Genre of the Week: Let America be America Again, by Langston Hughes

the boy and his puppy

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There has been the call by Americans and people living outside the country to return America to what it was like when President Obama was in power. Barack Obama was US president from 2009 until 2017 and was touted as one of the greatest presidents of all time.

Why?

When he took over after George W. Bush stepped down, he inherited a country in shambles because of the housing crash, combined with high unemployment and issues involving the environment and infrastructure. Over eight years, the president brought the country back to its glory days under Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Dwight Eisenhower and Franklin Roosevelt, just to name a few. Yet everytime the country seemed to be going in the right direction, the next president decided to bring it down and implement his own policies to his own liking. And as we are seeing with Donald Trump and his cabinet, people are falling for his American First interest, which has indeed become personal interest.

But is this the America we know? Is this cycle very typical of America?

While some scholars and writers have said no because of the bright spots that presidents, politicians, movement leaders and grassroots organizations have created for the interest of Americans and other regions around the globe alike, others, like Langston Hughes (1902-1967)  have claimed that this “Build-it-up-bring-it-down”, dog-eat-dog mentality is the fabric of the American society known to modernity. In this Genre of the Week, this poem looks at the ugly sides of America that we are seeing glaring before our eyes. The only difference is that this poem was written before his death in 1967.

Now why did he write this during the age of the 57 Chevrolet and the Baby Boomer generation? Have a look at the poem and feel free to coment on this. Enjoy! 🙂

 

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark? 
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free?  Not me?
Surely not me?  The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!

Source: poet.org
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Celebrating the Night of Atlantis in Handewitt

Sunset in Handewitt; photo taken in April 2011

There are many places in the world where different landscapes meet in one spot, and one can take advantage of what it has to offer. Flensburg and the surrounding area is one of them. You have the city that is located on a body of water known as the Fjorde, which leads to the Baltic Sea. About 5km to the north, there are rolling hills and forest. And to the west you have flat farmland surrounded by forests. Coming in from Denmark through the village of Ellund, I biked through one kilometer of forest followed by another kilometer of farmland until I stumbled into a quiet town of Handewitt, located roughly seven kilometers west of Flensburg. The town itself is surrounded by vast amounts of farmland, yet going through the city center by bike, it resembled a city that has long since been modernized, thanks to rows upon rows of red-brick houses lining the streets no matter where you go and upper class families owning high class German cars, like Audi and BMW- not the household name of Volkswagon and Opel, which most middle and lower class families own.

Coming in at sundown, Handewitt was totally asleep. Nobody was on the streets. Even the church located on the hill and providing a blick of the town of probably 4000 stood empty even though the lights were on. And even when the soft white fluorescent street lamps flamed on to provide safety on the streets, no one was driving around on the streets. The only sounds I could carry in were that of the herd of cattle on the west end of town, settling down with its calves for the night and cars traveling along the main highway going to Flensburg, which makes a tangent over the north end of Flensburg. What a good way to describe a town, which can pride itself in partnering with neighboring Flensburg to form the handball powerhouse SG Flensburg-Handewitt.

The church on the hill in Handewitt; photo taken in April, 2011

But silence can be its only beauty. Sometimes towns that are that quiet can also present its true colors which one can enjoy. Many of the towns have suffered from scars as a result of traffic congestion, noise and people who sometimes disregard the wishes of the town’s inhabitants to respect its environment and significance. Tourism has taken its toll on many places to a point where they do not look nice anymore, thanks to too much development and degradation, and too little nature and to a certain degree lack of natural sounds which make them special- not just the voices of the town’s past inhabitants let alone the flora and fauna that exist, but the silence that calms the nerves and makes the places much more comfortable to visit. All one needs is silence, listening to just the wind rustling the trees, the wild animals wandering the streets, and maybe a couple people talking about the past-or the future. This is what made the visit to Handewitt very surreal.

