What liberal movement would be complete without poetry as a public policy placeholder? The Beats had Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, so it only make senses that the Occupy Movement nominate…Zack De La Rocha? Hmmm. Zack might be a “Renegade of Funk”, but he’s certainly no poet. Those Beats who killed themselves on liquor and booze and life’s best excesses would, umm, kill themselves with liquor and booze and life’s best excesses if they could hear how far free verse has fallen (quite a feat considering it’s free verse!).

Behold! The words that will inspire a movement to soldier on through the wind and the cold and an oppressive power-structure that frowns upon bladders emptied on city sidewalks:

The beginning spills through city veins
Into the arteries
And under powers poison clouds
We move like the shadows
Through the alley ways
Through nightmares bought and sold as dreams
Through barren factories
Through boarded schools
Through rotting fields
Through the burning doors of the past
Through imaginations exploding
To break the curfews in our minds

Our actions awaken dreams of actions multiplied
A restless fury
Once buried like burning embers
Left alone to smolder
But together stacked under the walls of a dying order
All sparks are counted
Calloused hands raised in silence
Over the bonfire of hope unincorporated
It’s flame restores tomorrows meaning
Across the graveyards of hollow promises
As gold dipped vultures pick at what is left of our denial

And the youngest among us
Stare at us stoned like eyes determined
And say
Death for us may come early
Cause dignity has no price
At the corner of now and nowhere
Anywhere
Everywhere
Tomorrow is calling
Tomorrow is calling

Do not be afraid

There’s plenty to be said for Zack’s sad line breaks, or the cliche crutches that allow him to hobble through it all until the big “Do not be afraid” conclusion, but that’s for another time. Instead, I’d rather focus on the liberal reflex to substitute poetry and song for coherent public policy alternatives to the grievances they’ve worked themselves up into a drum circle over.

Years ago, when I was at USC, the anti-war movement was in full swing. I had college professors give extra credit for anti-war poetry and attendance to Michael Moore movie screenings. Students gathered on campus dressed in black for “die-ins”. (They represented dead civilians, perhaps the human shields that shilled for Saddam…) War was “wrong” under any circumstances. When asked about the culpability of brutal dictators who respond to challenges to their authority by wiping out entire villages—silence. When asked how one practices diplomacy with an adversary who starts the negotiation process with calls for the end of Western Civilization—silence. And yet, it is the conservative college student who is looked at as somehow lacking in the intellectual chops department.

I have news for our liberal friends: Not only do young conservatives have the intellectual goods, but there’s a few of us who can go toe-to-toe with you in the creative realm. Perhaps one day Zack De La Rocha and I will have a poetry smack down here in Washington, DC. Busboys and Poets, De La Roca? I’m game if you are. Mano-e-mano. I’ll even let Alan Colmes be one of the judges.

I wrote this one in lieu of an anti-war poem in 2002.

Model Student

Tenured professors offer anti-war protests as extra-credit
Handing me a map, I appear the eager young adult,
Daddy Warbucks, spoon fed, next generation USC grad
Paid for in handsome contributions.
Never knew I was infantry,
Witness to bloated bellies on starving children.
Effects of chemical and biological weapons:
That’s real,
Evil.
Classmates, eager for the grade or blinded by credentials
Soak it up like a pressure dressing applied to a flesh wound.
Apparently my friends overseas are murderers.
Only burn-outs enlist in the Armed Services.
Red Neck, racist, slack jawed, gun toting
Republicans fill our nation’s ranks—
According to my professor.
Only misfit kids and has-been jocks
Attend community college—
According to my professor.
Only the crème of the crop attend USC.

What does that make me?

Dear Zack,

I would love nothing more than to give you a free-market-themed lyrical thrashing to your own beats. Exhibit A: Mic Check. Let’s do this. If you want to stay invisible, like The Ghost of Tom Joad, I’ll understand. Maybe Bruce Springsteen will take your place and show you how it’s done.

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

3 comments

    1. Very nice! Thanks for the comment and links, Keith. When I was at USC I was the only conservative (at least openly) in my writing program. Lonely days. It’s always nice to see someone else who’s a “rogue poet,” whose left the left wing Beat Farm.

  1. Maybe we need one of the conservative think tanks to take on a poet in residence to counter the leftist literary advantage. Somehow it would give the idea wars a more civil feel. Thanks for the great post.

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