Charlottesville 

Image credit goes to Jim Bourg at Reuters

when the light dims

and hate from the shadows

explodes into rancor headlines

man reveals beast 

our true colors, warped 

painting promises of a dark Prometheus 

they seek rabid rapture in oppression

hollow edged fists bear torches

obscuring our triumph, our passion, our poignancy

illuminating our savagery, our inhumanity, our bloodlust

the racism coiling sinuous leather lies in the name of progress

emboldened by leaders 

hungering for divides and distractions 

they march proudly 

into their sham conqueror’s high

old flags expose ancient hates in new masks

and pointing fingers meet screaming eyes

 

It is not enough to witness

It is not enough to condemn

It is not enough to disavow

Now, we must love

And act and hope and hurt and sob

Unite and fight and thrive and reach 

Revel in every single flavor of humanity

Live beyond our labels

And together, rise

 

Remembrance

watch-9-11-memorial-service-live-online-free

towers, forts, pillars

we took refuge in our

symbols of strength

money and might

two of our favorite keys

draped across the mantle of the world

until the day came

when lives slipped away

like too-fine sand

our symbols stripped bare

and burned from the inside

grief-spilled faces

could only watch in disbelief

a planet stutter-stops

while

fear & hate

are met with honor & love

and yet

the horror remains

a subdued scar

scraping at the surface of civility

reminding us all

that nothing is invulnerable

so everything should be cherished

Image Credit: Culture Travel Reflections http://nicoletteorlemans.com/2012/09/

Dedicated to all heroes, humans and hearts

so gracelessly ripped away

on this most tragic of days

Never forget

Ripple

Dedicated to Anthony Brown, and all those whose lights were snuffed out far too soon. Let’s honor their memory by reaching for hope instead of hate. 

IMG_0006

i wish you’d

use your heel

to scuff out

the line in the sand

between us

instead of

scoring it

deeper

i wish i

could shift

your horizons

free your eyes from

their entrenched tunnels

is it fear, power

or hate

that makes

us all obsess

over each other

our sins

crimes

mistakes

don’t you see

at the end

of all things

nothing will divide us

life, joy, hope, pain, sorrow

are born from us all

no matter what our

wallets or wisdoms

we are all equal

we are one

Future

To me, the topic of Student Loans is not an issue. An issue implies something that has 2 sides, both fully debatable. An issue sounds like the mild younger cousin of a problem, or the grandchild of controversy. The harsh reality is that student loans have turned us into a generation of Atlases unable to shrug. Like all too many of my peers, I am a young professional with over $50,000 in student loan debts.

Having struggled for years to get into a good school like my alma mater, I was willing to accept substantial student loans in order to do so. As my parents both have low incomes and personal debt, I knew I wouldn’t have them as a safety net. I realized that it was a risk, but I had faith that I’d be able to handle it when the time came, and that I’d have help.  I was wrong.

The fact is, as a 2009 college graduate I emerged into a world with the worst economy since the Great Depression. A world where I’m competing with equally desperate peers as well as people 20+ years my senior with endless experience. We watched door after door slam in our faces, and still received those horrifying pieces of paper every month telling us what we owed society. We, who are supposed to be your future. We, who have the power to shape the world. We, who have the same right as every generation before us to pursue our dreams.

That right no longer applies. We don’t have the luxury of dreams any more. What we have is bad credit, and judgments, and no exceptions. It’s a vicious cycle that I simply do not understand: We cannot get a job without a college degree, can’t get a college degree without student loans, can’t pay off loans without a job, but can’t get a job with bad credit. Those who hold our debts hound us constantly, warning us of the consequences of noncompliance. As if we had a choice.

In pop culture, the image of a failed college graduate is usually some deadbeat kid living out of their home basement on their parent’s charity. On the surface, I look nothing like that. I live in an apartment with a peer, have a full-time job, and a solid resume featuring Yale and ABC. I’ve worked 30-80 hours a week since graduation, (and that’s with severe fibromyalgia) but it’s never enough. The truth is, I’m constantly looking over my shoulder waiting for the other shoe to drop. I don’t feel young.

So maybe instead of ignoring the elephant in the room and reaping private profits at the expense of dreams, the people responsible should listen. We’re tired of being punished, not just with negative credit scores, but also legal ramifications, wage garnishment…the list goes on. Higher education institutions, Congress and our government, banks, loan holders & credit bureaus, and everyone who turns a blind eye: you are all responsible. I cannot say it any more clearly than this: We are supposed to be the future, the next generations to shepherd the world, and you’ve placed a ticking time bomb around our necks.