Leving the town for the route back to the hotel, 10 km away to the east, I happened to bike past a couple of restaurants and had an opportunity to eavesdrop on the topic of Atlantis and the end of an era. People were discussing the good times of the past and worrying about what the future holds. The year 2011 was to become the year to end all eras and the start of new ones. Atlantis was the reference to the Space Shuttle program by NASA, which has come to a successful end. With each quote from those talking about it brought back memories of growing up with the Space Shuttle program, how some watched the launch of a Shuttle live in Florida and lit the sky in the wee hours of the morning, how they watched from their tellies how the Shuttles contributed to the development of the International Space Station, which still encircles the Earth and watches over us day in, day out, and how two Shuttle disasters (1986 with Challenger and 2001 with Columbia) raised concerns regarding costs to maintain these vessels and make them safe for travel. The one from 1986 I watched live from the resource center of the elementary school I was attending in MN, but watching the live launch of Discovery at the beginning of 1988 for the first time since the disaster showed the willingness of the US to pick up the pieces and move on, looking ahead to the future. This was the next question that was posed by the group discussing it over Aquavit (a typical local liquor), Pott Rum, and Flensburger beer. Some say the Europeans will take over and NASA will cease to exist. Others say the opposite will be the case. In either case, once the Space Shuttle program is finished, the remaining three shuttles (Atlantis, Discovery, and Endeavor) will become part of American history and a plan has to be made to continue flying into outer space, even if the US is hampered by an enormous deficit.

Heading home in the dark; photo taken in April 2011

It is almost like biking without headlights, which I discovered while leaving the conversation and the quiet town of Handewitt for the robust town of Flensburg. Going without headlights can be a dangerous tact, but there was no choice. One has to do it even if it meant following the bright fiery yellow sodium street lamps lining the main highway to achieve that task. Sometimes one has to think about the future and battle through the handicaps in life to achieve the goals, taking advantage of the whatever opportunity that lies ahead. NASA is working on that with hopes to have another person in outer space in 3-4 years, and when that happens, a new era will start and the past will be laid to rest, leaving its legacy that the next generation is expected to follow. And when I head to my destination at the hotel on the east end of Flensburg, I will remember my visit to Handewitt, the Night of Atlantis, and how I managed to make it back in one piece, preparing for the next day of adventures ahead of me.

 

THE AUTHOR OF THE FLENSBURG FILES WOULD LIKE TO DEDICATE THIS IN HONOR OF THE ASTRONAUTS OF ATLANTIS, DISCOVERY, ENDEAVOR, CHALLENGER, AND COLUMBIA WHO RESHAPED THE WAY WE SEE THE WORLD BEYOND OUR BOUNDARIES. YOU MADE A GREAT DIFFERENCE FOR CIVILIZATION AND PAINTED THE PATH FOR FUTURE SPACE FLIGHTS WHICH WILL TAKE PEOPLE TO PLACES NOT SEEN YET, EMBRACING THE UNKNOWN AND MAKING LIFE BETTER FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS TO COME.

A Valentine for Two

Flensburger Fjorde: Where lovers meet Photo taken in June 2010

One can never ask for a more perfect day than this: when two lovers meet by boat out at sea.  It was a lovely sunny day out in Flensburg Fjorde when two yachts encountered each other. Each were heading in the same direction- to a place far away from any form of civilization, be it a city like Flensburg or Sonderburg or a small farm located along the shores in Denmark. All they both wanted was some time to make sense out of what was going on in their lives. Both the man and the woman were victims of a break-up with their partners. The woman caught her husband of 17 years in bed with a 24 year old blond, whom he met at a restaurant in Nordermarkt along the pedestrian district Roter Strasse in Flensburg. And this on the worst day of her entire life as she was sacked from her post as a Danish lecturer at the university after 13 years on the job- a victim of budget cuts that the state government in Kiel had insisted on doing, just to balance the budget.  All she had wanted was the comforts of the man whom she thought she had loved, but realized that this blond waitress got to him first before she could slam the brakes on her Audi A4 to avoid hitting a photographer on the bike as he was taking pictures of the city landscape for a book he was writing. It did not take her long until she threw her husband and the blond out of the house in Twedt they had owned together since the day they got married. And it didn’t take long until she realized that she had destroyed all the ceramic tea pots she inherited from her grandmother when she passed on 10 years ago- all 230 pieces used as weapons of rage to destroy a machine full of lies and deception, 17 years of unknown dissatisfaction between the two, which was revealed as she saw him and her embracing themselves by the flesh and soul under the blanket.

