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Friday, October 16, 2015


by Buff Whitman-Bradley

You say you want me to love you, America
To plight thee my troth till death do us part
To suit up proudly in your flag
And proclaim your grandeur and goodness
To the Angels and the Ages

And I did, I did love you
When I was a boy, America
Although I had never been anywhere
Except the National Geographic
I knew there was no place like you
My blue-eyed country 'tis of thee
No freedoms like America's freedoms
No Fords and Chevys
And toasters and TVs
Like good old made-in-America's
No righteous history
Of ordinary guys
Standing up for the underdog
To knock chips off the shoulders of bullies
Like fair-play-and-peace-loving America's history
No valor like America's
No Gary Coopers and John Waynes like
Hollywood, USA's
No amberwavesnationunderGodindivisible, except America
Oh I did, I did love you, America
When I was a boy

But when I became a man, America
I began to notice that your behavior
And the story you were telling me about yourself
Did not match
All the way back to the beginning
When you defended yourself against the peoples first here
By wholesale slaughter, introduced epidemics
And theft of their lands
Then went on to steal millions of humans from Africa
Enslave them
And build vast wealth upon their bleeding backs
And broken hearts
I noticed your habitual military interventions, America
And the unprovoked wars you engaged in
For the sake of grabbing more land, more wealth, more power

I noticed, oh royalty-free and classless America
That from the outset you arranged yourself vertically
With meager lives for the many at the bottom
And obscene opulence for the few at the top
I noticed, oh Great Melting Pot
That racism had burrowed its way like a canker
Deep into your psyche
Your public policies and institutions
So that those you once enslaved
And others who fit the profile
You managed to maintain in the bondage
Of ghettos, unemployment, terrorist violence, denial of rights
And in the good old American hoosegow
Where the slavery you claim to have abolished
Is still legal

I noticed the massacres at Sand Creek and Wounded Knee and Bear River, America
The bone yards of Hiroshima and Dresden, America
The killing fields of the Philippines and Viet Nam, America
The vicious little invasion of Panama
The senseless bombing of Yugoslavia
And I notice now the ceaseless and convulsive nightmare of Iraq
I notice how you wage wars constantly these days, oh Hegemon
How you have built military bases all over the planet
How you bomb civilians with abandon
In hospitals and schools, at wedding parties and community gatherings
How you torture because you can
And assassinate those who do not do your bidding
And subvert and undermine elected governments
That are insufficiently malleable to your purposes, America

I notice, America, that you have no compunction
About letting millions of your children go hungry
About blaming the poor for their poverty
The homeless for their lack of housing
The unemployed for not having jobs
I notice how you turn all life into commodities-for-profit, America
How you gobble up vast amounts of resources
And vomit the wastes into our water and our air

I realize now that you are an addict, America
You are addicted to yourself
You are stoned on empire
On military might and economic excess
And like all addicts you are deluded about who you are, America
So blinded to your own character by your trillion-dollar-a-day habit
That you cannot see you are not
As you imagine yourself to be, America
A beacon unto the world
A shining city upon a hill
You have become a quantum vortex, America
A black hole no light can escape

So you say you want me to love you, America
But how can I trust a junkie with my heart, America?
First you need some serious work on yourself
You need primal therapy
You need a 12-step-program to recover
From your implacable greed your habitual mendacity
Your homicidal hubris
Followed by a few millennia in a half-way house
Where you will clean the toilets and scrub the floors
And listen to the ghosts of those you have crushed
And when you've done all that
When you've cleaned up your act, America
When you've made yourself decent and presentable, America
Then maybe we'll talk

Buff Whitman-Bradley's poetry has appeared in many print and online journals, including Atlanta Review, Bryant Literary Review, Concho River Review, Crannog, december, Hawai'i Review, Pinyon, Rockhurst Review, Solstice, Third Wednesday and others. He has published several collections of poems, most recently, To Get Our Bearings in this Wheeling World. His interviews with soldiers who refused to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan became the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. He lives in northern California with his wife Cynthia.