“America the Terrible”

(to the tune of “America the Beautiful”)

O ugliness for specious lies,
for endless waves of pain,
for purple’s bruise and blackened eyes
above a fruitless plaint ….
America! America!
god shat his grace on thee
and crowned a hood’s false justice good
from sea to shaming sea.

O ugliness for grim-pulled feet
a white assassin’s raced
a travesty of freedom beat
with clubs into our face,
America! America!
flawed minds fail every good;
no self-control your court decrees,
no law your liberties.

O ugliness for villains proved
in promulgating strife
who more than sense their county loved
and Gladys more than life.
America! America!
Does gold thy good define
till all soil’s tilled in soiled success
and every gain a crime?

O ugliness for Martin’s dream
that saw beyond these years
your alabaster cities sneer
undimmed by human tears.
America! America!
Till Emmett’s face rise up
and Trayvon’s body make us cough
your soul’s wax grin wipe off

O ugliness for specious lies,
for ambuscades as trials
where jury-rigging travesties
prompt rooms of race-filled smiles
America! A mermaid said,
“God shed his grace on thee
Till nobler men keep once again
Thy whiter jubilee!”
But I avow, America,
this jubilee’s your last.
Your nobler cast you’ve cast aside
and bared to all your white
stark gut; and all you fail and free
from now will nail your coffin shut.

7 thoughts on ““America the Terrible”

  1. I’ll never forget doing jury duty in New York City. An assault case; the defendant was a black man. After a week of testimony, and then the judge’s instructions, we went back to the jury room. The first thing out of a juror’s mouth was: “We know he did it; what is the punishment?” Heads nodded in approval.

    There were two jurors who weren’t “white”; me and another woman. It fell on us to explain, stunned, that there was a presumption of innocence and the judge meted out punishment, not us. Our job was to determine guilt, and degree thereof.

    This quickly devolved into us turning into parrots of reason: “Beyond a reasonable doubt…”, we endlessly repeated. At the end, we acquitted. Why? Because the other jurors, so ready to “throw the book” at the man before even hearing his case, didn’t want to be bothered with sequestration. They basically said, “he’s yours; he’s free. We’re out of here.” From that moment on, I realized I never wanted to be tried by a “jury of my peers”.

    I also remember when I spoke at the Socialism Conference in Oakland in 2010; Oscar Grant had just been murdered by the BART police there. His uncle spoke with a determined calm that I couldn’t imagine myself capable of.


    In these courts of law, an attempt is made to create an “objective” environment. It’s like a football field at a 20-degree incline. You play the game knowing you have to work twice as hard only to lose a hundred times as often.

    A former student sent me an article (he’s working on a graphic novel) that he thought helped his plot premise. It was a piece in the New York Times discussing “interruptors” or some such term who are attempting to break the “cycle of violence” in South Side Chicago.

    I tried to explain that the ghettoes of Chicago have produced much in the way of resistance to the violence perpetrated against the people who live there, including the Rev. Jeremiah Wright (who comes to mind when reading this, SL, for his “God Damn America!” sermon.)

    My student argued that it tied into events happening in this region, as violence begets violence, ad infinitum, and that “breaking the cycle” was what was important.

    I tried to explain that in and of itself, the system is violent. And we don’t see this violence for how normalized it has become. And the call to “break the cycle” is more a demand to end any resistance against the system itself.

    And so it goes.

    I think back to my high school days, and how I “identified” race-wise.

    How many adoptees due to their acculturation will not/cannot identify with Oscar Grant or Trayvon Martin? How many adoptees act as “interruptors”? How does this extrapolate into an inability to identify with their place of birth?

    What might it take to change this?

  2. I debated with myself whether the links I sensed between the George Zimmerman verdict and the status of (transracial) adoptees (in the United States) justified posting this response to the verdict without further comment or “apparatus” in the post. I’m including that as a reply.

