Monday, April 9, 2018

March for Our Lives -- Numbers and complexities!

     One of the very moving recent events in my life was the "March for Our Lives" in Washington a couple of weeks ago.  Passionate AND thoughtful speeches by young people that will, I hope, lead to moral and legislative action.  One of the stars whose performance complemented those of the young speakers is Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of the current and popular musical "Hamilton"; seeing Miranda at the March reminded me of a poem of protest sent to me by Australian poet Erica Jolly a few months ago.    Jolly's poem draws from an essay by Matthew Peppe in the Special Issue of Lapham's Quarterly about Alexander Hamilton and contrasts the character of the theatrical Hamilton with the behavior of the character who inspired him.  (This link to the blog "John's Space" offers additional background information.)  Thank you, Erica, for this moving use of numbers!

Daddy Yankee:     
       The Irony of ‘Hamilton’
       Creator Lin-Manuel Miranda’s 
       Advocacy for Puerto Rico
by Erica Jolly (December 2017)
             An essay by Matthew Peppe found in the Special Issue
             about Alexander Hamilton in Lapham’s Quarterly.

I draw in my breath in disbelief.
How does one take in all those numbers?
How is it possible for an island of this size
to have a debt of seventy six billion dollars?  

And that is just the amount for last year.
I struggle to contain a debt of one thousand.
What would the interest be? How did it happen?
As I read I learn the story of this debtor colony.

Thanks to Lewis Lapham I’m beginning to see.
Matthew Peppe is taking me to the story of it all
showing me the role of Alexander Hamilton
who made the Federation secure for the rich.

It would not be for Washington’s “exceedingly dirty
and nasty people.” That’s what the General called them -
the soldiers who gave their lives to free the colonies
and let all the merchants thrive – not the artisans.

Do the islanders know how long it has been
with Congress calling the tune in this colony?
Mandated in 1917 and kept after World War II,
do they know how high the price they daily pay?

They are called a ‘Commonwealth’. Such irony.
No sharing of wealth. Creditors take so much.
At least a quarter of the islanders live in poverty.
Anything they make, first creditors must be paid.

Obama, in that ‘Promesa’, Spanish for ‘promise’
made all their lives much worse. A Board of seven
under the President, with only one Puerto Rican, might
stop revenue spent for public good. Creditors come first.

Take warning Australia. Privatisation. Profit for the few.
There, not yet here. Their governor might cut the wages
of those under twenty five to four dollars twenty five an hour.
Four dollars twenty-five an hour! And sales tax eleven percent.

Add the fearsome power of Nature to the burden of those numbers.
Multiply the misery. Add in Maria and the reaction of Congress.
Power grids down. No generators for hospitals. And the smell.
In their tropical climate, the stench in water and on land.

No wonder at least a million, who might have something left,
are fleeing to Florida. As American citizens they can do this
but no one would know from the way they are being treated.
Trump is twittering, accusing the islanders of creating this havoc.

Thank you ‘Daddy Yankee’. While Broadway dances hip hop
to the myth in the musical about ‘Hamilton’ and mothers try
to find shelter and food, profiteers wonder how to make money.
What was Whitefish to get for its workers from the mainland?

New numbers stun me. Was it two hundred dollars an hour
plus a living away from home allowance while a local boy or girl
got only four dollars and twenty-five cents an hour? In Adelaide, while
the island of Puerto Rico is out of sight, its people remain in my mind.

No comments:

Post a Comment