Lest We Forget, Again

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For we do that,

oh so often, we do

decide upon a beautiful sunset,

perhaps the rising moon,

a sweet snowfall,

even the rain of a heated summer day,

lets our mind return to the numbing

nature of a human condition

built upon,

the product of denial.

 

But we cannot,

simply look alive people,

please don’t shut your eyes,

there’s a movement,

and this time,

it is your children,

let their voices be heard.

 

Imagine telling a child

you may not skip class to protest

the death of your peer

by senseless gunfire,

imagine telling your children,

I don’t love you enough

to give a crap

about your well being.

Imagine telling a child

when you leave

I’m not going to imagine

a terrible outcome.

 

If we demand our children

stick to the implementation

of a day of lessons

designed in minutia

and instead

forget the very reason,

we brought our child

into this world,

then we have suggested

the concept of love is a fallacy.

 

We are at war,

and the eyes of a child,

certainly contain the heroic passions

of our every tomorrow.

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The Need to Recognize Historical Trauma

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Germany – Luebeck,  Air Raid 1942

Many years ago, during a trip to Europe, I discovered a reality that would change my life forever. The year was 1985, and a portion of my travels was spent in Germany. In a visit to St. Mary’s Church in Lubeck, West Germany I discovered a broken and melted bell that was left in its destroyed condition in the sanctuary to symbolize the bombing of Lubeck on March 29th, 1942.

As a tourist I was humbled by the fact this bell tower was constructed sometime during the 12th century. I was a visiting traveler from a country built upon a freedom of little more than 200 years of independence. However, that would not be the specific revelation I would come away with as a euro-rail traveling twenty something American. What I discovered next was probably the most humbling aspect of my two months travel throughout western Europe.

As I strolled the streets of Hamburg, attended a Christmas festival in Nuremburg, and even walked the somber stone memorials to the victims of the 1972 Munich Olympic festival, I suddenly began to notice an inordinate number of German males in their late 50’s or older with missing limbs, prosthetic arms, legs, or dependent upon wheel chairs to move themselves throughout their daily routine. I then connected everything, from the bell tower to the male population, these were leftover symbols of WWII. This was a time when German lives were turned upside down because of Hitler’s Nazi takeover. Their lives were forever altered and the impacts that the men and women of Germany endured would last a lifetime and be carried over in the lives of their children and future families well beyond the history of the war.

I was 25 years old at the time, and had never experienced such stark realities in my short life in the United States. Certainly, there were historic moments, the assassinations of MLK, Malcolm X, JFK & RFK, and countless other life changing events including the Kent State massacre and the murder of my personal idol, John Lennon. What I had not experienced though was the historical trauma of the war. I had not experienced the dissemination of the Jewish population throughout Europe during the holocaust. I was 16 years away from the horrific reality of 9/11.

I did experience the trauma of Vietnam through the eyes and struggles of an older brother who became one of the hundreds of thousands of military men and women who received no recognition for their valiant efforts in a senseless war. I certainly do not minimize the lives of all of the family and friends impacted by the perils of that state of confusion. For the sake of this writing though, I want to remain focused on the Nazi nation of WWII.

During my travels I began to recognize how many of the lives of the people I noticed living throughout Germany would be affected forever. They would pass on the confusion of their trauma to their children and the society that evolved beyond that horrific time.

So I do wonder about that time as I speculate the vitriolic response to the events of Charlottesville, Virginia. Throughout my adult life I have often heard the phrase, ‘get over it’ when referencing the systemic nature of racism in America. The one that jumps out at me the most is the accusation that none of our Black Americans have ever experienced slavery, so why keep mulling over the past? Because the past is still the present, and many of the children and families we live, work and laugh with today, had family that were part of the slave industry, much like children of WWII, much like any aspect of oppression that exists in our world today.

It is time we stop tossing blame at other communities, other groups that would like to bring racism into the conversation and start listening instead. I am often accused of ‘white guilt’ because I am that entitled white guy that has not experienced the direct impact of discrimination in my life. It is true, but I still see it. I see it in my classroom, in my community, in my society.

It is unfortunate that we have a POTUS that would like to blend the issues rather than take a stand against known evil – White Supremacists, Neo-Nazi factions, anti-Semitic groups and all hate groups that would rather tear apart the fabric of our country rather than learn to recognize acceptance and love.