The man was also the victim of cruel circumstances. After being married for 13 years and having a child together, he received a rude awakening one night as he was coming home from working in Bavaria after  a long week and wanting a nice quiet peaceful weekend together with his family, only to find that his apartment in Harrislee had been emptied! All the boxes of his personal belongings had been packed and stowed away in the basement, waiting for him to pick it up. The grand piano that he and his wife had owned together was sitting on the front lawn of the apartment complex and had been used and abused by a bunch of teenagers who wanted to make an open air concert out of the 45,000 Euro Yamaha whose purpose in life was to be used for Debussy and Bach, not Marilyn Manson and Disturbed!  But that’s not all. There were two notes for him: One from the landlord telling him to vacate by the next morning or risk having his belongings- including his 200+ musical pieces- be hauled away to a nearby landfill south of Handewitt. The other note was from his wife telling him enough was enough and she was leaving him for another guy. He realized later that her new lover was an American who lived on a farm just outside Windom, Minnesota! When he tried to talk her into coming back to Flensburg, the response was “Not a chance! This guy is great! I’m glad this phenomenon happened and you will find someone someday.” To summarize the events on his end, he lost everything including his wife, his son of 4 years, his piano, his belongings, his appartment, and lastly, his job as Vice President of Marketing at a BMW company in Nuremberg.

Fortunately, for both the man and the woman, of all the personal tragedies and losses they had accumulated, they both had one thing that could save their lives and help them start over, even if it was from scratch, and that was their own yachts. The woman had learned the sport yachting from her father, who had a yachting business near the naval academy. He bought her yacht when she graduated from Duborg Gymnasium (High School), named it the Anne Morrow, after the wife of famous aviator Charles Lindbergh (believe it or not, also a Minnesotan), and went out and about at her own convenience, both on her own as well as with her husband when they were together. She sailed up and down the Baltic Coast going as far north as Malmö in Sweden and far south and east to Wismar and Schwerin, while enduring the hardships that came her way, both through the wrath of mother nature as well as her own trials and tribulations. Since the break-up two months earlier, she had been yachting everyday while trying to piece her life back together. The man had started learning to yacht when he was 5 years old and would go out to sea every weekend with his grandfather and father until he was old enough to have a yacht of his own, which he received when he was 20. Although he spent less time with it when he was married- probably once a month at the most, he was now finding himself living in the yacht bearing the name Tommy John after his son, cruising along both the North and Baltic Coasts, as far west as Sylt, as far east as the Fehmarn Island and even slicing through the canal connecting the two seas, despite having encounters with every bridge and passenger ship that came his way, regardless of which direction he was going.

Both persons may have passed each other from time to time without ever noticing one another. However, this day was totally different. Whatever pessimism that had plagued them for many months had suddenly been replaced with a ray of hope. Don’t ask how that was the case, but the clouds of doom, which required the guidance of the lighthouse to lead the ships to the harbor was replaced with the sun’s beautiful rays which had set the stage for any romantic encounters that could occur out in the Fjorde.  Instead of eating and drinking for themselves, they now ended up having some extras to share with whoever wanted to join them, regardless of who. Instead of being anti-social and drowning themselves in hard liquor (like the famous Pott Rum and the Aquavit) and beer (like the famous Flensburger Pilsner), they suddenly had coffee, ginger ale, and water on board their yachts. And finally, as they encountered each other again, instead of looking away, they were looking at each other. The man saw the beauty of a  well-built brunette with green eyes, who looked as old as he was but yet saw the youth and beauty of her from the inside. The woman saw through his bald headed, blue eyed and somewhat fat figure and saw a guy who was tough and muscular on the inside; especially after the rough ride he had gone through.

Egeskov Lighthouse near Garsten (Denmark) Photo taken in June, 2010

The two yachts would meet in the middle of the Fjorde. The man and the woman would open the gates and allow themselves in. After a few brief minutes of exchanges which was seen by many passersby in their yachts, the two turned their yachts into one direction and ventured off together into the unknown, going past the red clipper that was occupied by Cupid, who had been busy making new arrows for shooting- after using the ones he had for the two. As they were travelling along the shores on the Danish side, they would eventually come to a spot that was out of the way (peaceful and isolated), where they could spend the afternoon together, under the blue sky, enjoying the first day of what would become the rest of their lives.

