tall rooted sunlight schemes in wiggling green.
I love when high wind sweeps low and even stillness quivers.
Feel this shiver slink along my spine.
End up near my mind.
I love a cup of wine.
I love to breathe smoke.
And nurse fire.
I love the country where I am.
Gnats wing electricity near my ear.
Fire molesting moist wood.
Hesitant to burn.
Begged to be left alone.
This country is my home.
And I am anything but inclined to protect it.
On my feet.
Wide hipped pictures of horizons
and boot prints on the trails.
I love this country best
when I love it with my footsteps
with my time.
House. Jobs. Farm. Goats. Careers. Left behind.
By definition. They were not this country.
Which was here long before we were.
And will remain so long past I. Us. We.
Lovers of continents we can’t understand.
There are better ways than words to say it.
If I reach the end of my life, and find my greatest sin was being white, what then?
Will I explain to God how it was part of being American?
It was an entrenched system.
It had more to do with inheritance than with decisions.
I care so little for the color of skin. But the weight of true sin,
that is a burden like no other. An anchor on a ship built to circle the world.
And if you never learn to recognize it, you never leave the harbor.
Too heavy to push off from this morbid coil, this meal we let spoil
into redemption soil, inherited toil, this life effort into death comfort, into oceans.
History so heavy it drags bottom. Measures how far we’ve not gotten.
Shows us the depth we are all so eager to stay on top of.
It makes for an awkward discussion, but the perfect poem.
Seeing society cripple itself so that it favors one leg over the other.
White people who are really beige, offwhite, often pink, rarely really white,
fostering fear and weakness and feigned innocence so that disparity
can be dropped like an anchor and stop progress pushing in the wind.
We all see round sails and current lines and a horizons frowning
they are so anxious to be pushed back further.
Yet we do not draw it up to drip above the water,
so our past has become a permanent tether.
We know history can not go away, but while we refuse to carry it,
at least we know where we stay. White in the United States.
But ships are not meant to stay anchored.
I am confident we were not either.
And I refuse to let my greatest sin be living complacently in white America.
I don’t know what afterlife waits for white Americans.
Though I am doubtful it will be a white heaven.
How many words were invented when we invented our government? Congress. President. Senate. I’m waiting. Which of these positions was invented specially for our unique democratic experiment? Because if we took these words from history, let there be no more mystery as to why it doesn’t work. We run our nation like the question how many broken lawnmowers does it take to cut the grass. Maybe a piece from each will work, and we can somehow splice together a decent machine from the rest of the world’s spare parts. But I doubt it. None of these countries, empires, philosophers or tyrants sent us their hearts. Just their rebels. Contraband. Freedom bound. People who look forward to sleep because of their dreams, not to avoid them. Face it. Democracy hasn’t actually successfully happened yet. The infrastructure required to stabilize it in a modern realm may yet not be in existence. And what we need are geniuses. Not chess champions or intellectual gunslingers pointing facts or eleven year old violinists.
We need what genius really means. What it’s always meant.
For the time being. A chance to reinvent.
What if this is an issue of equality.
We are arguing the functionality of purely male-made systems of
government and economy.
Perhaps if there had been at least one woman in the room,
she would have mentioned how unprofitable people still like to eat.
Perhaps she would have brought a scale,
and given a demonstration of the true meaning
of the word equal.
I do not define freedom as having many choices. Every responsible adult knows if choice denotes freedom, we often have none. I recognize freedom more as the ability to be unaffected by the choices of others. From two hundred years ago or just the other day.
I am a human.
I am a child of God.
I have a tax free right to live on the earth,
no matter where or when I was born.
Until humans can choose a feral life,
domestication is not freedom.
Until the time comes when we can decide,
there will never be another free American.
Humans have roots. Don’t believe it? Maybe you could see it more clearly in a vacuum. Void of air and pressure and all the regulated status quo that keeps you whole. Or skip a meal, skip a day of meals, tell me if that root twisting your gut isn’t real. And what water is born out the ends of faucets, enters existence when you lift that lever and let in the slightest bit of air. Vomited out metal mouths sick from drinking so much rain and right out of aquifers and buried branches and rivers, up all night the night before. You and I have roots. You and I have nothing without roots. To claim human freedom, yet charge for shelter, water and food sources that feed them, is giving nothing but a word. We are born into and raised by and educated within wholly human worlds. But we are not even a tenth of our environment. We are not even a good wide window view of this planet. More like a weird, fat-headed, plastic-minded, clay creature conglomerate. A person on a patch of land they owe tax on, hungry for food they can’t pay for, thirsty for water buried beneath a bill. This is not freedom. Up until around a hundred years ago America always had wild places wild people could disappear into. Around three hundred years ago America was filled up by people who ran out of wild places in Europe. We are the inheritors of a people who knew freedom was not a state of being. It is a form of currency. Responsible for the roots that feed you. Ownership, as much as possible. What the hell can I do about fast cars and sports bars and suburban living and charitable giving. These things aren’t going anywhere. At least not as fast as the forests. The classroom that first taught us to human. We need to start out life in this place, and choose, really, out loud and conscientious, decide when we want to leave it behind. We can never be a free species while that choice is made for us. While all our roots trace back to dollar signs. And I think we need to be reminded. The human hand did not shape the human mind. The earth did.
I am almost ready to express where I am with the recent election. This nation is divided. But not accidentally or happenstance. It is split up like a stump into a pile of firewood. Conservative wedge. Democratic hammer. People forced to, out of unending, choose between two.
Blame, ironically, is also a two party system. There are over three hundred million people in America. And a couple of privately operated, independent entities, convinced us to choose between two of them. What were true blue, lifelong Democrats supposed to do? How about Republicans, when every other option that ran ran off on them, clearing space for the saggy face of unmerited ego.
Blaming anyone for the direction in which they cast their fishing line last week is unfair, it’s misguided, and entirely intentional. Not a single one of us chose this fishing hole. And I can’t help but feel somebody knew it would come with a catch.
The men who founded this country were not enlightened so much as frightened by the prospect of democracy. It was really less a message of power for the people than it was about too much power for a king. They used democracy like a worm on a hook to catch the unending career opportunities offered up by republics. They did not know the celebrity culture that would take hold after just a few short centuries. The system they invented was like a cast put on the leg we busted trying to get out of the Great Britain bear trap. But it has become the clearest path to kingship left in America. And our celebrity culture has evolved into its own isolated form of incestual monarchy. What happened last week was just a sneak peek of what the future holds for elections in this country.
It is getting so difficult to hear arguments for representative solutions to apply to authenticated issues, over the sound of the phone in my pocket screaming how democracy is more possible today than ever before.
But to the people who made governing people into careers, democracy was never the goal. It is their greatest fear.