Friday, September 20, 2013

I LIke To Think of Harriet Tubman

Two headlines in separate newspapers this morning juxtapose the political contradictions of our times.  In the New York Times, the headline announces “House Republican Pass Deep Cuts in Food Stamps.”  And in the Daily Tar Heel, the campus newspaper at the University of North Carolina, the front page leads with “Food Stamp Need Triples in County.”

The college paper reports on Sonya Dixon (a.ka. “Cookie”), who prepares and serves meals at a childcare center but whose own daughter has cerebral palsy, which means she can only work part time.  With limited earnings, she depends on food stamps to put meals on the table.  Sonya is African American and is one of 6, 357 others in Orange County who receive food stamps.  The unemployment among blacks in North Carolina is over 17%.  

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says the Republican backed measure in Washington would cut about four million recipients like Cookie from the rolls of those who receive help feeding their families.  Congressman Marlin Stutzman (R-Indiana) promises, “This bill eliminates loopholes, ensures work requirements, and puts us on a fiscally responsible path.”  Has the Congressman asked Sonya Dixon how she’s going to feed her disabled daughter? 

Here’s a poem by Susan Griffin titled “I like to think of Harriet Tubman,” which I dedicate to Mr. Stutzman and his colleagues in the House.

I like to think of Harriet Tubman.
Harriet Tubman who carried a revolver,
who had a scar on her head from a rock thrown
by a slave-master (because she
talked back) , and who
had a ransom on her head
of thousands of dollars and who
was never caught, and who
had no use for the law
who defied the law. I like
to think of her.

I like to think of her especially
when I think of the problem
of feeding children.
The legal answer
to the problem of feeding children
is ten free lunches every month,
being equal, in the child's real life,
to eating lunch every other day.
Monday but not Tuesday.

I like to think of the President
eating lunch on Monday, but not
and when I think of the President
and the law, and the problem of
feeding children, I like to
think of Harriet Tubman
and her revolver.

And then sometimes
I think of the President
and other men,
men who practice the law,
who revere the law,
who make the law,
who enforce the law
who live behind
and operate through
and feed themselves
at the expense of
starving children
because of the law.
men who sit in paneled offices
and think about vacations
and tell women
whose care it is
to feed children
not to be hysterical
not to be hysterical as in the word
hysterikos, the greek for
womb suffering,
not to suffer in their
not to care,
not to bother the men
because they want to think
of other things
and do not want
to take women seriously.

I want them to think about Harriet Tubman,
and remember,
remember she was beaten by a white man
and she lived
and she lived to redress her grievances,
and she lived in swamps
and wore the clothes of a man
bringing hundreds of fugitives from
slavery, and was never caught,
and led an army,
and won a battle,
and defied the laws
because the laws were wrong, I want men
to take us seriously.
I am tired wanting them to think
about right and wrong.
I want them to fear.

I want them to feel fear now I want them
to know
that there is always a time
there is always a time to make right
what is wrong,
there is always a time
for retribution
and that time
is beginning.

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