Cupid’s Clipper Photo taken in June, 2010

Valentine’s Day does not necessarily mean that you have to make it extra special for the person you love, nor is it the day where you have to curse it because you don’t have a partner to share your love with. It is actually a day of remembering what you have for your true love and a day where love eventually walks in without notice. And even if you suffer from heartbreak, it is a day where you can take pride in yourself and show your true caring side, which can and will eventually bring you what you are looking for all along. So enjoy it with yourself, your loved ones, your friends and your family and leave all the consumption and greed behind, as you don’t need it anyway.

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY! 🙂

 

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From the Attic: Berlin 1945

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Brandenburg Gate- behind the gate stood the Berlin Wall until 9 November 1989

From time to time, the Flensburg Files will introduce you to some video clips of Germany in the past. Some of them have been digitally remastered to resemble its original appearance in color. And there will be some that are in connection with certain current events and/or stories that will come in the Files. The reason behind this is twofold. The first is because we’ve been discovering old film with events that happened between 50 and 90 years ago that until now, had been stuck in the attic. Whenever a grandfather or grandmother passes on, the next of kin happens to find them while sorting through their belongings. Upon watching the hidden films, they find a bit more facts about what had happened in their lives that they (mostly unknowingly) had contributed to history. This is especially true with German history for two world wars plus the infamous Cold War had almost wiped away relicts of history that had been at least a century old, because of air raids and bombings, forced demolitions based on dictator’s orders, and in some cases, the need to erase the past and move forward without even going back to tell it.  By discovering such artefacts, we can piece together how Germany was like in the past to better understand where they came from.  Secondly, thanks to digital technology, one can remaster the found films and photos to have them available online for future use, especially in the classroom.  While reenactments and museums can provide you with some examples of certain times and how they lived, they are not as genuine as the films and photos taken by those who had lived throgh it and told the families about it.

And with that we will look at Berlin after World War II had ended.  Here we have two film clips, comparing the German capital between May, just after the war had ended, and July, where the reconstruction of the city was in full gear. Knowing the the war had virtually halted all aspects of life, these people continued on with life as if nothing happened except their main task was to rebuild and start over. These people had suffered greatly because of the Third Reich. Many women had lost their male partners; their children,  their fathers, for they either had been killed or taken prisoner. The end result was the influx of immigrants from Turkey and all points to the east; many of whom have been living in Germany ever since. Their role, combined with the role of the women as the sole breadwinner and mother would eventually remake Germany into what it is today- a country where people of gender and background can work for a living, live in peaceful co-existence and be open to multi-culture and change.

And so, with that in mind, have a look at the two clips and compare. What was similar and what was different between the two? We know that in less than 4 years time, Berlin would be the capital of East Germany with the West German capital being in Bonn. And furthermore, 10-15 years was needed at least to convert Berlin into what it was before the bombings. But what else is different? Have a look and think about it. 🙂

Berlin- May 14, 1945:

Berlin- July 1945:

 

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From the Attic: Berlin 1945

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Brandenburg Gate- behind the gate stood the Berlin Wall until 9 November 1989

From time to time, the Flensburg Files will introduce you to some video clips of Germany in the past. Some of them have been digitally remastered to resemble its original appearance in color. And there will be some that are in connection with certain current events and/or stories that will come in the Files. The reason behind this is twofold. The first is because we’ve been discovering old film with events that happened between 50 and 90 years ago that until now, had been stuck in the attic. Whenever a grandfather or grandmother passes on, the next of kin happens to find them while sorting through their belongings. Upon watching the hidden films, they find a bit more facts about what had happened in their lives that they (mostly unknowingly) had contributed to history. This is especially true with German history for two world wars plus the infamous Cold War had almost wiped away relicts of history that had been at least a century old, because of air raids and bombings, forced demolitions based on dictator’s orders, and in some cases, the need to erase the past and move forward without even going back to tell it.  By discovering such artefacts, we can piece together how Germany was like in the past to better understand where they came from.  Secondly, thanks to digital technology, one can remaster the found films and photos to have them available online for future use, especially in the classroom.  While reenactments and museums can provide you with some examples of certain times and how they lived, they are not as genuine as the films and photos taken by those who had lived throgh it and told the families about it.

