Tell me about Jim Crow and I will read you chapters from "Huckleberry Finn."
Tell me about slavery and I will tell you about Harriet Tubman, John Fairfield, Levi Coffin and a host of hidden hands, and the Underground Railroad.
Tell me about overweening power and I will tell you about the likes of Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the Seneca Falls Convention, and Frederick Douglas.
Tell me about the worst of racism and I will tell you about a white man, John Brown, losing his life to spark a slave insurrection at Harper's Ferry.
Tell me about oppression and I will ring the rafters with Wendell Phillips,
"Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty!
—power is ever stealing from the many to the few…"
Tell me the America we always wanted has never existed,
that people the world over, desperate for refuge
and yearning for it here
are but glamoured and I will show you a gift.
I will show you a present from another people’s dream of liberty,
a lady standing at a harbor raising a torch,
Holding a tablet inscribed with the day we called ourselves free;
at her feet, a few lines from a poem
and point out to you an endless procession of people who rely on her,
the gift of her,
rely on the torch,
rely on the tablet’s date, rely
on the fragment of the poem
and weep bitter gladness at first sight of the harbor.
The public anguish as our President and his henchmen
treat destitute people and their children like criminals,
little more than so much dirt,
for seeking asylum at our borders
—the existence of the America the humble of the world need
is proven by that anguish, its mass, its inevitability.
Your anguish. All it takes is yours. All of it.
Dwain Wilder is a Buddhist activist, editor of The Banner, an online weekly newsletter for grass roots activists working to get our country to acknowledge and respond to the current climate emergency. Dwain has taught meditation at Attica Prison, New York. He is a member of the Rochester poetry community, and builds stringed musical instruments for a living. He lives with his wife, their dog and cat, and a large rowdy macaw, in a quaint cottage beside a large dark forest.