« Undignified Freedom »

picture of truck mirror reflecting a homeless man walking away from trash cans where he got his mealsI think freedom is alive in America
It's just not where you would expect—
Entrepreneurs line the street corners
They keep their own hours
Taxation doesn't touch them
Then again, hardly anyone notices them
Except when a kind soul breaks free and gives a dollar
Stalling traffic in the process
I find more and more such entrepreneurs
In the rarified air of my ironic material ascension
My full time position of gainful employment
Sobering juxtaposition against daily news of upheaval and hard times

America's swelling economic class of poor can be found
Standing at the street corners or crouching in the doorways
They talk to people beyond our field of vision
(Possibly their only friend in Jesus, just out of sight for most of us)
The ever-present cardboard signs
"Homeless, disabled, anything helps"
Some are dejected while some retain humor
Their frankness a shock to most ears, it brings fear
A fear invoked by material loss and dissolution of dreams
We who drive by in our metal ivory towers
Air conditioning and music pumping behind tinted glass
The sequestering effect of the dream well dreamed
Worried sick with neuroses about
Petty shit only a bored materialistic people could think about
As if it mattered somehow
The tense glance and the undesire to meet eyes
The feeble reach for the coin tray as if out of guilt
Knowing Heaven's reality TV show has cameras trained on you
The giving out of fear to avoid fear
Sad flash knowing the party may soon end
Living paycheck to paycheck
The wobbly feeling mounts
The feeling mounts, fears of when we're all made equal
By the things we won't have anymore

And the next stoplight won't be any easier!

Who is our enemy and how can we love him?
Who is the dispossessed self-as-other whom we hate?
Our reflection in the empty gazes
The thinly veiled despair of cardboard signs
A world of possessions in a stolen? shopping cart
Why do we hate you, Failed America that just won't go away?
Does it hurt to know thyself this way?
If we throw off the slavery of debt and war
Would we recognize our freedom?
How many more street corners can we build
To give jobs to all the jobless?
How many more alcoves must be made
To give homes to the homeless?
How much more cardboard must be pressed
To help small businesses get off the ground
Off the ground of dirty streets and canyons?
Freedom to piss openly on the street
Conjures our righteous disgust and revulsion
While secretly our sad unspoken admission is that
They might be freer than we

The economic stimulus package entrenches many in voluntary slavery
Either by getting in or getting out
It is yours to choose just like paper or plastic
A false choice doomed to bind us to the sickening status quo
Yet freedom is just outside the door
On the corners and in the alleys
A little dingy, yes, but
There it is within reach if you had to take it
Or maybe captivity is more precious
The certainty of heat and light
The safety from the dark of night—
If not pulled, some are pushed

America, America, land of the free
I witness the slow shameful decline
Just as the torch is handed off to me
A new generation with the old hope dashed
By the freedom of some to take the freedom of others for the want of a buck
And the race to the top being run roughshod
Over true believers in the national mythology of upward mobility
An undignified freedom prevails in the land
Not like the days of ticker tape parades
When we beat back manifest evil
And sent the bad men running for cover
A slow shameful decline into poverty of the soul
A land that will sell its grandchildren
If a buck can be made this quarter

The condo-boom in the downtown
Is met in like fashion by the corner people
Whose numbers grow daily
Rooms, rooms everywhere and not a place to stay!
Conspicuous signs of wealth only mask the
Swelling poverty behind the glass and steel facades
It's the dilemma of our time
It's the shame of our age
Uniquely plagued with too much stuff
Too successful for our own good

The light can't turn green fast enough, can it?

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