Stories

by | Jul 11, 2020

By Bob Houghtaling

History is often written by the winners or those in power. Unfortunately, this often leads to a skewed perception of reality as well as the perpetuation of marginalization for those not in power. Today too many continue to experience a different America. While George Floyd’s death has brought additional focus to racial concerns–there is a whole lot more to consider regarding how we relate to each other. The poem Who Gets to Determine hopefully expresses how power might write the books, but the people get to tell the story. 

Who Gets to Determine

Who gets to determine

The expression of pain
That showered the years
Much like acid rain
Poisoning our viewpoints
And holding Lives back
Who gets to determine
How we view such attacks

Who gets to determine
How history is penned
Do we write it for truth
Or out of frustration to end
Perhaps tied in nice packages
It will all go away
Who gets to determine
At the end of the day

The cracking of whips
The Trail of Tears
Wounded Knee and Tulsa
Have over the years
Been harsh reminders
Of an oppressive past
If we don’t search for truth
Our pain will long last

Who gets to determine
Faces etched in the hills
Or why the Confederates
Preside over us still
They represent a power
That so many know
Who gets to determine

It can’t be Jim Crow
Who gets to determine
Why many hit the streets
Calling out for justice
While not hiding behind sheets
Change has to come
In the land of the free
Who gets to determine
It’s for you and for me

The cracking of whips
The Trail of Tears
Wounded Knee and Tulsa
Have over the years
Been harsh reminders
Of an oppressive past
If we don’t search for truth
Our pain will long last

The ideals of America lean towards a welcoming dynamic. Unfortunately, we have had many periods where a ‘us vs. them’ mindset has promoted significant acrimony. Those leaders who assert “With malice towards none, with charity for all” look to heal, while those who search for villains, amongst us, take the nation back to the days of Jim Crow and Removal. I am hoping that we can continue to embrace change. I am hoping that our future will include celebrating the contributions of those waiting to be heard to the fullest extent. Patience is a luxury for those in power. Please let’s keep in mind that years of oppression can make change an urgent consideration.  

Bob Houghtaling is the director of the East Greenwich Drug Program, a mental health counselor, and a poet.


 

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