Monday, April 27, 2009

Not In Our Name

'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.' - Martin Luther King

I'm not sure if enough people are talking about this.

I've been avoiding it myself. Looking at the issue straight in the eye. See the character of the American people through the actions of our leaders. Honestly, I don't want to. But much like that nagging small voice inside your head, you must relent and deal with it.

Part of the strategery in releasing these memos is that it forces us to talk about it. Everyday people, beyond the mainstream media. Some would like to frame this debate as 'leftwing' issue. Some have even attempted to phrase the conversation in this way:

It’s hard for me to look at a great nation issuing these documents and sending them out to the world and thinking, ‘Oh, much good will come of that.’ Sometimes in life you want to keep walking… Some of life has to be mysterious.
- Peggy Noonan

On the interwebs, populist outrage seems to be simmering. Andrew Sullivan and Ta'hesi Coates for the Atlantic Monthly have written about it.And again, we have Shepard Smith, with his flashes of outrage. This guy's done a song about it, Jon Stewart reported it satirically on the Daily Show, Nick Flynn wrote a brilliant essay about it in Tin House last year, George Saunders wrote satirical story about it for the New Yorker, and yet, I sort of get the feeling that we're not angry enough.

We are avoiding talking about it. It's ugly. It's ugly like lynchings, serial killers, interning Japanese American citizens, rape, police brutality, eugenics projects, and slavery. It's the dark side of the force that everyone tries to forget.

For what good is this great republic if we can't be honest and be held accountable for our crimes? How dare we say that we're the moral compass to the world when we're unwilling to prosecute crimes committed by our leaders? When did we let our fear forfeit the rule of law?

The most damning realization in my reading these memos, the Red Cross Report, the Senate Arms Services Committee Report, and other sources to deconstruct the issue is this: Torture became policy. Torture suborned confessions to support the invasion of Iraq. Torture was policy and vehicle to support a political and agenda.

And that realization sends chills down my spine. It makes me weep. I hope I'm not alone.

Torture is wrong. Waterboarding is torture. There, I said it. And I will say it again and again. We all should. And we can't stop until officials of the previous administration are brought to justice and are held accountable for their crimes against humanity and the republic.

photo: © syreeta mcfadden 2009

Friday, April 24, 2009

NaPoWriMo - Catch Up/Day 22

Ok, so I'm behind. I decided that I actually should follow a prompt. Day 22's prompt from Robert Lee Brewer was to write a poem that involves work. Below is my attempt.

Kid A-Draft

To say, It is what it is, signals defeat. Acceptance doesn’t always set you free
and the heavy stone pressing on your heart each day
as you waddle up the slope of the Fulton Street station
doesn’t make the day go any faster. The fluorescent lights
blind. You are an island in a sea of grey cabinets.
You think, this is what it must have been like for Mrs. Basil
E. Frankeweiler
. Mixed up files, yellowing papers, and mildew.
The worn adhesive on a file label wedges itself between papers
Unaware of their original intent. Who knew recycling could feel so liberating?
Letting go gets easier, but the paper still bites
Its cut burns the skin worse than rubbing alcohol
and your mother warned you never to bite your cuticles.
Your underexposed pieces are the most sensitive. What gives?
New skin should be protected if only for a while.
You wait for something to happen.
Make copies. Answer phones. Someone on the other line
is asking you to come home.

Filing and copying as a task always makes me think of Radiohead's Kid A. I have no other explanations to give.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Saturday, April 18, 2009

County of Kings

After an unpredictable slew of transitional weather, Brooklyn found herself basking in the warm glow of the sun. Here are some scenes from yesterday's life in the sunshine.

Under a big bright yellow sun. It's going to be a good summer.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Go-Go Gadget Train!


I've wanted this for a very, very, very long time.

A modern and fast moving inter-rail system in the US? Cutting my travel time between New York and Chicago, or Milwaukee to just a few hours? Perhaps reducing my out of pocket travel costs and carbon emissions associated with car or airplane travel? Relieve congestion in the air and on the ground? This will make my grandmother love a little more. Many of my planner geek friends and I have long lamented the fact of how easy it is to travel through Europe because of high speed train service, than it is in the US. Our reliance on cars has been prohibitive for a high-speed rail system to develop.

The Europification of the United States of America. I think we're finally growing up, defining a society that can live sustainably. My carbon footprint is starting to look a lot cuter.

Friday, April 10, 2009

NaPoWriMo - Photo of the Day, Day 10

Poetry! Your verses and your metaphors, you stump me! Curses! (she says shaking fist angrily in the air). Alas, I leave you with an image. Maybe this will prompt a poem for others.

