Today, I realized that it’s been lost
Sold and on fire, destroyed like Faust.
I recall seeing signs, blazing, “We will never forget”
But we did.
A whole generation knows nothing of ones before.
They choose purposeful ignorance, opt to be whores
It is about ME, they imply, not my Great Grandma Finch
Whose first husband died the night he was lynched
In Arkansas. Not Ar-Kan-Sas.
You might wonder why the schools don’t teach
About Booker T. and W.E.B.,
Wounded Knee, Kennedy, Gandhi and philosophies
Well, they do.
They teach it, over and over, to deaf ears and blind eyes,
To Orwellian automatons, in self-selected coveralls of
Skinny jeans, 60-dollar tees, an air of sleaze and a set of Beats.
And they cry about harassment, racism, and having to WORK,
Of sexist comments and how GW was a jerk
Without the slightest hint of irony at all for the absolute lack of knowledge and experience they possess.
All they know is Martin Luther King
Once upon a time had a dream.
And they can tell you that the dream was to end racism.
But, they can’t tell you a thing about Coretta, Malcolm, Louis, Rosa, Cesar, Bobby, or others who shared that vision
Except that one of those people sat down one time when she was tired.
They can’t pronounce “Tiananmen” because they’ve never heard of it.
Or “Gorbachev,” “Emmett Till” or even know of South Central before they burned it.
The only “Wall” they’ve lived knowing preceeds “-Mart.”
And it all makes me sad.
Worse yet, we try to teach a generation of kids who not only don’t know that their ancestors swung from trees in Birmingham, burned for the color of their skin,
But, they really don’t care.
This is a generation that wasn’t even old enough to remember the Trade Center collapse,
Let alone Roe v. Wade, Vietnam, or the Day the Music Died.
And, I first chuckled that teens had never heard of Nirvana, John Hughes, the Spice Girls or the Beatles.
Then I realized that this was an intellectual tragedy like I couldn’t dream of.
There was, kids, a world before Dubstep.
I used to write research papers by investigating information found in…BOOKS.
Now, the very suggestion of doing that would bring terribly confused looks
From students who appear to need to be surgically removed from their “smart” phones.
And I wonder when we will finally redefine the word “smart,” then.
They don’t know where they’ve come from and don’t care where they’ve been.
And yet they all think they will earn “big G’s,” drive a Lex and be freed
From the tyranny of their parents and the “system” upon turning 18.
And, they don’t know that when you’re 18, you’re still pretty stupid.
And, so Pat O’Leary hides the wire to his earbuds through his Hollister shirt
Adamantly refusing to read Swift or learn about how his ancestors survived tenement living in NYC
Only to be spat upon, labeled non-white, forever a slave to the New Country’s “dole.”
Because he couldn’t care less about how they paid the toll
For him to even sit in that seat and receive a book today.
Lily Locklear doesn’t even know she’s 3-quarters Crow
But, she’d rather chant in her head, “You don’t know –oh –oh”
“You don’t know you’re beautiful.”
Indeed, she doesn’t, but that is a whole different topic altogether.
And, Marcus knows how to design his own Nikes online and pay a few hundred for them,
But he’s never heard of Stokely Carmichael and he doesn’t own a pencil OR a pen.
Zooey is half Jewish. She thinks. Maybe.
But, she couldn’t tell you what that even means.
Is it a culture? A religion? An identity?
“What’s the difference, anyway,” she wonders as she draws on her hundred dollar jeans
With the same Sharpie she used to draw all over her best friend’s arm while they were supposed to be learning about Quadratic Equations.
And, it is a tragedy.
Not like the Challenger, which I actually remember.
But like that of the American Cheetah,
Which had existed but now is extinct
And our children’s minds, their heritage, their culture, their identities,
Too, are depleting, once having been beautiful, hopeful and strong.
I was not alive to witness Woodstock or Pol Pot; too young to really remember when AIDS first made the world stop.
But, I learned about them. And, I grew.
And, now I say, “I, too, sing America,”
But the trail I leave behind me is growing thick with weeds and ugly from neglect
And, I can’t convince many 14-year olds to sing with me anymore.