They gave us democracy,
But took our freedom.
We had the right to vote,
But it didn’t matter.
We had the right to refuse to sing
“The Star-Spangled Banner”—
But not if we valued our lives.

We could chant, “Not in my name,”
But they took our names away.
We could work hard,
But they taxed us into the ground.
We could march against War,
But they sent us to War
And taught our children to kill
Someone else’s children.
We could play music—
So long as it was approved
By industry professionals
who knew what we really wanted.
We could watch their movies and their television
But it was always a formula:
Somebody getting hurt
And taking revenge:
The lone gunman—crazed, or justified;
Or comedies that weren’t funny;
Adolescent humor; adolescent fantasies.

They gave us burgers to eat for a dollar.
But everything tasted like cardboard.
They made sex a game
Instead of communion.
Their ministers were pedophiles;
Their teachers, test-givers;
Their doctors, pill-pimping chart-readers.

They taught us to hate terrorists
Then bombed a million civilians.
They didn’t bother to count the dead
Or missing limbs or eyeballs.
They assured us everything they did
Was for our own protection.
If only we would try harder,
We could be like them.

We could live in Trump’s Tower.
We could shed a tear with Oprah.
We could laugh with Paris
Or dance with Britney
(Or stumble through—it didn’t matter).

There was no image of happiness they held up
That didn’t involve hurting someone else.
It was happiness
Based on others’ suffering.
Winners and losers.

read all of the poem


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