Monthly Archives: April 2017

What Andy said

“I don’t believe it is well understood how influence flows from enclosures like this to the fields and farms and farmers themselves.  We’ve been…hearing about the American food system and the American food producer, the free market, quantimetric models, pre-inputs, inputs, and outputs, about the matrix of coefficients of endogenous variables, about epistemology and parameters—while actual fields and farms and actual human lives have been damaged.  The damage has been going on a long time.  The fifteen million people who have left the farms since 1950 left because of damage.  There was pain in that departure….

“I think that bill came out of a room like this, where a family’s life and work can be converted to numbers and to somebody else’s profit, but the family cannot be seen and its suffering cannot be felt.”[1]

Andy regretted saying those words
And, subsequently, alienated himself
From those he had intended to speak for.
He had spoken in anger and,
While I recognize his failure
To cry out as Dorie had written,
“Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord”[2]
I have wanted only to cheer for him.
I wanted to cheer from that same anger:
That the world is busy convincing itself
That its progress and greed,
Its pursuit of margins and dividends,
Its ache for enclosure and “artificial light”
And “artificial air,”[3] all of which I,
Hypocritically, have coveted,
Have done anything but violence
To the land, the creatures, the growing things,
And to the people and to the places they call home.
All have been traded for plastic treasures,
Coffee cups and electronic wonders,
Tawdry junk to be cast aside into landfills
Overflowing with disposable dreams,
Cheap stand-ins for real life which
We would arm ourselves in preparation
To kill to protect before
Casting it aside to move on to the next piece of
Future refuse.

“I say damn your systems and your numbers and your ideas….”[4]
I hear myself echo under my breath
As I waste another three minutes of my ever-dwindling life
Sitting in line at one more traffic light,
My carbon-belching metal machine steadily
Eating dollar after dollar, minute after minute,
While the grass and the trees and the open sky,
The earth and the birds, my wife and my friends,
Wait for a few hours on Saturday to be enjoyed.

I am to understand that I am a consumer in this world—
That my role is to consume goods, to keep the economy growing,
And to do my part to produce those goods, in order to
Line the pockets of those whose pockets
Are already stuffed to overflowing.
I am to understand that the market is for my benefit
And that I should be proud to serve its good,
Protect its interests, and salute its flag.
It is the provider of security and the Pax Romana,
The bringer of good news, protecting me
From those who are different from me,
Who look and speak differently, who,
Because of their difference, or because they don’t
Serve this empire, threaten my well-being—
My neighbors.

All the while Caesar keeps careful track of all I owe him,
Promising with ever-less subtle threats
To hold me accountable for every penny I owe
To him and all those other magnates
Who provide for me with such generosity.
I am to just ignore that they are also making me sick.
Mustn’t be a communist.

I hope, someday, to find the peace that Andy sought in his memory.
I suppose, as a believer, I, too, am obligated to remember
That it has already been won for me,
Not by stocks and bonds, or by products,
But by a cross—a cross I am invited to share,
A cross I am invited to submit to: the very same cross
I am already being put on by the empire and the executives.
I recognize this peace, feeling it at a distance as I look forward
To its fulfillment, practicing in my mind and actions
As best as I can muster through hot tears of anger
That peace in anticipation of the resurrection
When the powers that be will be no more
And there is nothing left to consume.

I suppose Andy’s anger and mine are righteous
In some self-serving way.  But they fail to live up to the master
Who endured the cross at the hands of the rich and the prominent
And said, “Father, forgive them in their ignorance.”
Lord, help me to see in them my own greed and egotism;
Remind me that I, too, have sought my comforts
At the cost of the poor and hungry
And that I, too, am no better than the thief
Who hung next to you.  Grant that I may not be,
In my agony, the one cursing the world
For his predicament, earned because he
Sought its treasures and power
With his own acts of violence.
Give me the courage instead to say,
“Remember me as you come into your Kingdom.”

And forgive me for loving what Andy said.

] Wendell Berry, Remembering: a Novel. Counterpoint, Berkely, CA. Pgs. 19-20.

[2] Ibid., 20.

[3] Ibid., 19.

[4] Ibid., 21.

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You go right on

Go on and tell yourself you’re a Christian;
Everyone’s gotta make a profit, right?
Go on and sing your songs,
Sit in your fancy pews and watch your
Professional concerts. “Give the Lord your best”
When it comes to shiny instruments and
Projectors, painted hallways and mood
Lighting, glossy covers and video production,
Electronic billboards and coffee shops,
Thousand-dollar banners over multi-block
Convention-center booths where you can
Press the flesh and impress the public.
Don’t you worry about that parent…
You know, the one with the kid in the wheelchair.
Jesus never mentioned her.
Don’t worry about those people you laid off,
The economy’s what it is. Their situation
Is probably their fault anyhow.
You make the tough calls and have that vision,
The world’s a harsh place and God put you on top for a reason.
You must be something special.
You just go on and ignore that guy on the corner,
The one in the same clothes every day this year
Walking the median at rush hour with his
Cardboard sign. And don’t bother with those
Illegal immigrants, the next Administration’s got that—
Romans 13 and all that jazz.

Get your tax breaks. Itemize those expenses. Pad that
Bottom line. Protect the company. Invest wisely.
Look out for yourself.

Jesus never said that “giving your best” meant
Giving a cold cup of water to someone who was thirsty,
Visiting a prisoner, clothing a person in need.
He would never have expected someone like you
To care about the least of these.

Nah…You go right on.

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A person

How convincing the inherent sensibilities of a social hierarchy
That keeps each person neatly categorized in their own place,
Measured in comparison to one another:
Better than some, lesser than others according to
Possessions, position, beauty, or clothing;
Race, religion, or ability—circumstances of birth.
Accidental qualities treated as essential,
So that each person can be valuated
According to whatever quality the person appraising
Perceives makes the other a desirable object.
How that pecking order is taken for granted.
How it is first spoken then assumed,
Monetized by the markets,
Baptized by the religions.
How often I have wondered at the potential for destruction
When Adam was told to name the creation.

But that order is unmasked to me, revealed a sham
Hurrying along Canal St. in New Orleans,
Heading back into an extravagant convention hall, part of a
Colossal forty-story luxury hotel
I find a man dressed in rags, standing against a filthy trash can,
Laying over it as if it was a bed he was simply too tired to climb up into.
The sight of him asleep in such a position shocks me out of my own discomfort
Long enough to notice that there are men like him all around me
Curled up and sleeping in cracks and crevices and nooks and crannies
All over the city like wadded up balls of humanity
Thrown away because no one considers them worthwhile,
While all around me people desperately search for crap they
Don’t even know they want because they
Have more money than they need.

I lose track of how long I stand watching this—
There aren’t words.
Something is wrong in a world where this is normal.
Something is wrong when a person isn’t a person.

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