    The two are linked this way. The case of George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin involves an adult and a (legally defined) child. Here is an adult, who went hunting, with a gun, and when it turned out he bit off more than he could chew, when HE prompted Trayvon Martin to fear for HIS OWN LIFE, and Trayvon Martin stood his ground, and was winning the physical altercation (if there really was one, of course), then Zimmerman murdered him. And a jury and the courts said, “Yes, this is correct.” Here, the law reads as excusable self-defense this murder by an adult of a child; it calls legal and exculpates fatal and lethal force when used against children.

    This same adult license that (1) declares Trayvon is a child but then treats him like an adult as far as Zimmerman murdering him goes and that (2) doesn’t balk in the least at defending a law that says it’s okay for adults to murder children under certain circumstances, certainly and definitively participates in the same kind of adult license that declares (1) children are traffickable commodities in the first place, and (2) that when the child resists the effects of that adult license, lethal force gets justified, or the “softer” kinds of psychiatric demonization involved in RAD, &c. Into this picture of adult license comes also the (trans)racial element, particularly as Zimmerman himself represents someone who accepted the Devil’s Bargain of assimilation, so much so that he’s voluntarily policing other “races”.

  3. Daniel alerted us to this article (http://www.oregonlive.com/kiddo/index.ssf/2013/07/author_adoption_activist_tells.html) on a pro “adoption activist”. The opening paragraph of it reads:

    John M. Simmons was a successful businessman, running a family-owned company and holding several patents that added to his income, when he and wife Amy decided to “balance” out their family of sons by adopting a daughter. Difficulties with a domestic agency soon led them to international (often called intercountry) adoption.

    These people already had three kids, but pregnancy had become very difficult for the wife. So, they might have stopped there. But instead they decided to adopt, but “difficulties with a domestic agency” led them to pursue international options. Considering the massive expense an difficulty described in adopting from Russia, one wonder what sort of “difficulty” (short of an absolute prohibition on adopting) could prompt one to look abroad from amongst the range of even more dubious people involved in international trafficking. My ears seriously perked up at that phrase: difficulties with a domestic agency.

    Even though God (through the criterion of biological unfitness) ruled them out as viable for having more children, even though the State (through the criteria of domestic adoption agencies) ruled them out as viable for having more children, their sense of entitlement led them to pursue international options.

    This shows so clearly the arrogance and entitlement that lies also at the heart (or perhaps in the lungs or spleen) of the Zimmerman verdict, which finds the murder of children exculpable. That’s why I include this example as a reply to this post.

  4. From an article entitled: “Zimmerman is a Domestic Drone”, by Vijay Prashad, at Counter Punch:

    No candle at the vigil was shaped like a .38, nor was one burning out the obscenities that might have polluted the languid air. It was clear to my neighbours that Boland was the hero, and that Davis the criminal. Even if Davis was a “post-graduate” in street crime, what made Boland a hero? The West End of Hartford had become a bastion of liberalism—lots of college professors and social workers, liberal preachers and massage therapists. The red meat of conservatism was not to be found here. “We moved to Hartford,” a man told me proudly. It was enough of a badge to live here, even with this anxiousness, to prove post-racism. It is the urban way of saying “we have Black friends,” which is now politically expressed as “we have a Black president.” Because these things happen—where you live, who your friends are, who your president is—seems sufficient to inoculate one from the structures of racism that encage not only our homes but our imagination….

  5. “the structures of racism that encage not only our homes but our imagination…”

    I remember working in an Internet “news” company, with a majority of employees crowded around the television sets awaiting the OJ verdict. There were about six or seven black employees. When he was acquitted, they cheered. The atmosphere was pretty poisonous after that; it was obvious that they had stepped across a line, especially having been given a “leg up” into the arena of a privileged class.

    I remember going to a vigil for Sakia Gunn, a black girl from Newark murdered for resisting the advances of man catcalling her. Whereas Mathew Shepard got full front-page coverage on the New York Times for close to a year, she was buried in the “local” news section with just one story. I couldn’t convince anyone to come with me; after all, “she was from Newark”….

  6. Now I’m in Lebanon, where racist and sectarian speech and action are givens. I still think the formalized American version is worse; Lebanon has no Lady in the Harbor making bogus promises.

    Worse, but not by much.

Adoptees, what do you think? We welcome your replies!

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