Monday, March 14, 2005

America? Freedom in this land of the free?

Joseph from RadicalHapa asks, What is American? Two literary examples come to mind, and even though I may be accused of Blue State Idolatry I thought I would share them here. I do this with some trepidation, as the passages may highlight how I do and do not fit in the liberal camp. Of course maybe Scott or ChaliceChick will make fun of me and more people will read my blog.



First, from Tony Kushner's Angels in America:

Belize: You know what your problem is, Louis? Your problem is that you are so full of piping hot crap that the mention of your name draws flies. Just to set the record straight: I love Prior but was never in love with him. I have a man, uptown, and have since long before I first laid my eyes on the sorry-ass sight of you. But you didn’t know cause you never bothered to ask. Up in the air, just like that angel, too far off the earth to pick out the details. Louis and his big ideas. Big ideas are all you love. America is what Louis loves. Well I hate America, Louis. I hate this country. It’s just big ideas, and stories, and people dying, and people like you. The white cracker who wrote the national anthem knew what he was doing. He set the word 'free' to a note so high nobody can reach it. That was deliberate. Nothing on earth sounds less like freedom to me. You come to room 1013 over at the hospital, I'll show you America. Terminal, crazy and mean. I live in America, Louis, that’s hard enough, I don’t have to love it. You do that. Everybody’s got to love something.

Second, is Langston Hughes, Theme for English B:

The instructor said,
Go home and write
a page tonight.
And let that page come out of you---
Then, it will be true.
I wonder if it's that simple?
I am twenty-two, colored, born in Winston-Salem.
I went to school there, then Durham, then here
to this college on the hill above Harlem.
I am the only colored student in my class.
The steps from the hill lead down into Harlem
through a park, then I cross St. Nicholas,
Eighth Avenue, Seventh, and I come to the Y,
the Harlem Branch Y, where I take the elevator
up to my room, sit down, and write this page:

It's not easy to know what is true for you or me
at twenty-two, my age. But I guess I'm what
I feel and see and hear, Harlem, I hear you:
hear you, hear me---we two---you, me, talk on this page.
(I hear New York too.) Me---who?
Well, I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love.
I like to work, read, learn, and understand life.
I like a pipe for a Christmas present,
or records---Bessie, bop, or Bach.
I guess being colored doesn't make me NOT like
the same things other folks like who are other races.
So will my page be colored that I write?
Being me, it will not be white.
But it will be
a part of you, instructor.
You are white---
yet a part of me, as I am a part of you.
That's American.
Sometimes perhaps you don't want to be a part of me.
Nor do I often want to be a part of you.
But we are, that's true!
As I learn from you,
I guess you learn from me---
although you're older---and white---
and somewhat more free.

This is my page for English B.

1951

2 Comments:

At 3:57 PM, Blogger PeaceBang said...

I am so digging that you posted that monologue by the character Belize, which made me just applaud out loud when I saw "Angels in America" on HBO. What an exciting production it was, even if I thought that the second half was a wicked disappointment in comparison to the first, brilliant episode.

 
At 8:01 AM, Anonymous Joseph Santos-Lyons said...

You have pulled some great pieces, and your blog is full of wonderful quotes and articles. I gotta get with the action! Thanks LeftCoastUnitarian.
;-)
Joseph

 

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