Seeds and Weeds

 

Chapter 1: Pride and Prejudice


 

Poetry and Prose by JJ Johnson

All works Copyright © Joseph F Johnson

 

Seeds And Weeds is a philosophically expressive compilation of poetry and prose, creatively expressed in rhyme and reason. The poems within are more than simply a collection of verse with splashes of imagery. Seeds And Weeds challenges the mind and heart to find a better way through observations and feelings on the rise and fall of character. 

Written in the moment, the poetry here is sometimes harsh, but always honest. Digging deeply into the essence of poetic creation, they have not been conjured from the casual observations on life that some would accept as poetic inspiration. These works are the raw emotions, articulated in words that have been inspired by a lifetime of experiences. Offering progressive views on equality, justice, politics, peace, war, environment, nature, fate, faith, family, friendship, introspection, and poetic inspiration, this book explores the struggle between human instinct, intellect and compassion.

 

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Pride & Prejudice

Chapter 1 excerpts *

(prose and poems Segregation* and Separation*)

(poem 3 Seeds* can be read on the main index page)

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 Prose

                

            Since the age of five, I wondered why people hate. In April of 1968 I heard a man had been killed because he was black and believed everyone was equal. Iíd never heard of Martin Luther King Jr. before that day, at least not that I was aware of, but suddenly everyone was talking about him. I did not know many black people, but the one family I did know seemed no different from anyone else to me. Though I do recall when I first met them, just one year earlier when I was four, having a perplexed first impression.

            While riding past their house on my tricycle, I saw a girl about two or three years older than me on the front porch. I stopped to look at her and asked her what was wrong with her. She didnít seem to know what I meant and asked me what I was talking about. I asked her if she had been burned in a fire and she told me she hadn't, so I asked her why her skin was black. She told me that was just the way she was born and that was how her whole family looked.

At four years old and growing up in a small town with very few black families, I wasnít sure what to think, but in many ways that was a good thing.

            No one had yet infected my mind with prejudice, so my sense of curiosity took over and I decided to get to know this girl. Later I met her parents, found them to be nice people, though not particularly sociable, and got to know her pretty well. So when I heard that Martin Luther King had been killed because he was black and many white people hated blacks, I did not understand why. I wondered what I couldnít see. Was there some mysterious evil lurking beneath the skin of my friend?

            In all of the years since, I have watched peopleís behavior, listened to the public and private comments of white people who carried this hate within them and drew many conclusions. Those conclusions have lead me to form a philosophy on hatred that has evolved into what I refer to as ďThree SeedsĒ. I have wanted to get to the heart of the matter and find a way to weed out these seeds so that they could never take root. But what to do about those who have already allowed the seeds to grow and who nourish them with their fear, their greed and their pride.

            How can people who already hate, be taught to let go of their prejudice? If only it were as easy as pointing it out to them and explaining what generated these feelings, but it isnít so simple. You can point out every dandelion in the yard, but some people think they look nice. You can pull out every last one, but if you donít get the root, they grow back and spread to the neighbors yard and their neighbors yard until they are everywhere. No one can weed every garden and lawn. But if we work together as one, with one great lawn, there will be no other side to appear greener.

            Throughout my youth I realized all sorts of hatred existed right there in my little neighborhood. I noticed how my white friends didnít really want to hang around with my black friend and it bothered me very much. But I found it went beyond color, as I had many white friends who would not play together. It wasnít a religious thing, since most of them were Catholics and we all went to the same church. It wasnít long before I realized that my friends, who lived in the rich neighborhood, only two blocks in one direction from my house, really didnít like the kids who lived in the poor neighborhood, only one block away in the other direction.

            Keep in mind this is a small town and a block is only about a hundred yards long, maybe two hundred in the rich neighborhood. So itís not like we are talking about people on opposite sides of town. And there I was, in the middle, in a nice house, though not big, on a nice street where both wealthy kids and poor kids didnít feel too far out of place, at least so long as kids from the opposite end of the financial spectrum didnít happen to be hanging out together.

            There were rebels of course, as there are in all societies. But for the most part, I could see the division very clearly and often tried to get them to play together in football and baseball games and a nighttime hind-and-go-seek game we called ďchaseĒ. I was not always successful and the teams always wound up divided into neighborhoods. There would be arguments on every play and it usually wound up breaking down before the game was over. So most of the games ended up as financially segregated events with smaller teams but more fun. If I had been able to see more clearly what I can see now, I would have made greater efforts to mix things up more often and pick players from the opposite ends of the neighborhood for my team.

            But I knew that if kids wound up on a team they didnít want to be on, they would threaten to quit and go home, and at that age I more worried about having fun playing ball than worrying about who was from which neighborhood. And since I was usually the one making all the phone calls to get everyone together, I often wound up as Captain of one team. I knew who the best players were and I knew who would get along, so I picked my players to get the happy medium. I donít remember who won more and who lost more, but having fun was the ultimate goal and more often than not, it was fun.

            I still didnít understand why this atmosphere of hatred existed between my friends. Why was I accepted in both neighborhoods without a second thought? Was it simply because I was in the middle, in more ways than one, or was it something else? Did I project a feeling of equality to everyone that made them comfortable to be around? Or maybe it was some combination of factors, that made it possible for me to have friends of all kinds, to make friends with pretty much everyone I met?

            What I find most difficult to understand is, if I have this ability, if I can be friends in all of these circles, isnít it possible for everyone to do the same? Am I some special human that has a gift others do not, some vision that allows me to see the intangible? I hope not. I want to believe that everyone has it, that there is something that turns others away from it. Maybe it is something we are taught, maybe it is something genetic, but why do people hate?

            It is so ingrained in our history, not just American history, but all of human existence, that it must be some left over cave-mannish behavior that allowed us to endure when Neanderthals were becoming extinct. Humans are as savage as any animal species on Earth when their survival is at stake. But what I find so hard to understand is why we still behave like savages when no such circumstance is at hand. Are we that afraid, or just that greedy? Perhaps we love ourselves so much that itís just easier to take from those who are not prepared to protect themselves from our aggression.

            Meanwhile, we can still hate, so long as we live to fight another day (he said sarcastically). And God bless America, we will need all the blessings we can get for the atrocities of our own government. Not just in other countries, but right here in America, where the soil is soaked in the blood of the native people and the African slaves. Was it necessary for Africans to be stolen from their land for this one to gain freedom? I donít see much difference in our history with the Native American Indians. Did they need to be slaughtered and have their land stolen from them for us to have a new place to live? The only reason they werenít made slaves is because they were considered too savage to tame.

            Feeling that discrimination is justified will never bring an end to hate, conversely it will fill people with more revulsion. No matter the reason for hatred or who is being suppressed, it makes people have an aversion to being near people of the ďother kindĒ, whatever that other kind happens to be. Women, African Americans, Native Americans, the poor, people with disabilities, religions, homosexuals, short people, fat people, homeless people and whoever else might happen to be different in some way that they can be separated from the ones who have the upper hand in a petty system that has afforded them power over others, are victims of bigotry. Even if our survival didnít depend on it, we must be free of it.

            It may be that we are born with some instinct to hate or a desire for power over others, and at some point we learn who to turn that instinct against. I think fear is the first instinct, the survival instinct. Fear makes us run from predators and perhaps the reason we are here at all is because we find it so hard to let it go. If fear is instinct, greed is learned and pride is taught, but all three lead to the same result. Hatred is the enemy.

            Until we can let go of our fear, our pride and our want for more, we will never be equal to those we believe are lesser than ourselves. The mountain of equality is a high one to climb, but there is a plateau at the top big enough for everyone. Itís just so hard to teach the high and mighty how to climb when they think they are already at the top. If they took the time to stop looking down on others, they could see that they are at the top of nothing but their feet.

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Pride Is One Seed

 

One seed is masked in infancy
With its intoxicating allure
Its sexy remedy
Impersonating ones esteem
Inseminating the mind with arrogance
An artificial substitute for confidence
Yet this sweetener is no equal
Stroking the ego
Through external heights that excite
Leading to a bitterness deep within
Fueling a growing resentment
For all that is physically different
Forgetting that at the core we are One
We are the same
Letting go of who you are not
Is the key to setting us all free
As part of you is a part of me and we
And in One we are all together
Our commonality is the seed of our equality
You are my equal and I am sorry
While the shame I carry for four hundred years of hate
Cannot be let go of by one alone
It must instead be released by One together


Created On: 04/04/1997

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Prose

Does God consider the world we live in when judging us?

 

            I wonder if God will take into consideration our weaknesses because the world we live in is so hard for us to live by his rules. I wonder if he, or maybe she, will consider how we did very little, as individuals, to change the world. For over ten years, I lived in a neighborhood where drug dealers and prostitutes made a living. We had drive by shootings, a guy was murdered in my back yard, hands tied behind his back, on his knees, shot in the back of the head, all manner of crime every day. It's the world I lived in for a long time. I am glad to be out of it, but I never used it as an excuse for my actions.

            When people become complacent because each individual thinks the world is too big for them to make a difference, all one has to do is look at GW Bush, Adolph Hitler or Osama bin Ladin for just how much one person can do to change the world. Jesus said, love thy enemy, turn the other cheek, and put down your sword. One does not need to have a negative impact to be influential, it's just easier to be destructive and be remembered than it is to bring hope to those who are filled with despair. So few people are capable of baring that cross.

            It's easier to admire those with Earthly riches and power than to believe in a man who can pick up a cleaved ear from the ground, put it back on the soldiers head and bring about an end to violence with the touch of his hand. Of course, that act was only leading up to the eventual violence of the Passion, but look where we'd be without it. I often wonder if bodily suffering is Godís way of purging Heaven bound souls of the sins they have committed but cannot admit even to themselves.

            So, while people are busy being afraid to walk down the street in a neighborhood that has a reputation for violence, fear is maintained as a cruel survival instinct that evolution could not filter out of humanity. Not that people should go around committing suicide, but the fear of dying is for those who are afraid that when life ends, there is nothing else, or eternal damnation, whichever fear you prefer. Terror is very easily rationalized when politicians become masters of the politics of fear.

            I feel sure Martin Luther King Jr. would not have changed a day in his life, even if he knew he was going to die that April night in 1968. Some say he did, as he seemed to be foretelling it in the speech he gave the night before. The next day, when I saw on the news that MLK was assassinated, it was the first time in my life that I learned people would kill others out of hate. Even though I was only five years old, I remember wondering why. It started me on a lifetime quest to understand hatred. It's how I came to write the poem 3 Seeds and why I am writing this book.

            The recent passing of Martinís wife Coretta has reunited these two inspirational souls to watch their dream unfold from above. That she carried his dream on her shoulders all these years since Martin was taken from her is an example to all of us all that we should not have idle minds or quiet voices no matter what those who plant hatred conspire to do. King's death made me aware of something I might never have given a second thought or worse, become part of, the institution of racism.

            I am doing something. I am not sitting silently by. I am trying to make a difference that I hope is for the better. It feels right, it drives me in the only direction worth going in, ahead. I don't know if I will succeed or if anyone will listen, but I am doing what I feel I must do. I don't know why, but something inside pushes me to search and expose prejudice. I have been told itís not my struggle, that I should let those who are affected by it do the fighting. But it does affect me, it affects me deeply. Everyone is affected by hatred and everyone should be talking about it.

            I might have turned out as hate filled or complacent as others I have met along the path of life. I could have used excuses to hate, or to do nothing, then blame it on the place I lived in or the people who influenced me. Then after dying, show up at the Pearly Gates and say, "Well, I just did what everyone else was doing. Look at how hard it is to live in this town, in this world. I think I should get into Heaven because I was looking out for myself, I never harmed anyone." Is that enough, to live in isolation and never harm anyone? How much harm does doing nothing bring? How much, indeed!

            We have got to work together to heal the wounds of the past and end separation and segregation. We can only lose our fear of the unknown through exposure to our differences. Having lived with people of different religions, colors and sexes, I know that we can learn from each other and do more than just get along. I wonder if the reason some people canít swallow their pride is because they canít stomach who they have become. If you are a hater, I donít hate you, I hate your attitude!

            The hatred of individuals for one another or for groups is made even worse when those who live with it inside them promote it and encourage others to join them in their crusade against equality. It is done in so many ways for so many reasons, but it is the same no matter if it is aimed at races, religions or any other thing that one group can twist and blame their rivals for whatever calamity has befallen them. In recent years world events have shown just this sort of disrespectful warping of religion in the name of free speech.

            The cartoon of Muhammad wearing a turban in the shape of a missile is at the very least a disrespectful stereotype. The idea of Islamic terrorists could very easily have been portrayed more accurately and less offensively by simply exposing the face of the one man who represents terrorism, hiding behind a mask of Muhammad instead of using the image of a peaceful prophet whose message has been distorted by those who use religion as a rallying cry for murder. To those who are of the Muslim faith, these tasteless seeds of hate are the ultimate in deliberate insolence.

            While I respect and support the freedom of speech to the fullest extent, I view this kind of cartoon as hate speak and feel it has no place in a publication of journalism. I do not want to be viewed as a war monger because my countries majority leaders happen to be Hell-bent on waging war wherever it decides the evil dictators are not strong enough militarily to put up a fight. I wonder why we havenít attacked China or why we didnít attack the Soviet Union, what with the histories these governments have of atrocities against its own people.

            Perhaps it is because we are not very likely to win and there are no oily spoils to claim. The message we send to the world with such contradictory policies is that youíre on your own unless we have something to gain and have a good shot at winning the war.

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Seeds & Weeds - (prose)

 

The budding seed of prejudice winds and twists through the shadows of the brain, but unlike nature's trees, it requires darkness to sprout.
The emerging weed becomes a ruthless root stalking the heart.
Weeds become harder to kill as they gain a firm grip on our hearts,  stubborn and painful to remove.
Pulling them out fails to remove the roots and merely makes the lawn look nice for a little while.
People are forgetful of the small lessons in life;
To get the weed completely out so that it does not grow back, one must dig farther down to stop it from resurfacing.
Humanity must be educated on why hatred is wrong, where it comes from and how to look inward to spot the roots growing inside.
Once you can see that far down, purge them with the strongest weed killer of all, love.
With great conviction, internal honesty is imperative. There is no room for denial, no tolerance for falsely rationalizing what kinds of prejudice we will leave the roots for un-plucked. Because it is like a viral infection it also can transform into other shadows of hate.
You might say, "OK, I won't hate other races or religions, but damn those gaysĒ and in the end you will not have done anything but fool yourself into believing you're a better person when you are not.
Don't close the curtains at the bottom of your heart and hope that no one notices. Others may only be able to see the surface of your person, but you have the ability to look underneath.
Open your heart completely, let the light shine on the seeds that desire darkness, shadow seeds like people who open umbrellas and rub on sunscreen in order to sit outside on a sunny day and not get burned. Allow your heart to become submerged in truth and that light will burn away the source of their growth.
The instinct is ever-present, always seeking nourishment. It's hard to keep hatred from taking root, but if made aware of it when you feel it teasing your mind and know its motivation, it can be cut off before the lurking in the shadows becomes a highway to the heart.


Created On: 06/21/2003

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Prose

 

            The first time I read Martin Luther Kingís last sermon, ďThe Drum Major InstinctĒ, delivered at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA, two months before he was assassinated, I was deeply moved and felt that I had found clarity to things I had sensed for many years. It brought into focus what I was trying to understand since my youth when I began to notice that certain of my friends didnít seem to like each other. The more it happened, the more I studied their reactions and behavior. But for all my witnessing of it, I didnít understand what was causing it. I wasnít immune to prejudice, but I was able to recognize when I had the feelings.

            In ďThe Drum Major InstinctĒ, King made all the difference in helping me see what drives all of us to seek greatness. In the years just prior to reading his final sermon, I had changed my views on pride from one end of the spectrum to the other. I used to think that pride was a good thing, that it was the driving force that made people strive to achieve great things. But after arguing the point with my brother Tom, I started to question that concept. The more I thought about it, the more I began to see pride as a deceptive conspirator in the march toward hatred.

            Still, I couldnít seem to find the happy medium that I was sure existed yet seemed more and more like just another way to rationalize paving a pathway to prejudice. The ego causes most of us to resent others when we fail to achieve our own goals and often  leads to those failures from seeking more than we have earned.

            As I was reading ďThe Drum Major InstinctĒ, I started to see that I had this instinct in me, even though I had denied it whenever talking about my desire to be noticed. I even went so far as to decide not to try to publish my own poetry so that no one could accuse me of wanting recognition. As I started seeing this repressed desire in me, I began to realize how connected it was to what I had been trying to understand about prejudice all those years. There is something inside of us, something we are born with, perhaps a survival instinct that makes us cry out for attention. If we make enough noise, someone will feed us, someone will take care of us and our basic needs until we can do it on our own. We have an infinite need to feel safe and the need never lets go.

            The song ďI Me MineĒ by George Harrison reminds me of this Drum Major Instinct that King was talking about. Though very brief, the song strikes a powerful note about our egos and how it can lead us astray, making every situation revolve around us, while attempting to persuade others to acknowledge our personal greatness. When we allow the instinct to become more than an inspirational means to achieve our goals, it strokes the ego, filling it with a craving for more. When we attain those goals, we feel pride in what we have accomplished. But when we are unsuccessful, it turns on us, causing shame for our failure. If someone else succeeds where we did not, it leads to jealousy and potentially, hatred.

            But what about when it goes so far as to cause some to hate others before they have ever done anything to be resented for? What if we fail at something and have no one to blame for our shortcomings but ourselves? What if it goes beyond our personal failures and encompasses our society? Who is to blame if we donít want to accept the culpability ourselves? Who can we point at and make into a scapegoat for what we could not accomplish on such a large scale? Who can we exert power over, who may not be strong enough at the moment that we can take advantage of and suppress?

            Is there any distinguishable difference at that point, between hating others and stroking our own egos, trying to make us feel better about ourselves? Is there no way to reconcile our egos with enough temperament to achieve without letting our pride get the best of us. What makes Martin Luther Kingís sermon so important is that he answers these questions and brings them all into focus by telling us that we can feel pride for our accomplishments, we can be in the limelight without being egomaniacs. Yet some people become shooting stars, briefly satisfied with their fifteen minutes of fame, until the taste of celebrity dwindles and they need another fix. But we have to be strong enough not to ask for too much, we have to be satisfied with what we earn. If we want more, we must do more and we must not do it at the expense of others who have earned what they worked so hard to achieve. If we strive to be great in helping others, instead of trying to be better than everyone else is, then we can truly take pride in what we have accomplished.

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3 Seeds


pg. 18-19

 

( Posted on the main page @ www.seeds-and-weeds.com )


Created On: 05/12/2003

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Prose

 

Unnatural selection or Gay by divine design?

            At what point is a personís sexuality determined? If a man or woman never has sex, each dies a virgin. But if a virgin dies in love with someone of the same sex, is that person considered homosexual in the eyes of God? If a virgin dies while in love with someone of the opposite sex, is that person a heterosexual in Godís judgment? Does the physical act of sex dictate if an individual is heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual? All three spring from the emotions people feel in their heart. If it were just a sexual thing, they could do it with anyone and be happy. Love and sex are not the same thing. Perhaps we should study homo-emotional, hetero-emotional and bi-emotional areas of the brain instead.

            How do you know one celibate from another? You donít. If it is the case that a sin is committed at the moment it is thought, then celibacy counts for nothing. It would seem that God designed people who have no choice other than to fall in love with people of the same sex, only to be punished for it. If people are made to pay for sins while still alive, whatís the point of forgiveness? Why did Jesus die for us if God is going to circumvent the Passion and make us suffer anyway? If any are judged one moment before death, they have not been afforded the opportunity to repent for their sins and, consequently, the covenant is broken by God.

            Some suggest that AIDES is Godís way of making homosexuals pay for their sins. If this were the case, God would not allow the innocent to contract HIV. Hemophiliacs would not get AIDS, nor heterosexuals or their newborn children if God designed the HIV virus. AIDES does not bend to Godís will and apparently, neither does hatred. AIDS appears to afflict gay men more frequently than others simply because men in general, gay or straight, are more promiscuous than women. Do the math, fall in love, AIDS will die.

            Jesus never gives any guidance on homosexuality, which was common in his day. Why no mention if he considered it a sin? Homosexuality is mentioned in five passages in the Bible: Genesis 18, Genesis 19:6, Judges 19, Romans 1:26, Romans 1:27. In all five, the Bible refers specifically to lustful acts of homosexuality, not to those acts shared in love. Allowing gay couples to marry would silence the claims of lust and objections to pre-marital sex. 

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4th Independence


When two hearts sing of their love
They rise higher with a singular voice
While clearly I see through hetero-eyes
that love has never given me a choice

So glad I was to read the Supreme Court
finally put prejudice in its place
Because falling in love has nothing to do
with breaking the law or falling from grace

And as for me, it's never been about
Sticking my dick in his or her body part
It's about whether the love I want to give
Comes from my head or from my heart


Created On: 07/04/2003

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Prose

 

Hatred is immortal, people are not  

            21-year old Matthew Shepard, was murdered in an anti-gay hate crime in Laramie, Wyoming in October of 1998. He died five days after the attack on Monday October 12, 1998.

            Gay bashing did not begin with Matthew and neither did it end with him. Charles Howard in 1984, Billy Jack Gaither, Laaron Morris and Kevin Tryals in 1999 to name a few. The list goes on and on, and then there are the other hate crimes perpetrated against people of other races and every other thing that can be discriminated against. The Black Holocaust here in America throughout the Twentieth Century still adversely affects African Americans. Our criminal justice system makes judgments every day based on the laws we have formed for everyone to live under equally. But often it is not so equal and our judgments seem less than honorable.

            At no time does Jesus Christ encourage us to judge others. In fact, in every instance in the Bible, it is quite the opposite: Matthew 7:1-5, John 8:15-16, Romans 2:1-6, Romans 14:13, 1 Corinthians 4:4, 5, Luke 6:35-37, John 12:47-50, James 4:11, 12, James 5:9. Yet, two young men judged Matthew Shepard. Some might say it was out of hatred for homosexuals, others say it was fear, but it doesnít matter why they judged him, only that they did. I wonder what Godís judgment will deliver unto them. But no matter what that turns out to be, it is my hope that Godís judgment of Matthew has been one of love. If Matthew had sins to be forgiven before he died, then I hope Jesus washed his slate clean for the suffering he endured, something he has a unique perspective on.
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Matthew 5:5


They knew what they were doing that night was evil
Perhaps with faith the shepherd may forgive them still
Only the sheep who follow will find their true worth
But not with hate filled hearts where gentle love is dearth

Your spirit is a life eternity can't kill
Before he died for you he left it in his will
When Jesus said the meek shall inherit the earth
And Gods eternal love will fill your soul with mirth


Created On: 01/27/2002

(For Matthew Shepard)

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Prose

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Knot In The Loop


pg. 26

Created On: 10/26/2002

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Prose

 

            The manager of a store I worked in as a sales person was a woman whose grandfather had been a Nazi during WWII. She was a deeply hateful person who only accepted me after learning I am part German. One thing she did that I found annoying was play old records of German music, which I not only couldnít understand a word of, but didnít like the music either. She even told me how she had her grandfatherís war uniforms and medals hanging on the walls of her home. She seemed to think that because I was part of the Arian Race, I would feel the same way she did and she could tell me all sorts of things about her grandfatherís war heroics and how much she hated Jews and blacks, using the ďNĒ word. She told me in an accusatory tone of voice that she would never hire a ďNírĒ because they would rob the store blind.

            During the Christmas sales season, we needed another salesperson to help with the larger volume of customers. When the District Manager sent a black guy from one of the other stores to help us, she went in the back office and stayed there the entire time he was working with us. Not only was it an obvious show of disrespect, but it completely defeated the purpose of having another salesperson on duty. After the sales slowed down later in the week, he returned to his regular store and she came out of hiding, pretending as though nothing had happened. If not for her obvious lingering anger over the situation, you would have thought she had just taken a vacation for a week.

            Knowing how much she loved money and selling things to people that they didnít really need, it must have been an excruciatingly painful time for her. Missing out on so many sales must have put a major dent in her paycheck, which I found mildly satisfying. But having a guy she hated for the color of his skin, working in her store for an entire week, had to feel like being locked in a jail cell to her. That wasnít enough for me though, I was moved to write the poem ďSegregationĒ for her after witnessing the debacle.

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Segregation

The color of my tie
And The color of my skin
Won't alter what I know
Or change who I am within

Taste your own medicine
It's the same thing that you do
Maybe you'll figure out
Why everyone leaves you

Look beyond your mirror
At the face behind the glass
Inside you are inferior
You need more God than Sunday mass

Each time that you reflect
The cancer in you has grown
Do you still wonder why
You are always left alone?

See with better eyes
If your eyes are all you have
Watch your bias fossilize
Two good eyes will make it halve

Look inward to your heart
You will see the other side
Embrace your counterpart
Release this Aryan pride

Your Grandfather's glory
His Nazi blood within you
So proud to tell his story
So eager to hate those he taught you to

You assume they're guilty
Of the judgments that you make
You've said "They're Not Real PeopleĒ
You can't convince me that they're fake

Claiming they're all the same
But I know that isn't true
And the only person you can make me hate
Is the person inside you

Toe to toe and eye to eye
Death can't get us pride apart
Now the only thing that needs to die
Is the hatred in your heart

Created On: 12/30/1988

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Prose

 

            The day after writing ďSegregationĒ I was riding on the bus and couldnít help but notice that as people got on the bus they would sit next to ďlikeĒ individuals. By that I mean women would sit next to other women, men would sit next to men, blacks next to other blacks and whites next to whites. As usual, the bus filled up rather quickly and seemed as segregated to me as if someone had turned back time to when blacks had to sit in the back of the bus. As more people got on the bus and there was standing room only, people were actually squeezing into areas near others of ďtheir kindĒ, not wanting to even be near someone of a different race or sex. Everyone seemed to have a place on the bus, like a chessboard, with the black pieces lined up against the white pieces and the pawns all stood in a row.

            Eventually, the bus got so packed that there was no more room for people to stand and the bus driver wasnít stopping where people were waiting to get on. It was interesting to watch the faces of the people, scowling at each other if someone rubbed up against them who was of the opposite sex or another color. There was tension and anger everywhere and I started thinking about the poem I had written the day before. It wasnít just one white person, it wasnít just white people, it was everybody. At that moment, I could see disgust in the eyes of nearly everyone I looked at on the bus that day. I had seen it before, but on that day, it was all around me. Although I knew anyone was capable of hate, I hadnít seen it like that before.

            The difference was in the way it was expressed, almost secretly, but no one was really trying to hide it. It was more like everyone was afraid to let it out. And I was thinking the only change people made was becoming aware they had to hide their feelings rather than stop the hate. The hate that blacks have for whites almost seems justified, almost. Not because of slavery, because that was a long time ago and no one alive today has experience it. It seemed to me, after what I had witnessed at work, not only in the fiasco during the previous week, but in other jobs all during my adult life, that blacks were still being discriminated against on a daily basis in all manner of situations. Not just work, but when they go shopping, being watched by security, getting help from sales people, going out to eat, getting seated in segregated patterns, usually in the less desirable areas. But itís not enough to see it, hatred has to be outed to show those who refuse to see it, that they are not immune.

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Separation

If the truth is evolution
Or if God determines our blessed fate
Never mind his absolution
When it's easier to separate than release your hate

Wouldn't it be the solution
To run away from what's inside of you?
Never mind a resolution
When it's easier to cast blame on everyone but you

I admire all those who've tried
Whose lives demonstrated a peaceful way
Never mind those heroes who've died
When it's easier to quietly waste your life away

Don't believe everything you hear
Or reflect with contempt, hate they don't hide
Never mind overcoming fear
When it's easier to mask your hatred behind your pride

Pride is an arrogant parent
Suckling its growing prejudice child
In my mind it is transparent
And grows easier to see through the higher up it's piled

Created On: 12/31/1988

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Prose

 

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Where Will You Aim Your Hate?

 

Warning voiced in black and white

No question in his breath

Nowhere to run, but run the race

Gaining ground, look back, see Death

 

In the coming revolution

Let me be the first to die

For I will not pull your tooth

Nor will I pluck your eye

 

Let me offer both my cheeks

To your bloody fisted hand

Strike me twice but hate me once

Cold reparations flood the land

 

I believe the words Iíve heard

While most would rather listen to lies

So long as one distorts the truth

So long as three seeds grow, hatred never dies

 

Once the breeds you despise are dead

Who will you decide to hate?

And when thereís only one kind left

Will you decide your brotherís fate?

 

Created On: 09/29/2005

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Prose

 

NYS OCFS Graduation Speech, Parker Training Academy, 12/10/99 (excerpt)


When I first started working for the Office of Children and Family Services in April of 1998, I ran in to an old friend who asked me where I was working these days. I told him I was a YDA at Tryon in Johnstown. He looked at me with a confused expression and asked me what the heck a YDA is and what kind of company Tryon is. I told him that YDA stands for "Youth Division Aid" and Tryon is a residential center. His eyebrow raised and he asked me in a frustrated tone, "What do you do?" I thought for a few seconds and said, "I'm a guard in a reform school." That seemed like the right answer at the time, but the longer I worked there, the more I realized that Tryon is not simply a reform school and being a YDA is so much more than being a guard. Yes, we do guard the youths in our facility and yes, we do our best to reform and educate them, but those are the simplest definitions for what we do.

Perhaps reforming assumes that these children were ever truly formed to begin with. We have the opportunity and the responsibility to be a positive influence in the lives of impressionable teenagers who, for the most part, have lacked positive role models throughout their lives. We are mentors who help guide these young people through the final stages of adolescence before their age makes them legally adults, but are still children on the inside.

Why should we do this for kids who break the law and break the rules time and time again? I'm reminded of a video we watched in class called "Eye Of The Storm" about a third grade class room of blue eyed children and brown eyed children. Not only did Miss Elliot teach those children a valuable lesson on prejudice, but she showed how easily young people can be influenced and persuaded by adults in a position to teach them. She demonstrated that it was possible to change overnight, the students ability to learn based on what they were told about their ability to learn, and how they were treated by the other students after they were told half of them were better than the others. As YDA's we need to take that lesson to heart and give these kids a sense of self worth, but not at the expense of their peers.

