While attending Western Washington University (2013–2016) I read the New York Times every day. The papers were free courtesy of the Democratic Students Organization. I wrote this poem in response to one of the many stories about Syrian refugees who had fled to Greece only to drown in the sea. I revised this poem early this morning. It is not meant to be uplifting. It is, however, a call to some sort of intelligent action on my part or yours. Such action might look like your printing of this poem and doing one of the things I allude to with it in the ending stanzas of this poem. I can only suggest this because I live in a nation where I do not fear execution, or exile for my thoughts. Although someday we may all be refugees ourselves again.
Please teach me what to do with the news.
Please teach me what to do with the news of the world.
How to respond in some helpful manner to the migrants flooding north;
How to give from myself to the needs of the oppressed, the persecuted, the lonely and the poor.
How do we apologize for terrorist acts we inadvertently sponsored?
How do we hold our own grieving parents of Black sons shot too close?
Our hardline orthodoxical commitment to an elite power is now based on ignorance at best, complacency at worst and the all-encompassing dope of fear.
What canny wisdom can I contribute to the editorials revealing the truths about our legitimate fears concerning concealed carry laws?
Can our electoral college really honor the majority despite our bipartisan creed?
We do little to uphold our founding fathers dreams. Or our evolving family’s hopes. Forget about the Second Amendment. If we cannot subdue ISIS or the Taliban or Hate in general, do you really think that you and your Nazi friends will be able to overtake the government?
We have proven inept at revolutionary ideas because so many of us do not even think.
Hunting has nothing to do with the original concept of “The Right… to Keep and Bear Arms.” I assure you, as a hunter, nobody wants to take away your ability to feed your family wild game. Let us make the distinction however, that wild game are four legged mammals or winged foul. They are not, as some of our citizens seem to have thought, fellow human beings. Or children in schools. Or Muslims or Jews or Blacks or Gays or Trans Gender individuals. In other words, any mammal that walks upright. Do I really need to tell you this?
I think so because I also need to ask: how do we encourage that truths be examined and not merely Trumped as “fake media” by dangerously masterminded, hateful propaganda? Come on folks, Science is real!
And I can call it that — hateful propaganda — because it is rich in untruths repeated like sheep bleating about how much worse off they are today because of the other party’s scapegoat while forgetting that the other party was actually, at his worst, humane.
I no longer see myself committed to one party either. A bold concept I understand! (Yes you can admire the traits of both Ford, Dodge, Chevy and Toyota or Mercedes). And you have the privilege, as an American, to do real research and to make informed choices which we hope have been based on your loving heart’s concern for your fellow human beings. Not just next week, but fifty or one hundred years from now. You do have offspring right?
I am a citizen committed to voting for a sound and just democracy.
And yes there is a mess of oppressive political systems in place whose biases are too many to list here.
And whose inability to defend the oppressed is so slanted and corrupt that we cannot truly call ourselves an integrated society — not in the same sense of the word as children understand it when they play without crippling judgment on the playgrounds of their lush and relatively innocent dichotomies.
Please tell me how I can start to be more like John Oliver or Jimmy Carter. Cheeky, sharp- witted informed. Crafty at extolling the facts necessary to counter the unjust banalities we seem to be content at accepting.
How can I become at least a literary peace warrior adept at the games of political science; a peaceful mastermind who understands why the US can’t keep going in and taking out and leaving nothing but munitions, resent, violence and dehumanization?
Where are we — silent readers. Now is the time to become like one of the great Suffi poets. A light of concern for love and selflessness in the chaos of cultural dogmas. Real believers do no harm. Be unafraid to write!
Me? I am sitting still on my inherited Persian carpet (1972 Iranian) before dawn in the rural Pacific North West facing East slurping at my fair trade coffee sweetened with organic milk. See the obvious will at irony and shameless self-exposure? I have nothing to hide.
I am staring at an image of a drowned mother and her two daughters (is this the reason I woke up so early this morning feeling…what? Grave remorse?). They washed up just hours ago on Lesbos. What do I do with that?
Maybe my senior English lit. Professor was onto something bigger than making me feel some sense of hope in being a poet when she said that poems exist because they are the subversive response to the news unspoken.
Poems are every man’s exposure to the truth; they are the Carter Foundation and Last Week Tonight rendered and regurgitated by mindful human beings unable to put a cork in it.
I suppose I need to write more poems then. And, rather than have them published, go out and glue them to the vacant, hungry, cold underpass slabs of the freeways. Post them onto the fry-oil stained walls of the alleys and in the restaurant stalls. Throw them down like so many leaves into the place underneath the old railroad bed where the homeless gather their tents.
If these flat, vapid surfaces could speak, then perhaps they might even echo my request and in return, elicit an answer:
Please tell me what to do with the news of the world.