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

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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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Living in a World they didn’t make, by Janet Jackson

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Our next Genre of the Week focuses on gun violence and takes us back to 1989. It was at that time that one of the members of the Jackson family released a powerful album containing songs that focused on social aspects. Janet Jackson started her career with the rest of her siblings in 1973, yet went solo in 1986 with her first solo album (and third overall), Control.  Her breakthrough came with Rhythm Nation 1814, which was released in 1989 and won six platinums, garnered 12 million Dollars in sales and made it all the way to number 1. on the Bilboard charts in the US. It was the first album where songs reached number 1 in the Top 40 Charts for three straight years, and it was the first where seven songs made it to the Top 100.  It is considered one of the most iconic pop music albums in history, with a mixture of rhythm and dance but also some slow dances. The album focused not only on themes of love and dance, but also social issues, which included drug use, domestic dispute, violence,…..

and guns.

While Janet managed to get seven songs into the Top 100, this song deserves to win the Flensburg Files Genre of the Week, even if the song was produced almost 30 years ago. Entitled Living in the World They Didn’t Make, Janet takes us to a school where memories are left over after a shooting incident that happens on school grounds. Children playing on the playground- gone. Teachers helping other- gone. Neighborhoods and families- shattered. All of these ring a bell to the problem with gun violence and the school shootings that have plagued the US as of late. While some have refused to talk about it, when looking at the March on Washington that happened on 24th of March, the theme of gun laws, school violence and issues that have led to people taking it out with the guns have been brought forward to those who want to see change and will not rest until it happens, regardless of who is representing each state in Congress and is running the country at the White House.

Gun violence was the issue upon the song’s release and is still the issue to this day. Listen to the song and ask yourselves, how can we put an end to this madness without having the teacher march around with a machine gun in the classroom.

This Genre of the Week song is for the kids at Parkland who took courageous steps and brought this up front and personal on Capitol Hill. Keep strong, be stronger. Eventually those who resisted will listen or cave in. You will have it your way soon. ❤ 🙂

 

Fl Fi USA

Genre of the Week: 18 and Life by Skid Row

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As we’re talking about gun violence and looking at ways to stopping it, we’re also looking at the causes of this rapid increase in violence which has especially hit schools the hardest. I had a chance to listen to a speech made by four survivors of the shooting at Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida as well as the interviews that followed. The students that survived the bloodbath knew the killer (who is behind bars) and were very angry at how this was not stopped earlier. These four were born the same year as the infamous Columbine massacre that took place on 20 April 1999 and have grown up used to mass shootings, including those in schools.  Here’s a quick preview of the speech:

One of the key issues we’ll need to work on as we look at reforming gun control laws is also the ways to reform the mental health system and make schools and public places safe. But how can we do that if we have people running around irresponsibly waving guns around and firing aimlessly at people, killing some in the process and permanently scarring others in the process, like it happened with Columbine, Las Vegas, San Bernardino, Sandy Hook, Cold Springs and now Parkland?

One way is to look at how parenting has changed over the years. In the past 40 years, we have gone from being strict Puritans who spank and hit children in order for them to behave to being those who allow children anything and everything they want to, even if it means running over teachers, law enforcement officials and the like at the same time. Parents have struggled to find a middle ground in order to allow for controlled growth- meaning growing within their boundaries and knowing what is right and what is wrong. It means taking responsibility for their own actions and accepting the consequences for their wrongdoing. A one-day suspension from school for fighting or showing disrespect is painful but should be a lesson for the future. It’s by teaching children how to respect others and learn the Golden Rule: Do onto others as they would be done onto you. This includes stories and fables to be told regularly but also normal interaction with people and understanding their feelings.  And if parents cannot do their job, have another foster parent or relative take over for a while, someone who can foster the child’s growth and show them the values of life.

