Much as Love and Murder, Freedom is a Many-Splendored Thing


northierthanthou

17711-series-header Yapto Soerjosoemarno is a middle-aged man. He is the leader of Pankasila, an Indonesian youth group three million strong. The camera follows him out onto a golf course where he explains; “Gangsters are free men. They want to live life in their style. Relax and Rolex.” A moment later he tells his young caddy she has a mole on her pussy.

And she smiles.

Of course all of this comes after Yapto explains that Pankasila had killed all the communists in Indonesia. It comes after he has spoken at a Pankasila rally, one in which he calls himself the biggest gangster of all.

What else could the young girl do but smile?

KillingAs he and his friends try on colorful gangster outfits, Anwar Kongo waxes on about his inspirations; Al Pacino, John Wayne, and others like them. He goes on to relate the story of how he once placed the…

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For All the Lonely, Lost Young Men


At first, I planned to simply post a poem by this title, a response to the bombing in Boston and the young men who orchestrated it.  Then I decided that a few comments seemed more appropriate.  These comments come from a realization and conversations with a couple of colleagues at work noticing that all the perpetrators of the bombings and mass killings have been young males.  These young men cite various causes from the anger of being disenfranchised and bullied to religious fervor of a certain type to insanity.  All acknowledged anger over something, a rage so profound they felt driven to act, at least for those to whom authorities could talk.  Most appeared to be alienated from their culture, friends, or family, young men who failed to fit in.  Although we must condemn their horrific acts, perhaps it would also prove more productive to ask, “Why?” Unless we know why and address the causes, these events will be repeated somewhere at some totally unforeseen time.  And many innocents will die again and again.  Perhaps equally disturbing is the fact that we are not alone.  These types of events repeat themselves in one way or another in many other countries in the world.  Additionally, I realize that many people feel the solution lies in revenge, punishment, justice as they see it.  For those, many of the sentiments I express in this poem may seem too simplistic, too kind, too naive.  I teach high school.  I work with all types of young men daily.  I see their fear, anger, loneliness even if fleeting and only momentarily.  We can make a difference; we can reach out.

Look at yourselves

filled with

fear,

anger,

hatred.

This world may not embody

the perfect place

of which you dream;

do not despair.

We care.

Do not shoot me.

I care.

Do not throw bombs at the innocent;

They care.

Do not hate the different.

They care.

Do not despair.

Waiting–my first, I think, prose poem


It seems I cannot stop taking courses, or at least some courses–those dealing with art, literature, poetry, music.  Perhaps the reason has something to do with the fact that from about 7:30 to 5 for five days a week, I teach math.  And not just any math, but mostly math to teenagers who hate it, think they cannot do it, and complain considerably.  I try to “save” them, inspire them, help them to see math’s usefulness in regular, ordinary adult life.  Sometimes I succeed and sometimes….

My new poetry class started today, but it is very different from anything I previously studied.  I am supposed to read and learn how to write prose poems.  Now if I can just figure out exactly what is a prose poem versus, let’s say, flash fiction or memoir. I’ve read all the directions and a couple of Robert Bly prose poems and have decided it has a lot to do with imagery.  This post is my first attempt.  Still I am quite concerned that it is not really a prose poem and if not a prose poem, what is it.  Please tell me.

She stands alone by the train tracks,

watching and waiting and dreaming.

Hobos no longer exist.

She remembers reading stories of life

when her great grandmother lived:

hobos begging for food, gypsies stealing

babies and telling fortunes, long days of

working in the corn fields, chopping weeds.

Her own family praises modernity:

tractors, riding lawnmowers, herbicides, pesticides,

electricity, TVs, dishwashers, fast cars, fast food, diet sodas,

cell phones, computers, DVDs, iPADs.

Now the only excitement lays in video games,

guns, and sex.  She watches and waits and dreams.

The Land in Love with Guns


In the United States firearms kill approximately 15,000 individuals per year.  In Britain, Australia, and Canada, the average is 350 per year.  Spain’s rate is even lower.  In Germany, it is less than 800.  A young person here dies about every 4 ½ hours, shot dead.  The US murder rate is 19.5, nearly 20 times higher that the next 22 richest countries.  In the 23 richest countries combined, 80 percent of all gun related deaths are in the US; 87 percent of children killed are shot by guns here.  In the last 45 years, bullets killed more than one million people in the US.

Gun sales are big money.  More than a dozen hand guns are sold per minute.  One survey indicates that one out of every four US homes possess a gun; another survey says 39 percent.  However, most guns are owned by only a small proportion of the population, gun “collectors” who own an average of seven weapons per person.  Guns are cheap here and bullets even cheaper, about 50 cents each.  The Mexican government contends that our cheap guns help fuel the dreadful violence there which then overflows to here.

In spite of all this, the US murder rate is the lowest in more than 45 years.  The NRA claims more guns equal less violent crime.  The NRA contends that the lower crime rate is the result of less strict gun laws and more people owning guns.  Nevertheless, mass murder occurs on a regular basis.  We mourn, we lament, but nothing changes.

Eventually, another mass murder occurs and the cycle repeats itself.  Why?  Who or what is responsible?  What can be done?  Will more restrictive gun laws help or hinder?  Debates continue; opposing views and answers abound, but the cycle continues.  Will it ever change?

I wrote the above after the last mass murder event.  Nothing changed.  Now the conversation appears more strident, more active.  Apparently, the mass killing of children is more heinous, more scary than the mass murder of adults even if the adults are young.  The NRA advocates armed guards at schools.  How will that prevent mass killings at movie theaters, at malls, at churches, on the street, e.g. the three murders this week in Pennsylvania?

Australia was another country in love with guns, but after a mass killing there, they changed their collective mind.  They enacted strict gun control laws for assault weapons and ammunition.  Could that work here?  I think not.  This is a country in love with guns because the right to own a gun symbolizes  what is perceived as individual rights.  This is a country where personal liberty remains far more important than community safety and social justice.  Until that changes, mass murders will continue.