This poem first appeared on Curenseaafter being written in 2007. I have made a few minor edits.
I chose this poem based on many thoughts coming up for me over my lifetime while living in the United States. I grew up in Virginia and found it strange that I could live next to a Holocaust survivor and then move to a town with an active KKK chapter other kids at the elementary school nonchalantly talked to me about their parents being members of. My parents explained what that meant when I asked. Same with the Neo-nazi rallies in Yorktown, Virginia – you know, that place where we apparently “won the Revolutionary War”. What’s so revolutionary about it anymore now that you allow those kinds of rallies there? But Virginia did. My parents felt powerless against it because the courts ruled in their favor on the grounds of Freedom Of Speech and Freedom Of Assembly and that was used to argue for social tolerance of intolerance. Now, here we are, being asked to tolerate violence against each other as that too becomes normalized.
A Lesson Never Learned
It came up through the floorboards, Zyklon B reaching forward through time Ripping at our throats, Forming itself around our nostrils condensing into blue ice, after being trapped in the cold of existence. This depressive state of humanity Seeming only to slumber in its death Released the gas upon itself, Using the world as its chamber Many can claim their innocence -besides- Innocence through ignorance is the best kind While dictators commence genocidal rampages Using ill-earned power to rape a people destroy their very creation of a God, And yet, for those who are suffering:
The strongest woman I (n)ever met sat crying at the grand opening of the Holocaust Museum She surveyed the surrounding young people Generations too young to remember or know what She Survived Walking through in awe of their own misunderstandings She looked back without a single failed memory Her arm exposed so everyone could see: the vining rose tattoo that grew out of the numbers that changed her life forever
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I first wrote this poem in 2007 in my first semester of college. The draft was the first time someone in a collegiate academic setting told me I should consider being a professional poet. I’ve never succeeded in publishing it, but those words still encourage me. Listen to your friends – let them be the voices in your head when you desperately need them.
We Are Nothing
we are nothing, but nothing – razor-edged souls cutting through time with a steely gasp of twilight before our instant sunset, packaged in a plastic microwavable container with a label stating, “just add water” we a single individual with many minds and parts – societal schizophrenia on a rampage. perhaps the voice of muscle spasm can sear through your tyranny, as you have trapped creativity and youth in oppression, tearing them from their families as though they were meant to be institutionalized with bars on the windows and locks on the doors. Keep faith, children! For there is always an alternative route grasping for a mind that could fathom his existence. Outside the window is a world darkened by a starless reality, yet lit by polluting city lights. Red, Green, Blue Straining for that chance to say, “Coca-Cola” in Times Square. But this – this is nothing.
Please feel free to comment your personal experiences openly and freely below- I reserve the comments section for that.
Growing up in Virginia the Civil War history unit always started with Andrew Jackson. Andrew Jackson – the only president we don’t know the true state of birth for because he was born on the border of North and South Carolina. He is best known as the Original Jackass – the reason the Democratic party has a donkey as its mascot. He took office in 1828 “by a landslide,” reported the papers. In reality? It was the same margin as the previous election. He was popular and earned the name “The Peoples’ President.” He used campaign slogans that suggested he was fighting for the “common man” against the “corrupt aristocracy.” He was extraordinarily popular among White Men (the only people that could vote at the time). Especially southerners, frontiersmen, prospectors, and businessmen who saw his election as a financial opportunity.
During his initial bid for the presidency in 1824, Jackson had endured all manner of insults and humiliation. He was an uneducated bumpkin, a blasphemer, a fraudulent land speculator, and even a murderer.
Okay. Hopefully, you see where I’m going with this now.
But What About Foreign Interference!?
Hush. Do you remember nothing from history class? Or did I only learn this because I grew up in The South?
Andrew Jackson and France made a treaty in 1831. Here‘s how that played out:
In an 1831 treaty, France agreed to pay claims for Napoleonic depredations on American shipping. Nevertheless, the French Chamber of Deputies refused to appropriate the necessary funds. Jackson finally lost patience and asked Congress to authorize reprisals if the money was not paid. The French government then demanded retraction of this insult as a condition of payment. Jackson responded in effect that what he said to Congress was none of a foreign government’s business. The impasse deepened through 1835: ministers were recalled and military preparations begun. Finally, under British urgings, the French agreed to construe a conciliatory passage in a later message of Jackson’s as sufficient apology. France paid the debt and the crisis passed without repercussions.
Once the British became involved in 1835, they did not disengage. The continued conflict between Britain and France played out on American soil, as did the conflict over land claims between the United States, Spain, and Mexican independence. This foreign interference did not happen in a vacuum and absolutely influenced the war to come.
France, Spain, England and the fight for Mexican Independence were totally involved in propaganda campaigns during the 23 years leading up to the Civil War. During the Civil War, France actively sent insurgents to spread propaganda to ensure the port cities they cared about (they succeeded with Savannah!) surrendered to General Sherman.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to find hard evidence of these propaganda campaigns anymore besides what was written in letters, printed in certain newspapers, or specifically distributed in port cities. There’s some evidence to suggest Savannah’s case in General Sherman’s account of the interaction based on the individuals he spoke with and their associates. Other diaries also provide the suggestions of international presence in the decision by the city of Savannah to surrender.
“The houses all had a shut up look – but from many French, Austrian, British + some American flags were flying + from others people were putting out flags. A few doors opened as we passed + faces peered from windows.”
As an international port city (and the future Port Of Call for my family once they immigrated to the United States many many years after the Civil War) a heavy foreign influence is not terribly surprising, but it is often forgotten and left out of discussions about the Civil War.
What Does This Have To Do With 2020?
A week from today you have the option to go vote. You will vote for whomever you choose and that is your choice as an American citizen. I cannot say if the pattern above would have happened had Andrew Jackson only served one term. I can’t say that because that’s not what happened. During Andrew Jackson’s second term tragedy befell his life and, to put it mildly, he started acting more extreme than before and his political opponents vowed to behave in kind. This is when The Petticoat Affair happened. Assassination plots and attempts started cropping up. The most famous story being when he beat his assailant with his cane.
We live in “the cool zone” – we have a responsibility to decide how cool we’re going to allow it to get.
Thank you for reading this today! Please remember to go out and vote a week from today if you haven’t already participated in early voting or you haven’t dropped your mail-in ballot off to be mailed. Feel free to let me know if I need to add any additional sources or make any corrections. I try my best to fact-check, but no one is perfect.