This Genre of the Week looks at a scene that is very typical in today’s society today: a teenager who has gone wild because of years of being overly controlled and abused by his father. His recklessness by using alcohol and guns led to his downfall as he lost not only his family and best friend, but his own life. And as alcohol regulations has worked in keeping people away from the booze, gun regulations can do the exact same thing and even more. But even with gun regulations (which can work), we need to look at reforming our society and investing more time and especially money to reforming our society, starting with the health system, then the school system and lastly the family. This way we don’t have any more wild ones like in this song by Skid Row entitled 18 and Life, produced in 1989.

 

 

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Skid Row was formed in 1986 featuring lead singer Sebastian Bach, guitarists Scotti Hill and David Sabo, drummer Rob Affuso and bassist Rachel Bolan. It still produces heavy metal music to this day but with ZP Theart as the lead singer. 18 and Life was produced in 1989 and made it to the Top 4 in the US and Top 12 in the UK. It even won a gold platinum that year. The band is based in New Jersey.

 

Fl Fi USA

Genre of the Week: Time to Talk About It- Slam Poetry on Gun Violence in America

In connection with the Valentine’s Day shooting at a high school in Florida, which left 17 people dead, dozens injured and scars on the remaining number of students, staff and parents, I found a good slam poem about the problem with America and its obession with guns. As we have seen with the 29 shootings recorded so far in 2018 (18 school-related), many of us have tried aggressively to deflect from the gun issue and focus on other issues that are non-related. The problem is we cannot defer responsibility to other issues. Nor can we just debate about it and take no action. Nor can we consider gun deaths the new norm in American society. As this poet suggests, the time to talk about guns and stricter regulations is right here, right now. I intend to talk about gun laws and ways to change it until we see change that we the people of the United States of America will like; the changes that will make the streets, schools, homes and society safe again.

…..And this even includes changing politicians who favor guns, gun deaths and the NRA.

 

Holiday Genre: Time to Forgive

 

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Another typical German Christmas tradition we usually see during the holiday season are the commercials. Using special themes that connect Christmas with family and love, store chains produce scenes that bring family and friends together, following the events that happened during the year as well as basing some of them on personal experiences of people working there.

Two commercials come to mind that were televised during the holiday season, both of whom focused on the theme of forgiveness. Forgiveness of the sins committed against family, friends and even mankind. Forgiveness which means starting over again and mending the ties that were ripped apart because of war and conflict that didn’t need to happen but it did.  Forgiveness which means loving again.

In the first holiday commercial, forgiveness meant reestablishing a bond between a parent and a child. In this one, produced by the German grocery chain Penny, the mother seeks out to her daughter, years after they had a fall-out during the daughter’s pregnancy. The mother’s journey was like a walk in the woods- meeting obstacles that were as painful as it was recalling the memories of the two together. The end result is not what is expected except that they both came home:

 

In the second commercial, the scene took place in the future, where artificial intelligence invaded mankind and chased the humans away into forests and other dugouts. While the three-legged machines looked for other natural life forms- most likely to kill off, one of the robots discovered the holiday the humans had been celebrating after coming across first a poster of a show entitled “Wonderful Christmas” and then a Christmas tree and pieced together how the celebration took shape. While reenacting the scene with manequins didn’t function, the robot sought human life to better understand their life, taking with it, the Christmas star to give to the family that it found. In the end, the grocery chain Edeka offered the viewers a glimpse of how two groups can come together:

While the theme forgiveness was clearly in connection with events that have unfolded since US President Donald Trump took office in January 2017- name any conflict, because he had his hand in the apple pie- it showed how conflicts can permanently damage a relationship in ways the parties cannot comprehend until years later, when it is all too late. When Siegmar Gabriel, Germany’s foreign minster mentioned in an interview that Germany was breaking off ties with the US on foreign policy, it had to do with conflicts between both countries on virtually everything, combined with accusations (mostly were considered fake) and the unwillingness to compromise. The damage has, according to Gabriel, become irreversible that it may be impossible to mend ties, even after Trump leaves office. Other countries have also expressed concern that America will be so isolated that it will become something like in the commercials above. But perhaps this wake-up call is needed in order to come to terms and realize that we need to work together and forget about our egos or even our nostalgia.

