Tuesday, July 21, 2020

A Small Town’s George Floyd Protest 2020

Hope all is going well. Here in the armpit of the nation, masks have never been mandated--and rioting takes place at a minimum. Thought you might be interested in the below piece:

Michael H. Brownstein

A Small Town’s George Floyd Protest 2020

No life matters until all lives matter. Black lives matter, too.
Are we not human? Do we not love our children, eat with forks and spoons, go to school and go to work?
Give me liberty, give me justice, do I not have a right to breathe?
                    —Protest signs

We came to the protest unprepared,
expecting a few dozen at most, not the hundreds
spread across the capitol’s lawn, not the anger,
the pain, the poetry of grief, a frustration
you could wear tomorrow and never remove.
When one speaker screamed into the audience,
Why did the white people present –
and there were a great number of white people present –
do nothing to stop slavery, do nothing to stop the KKK,
do nothing to stop the lynchings of the early 1900s,
and then demanded an answer again and again, Why? Why?
I went to the middle and said I would answer.
The moderator gave me the mic and I said, We were not there,
no, we were not there during slavery, and I said my name,
and we were not there when the KKK rose up ugly,
and we were not there when the lynching began,
and, yes – and I pointed to my arm – I am of this color,
and I am here now. (I could have told of things past,
but I did not.) It is up to us to change this – this color –
and if you are here now, it is up to you – this color –
and I pointed to my arm again. You have to make the difference,
you have to make blacks your friends, you must invite them
into your home, your life, and when you see the strong black man
walking down the same sidewalk as you, know this truth,
he too can be your friend – must be your friend –
and I talked a bit more and then I got out of the way
and listened to a lot more and, finally, we took to the sidewalk,
because there was no permit, but in seconds
we swarmed into the street, too many of us,
and we, stretching over two city blocks, took over downtown,
blocked incoming cars, watched as our numbers swelled,
chanted and sang for the mile from where we began to Lafayette,
where we turned to walk to the university,
new companions, black and white, and color no matter.
When we reached the great park before the university, we stopped,
and everyone, as if we were creating a large work of art,
lay on the ground. Floyd lay like this, the organizers said,
for eight minutes and forty-six seconds. We did too,
my hands behind my back, my face in the grass,
my wife beside me, her face against my back and we chanted,
I cannot breathe. I cannot breathe. I cannot breathe.
Give me liberty and give me breath. Black lives matter.
My wife had made a speech too, talked of racism in our town,
a place I will not name – Jefferson City, Missouri –
and she spoke of the many slurs and actions thrown at her,
but no more. This was the time to make the change.
Let us come together and change it. She turned to the line of police
and said, And all of you, you are the ones who must make the change.
When the eight minutes and forty-six seconds came to its end,
everyone stood. We thought it was over and began to walk home,
but something was different now, a cloud had fallen over us,
as if the eveningsong of solution and openness had suddenly gone dark,
but it was not dark, the sky a slow concerto into nightfall,
the day’s heat more oppressive, its humidity scarring.

Why is it violence must have a skin?

The crowd did not disperse, it grew smaller, yes, but stronger too,
a strong that was ugly like those who oppress with knee and word,
and you smelled the change in the air, you felt the tear in the flesh.
A block later a group of whites and blacks stepped from the crowd
to curse the police and a block later the first rock exploded the air,
a second hit the police car, then a smoke bomb of some sort,
and I watched as a white boy ran past me –
I can’t bring myself to call him a man –
his hands heavy with missiles, his face contorted, hit its window,
cracking it, and as he readied for another throw
a group surrounded him. Then we heard the slap of ignorance –
a white girl – how can I call her a woman? – slapped a black woman,
and for a second everything turned cold and cruel,
not like the deaf musician who sees music as rainbows
or the blind poet who describes beauty with the rise and fall of melody,
but as the sudden surge of an earthquake or a breaking of stained glass.
This, too, was halted as soon as it began.
The crowd, much smaller, rolled down High Street to downtown,
and my wife and I turned to go home as a half-dozen police vehicles
lined up and followed them until no one was left to follow.
We watched for a while, then crossed the street,
and she talked to the white girl, who was not in tears, but smoking,
proud of herself and the indignity she bestowed on the protest,
and walked with us as we went home, night falling hard,
a litter of stars, a brightness of moon,
and she apologized to us, and began to cry.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Arms once raised in ‘Heil’,
now carry coffee cups
in a time of consumption
before resumption
of Information Age war
when tanks are a memory.

