Global Justice Music, Poetry Resistance

Let America Be America Again – Langston Hughes

Jesus told us to work on it;
– “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
– “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
– “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
– “If you have done it unto one of the least of these, you have done it unto Me.”
We have to be wholly devoted to this great practical goodness NOW or we are disobedient to his perfect commands of love.

We were gone for the weekend (2004) to Lawrence KS. (Nice place!) Browsing bookstores we found Let America Be America Again* — a few poems by the black “poet laureate” Langston Hughes, with a preface by Senator John Kerry. (It’s a new booklet, though Hughes died in 1967.) We read it through twice while driving home. Here are a few quotes and a comment about the poem “Some Day”:

from John Kerry’s PREFACE:

We need the brainpower,
creativity,
and commitment
of all Americans, united and equal,
if we are to meet the great challenges of our time.

The rest are excerpts from Hughes’ poems.

“SOME DAY”

Once more
The guns roar.
Once more
The call goes forth for men.
Again
The war begins,
Again
False slogans become a bore.
Yet no one cries:
ENOUGH! MO MORE!
Like angry dogs the human race
Loves the snarl upon its face
It loves to kill.
The pessimist says
It always will.
That I do not believe.

Some day
The savage in us will wear away.
Some day quite clearly
Men will see
How clean and happy life can be
And how,
Like flowers planted in the sun,
We, too, can give forth blossoms,
Shared by everyone.

__________

Some Christians have a theology

that makes them respond, “Well, that will never happen. Humans can’t do it. It will only happen when Jesus comes back.”

To them I reply:

Jesus TOLD us to work on it;

  • “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
  • “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
  • “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
  • “If you have done it unto one of the least of these, you have done it unto Me.”

We have to be wholly devoted to this great practical goodness NOW or we are disobedient to his perfect commands of love. If we put it off because it seems impossible, or because He will take care of it ‘later’, we are denying His authority over our lives – how then can we call ourselves Christian?

__________

“LET AMERICA BE AMERICA AGAIN”

I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek –
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.
I am the young man full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land! ..

O, let America be America again –
The land that never has been yet –
And yet must be – the land where EVERY man is free…

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose …

From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

“GIVE US OUR PEACE”

Give us a peace equal to the war
Or else our souls will be unsatisfied ….

Give us a peace that is not cheaply used …

Give us a peace that will produce great schools –
As the war produced great armament,
A peace that will wipe out our slums –
As war wiped out our foes on evil bent.
Give us a peace that will enlist
A mighty army serving human kind,

Some day The savage in us will wear away. Some day quite clearly Men will see How clean and happy life can be - Langston HughesClick To Tweet(May 2019 – We apparently gave ours away, and Connie just got a replacement copy she found online somewhere.  It still spreads the wisdom quoted above!)

[*Let America Be America Again, and Other Poems by Langston Hughes, Preface by Senator John Kerry, 24 pages, 2004, Vintage Books] [See also: Short Quotes: Martin Luther King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail.]


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14 Comments

  • Although the conditions that laborers of WWI faced are different from what we today face, I think that the broader message that Hughes and Kerry were trying to convey is that the “system” of governing made to benefit the people is not working. The ideal solution then is to use the collective power of people to return the government back to a position where gross exploitation is not monopolized by a handful of wealthy companies / institutions. I think that Hughes’ insight on class and race struggle is what continues to mark him as a truly remarkable poet since these issues are still quite prevalent today.

  • Come on… don’t just yell, “I HATE HIM” … What is it you hate? Can you articulate, or do you just have a raw emotion without thought about it?

    Connie

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