And with that we will look at Berlin after World War II had ended.  Here we have two film clips, comparing the German capital between May, just after the war had ended, and July, where the reconstruction of the city was in full gear. Knowing the the war had virtually halted all aspects of life, these people continued on with life as if nothing happened except their main task was to rebuild and start over. These people had suffered greatly because of the Third Reich. Many women had lost their male partners; their children,  their fathers, for they either had been killed or taken prisoner. The end result was the influx of immigrants from Turkey and all points to the east; many of whom have been living in Germany ever since. Their role, combined with the role of the women as the sole breadwinner and mother would eventually remake Germany into what it is today- a country where people of gender and background can work for a living, live in peaceful co-existence and be open to multi-culture and change.

And so, with that in mind, have a look at the two clips and compare. What was similar and what was different between the two? We know that in less than 4 years time, Berlin would be the capital of East Germany with the West German capital being in Bonn. And furthermore, 10-15 years was needed at least to convert Berlin into what it was before the bombings. But what else is different? Have a look and think about it. 🙂

Berlin- May 14, 1945:

Berlin- July 1945:

 

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Osterfreude 1818 by Luise Hensel

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To commemorate this early Easter, I felt it would be appropriate to present you this poem, written 200 years ago by German poet Luise Hensel which talks about the joys of Easter and how it erases the pain, guilt and sins away. This is a religious poem that is devoted to Christ and how he gave his life to others so they can understand the beauty of it. The poem is in German and can be interpreted in many ways. But in honor of Christ and in the name of love peace, ….

Heil allen kranken Herzen!
Und Trost in Kampf und Schmerzen
Und lichte Glaubenskerzen
In Zweifel und in Nacht!
O ja! für alle Wunden
Hat sich ein Balsam funden;
Wer sollte nicht gesunden,
Dem so das Leben lacht?

Komm, Thomas, her und siehe,
Dass jeder Zweifel fliehe,
Und fall’ auf deine Kniee
Und tauche deine Hand
In Seines Herzens Wunde,
Und laut, mit frohem Munde,
Gib aller Welt die Kunde,
Dass lebend Er erstand. –

Dein Zweifel lehrt uns fassen
Den Glauben und verlassen
Die Grübelei und hassen
Des Zweifels Dornensaat.
Drum Mut den bangen Herzen
Und Trost in allen Schmerzen
Und lichte Glaubenskerzen
Auf dunkelm Erdenpfad! –
Hallelujah!

Link to the poem: http://www.gedichte-fuer-alle-faelle.de/allegedichte/gedicht_1941.html 

And to the author’s biography: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luise_Hensel

Happy Easter everyone! 🙂

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Osterhase Im Wald: A Collection of German Folk Poems for Easter

In celebration of Easter, I’ve decided to give you readers some Easter poems that originated from a series of German folklore and deal with the Easter bunny. As a bonus there is a song about one Easter bunny, who according to Rolf Zukowski, is rather clumsy but makes children laugh. The video is at the end of this clip. Enjoy! 🙂

Osterhäslein unterem Baum

Unterm Baum im grünen Gras
sitzt ein kleiner Osterhas!
Putzt den Bart und spitzt das Ohr,
macht ein Männchen, guckt hervor.
Springt dann fort mit einem Satz
und ein kleiner frecher Spatz
schaut jetzt nach, was denn dort sei.
Und was ist’s? Ein Osterei!

Osterhas’ im grünen Wald

Osterhas im grünen Wald,
kommst du mit den Eiern bald?
Wenn die Wiesen wieder grün
und die Weidenkätzchen blühn,
wenn die Osterglocken klingen
und die jungen Zicklein springen,
bring’ ich Eier bunt und fein –
allen braven Kinderlein.

Osterhas im grünen Gras

Osterhas, Osterhas!
Im grünen, grünen Gras,
unter Busch und Hecken
müssen Eier stecken.
Suchen wir, suchen wir,
einmal dort, einmal hier.
Unter Busch und Hecken
müssen Eier stecken.
Blaues Ei, rotes Ei,
in den Blumen sind zwei.
Hier ein Nest, dort ein Nest,
schön ist ein Osterfest!

Stups der kleine Osterhase:

Happy Easter everyone! 🙂