Sunday, June 21, 2015

When we're told we'll never understand

Poem by Columbia, SC poet laureate Ed Madden, 20 July 2015

When we’re told we’ll never understand


Someone says a drug-related incident,

someone says he was quiet, he mostly kept to himself,

someone says mental illness,

someone says a hateful and deranged mind,

someone says he was a loner, he wasn’t bullied,

someone says his sister was getting married in four days,

a newsman says an attack on faith,

a relative says his mother never raised him to be like this,

a friend says he had that kind of Southern pride, strong conservative beliefs,

someone says he made a lot of racist jokes, but you don’t really take them seriously like that you don’t really think of it like that,

someone says he wanted to start a civil war,

he said he was there to kill black people,

the governor says we’ll never understand.




He is not a lone wolf,

he is not alien,

he is not inexplicable,

he is not just one sick individual,

he is one of us,

he is from here,

he grew up here,

he went to school here,

he wore his jacket with its white supremacist patches here,

he told racist jokes here,

he got his gun here,

he learned his racism here,

his license plate sported a confederate flag here,

the confederate flag flies at the state capitol here,

he had that kind of Southern pride,

this is not isolated this is not a drug incident,

this is not unspeakable (we should speak,

this is not unthinkable (we should think),

this is not inexplicable (we must explain it),

he is not a symbol he is a symptom,

he is not a cipher he is a reminder,

his actions are beyond our imagining,

but his motivation is not beyond our understanding

no he didn’t get those ideas from nowhere.


mental illness is a way to not say racism

drug-related is a way to not say hate

loner is a way to not say one of us

we’ll never understand is a way to not say look at our history


Look away, look away, look away [to be sung]


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