The only silver lining in all of this horror is there does seem to be an increased dialogue in social media that would rather address the divisions in our country instead of fueling the hate that separates our lives. We can only pray the dialogue might continue in a proactive and positive manner … forever.

In My Comfort Zone

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It is where I am every day,

my comfort zone,

I give a glimpse into the world

I see,

every hour of my day,

until the sun does set,

hues change, sky becomes a darkness outside

I cannot see as readily.

 

Until the morning comes,

then in rain or sunshine, the view the same,

I always see the leaves in summer,

in winter the naked branch, the neighbor’s home,

I see this every day,

it is in my comfort zone …

 

Where no bombs exist,

shattered windows, glass explodes,

the screams of children barely two,

barely recognizing a reason to fear,

yet they endure,

a daily barrage of human agony,

a tragic reality leaves a shell now,

where a window frame once gave a shield

to the weather, the mortars, the terror, the wind …

carries evil’s wares inside the shadows.

 

It is where I am every day,

my comfort zone,

I give a glimpse into the world,

I see …

 

A Prayer For Meaning

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StarTribune photograph

 

Today the battle won for the many,

those lives that fill our hearts with meaning,

the memories of laughter, filled the room,

when so many others were left alone.

 

Today, we do recall our brothers and sisters,

whose names we all know always forever,

the lives of strong, courageous beings,

went before our own to save such freedoms.

 

Today, in our ‘day off’ we must remember,

the many heartfelt thanks to all the members,

our lives are allowed to stand in sunshine,

only because their day off would be eternal.

 

So when we fire up the grill, pop the beverage,

when the favorite t-shirts and celebrations,

take over our country, light up the skies,

know the freedom they fought be not forgotten.

 

Be the infinite matter that defines our lives,

for their strength embolden our false security.

The Mourning Has Begun

The skies are gray with humanity,

powerful, frightening, a storm beyond the natural course of our lives.

 

In the comfort of home,

some homes, ours, yours, we haven’t direct connections with theirs …

Wait just a minute though,

seconds really, that’s all it takes today to look at the pain of a lost soul,

dragging their body, bodies, families through the rubble of

cause.

 

Whose responsible for the chaos,

the insidious nature of need, something defined outside the comfort of my home.

I will watch the news today like a natural reality show,

one that will actually receive ratings, sad to imagine.

We’re talking about ‘big moments’ now,

‘presidential posturing’

‘making a statement’

yet in the end, the end of the day, the end of a life, lives, neighborhoods,

children, women, fathers, mothers, co-workers, neighbors, lives.

 

In the shallow recall of international turmoil,

the comfort of my home seems callous.

I Traveled Back in Time

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It felt good to say hello to all of them,

The flowers were in crisp spring bloom,

The fields swayed with more romance than I recall,

I remember the gravel road,

The swing rope, and the river pool, just for you,

There was a single cow liked to moo.

 

Last night I visited my childhood,

Through John’s steady croons,

I was walking with him in the county library,

I remember I felt emotions, love,

There was a certain peace that went with friends.

It was the 60’s and we all listened,

 

To each other, much less than we did the Man,

That societal icon that disturbed our land.

Whenever I want to dream,

It is the gravel road, forest deep,

My walk is forever, yet it’s serene,

I know there is certain beauty, Grace in tree-lines.

 

When I was only a child, I grew up in sadness,

There were losses and turbulent times,

I really didn’t understand,

But the people around me did,

So I listened, I watched, I imagined,

And later in life I hoped I could remember when.

 

It felt good to say hello to all of them,

I traveled back in time, I remember when.

© Thom Amundsen 2017

Listening to the News

I’m feeling agitation,

listening to mouthpieces slam each other,

slam the office,

slam the American people,

Ignorance, forces themselves to believe

in rhetoric,

‘we will never be great again’

oh my, 6th grade Civics again.

~

‘lead from behind’

Hah! – I won’t go there, but they might,

probably do.

~

Remember when we were told by those we

believed in (we love)

‘you have to believe in yourself?’

I think we forgot,

I believe we have to redefine ourselves

BOOM!

rest assured,

the human condition remains as incredible as we have ever been,

Stop listening to the pretty faces,

turn off the feeds,

stop fueling advocates of fear,

look each other in the eyes again.

Had that moment lately?

when suddenly,

you looked and someone lived a different life  …

oh my, what a change, yes, that remarkable reality.

That ability to trust what it is, who we do,

love!

When we can breathe again …