Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Let America Be America Again!

President Barack Obama addresses the Medal of Valor recipients in the Blue Room prior to the Medal of Valor ceremony in the East Room of the White House, May 16, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

"Let America be America Again”

The prophetic work of Langston Hughes "Let America be America Again" is a reminder that justice and equality continue to elude not only African Americans but other economically disadvantaged and minority groups as well.  Neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump has effectively addressed the issues that affect this group as a whole; police brutality, mass incarceration, job loss, and low wages.
These problems have persisted in our society for decades. And like previous political campaigns over the years loads of promises but nothing of substance or concrete, practical solutions.

The overwhelming major of police workers are decent folks with families who job is to serve and protect, under very dangerous circumstances.  Our President has often acknowledged (see the photo above) the importance of their bravery and services. As my mother would say, “It only takes a few bad apples to spoil the entire basket,” however we know that the problems are deeper and systematic. Their must be an honest discussion about police violence and brutality and all the other issues keeping us separate and unequal. No one is the same, but everyone is equal. 

I believe in treating others like I desire to be treated, with respect, dignity, honor, and care. If this is not reciprocated, I am not the one who has lost. On the contrary, I have gained, and the clarion message to you paraphrasing Ralph Waldo Emerson “What you are speak so loudly, I cannot hear what you say you are.” And as Helen Schucman said it in her seminal book, “A Course In Miracles”: “When you meet anyone, remember it is a holy encounter. As you see him, you will see yourself. As you treat him, you will treat yourself. As you think of him, you will think of yourself. Never forget this, for in him you will find yourself or lose yourself.”

Over the next few months, the rhetoric of the presidential campaigns will heighten, but we must focus on what's truly important. Because we have to shift the center of gravity of how we engage the political process. The right to vote was a hard-fought battle and unfortunately continues today for African-Americans, women, and others, therefore, we must be diligent and strategic. In 1924, James Weldon Johnson said the "Negro vote"—quote—has already been prepackaged and sealed to be delivered before they vote. In 1956, W.E.B.Du Bois  "Why I Won’t Vote," writes this piece and says, "I reject the lesser of two evils." In 1965, Malcolm X explained we should treat the ballot like a bullet, and until our targets are set we should keep our ballot in our pockets. 

James H. Williams

Let America be America again!*
By Langston Hughes

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!

*From The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, published by Alfred A.Knopf, Inc. Copyright 1994 the Estate of Langston Hughes. Used with permission.

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