 

Shutdown

its always easier

to sympathize from a distance.

erect walls & hang a vacation sign on the knob

build a security barrier

out of partisans&phrases

delay opportunity & much needed relief

with the cheerful grin

of a semi-mournful newly enriched golddiging widow

you cannot know

what it is

to exist in a bubble of uncertainty

afraid as much of the present

as the imminently explosive future

you cannot know

what it is

to see your jobs,

your dreams

wrenched away with

closed doors and turgid explanations

you cannot know

what it is

to watch loved ones suffer

and slip away

because their barcode

wasn’t luxe& gold

-Our government is shutdown-

Well, its people are not.

Connecticut to China

In pop culture, the image of a failed college graduate is usually some deadbeat kid living out of their home basement on their parent’s charity. On the surface, I looked nothing like that. I lived in an apartment with a peer, had a restaurant job, and interviewed for several prospects.

But the truth is, I was living too close to home, constantly worrying about financial stability, completely unchallenged by my career. I didn’t feel young. Didn’t feel as if I had endless prospects and a degree that opened doors. After graduation, I became completely lost, stuck at a crossroads.

Having struggled for years to get into a good school like Hamilton, I was willing to accept substantial student loans in order to do so. As my parents both have low incomes and personal debt, I knew I wouldn’t have them as a safety net.

After graduation, I’d have to choose a profitable career with room for growth that would allow me to settle my loans and create the best possible future. I realized that it was a bit of a risk, that I’d be walking on a tightrope with no room for accidents or bad decisions. I had faith that I’d be adult enough to handle it when the time came.

I was wrong. When the time did come, I chose to revel in my freedom of choice, a sort of Peter Pan fantasy that broke when hit with reality. When the bubble that so many had been trapped in finally burst, the fallout was devastating. My own personal failure was seasoned by the economic failure of an entire nation.

Such an unexpected and unconsciously devout patriot. As my country plunged into socio-economic depression, so did I. As a nation of people wondered what could possibly happen next, I buried my head in the sand along with the naysayers. But also like my country, I wasn’t entirely ready to give up yet. Part of me hoped for some kind of redemption.

China started as a joke. Right after graduation, a good friend of mine decided to go teach over there. Another friend of mine decided to join him a year later. Neither had teaching experience, or could speak the language, like me. About a year after graduation, she informed me that I should join her.

I felt trapped and uninspired, somehow offered a chance to live in a country that seemed as far away as Never Never Land. My perception of China was rooted in a curious combination: of childhood imprints, cherry blossoms, the Great Wall and dragons.

Although it took a summer to work out the logistics, my decision to spend a year in China was almost instantaneous. I was there for a little over ten months, and it felt like a re-awakening. Life seemed like something out of an adventure show, learning a new language alongside an ancient culture, being one of 40 foreigners in a city of almost 4 million. Words can’t even describe the effect China had on me.

I cannot ignore the pain that came with failure. It is easier now to recognize that without my breakdown, I wouldn’t be able to see myself clearly. When I decided to go to China, that was the moment where I decided my failure would not define me. While some of my problems definitely came from our recession and bad timing, a lot of it was due to my own indecision. My weakness. I couldn’t be ready to handle real life until I accepted that it was ultimately me keeping myself stuck at those crossroads.

The Appeal of Socially-Endorsed Ignorance

I did everything right. I don’t have any parental safety nets or trust funds lying in wait to rescue Photoshopped damsels in distress. I worked a minimum of 2 jobs since age 14, never got a credit card or went on a shopping spree, was the first in my family to graduate from college. I went to a good school and amassed a hysterical amount of student loans so that I could get a good job. The student loans resulted in my taking any available job immediately upon graduation, just to try and balance out my debts. I ended up working a variety of jobs in over 8 industries.

That, in turn, resulted in my credit taking a hit, and when I tried to apply for more substantial jobs, or jobs that I was actually interested in, I’d be informed one of two things. One: my resumee was too scattered and unfocused (apparently only people with the luxury and easy confidence of choice are permitted to have a career in their desired field.) Two: my credit rating was too bad for me to be trusted.

Am I the only one who sees the problem with this formula?

Go to college + amass student loans + graduate into worst economy since great depression + try to get a career to fix resulting negative credit+ get told that credit is too bad to get a job to pay these loans = The American Dream.

So my real question is: why isn’t anybody doing anything? That may seem like an overly bright-eyed and bushy-tailed sentence (after all, naivete is only acceptable in our society when it accompanied by a cute face.) The reality is, our pop culture and news media have combined in a determined effort to focus on what’s easy.

Abortion, the Controversial Private Lives of Senators, and gay marriage SHOULD NOT be the main issues being bandied about by pundits and causing outraged gasps when House of Rep speakers make misogynistic remarks. I am liberal, pro-choice and support gay marriage. I do not mean to trivialize any of these issues or the suffering experienced by those affected.

But it is not illegal to be gay in our country. I’ve lived in places where people didn’t dare come out, not for fear of parental reprisal but out of fear of being killed by their peers and/or government. Is the U.S. ideal? No. If we were facing the apocalypse, would this be the deciding factor in determining our collective survival without descending into Lord of the Flies territory? No. Abortion? That was decided in Roe v. Wade over 50 years ago.

