Saturday, January 14, 2017

I had a dream last night: A Parable for Our Times

A newer version of this piece with added postscript 
was publishedn1/28/17 in the Concord Monitor:
A Homeless Woman in San Francisco
CC Jean Stimmell: January 2017

I had a dream last night.  It was about a homeless man living on the streets, beaten down for so long he had lost all hope, until one day his only friend died, ravaged by abuse and neglect from a faceless oppressor.

Roused from his zombie-like existence by her death, he found himself carving a likeness of her killer on the roots of an overturned tree in the nearby park. It was physically hard work but even more so emotionally, trying to recover such a fundamental repressed memory from a lifetime of trauma.

People passing by stopped to stare but became energized by his passion and began donating gouges and carving knives to promote his cause. Over time, the sculpture started to take shape in the form of an avenging god.

The homeless man called it Moloch in reference to Allen Ginsberg’s poem “Howl,” which he had read in a tattered book he had rescued from under some rotten food in a dumpster.

In fact, he had memorized the opening lines: “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn…”

The truth of what the poet was saying resonated in every fiber of the homeless man’s body and soul: his heart went out to the unemployed, the mentally ill, the veterans, all the regular folks in our country who have been discarded for being just another unneeded item, a commodity that has outlived its usefulness.

The homeless man was correct: Moloch is Ginsberg’s metaphor for global capitalism, the avenging god of the marketplace, the relentless overseer who runs our whole nation like one big, for-profit business; Moloch, whose money and power makes him the hidden ruler, even over our government, keeping both democrats and republicans meekly in line.

Each day more people came streaming to the park to see the homeless man’s creation, which was slowly but surely, revealing the secret identity of this terrifying apparition who had lurked in the shadows of their nightmares all these years.

The sculpture became a sensation. Some pundits pointed out the statue’s resemblance to the new orange-haired president. More and more people streamed to the park feeling empowered that they could finally identify their real oppressor.

Rising up as one, the people began to protest, refusing to remain passive pawns in a system that rewards the top 1% at the expense of the 99% of the rest of us; in a system where eight men (six of whom are Americans) own the same amount of wealth as one-half the world’s population.

Looking back years later, historians agree this was the turning point when the people rose up against this gross inequality and demanded power be returned to them, restoring democracy in America.

The moral of this story is that sometimes all it takes is a single, committed person to change a nation.

New Trump Mural: Mission Distict, San Francisco
CC Jeam Stimmell: January 2017

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