Now swift airstrikes
initiate missile attacks,
conserve the lives
of democratic troops
reluctant to be squandered
without meaningful purpose,
yet loyally obeying
incomprehensible orders
to fight limited battles
with confusing enemies
in Iraq, Afghanistan.

While the fading hegamon
still bestrides much of the globe,
the only sovereign power
willing to confront extremism,
as long as it doesn’t offend
the peace loving people of Islam
who never seem to deplore
the brutal violence carried out
in the name of the prophet.

The decadent West,
whose wanton females
shamelessly bare their flesh
to the eyes of men,
tempting them to sin,
are the true enemy.


to reject calls to Jihad
are righteously ignored.
How else can evildoers
be redeemed for wrongful ways,
if they don’t accept the true faith,
the only road to salvation?

Someone coined the phrase,
‘Win the hearts and minds of the people’,
a strategic fantasy of our leaders,
who never understood
the will of the enemy
is stronger than theirs,
who know without doubt
that sooner or later
we will abandon our allies,
leave our trucks behind,
withdraw our troops,
proclaiming victory.

This pronouncement
meant to disguise defeat
by a primitive foe
that had no jet fighters,
hi-tech missiles,
just an unconquerable will
that refused to crumble,
despite devastating assaults,
emerging victorious
over the oppressors.

While another great enterprise
by the bastion of democracy
failed ignominiously,
every setback a further erosion
of the spirit of America,
besieged on all sides
by friends and foes alike.

Gary Beck

Holiday IV
We celebrate the Fourth of July.
The French celebrate Bastille Day.
I forget what the Russians celebrate.
Potemkin Day? Karl Marx Day? May Day?
But does anyone remember
why we celebrate these holidays?
We all seem far removed
from revolutionary change
and except for the usual 1%,
we all want more material comforts
and most of us are unwilling
to cut off the heads
of the aristos,
substituting fireworks,
patriotic music,
for the Guillotine.

Deceptive Words

The President addressed the nation,
explained why once again
we’re going to war in a foreign land
that does not threaten us,
but is inexorably linked
to the war against terror.

I wonder if he understands
in a declining nation,
once the policeman of the world,
limited resources
are insufficient
to stem the barbarian hordes
clamoring for the blood
of civilized Westerners.

So our leader spoke loudly,
despite carrying a shrinking stick,
paid for with the taxes of the people
who continue to get poorer,
while the wealthy profit
from ongoing wars.

And leader after leader
gave us war after war
consuming our youth,
devouring our treasure,
while a resentful world
measured our decline,
waiting for the tide of history
to dwindle us to impotence,
so aggressive nations
can conquer other lands
we no longer protect

We squandered our resources
in consuming interventions
that left us destitute,
barely able to resist
envious competitors.

The tragic fall
of a great empire
was caused by overreach,
led by the greedy few
reaping obese profits
at the expense of the people,
who foolishly believed arrogant leaders.

Gary Beck

Park Entertainment
A Broadway show
comes to Bryant Park,
a musical, of course,
safer then serious drama,
or controversial comedy.
The actors sing, dance,
highly skilled,
but their voices lack
warmth, emotion,
the vital qualities
that make music move us.
Yet this is a free show
and I can’t help wondering
why people pay
$125, or more, a seat
for impersonal entertainment.

Gary Beck

National News
The media tell us
the economy is improving
and the well-to-do,
the comfortable
believe them.
Yet the poor
struggling to survive,
the middle-class
of diminishing income,
no longer accept
reassuring pronouncements
that things are improving.

Gary Beck

Helpless I do not know if good intentions prevail among the elected, among the appointed, leaving me apprehensive that the fate ...