In history class I was taught
in order to be good Americans
we must seek to address our grievances
by working within the system.
If there are problems with the system,
the system, too, can be changed
I have ancestors who agreed completely
with this philosophy;
however, in this same history class
I was taught my ancestors
were wrong. They were loyalists,
and sought to address their grievances
within the system — The British system.
Their neighbors believed in Revolution.
It wasn’t Marxist,
but still it was a revolution,
and today our teachers tell us
revolutions aren’t necessary.
That’s what my ancestors tried to tell their neighbors.
Their neighbors didn’t listen.
The poem above is over seven years old. When I’ve read it at open mics, often around this time of year, many have interpreted the final question as rhetorical. Funny, that. They assume my answer is ‘no,’ and I support revolution of some sort, as that is the only consistent interpretation.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “I hate quotations.”
He also said something about ‘foolish consistency’ and The Hobgoblin, but I never could figure out what the Spidey villain had to do with anything.
I actually had ancestors on both sides of that war, and if I wanted, I could probably get admitted to the Sons of the American Revolution, if they accept people like me. It’s a tossup which I’d be more likely to join — the SAR or MENSA. When I qualify for an organization by accident of birth, it loses its appeal to me.
Just to bug Emerson, more quotes:
I went out drinking with Thomas Paine
He said all revolutions are not the same
They are as different as the cultures
That give them birth
For no one idea
Can solve every problem on Earth
– from Billy Bragg’s “North Sea Bubble”
Rome never looks where she treads.
Always her heavy hooves fall
On our stomachs, our hearts or our heads;
And Rome never heeds when we bawl.
Her sentries pass on — that is all,
And we gather behind them in hordes,
And plot to reconquer the Wall,
With only our tongues for our swords.
– From “A Pict Song” – Rudyard Kipling
And let us reflect that, having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little if we countenance a political intolerance as despotic, as wicked, and capable of as bitter and bloody persecutions.
Thomas Jeffersonâ€™s First Inaugural Address — March 4, 1801
“Citizens, in the future there shall be neither darkness nor thunderbolts, neither ferocious ignorance nor blood for blood…In the future no man will slay his fellow, the earth will be radiant, the human race will love. It will come, citizens, that day when all shall be concord, harmony, light, joy, and life.â€ — Enjolras, from Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables