Land Of The Free

This is my poem to show my solidarity with the #BlackLivesMatter movement. I’ve titled it Land Of The Free at the suggestion of my friend and fellow blogger Jasmine Lawrie. I hope you enjoy the read .

Land Of The Free

In the autumn of 68
the world was a very different place
the Olympic games in Mexico
was the greatest show under the sun
and the American athletes who won medals for their Uncle Sam
were accused of tainting the star spangled banner
as they stood on the podium giving the black power salute
this was not the communism conservatives claimed they were guilty of
yet scapegoated , labelled, and blamed
they were named as the villians
in the so-called land of the free

As for me I had just turned seven.
in later years, I would question
if the rich should be allowed in to heaven.
because of what my dad told me
about clearances, coffin ships, and slavery.
and the bravery of those who stood up to face the oppresser
In circumstances I could never imagine experiencing
let alone ever understanding.
he taught me to lend a helping hand when I could.
not because it made me feel good
but because it was right .

so when I told him the story of Rubina
and how she had looked so sad
till I sat at her table.
my mum was shocked she didn’t quite get
the small step I had taken that day.
she claimed she was different.
I don’t think she meant it in a bad way,
it was just how things were in 68.
due to the influences she got
from the government, the press and TV.
and her small but comfortable circle of friends .

to her pretending was easier than reality.
it was the same with religion and sexuality.
she always accepted the status quo
challenging authority was never her way to go.
in contrast to my dad, it was never her scene.
deference to queen and country
more important to her than fighting poverty.
let alone campaigning for equality , democracy, or Scotland’s Independence.
this defender of the faith who never
sat in the pews
with the usual exceptions of births, weddings, and funerals.

as I think I have hinted, my dad was different.
I would grow up to share his political vision
as he explained in ways my seven year old self could comprehend
that my mother was both right and wrong.
she was right to say my friend was different
she was, but I shouldn’t be afraid.
he told me it was something to enjoy
my friend would help me to understand.
the world was a big place with room for us all to learn about others.

there were he said many people
in lands far away from our home.
which he would always say
was Scotland and not the UK.
it was never the UK to a lapsed catholic
who knew what was it like to be asked
what school he attended on job applications.
or even as a friendship test, by those
eager to learn of his cultural persuasion

68 was a year of change.
my gran had moved in with us
after the storms that January.
and that night my dad explained my story
to a woman whose socialist principles would teach me why Jimmy Reid was a hero of the people.
and deliver us from evil was a commandment never to vote Tory.
lest we risk the fires of hell
and eternal damnation.

on listening to her son in law
relate the tale which some would call rebellion.
she smiled, and said I had done the right thing.
you didn’t notice her colour she said.
you saw a chance to make a friend
and that was all that mattered.
looking back, I remember the day
I first knew children don’t see colour.
and discovered, prejudice has to be learned
from the inexcusable behaviour of others.

© Gayle Smith 2020

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