Friday, July 04, 2008

I Too, Sing America

Part of being a patriot and proud American citizen is not being afraid to be a critical citizen, in both senses of the word--that is, we reflect and complain. We reflect on the meaning of citizenship and justice, and we complain about the undue burdens placed on certain citizens that are tantamount to injustice. This is not to say that one equivocates or is ambivalent about commitment to country, but rather that one is not afraid to question the meaning of engaged citizenship, admit to the problems and weaknesses that plague our country and demand reform, because we think our country can be better. Yes, you should question authority. Yes, you should complain about second class citizenship, not merely because of the inherent injustice in differential treatment, but because you want to be a full citizen and treated as such, to belong as fully to your country as others do.

Anyway, this one is for Shamus. And Happy Fourth of July, everyone.

I, Too, Sing America by Langston Hughes
I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

I'll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody'll dare
Say to me,
"Eat in the kitchen,"

They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed--

I, too, am America.

People by Jean Toomer

To those fixed on white,
White is white,
To those fixed on black,
It is the same,
And red is red,
Yellow, yellow-
Surely there are such sights
In the many colored world,
Or in the mind.
The strange thing is that
These people never see themselves
Or you, or me.

Are they not in their minds?
Are we not in the world?
This is a curious blindness
For those that are color blind.
What queer beliefs
That men who believe in sights
Disbelieve in seers.

O people, if you but used
Your other eyes
You would see beings.


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