Why is the press trying to make us focus on these issues? Because they have obvious answers and pretty celebrities with pre-selected, appropriate soundbites. They make shiny, sparkly
news segments with fixed endings, nicely contained in the parameters of a network story.

That doesn’t make it right. Education, poverty, healthcare…all the big issues that really need to be addressed and not just mouthed platitudes at, go unresolved. Maybe they’re thrown into relief after a disaster and the ensuing Hollywood Phone-a-Thon, but then they go right back to being ignored.

What about the less provocative but infinitely more troubling cracks in our foundation? The practice of extraordinary rendition, where we outsource suspected terrorists (in one case because he was having lunch with the brother of a guy the CIA had their eye on) to other countries to be tortured. Technically, we’re not getting our hands dirty so our government and media have turned a blind eye to any questionable moral ground.

If you want a more family-friendly issue than torture, how about adoption? It’s a topic riddled with so many problems I don’t even know where to begin. Maybe with the fact that annual statistics average about 400,000 children being adopted, with well over 120,000 left to the cold. Almost 30,000 children in the fostercare system “graduate” or “grow out” at age 18 and are left largely to their own devices, having never known a stable family or home environment. A shockingly high percentage go on to do jail time, enter abusive relationships or have teen pregnancies.

I’m not listing an exact number because it’s almost impossible to find. The 2 major reports I could find on the subject are from 2008, by the Child Welfare Information Gateway, and in 1992 by the National Center for State Courts. Another problem is that prospective parents get deterred by cost, extensive red tape, and lengthy adoption process…then end up adopting children from overseas.

To narrow the pool even further, in many states it is virtually impossible for gay couples or nontraditional families to adopt even though the need is desperate. Part of it is good ol’ discrimination, with schools of thought like the parent’s sexuality would be forced on the child. Part of it is the legitimate fear that already troubled kids might get mocked because of their parent’s sexual orientation. But shouldn’t we address our need as a society to radically alter that attitude, instead of leaving children as orphans in the hope they would be less damaged?

I didn’t mean to go on an adoption tirade, but there are many other substantial problems, heavyweights to our current lightweight debates. Our news stations dress up their fluff topics with cool holograms, impressive statistical data, and interactive visual aids. But they don’t look at the homeless veterans, working moms unable to provide for their families or children crossing their fingers in the hopes of finding a family.

They don’t look at people like me, Nomad Generation graduates who average 60+ hours a week only to keep drowning in ominous yellow envelopes.

After all, it’s easier to pretend. Everybody’s decided with a series of winks and nudges to ignore the elephants in the room in favor of the more colorful butterflies.

Catch-2012

Hand open/closed
Squeeze the roaring colors
Out of a corrupt smeared skyPhoto taken by Brandon Ladd

Ever-so-patient
You explain
That we must work,
That without suffering
Success is unsweetened.

Then why
Do you wrap me in these
suffocating silks of obligation?
Demand to see a visa for entry
Although I can’t get a visa
Without entering.

Why
Do you set us up to fail
Then ignore us as we drown?
Send remorseless agents of debt
who see us as pros/cons,
assets and mistakes

place an intellectual tax
so there’s no copyright infringement
with the real power players
and distract
our would-be-supporters
with fuzzy kittens

Knowing they’re so much cuter
and easier to save.

“It’s your generation’s fault.”
I’m politely informed
As you cue the appropriate
Powerpoint of failure,
lecturing me about
Taking Responsibility
as you bind my hands.

Conversion

skyline Reversed

The American Dream
with a used-car salesman grin
fast-forwarded
through commercials
for your convenience.

(it reassures you)

Take The Easy Way

use your touchscreen
instead of touch

adjust the volume
on your 2.0 noise canceling headset
optimized to block

shallow-eyed dull cries
of misery swollen bellies
(they only bother making sound
because they’re still children
they don’t know
nobody’s listening)

sudden whooshing silence
of a family who just lost everything
greedy hum of cash soaked pens
writing away on bottom lines
sealing the indentured servitude
of the marginalized everyman

Pandora is much more pleasant.

there is no need for trees
when we have 3D HD PSP X
Cut vivid focus

Passion-babbling doomsday prophets
neck-wrenched veins
erupting with ecstatic knowledge
cardboard sign-wearing hobos
on soiled street corners

easily ignored

but they just got their dates wrong
threadbare wires crossed

if they consulted their Tablets
Suri would tell them

we are post-apocalypse

it already infiltrated our social consciousness
The American Dream in Disguise
revealing glint-shark eyes
above a bespoke Hollywood grin
purchased by its sweating Agent (of) Chaos
stock ticker pulsing

they watch through
custom tinted windows as

faces become numbers
victims become statistics
natural disasters
become campaign fodder
babies go from
possibilities
to processes.
products.

Is this the world we created?

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