Wednesday, January 21, 2009
A new dream...
My friend Jack was ten feet behind Bobby Kennedy in the Chicago kitchen. His son flew to DC to watch Edward Kennedy watch Barack Hussein become president. Jack died of leukemia caught from Agent Orange exposure from a stint in Vietnam as a Conscientious Objector, serving as reporter, not soldier, but still dying before his sons were grown.
A man younger than the baby boomers stands and serves. Younger, hipper. Crowds watch him like the crowds I once joined on the Washington Mall, smashed between angry voices and raised fists. We shall overcome blared from tinny speakers- no large digital video screens then. They housed us in a public building, on cots. I don’t remember where. Jack told us about the blood and the chaos in the kitchen. We knew we’d been betrayed. Innocence stripped from idealistic dreams.
Guarded, we watched classmates gunned down at Ohio State- the final warming shots across the bow. They will kill you if you object too loud, or stand too strong, or aim your vision higher than the existent power structure allows. They will kill you. Their minions stand ready in riot gear. Blackened helmets that perhaps inspired Spielberg’s Darth Vader- robotic cyborgs. With one hammer, they draw the blow.
United and uniform and as if one person, the warriors of the ruling class lost their individuality as they serve. And we, floral and tie-dyed and ripped jeans, reached arms out as far as we could to express ours. I had a $10 coat from a street table in the Village. Brown plaid and lined with ermine, so dry and crusty the card-sized skins hung by severed threads and floated behind me like a train. I trailed ermine up and down the west side. And in-between, the police in their NYPD blue and their riot gear brothers who eyed us suspiciously.
Pigs, Fuzz, we called them. They called us Enemy. Distrust blossomed.
And now, a man swears on a Lincoln bible to lead us to the Promised Land. God banned Moses’ entry to the Promised Land. He murdered, some scholars say, but none born of slaves were allowed entry. None could pass because they carry the mark, the stain of old. Not for lack of purity but lack of capacity. Only the new can build this new foundation. It cannot be built on recycled, torn up, discarded, worn and blacked blocks of cement, but only on the new foundation.
Those born in the old cannot disregard the broken eyes that watched the black and white images from Viet Nam and learned to hate. And watched Nixon lie and learned to hate. And watched the police pull down their black riot masks as we drew close, and learned to hate. And watched the cover up of deaths of Martin and Bobby and Jack and wondered who is running this thing? As we learned to mistrust and to hate. Trust no one over 30 was the credo. Now, AARP members all, we are full of hate, and this, this hatred, this guarded need to protect ourselves from authority and government, this mistrust keeps us from the Promised Land, keeps us locked in the old and not building the new.
Broken, like the first wave that crashes on the shore, we carve the path for future waves to make inroads as we go home to lick our wounds. And drift out to sea, to amass, regather strength. Now, millions linked by Twitter and Facebook and video streaming images of this inauguration, a mighty force of new, gathering, tsunami-like strength to crash out the old, to burst into promise, if not the Promised Land. They carry forward an ever-advancing civilization; it’s on their shoulders now.
I kvell. I weep. My heart softens. I dare to dream to believe that maybe it is real this time. Finally, finally, the forty years in the desert is over. The wandering from slavery to freedom. Now is the freedom to build an unknown future. Freedom to build among the rubble a broader foundation that the one we ever envisioned.
Small, too small, I see now was our vision. Too small for the global load our nation must shoulder. The old foundation needs destruction from its roots and we were the first wave of that destruction. Not destined to be builders, not destined to be reconstructionists. Destined to destroy, to hate, to challenge, to antagonize, to fight until the old order gave up.
Our work here is done. Debris fields like a war zone stretch around us. Banks, and governments, prejudices and prohibitions. Jim Crow laws and Rowe v Wade. And baby boomers with hardened arteries and hardened hearts.
The new grass of spring glimmers under our feet. We are dressed in boots for stomping, for kicking in rebellion. For defense. And soft grass grows beneath our feet.
Have the riot troops left town or do they search for us still? They lurk in me. I watch over my shoulder for them. I am the mischief-maker and they know I’m here- hound dog smelling their prey.
I make myself small to avoid being seen, when now, around me, they rise tall and stream into the Promised Day, those not born as slaves, and raise their voices in jubilation. But they do not do the remembering. I hold my breath.
Let them pass.
Let them pass.
Let them pass into safety.
Let them pass into the dream.
Let me watch here on my hardened perch as they disappear over the horizon beyond my wildest hopes and beyond Martin’s dreams. They disappear beyond, beyond, and I am left behind to guard the rear entrance, to watch for enemies who only stalk inside my head. Disappear over the horizon into the white house on the mountaintop.