After four years of [gestures at everything], the road back certainly seems blocked. Impassable even. Is there another way around? Is there a way through? To rebuilding; to restarting; to healing? The bigger picture (the nation, the politics, the public) shows us the way is complicated, and requires accountability and truth and reconciliation. But here, across the aisle on the bus, in the apartment next door, in a friend’s Facebook feed, needs something different. Today’s piece by Dr. Faizan is a found poem from such an exchange, in which he shows what that might look like.
I understand if you might feel as if your beliefs and concerns are under attack. I understand if you might feel misunderstood or even betrayed. I understand if you might be afraid that the truth that you suspect or believe to be true has been covered up somehow by the ones who declare that there is no evidence to support it. Perhaps the dots you're connecting are different than ours. Perhaps you believe we are missing something. Now imagine if you were one of those lawmakers that invested their entire career and staked their whole reputation on Trump. Imagine being struck with terror as people armed with guns overrun your sanctuary. Imagine that you are the police officer that was beaten and injured so badly that you are fighting for your life in the hospital. Betrayal doesn't even begin to describe the sheer suffering that took place. But if you can find it in your heart to empathize with those who were seriously harmed and traumatized by what happened, regardless of ideology, then I am positive that you can find it in your heart to empathize with us as well. I would never mean to imply that someone is racist, ignorant, or bigoted simply because of who they choose to support. But please understand that we all feel betrayed, and traumatized, in exactly the same way. We have felt victimized, baffled, and disenfranchised for at least the past 4 years, but for many of us it has been even longer than that. I never bothered to vote before this election,because I never believed my voice even mattered. But at the very least I trusted that the system and its supposed checks and balances would hold up over time. That the rule of law and that evidence-based reasoning would allow the truth, or some semblance of it, to emerge and ultimately matter most, that it would be respected by all sides, and that reality would remain our solid ground that we share. But when our worlds were literally split apart along fault lines, and trying to reach the other side meant walking through magma, when information itself became a weapon of mass destruction, we felt betrayed and shocked as if we had personally been assaulted. All of a sudden it was OK to lie repeatedly and shamelessly because why? Because everyone does it? All of a sudden it was OK to ignore it when the people we support throw our most important values out the window because why? Everyone has lost their values and at least our side still remembers what's important and thus is better, thus will prevail, and must, by any means necessary, by the grace of God or science or karma or whatever side you wanna pick? - Were you ever OK with letting empathy and mutual understanding get trampled underfoot and assaulted as a sign of weakness? Were you ever OK with how starkly different your information was from ours, how inconsistent, contradictory, and meaningless it became? We could never be OK with this. And what happened at the Capitol just revealed this symbolic betrayal as total and real treason, one that cost lives. We are all reacting to the same trauma, in the end, but we have to do it by bridging the gap and attempting to understand each other first. We have to be able to agree on some kind of reality, and we can't be so proud as to claim we know the complete truth. But as long as truth itself, and reason itself, is under attack, by anyone from any side, then the more we indulge in the polarizing war of words, the more distance and animosity we create, and we can never heal until we regain the humility to listen to each other again and agree on something at the very least. This is the only way to get answers. So I'm sorry if the answers we have come up with don't satisfy you. But we need to trust in the process we used to get those answers. We are trying our level best to ensure a fair process so that you can trust those answers too. But we, just like you, are still reeling from the trauma. Excuse us for not trusting some of your leaders who prioritized their career over their own values. Excuse us for our own mundane hypocrisy just like you've excused your own leaders for their hypocrisy. Let's just get to a place where we can agree to trust each other again, a place where new leaders must rise and prove themselves all over again, in a system that we can all trust and believe in. A system that was never meant to be a battlefield to conquer or a war to win. The more we focus on "winning" the more we lose lives, the more we lose dignity, respect, autonomy, kindness, all of our values, the more we lose ourselves. We all lost this war. Can't we accept that and move on? In parallel? Or - Hell forbid!- even together?
©David Siller & Faizan Syed– 2021
Faizan Syed, MD is a writer, musician, and psychiatrist based in Queens, NY and is a member of the Queens Poetic Alchemy Collective. He was awarded the Folger Adams Jr. Prize for 1st place in Poetry and the Graduating Poet’s Award from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has been featured on Humans of New York. Faizan’s work has appeared in Montage Literary Arts Journal, Newtown Literary, Cosmonauts Ave, & Empty Mirror. Poems he’s written in collaboration with Matthew DeMarco have been published in Jet Fuel Review, Dogbird Journal, and “They Said,” an anthology of collaborative writing from Black Lawrence Press. One can find him on Instagram @docfaizan or on SoundCloud at https://soundcloud.com/docfaizan.
For the first 100 days of the Biden administration, this website will feature a new poem of What’s Next!? These pieces can be calls to action, calls to attention, or calls to anger. They will light the way and guide the fight. They will get us moving and keep our momentum. They will be filled with hope, with anger, with sorrow. They will get us into good trouble and point out the trouble we need to stop. They will be polished gems, or rough-cut drafts of rage, or in-process pieces searching for peace. They may be haiku or tanka, limericks or lyrics, verses free or fettered.
#100Days100Poems of What’s Next!? wants your poems, your prose, your visual art (photos, drawings, sculptures), your music, your short films and animations. Interpret the theme as broadly as you’d like.
If you would like to submit to this endeavor, please send an email, with your visual art (as .jpg or .pdf) or your poem saved as a word document (.docx) to waxyandpoetic AT gmail DOT com. Include a short bio (2-3 sentences) and social media/website information. All rights remain with the author. Please address any formatting preferences in your email. Waxyandpoetic.com will post submissions time permitting, with at least one per day beginning 20 January 2021.
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