Liberty paintingMaybe I would think like this if I had never gone anywhere. Maybe, but I look back to the time when I first went to study in the Soviet Union, seeing what a dark dictatorship looks like from the inside. In very important ways, I’m sure I didn’t see what it was like, as I knew I could leave, and I was never in prison or afraid. But I think I began to pay more attention to the slow slow steps of humankind to free ourselves. Gradually I came to understand what the heart of that freedom is, when each spirit can joyfully be what it is.

Eventually I came to realize that as long as we carry racism, sexism, homophobia, and more, we do not need to live in a dark dictatorship to be oppressed. When we oppress other people, no matter how much our mouths repeat the word “freedom”, we have a Soviet Union of the mind inside our own heads.

As I celebrated the fall of the Berlin Wall and the legalization of gay marriage in America, I keep watching. There is so much left to watch for.

I wrote the poem here thinking about this. Take this poem and use it where it might be useful.

Then Comes the Day That I Rise Up

Then comes the day that I rise up
to trudge down cobbled streets to squares.
Scowling horsemen sit, hard gleaming.
I stand up tall, eyes wide,
until their slashing swords slay me by the thousands.
As I fall to earth,
the stones wet with my blood say,
“Not yet. Not yet.”

Then comes the day that I rise up
to walk from captive fields to meet,
disregarding passes and permission,
to walk in fear but boldly,
take up pikes, and lay down chains.
When militiamen with panicked rifles come,
I spend my last moments in the surprise of freedom
before they shoot and hang me by the hundreds.
The grass below my swinging feet whispers,
“Not yet. Not yet.”

Then comes the day that I rise up,
lay down the needle, the pot on the stove,
to walk, arms linked, down angry streets.
Mobs of agitated men stand by
with eyes like snakes, mouths writing in disgust.
I hold up signs proclaiming equality
until a police baton breaks my hand.
As we are thrown into wagons by the dozens,
faces against the sides,
the cold steel laughs,
“Not yet. Not yet.”

Then comes the day that I rise up,
and down the apron, down the shovel, put the porter’s cap down.
I walk across bridges
and stride through closed doors,
sit where I choose and stand at my own desire.
I declare my humanity
until their clubs have beaten me down,
before the unleashed dogs that snarl,
“Not yet. Not yet.”

Then comes the day that I rise up,
again the day that I rise up,
and yet again I will rise.
tunisia protest


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