Equality and consistency will create an environment that will allow us to use the opportunity we have been given to plant the seed of self-esteem. With that, when they leave OCFS to return home, they will not feel the need to rejoin or become part of gangs who make them feel safe and important. They will already have the self-confidence inside themselves to survive and a real chance to flourish on their own when they venture out into the world. To do that, we must do our best to share and instill in them our "Valiant Vision".

 

Joseph F. Johnson

Delivered On: 12/10/1999

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The Boyz At Tryon

pg. 36

Created On: 03/26/2001

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To view excerpts of other chapters, click each Chapter title

Each Chapter excerpt presented on-line contains two poems with prose from that chapter.*

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Seeds & Weeds (main page): Seeds & Weeds index (click link)

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Chapter 2: Power & Peace*(click Chapter Title for excerpts*)

 

12: 1000 Keys *

13: Pay For The War *

14: Like Father, Like Son

15: Pride Blinds Biased Eyes

16: Nation's Pledge

17: Empty Arms And Burning Flags

18: Stars And Stripes

19: There's More Than One Way

20: Rush To Judgment - Judgment To Rush

21: God's Children / One Family We Are

22: Do Not Die For Me

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Chapter 3: Faith: Search Within & Beyond* (click Chapter Title for excerpts*)

 

23: Great Unknown *

24: Pass On True Freedom

25: A Question Of Faith

26: Have You Heard?

27: Faith In What I Don't Believe

28: Unwilling To Let Go

29: This Dream I Dreamt Last Night

30: The One On My Shoulder - Never Succumb

31: No End To The Flesh

32: Invisible Light

33: Touch *

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Chapter 4: Dysfunctionality & Family* (click Chapter Title for excerpts*)

 

34: Ro-Ro Rows Her Boat *

35: Quarter-Life Crisis

36: The Family Way

37: Within Me - Beyond Me *

38: The Task Undone

39: A Ray Of Sun From A Pot Of Gold

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Chapter 5: Introspection* (click Chapter Title for excerpts*)

 

40: Life Is An Ocean *

41: Self Portrait

42: Forgive Not Forget

43: Two Faced

44: Constant & Changing

45: Walls And Bridges

46: Desire To Fly

47: The Man I Am No One Else Knows

48: Blind To The Me Others See

49: Stock Room Blues

50: But Does God Trust in US?

51: Struggle Against Success

52: Every Eden Has It's Apples

53: See Through Inner Eyes

54: I Am

55: Under The Bridge *

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Chapter 6: Mother Natures Sun* (click Chapter Title for excerpts*)

 

56: He Who Laughs Last Will Be A Fertile, Mutant Cockroach *

57: Sleep (Hiding From The Touch Of Death)

58: Leaves

59: Inner Eclipse

60: Full Womb Crescent Moon

61: Moon & River *

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Chapter 7: State Of The Artrocity* (click Chapter Title for excerpts*)

 

62: Death Of A Virgin *

63: Artificial Artists (State Of The Art)

64: Artificial Artists (X-Reprise) *

65: Tragedy

66: Artists Are Lonely

67: Where Is My Muse?

68: Philosophy Therefore Poetry

69: A Test

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Chapter 8: Broken Bonds* (click Chapter Title for excerpts*)

 

70: Drive Home *

71: Even The Best Of Us

72: This Quiet Cemetery

73: A Ghost At My Door

74: Soul Silhouette

75: Where Are You Going? I've Seen Where You've Been! *

76: A Door Too Close To Closed To Adore You

77: At The End Of Every Rainbow

78: Eye Of The Pirate, Heart Of A Thief

79: Sometimes Wishes Come True

80: What Happened To Us?

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Chapter 9: Loose Ends*(click Chapter Title for excerpts*)

 

81: Big Hair

82: Across The Miles

83: Hidden Alterations

84: Unspoken Thirst

85: Daylightís Darkness

86: Two Color Souls One Color

87: Someone's Drowning In Your Pool *

88: Aisumasen Renee *

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Do you know of someone who has allowed pride to grow into a colossal weed and strangle those who will not bow down before his regime? 

Will we silently witness the simultaneous strangulation of Humanity and Mother Nature at the hands of the foulest fertilizer in the world?
It's time to weed the garden....

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War and Peace - Rage and fear

 

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