The People Who Tried To Give Us A Gift

America, America, my heart is breaking.
The police wear state-of-the-art military gear while they beat us with their batons.
The nurses wear worn-out masks, goggles fogged with sweat,
And capes made of garbage bags
While they help corona victims to breathe.
To breathe.

America leads the parade in selling weapons to the world,
But refuses to fund the World Health Organization as a modern plague
Turns Wuhan and Milan and New York and Moscow and Iran and Brazil
And villages in Africa and villages in the Amazon rainforest
Into a band of dying brothers.

America, if you don’t want the job,
Lady Liberty will take her torch back to Paris.
Abraham Lincoln will leave his chair in Washington
And find a more welcoming home in New Zealand.
General Washington’s stern visage, carved into the rock of Mount Rushmore,
Might better look down, perhaps with a glimpse of a smile,
On the hard-working doctors of Cuba.

America, today you kneel on the neck of one of the people
Who gave you a gift of spiritual gold:
The wisdom of non-violence,
The wisdom of human dignity,
The wisdom of tolerance and compassion.
They marched with tired feet from Montgomery to Greensboro to Birmingham,
To Washington to Mississippi to Chicago to Selma to Memphis,
And finally back home to the burial ground in Atlanta.
Yes, they tried to give you a gift.

When those bold and upright people marched from the sanctuaries of their churches Into the dogs and the fire hoses and the clubs of the American sickness,
When they tried to give you a gift that certainly you did not deserve,
When they reached out, as John Kennedy said, with a wisdom
“As old as the Scriptures and as clear as the American Constitution,”
You still would not listen,
You still would not learn,
You still would not give up your sickness,
A plague which curses you far more than corona ever will.
America, you dig your own grave.

There is no lack of good people in the world.
I know a family from Viet Nam who once fled in a boat from the war in their country,
A family of three generations who share more love in their home in one evening
Than I knew in the wreckage of my Mainstream America family in twenty-two years.
I have found more friendship in Russia,
Exuberant, deeply caring, lifelong friendship,
Than I ever found in the land of TV-football.
I have found more brotherhood from sea to shining sea
On an island in the Caribbean
Than I ever found on the streets of South Chicago.
I have found more kinship with nature in a gentle country called Norway
Than I ever found where Big Oil and the Fracking Machine
Can take over your farm, poison your water, pocket the subsidies,
And pollute planet Earth for another twenty years.
I have found more kindness on the beach of a Greek island
To strangers fleeing from a war
Than in the land where the Conquistador is building his wall.

America, another shambles of an election is not going to fix the problem.
You might consider joining the other countries around the world
As we design and build the Green Grid,
A planetary network that produces and distributes clean energy
To every child in the world, equally and peacefully.
The Green Grid will create an ever-growing multitude of jobs,
And it will create a global economy far more stable
Than the unpredictable price fluctuations of oil.

Since World War One, when Great Britain invaded Iraq to capture the oil,
Until today, when America swaps weapons for oil with Saudi Arabia,
Oil has been—for more than a century—one of the major causes of war.
No one ever went to war over a wind turbine.

The Green Grid will become our global university,
As we learn not only about megawatts and battery storage
And hydrogen as aviation fuel,
But also—equally important—as we learn about each other.
As we learn that we can learn from each other.
As we learn to set aside the ancient grievances.
As we learn to honor the Creator by honoring the creation.

America, if you want to join the team, you are welcome.
If not,
You can fight your civil wars until the last man standing
Is a woman,
And maybe then you will begin to make some progress.

Yes, today my heart is breaking.
During the winter of 1776-1777,
When General Washington’s troops starved in their cold, smoky huts at Valley Forge,
Nine percent of the ragged army that defended the new nation,
One out of every eleven soldiers,
Were African American.
They were loyal to their general,
They were disciplined,
And they fought in every battle to the end of the war.
Their soul was woven into the soul of America.
It still is today.

America, either you lay down the guns and reach out the hand of friendship,
Or your time of leadership is over.

John Slade
June 2, 2020
Sognsvann Lake, Oslo, Norway