Maybe by looking at the commercials we can come to terms and try and forgive, regardless of how long it takes. ❤

 

fLfI WINTER

Holiday Genre: Schweddy Balls

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As we look back at the holiday season, I found a few genres that are worth mentioning and also worth using for the next holiday season. Our first one features a flashback to  December 1998 and the parody of National Public Radio produced by Saturday Night Live, based in New York City. Since its first show in 1970, SNL has produced some of the best parodies and series on record, making people laugh until they either cried or peed their pants. This scene comes from the NPR parody series “The Delicious Dish,” (based on the real NPR’s The Splendid Table) with a splendid name to kick off the holiday spirit. It even made the Rolling Stones Magazine’s Top 20 of SNL’s All Time Best List at Nr. 20! Enjoy! 🙂

 

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Genre of the Week: The History of the Teddy Bear by Jon Mooallem

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To start off the Genre of the Week, here’s a question for you: How many of you have a teddy bear? What names did you give them, and how did you characterize them when playing with them? Almost every child at one time had a teddy bear in his/her lifetime and one in three adults still have that teddy bear from their childhood. More than half the children have more than three teddys in their rooms at home. And if you are like other kids, you probably have names for each of the Teddy bears you have. 🙂  In the case of my daughter, she and I had names for a dozen teddy bears she had when she was growing up; among them include Rocky (Senior and Junior) for a pair of panda bears, plus two bears who always find ways of travelling with this writer: Bam Bam and Coco, a white and brown bear duo. Their parents were included as well, including Coco’s mom, Anna Bear, as seen in the pic above.  But what do we know of the origin of the teddy bear?

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The teddy bear was developed in two different locations, almost simultaneously. In Germany, a seemstress company, founded by Margarete Steiff in 1880, a teddy bear was created by her nephew Richard in 1902, based on a real depiction of the bear. It debuted in 1903 and became so popular, that a buyer for an American toy company bought large numbers for the market. The Steiff bears eventually became teddy bears. At the same time of the first teddy bear in Germany, a very popular Amercian figure, while on a hunt, saved a life of a small bear, thus becoming a focus of a cartoon shown below:

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Drawing a Line in Mississippi by Clifford K. Barryman

Eventually, Morris and Rose Michtom took this depiction and created their first toy company that produced these adorable creatures, honoring that man, which became known as Teddy’s Bear. 🙂

But inspite of the two separate events that helped create the still most lovable toy for people of all ages, there was a motive behind making teddy bears. In a TED-Talk lecture, Jon Mooallem provides a detailed look behind the history of the teddy bear and its relationship with not only us humans, but also the environment we are living in. And as the bears become popular, the concern for protecting flora and fauna has become greater than it was in 1902.

Watch the video and have a look at the questions. Think about what he says and discuss about the role of teddy bears and the relationship between humans and the environment, something that is fragile and needs attention more than ever. The video is at the end of the article.

Questions:

  1. Who was the person that saved a bear’s life? What happened and when did it happen?
  2. Why did he save the bear’s life? What was the result of his action?
  3. What was the relationship between bears (and other wild animals) and settlers like during that time?
  4. What measures were taken to protect the settlers during that time? How were the animals affected- name one example.
  5. What does the teddy bear symbolize according to the speaker?
  6. Why did we go from portraying animals as terrifying beasts to ones that are lovable? There are two factors that are interconnected and are still a key issue in society…..
  7. The speaker mentions that nature has become so dependent on humans that it cannot survive on its own, going from almost destroying the species to saving and educating them- aka conservation reliance.
    1. What factors have led to the natural balance being off course
    2. What examples are mentioned where humans “train” animals?
    3. In your opinion, do you agree with the speaker’s statements? If so, why and what examples support your argument? If not, what examples of uncontrolled natural areas can you think of?
  8. In your opinion, does controlling nature produce a better balance with humans or does it make sense to let “the deer and the antelope play and vegetation produce flower power?” (In other words, let flora and fauna be)? What reasons support your arguments?
  9. Do you have a teddy bear? If so, what is his/her name and how would you describe your bear in terms of appearance and character?

 

Enjoy the clip below! 🙂

 

 

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