It's Passover and Holy Week this week; the lovely overlap between Judaism and Christianity, just after the equinox, the birth of a new season and new life. Easter for those of you in the know, replaced the pagan holiday that celebrated the Babylonian goddess, Astarte. It was the moment when life returned to the earth after the fall and winter, which was her descent into the underworld for her love, Tammuz. She traveled through seven gates in the underworld to bring him back to life. It was the Babylonians' way to explain the change of seasons. And it's not an accident that Astarte and Easter appear to have a relationship in their spelling. You may recognize this story in other myths and you would be right. Ancient peoples dreamed in a common language.

Today is Good Friday and at sundown, Shabbat. Holidays (Holy Days) are important; we mark time and we stop in our busy lives to celebrate. Another poet friend noted that in her NaPoWriMo post earlier this week,'Jews have so many/holidays is because they know that the world/will always come up with occasions for sorrow.'

My Passover miracle this week: there was a fire in the hallway outside of my apartment when i wasn't home. The hallway was completely destroyed, but my door and apartment was untouched. True fact.

Happy Easter and Chag Sameach. Live your life and love it.

photo: © syreeta mcfadden 2009

Thursday, April 9, 2009

NaPoWriMo- Day 9

I'm trying to keep up with my oh so cool, way too talented poet friends who are posting new poems for NaPoWriMo. Naturally, I'm behind. I'm working on a much longer project of my own. Anyway, in today's freewrite, I wrote something that may be a poem, or it may want to be a short story. Hat tip to Mom and her very oddball stream of consciousness rationalizations.


Your life is still mystery. There’s a tape that repeats in your head
and it misses all the details I’d like to know. How it felt
to jump so high and land on your feet for the first time.
The starch and itch of a white shirt around the collar of your neck.
The honeysuckle and freesia perfumed air just an hour before dusk
and the dark wet smell of boiled water for laundry. The bitter and syrupy flavor
of molasses on a dry biscuit on your tongue, grateful for the meal
and treat all in one. How blood tasted like dirt and rocks in the crack
of your bottom lip when you folded inside your mouth to suck it dry
after the old man slapped you quiet. How your hands were sore
and scarred from splitting cotton blossoms from the field. The facts of your life
are in all these things too. But you don’t let us in. The South is fantasy
in wistful reflections inside gravelly voices. Those were the good ol days.
Days so good that you remind us often, of how so many of you took
I94 north from the heat and burn of tyranny and indifference. You left everything
you knew to be remade in America, the beautiful. The bountiful. Followed the road
to factories, steel mills and car plants. You were going to do so much better
than your parents. Make your own way in the world, working harder than
the liliest of white hands next to your mashing metal into the frames of vehicles.
Until they closed the plant and the wealth didn’t trickle down but became
pounds of unnaturally colored surplus cheese. I see you now, every Sunday
steadfast in the belief that the everlasting arms will hold you up and shower
you with answers a cruel world never revealed. Something greater than
the force of will that brought you north in the first place to tell you
a secret you should’ve known all along. You do belong and you are loved.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

NaPoWriMo - Photo of the Day

Poems, poems. Why do you elude me? As promised, a meager photo substitute.

The quote: 'The Wanderer is overcome by the joy of existence, so that he can only laugh.' - Buddha

From my travel journal on August 18, 2002.

How's that for a writing prompt?

photo: © syreeta mcfadden 2009

Monday, April 6, 2009


Is not a car. Is not a pair of jeans, or a new band. It is the acronym for National Poetry Month. Beginning every April and for the remainder of 29 days, NaPoWriMo encourages all of us, rock star poets to the general population to write poems. One poem every day.

And don't you think there is no better time than now to write poems? The writing and reading of poems, at least for me, has always proven instructive. It compels me to give pause to a hurried lifestyle, where I miss things like silence, grace, beauty, and reflection. When I was growing up, my grandmother gave me poems to read as shorthand to unravel my conflicting emotions. I don't think I would've survived my teens without the quiet, defiant confidence I got from Invictus. Or hold the contradictions of being an individual and a world citizen without If. And if she hadn't primed me, I don't think I would've felt exhilarated when I read Canonization, and ultimately realizing that those metaphysical poets I studied my senior year were really masters at seduction. Ah, John Donne, you had me at 'let me love.'

I'm going to try to meet this challenge and post a poem a day. We'll see how I do. And if the words don't come, I'll substitute with a photograph. Because sometimes, a picture is worth a thousand words.

photo: © syreeta mcfadden 2009

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Pride! In the Name of Love

I took this photo in 1999. We were not in Memphis, and I don't remember what I said to my friend at the exact moment I pressed the shutter. Today, I feel it's the most succinct way to acknowledge this day. We'll remember throughout all of our days. The man and the dream and endeavor to keep it alive.

Hat tip to U2 for giving us this song and John Legend's cover.

photo: © syreeta mcfadden 1999