My Country tis of thee,
once sweet land of liberty
for thee I weep.
It should have been a normal morning, the readying
for school and breakfast and packing lunches. Except
it was the day after the election, and I did not know
what the days after this would entail, what colors would
be in the nation’s palette, the painting too abstract to see,
swirling in blurs and spots, our unknown future.
I did not know how to tell my 10-year-old daughter
with womanhood’s embrace waiting ahead that
the glass ceiling remains, our neighbors trading history
and possibility for, ironically, a man whose idea of femininity
is quantified by the size of breasts and what he can grab,
that chauvinism has returned to Capitol Hill, ascribing worth
based on some subjective sense of physical beauty,
that sees her gender as a vehicle for desire or servitude.
I did not know how to tell my 9-year-old son
to be kind, respect, not make fun, to use hands
for helping, words for expressing, to embrace
differences and reject intolerance, when the
White House was given to a man who has
a smaller vocabulary than he does, whose touted
solution to troubles is the exclusion of others.
I listened as my partner sat with her
6-year-old daughter on her lap and
told her walls that can be built
can be torn asunder,
that walls can only exist if we allow.
Indeed, a wall crumbled last night, the one
between America’s sense of decency and
the demons they chose to no longer hide.
The beasts are among us now, invigorated,
tongues curling around Confederate flags
and misunderstood Bibles, grabbing hijabs
and spray painting epitaphs, symbols of hate,
destruction, warning. Soon, I fear,
the barbed wire will come, soon the men
with guns, the marching deportation,
the mass violence of imperialized law
and authoritarian order, but that can’t
happen, right? Am I over-reacting?
Am I giving into doom?
Did they vote for death last night?
Here is to the death of democracy.
Here is to the death of progress.
Here is to the death of heroism.
Here is to the rise of the ignorant.
My child ran her fingers across piano keys,
fumbling nervously a rhapsody without melody
on beams wrinkling in the morning sun,
this innocence of dawn swallowed by the uncertain clouds
streaking over the mind’s horizon. The discorded symphony
is starting. I can hear the tuning of Nero’s strangling strings
as Rome gets set to burn.
I do not know what to tell my children today.
I tell them what I feel, the certainty of a heart…
There is always a choice between hiding your eyes and staring straight ahead.
If your neighbor is knocked down, you stand up in their place.
Injustice only perpetuates if you ignore it.
You fight for what is right, even when your hands are tied, even when the odds shift,
there is no defeat unless we accept the fallacy of oppressors.
That words can be more powerful than fists,
and those who stand together, those who are unwavering
in their unified resistance, are more powerful than bricks,
and their iron-clad ideologies are no more than transparent glass,
so easily shattered with the flick of a wrist, a lighter, a tongue.
They go off to school, and I can only say sorry
for this administration of the remainder of their childhoods,
and the rhetoric makes me apprehensive as they walk up the stairs.
They will study history and wonder why we are allowing it to repeat.
How do I ask they learn their lessons if we haven’t learned ours?
I do not know what to tell my children today,
but we must safety pin ourselves and train a vigilant eye
on tomorrow, lest we forget the legacy of humanity’s sorrows.
Adam Huening grew up in a small Indiana town, but spent much of his young adult days road tripping around the country. He earned degrees in journalism and English from Indiana University and currently resides around Bloomington, Indiana. Read his work in Soliloquies Anthology, Burningword, A Lonely Riot, Crab Fat, Gravel, and Vine Leaves, among others.
Photo by: Ana Prundaru