Monthly Archives: January 2014

“Let America be America Again”

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An analysis of the poem, “Let America be America Again,” by Langston Hughes – http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15609

At first glance, the title of this poem would seem to suggest that this poem is a pro-American poem. The poem begins:

“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.”

The only thing at the beginning that hints to where this poem may be gong is the fact that Hughes used “again” and “used to be”, signifying that America isn’t really America anymore. Upon further reading, an undertone begins to emerge. The next line of the poem is in parenthesis and seems to have a very different tone.

(America never was America to me.)
 
Hughes cleverly goes on bouncing back and forth between the two very opposite points off view until it has been clearly established that what started to look like encouragement for the American ways in the beginning, was actually sarcasm. Hughes creatively uses the text to communicate the idea that these were different points of view or perhaps even different people speaking. The regular text lines are one point of view and/or group of people. The words in parenthesis are a second point of view and/or group of people. The italicized text is a third point of view and/or group of people. When focused on in this way the poem begins to tell an even deeper story of America and its people. The poem is presented in a certain way and starts to build a kind of flow. The flow begins to change about halfway through the poem and another view of America begins to emerge. Originally, the first point of view appears to be society and what everyone says out in the open. It speaks of America and the freedom it brings or at least the freedom that it used to strive for. It represents the ideas that America was born from and portrays the freedom that was supposed to be what America is all about. The second point of view, in parenthesis, appears to be what the underprivileged really feel and perhaps what they say behind closed doors to their peers. After some back and forth between the first point of view and the second point of view, the third point of view, in italics,  comes in for the first time.
 
Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?
 
This questioning opens the door for the false freedom to be exposed and the once quiet opinions of the minorities begin to grow louder. The mumbles point to the views that aren’t heard because the minorities and the poor are not listened to. These mumbles, and therefore these points of view, are in the dark, just as these people have been left in the dark. The veil being drawn across the stars could be another metaphor for the underprivileged being in the dark. The veil could also be a metaphor for a barrier between the lower class and the stars, which can represent glory, fame and even wishes. The lower class are prevented from having their wishes fulfilled and from ever having their own glory and fame. At this point in time the regular text that seemed to express the open societal views of America changes and the hidden societal views of America emerge. The regular text at first seemed to represent the views that the white and wealthy Americans would have about their country. These were the views that were allowed and encouraged to be expressed. For most of the second half of the poem, the regular text represents the views that the minorities and the poorer Americans have about their country. These were the views that were only  talked about behind closed doors, and the views that were seldom allowed to be expressed in public. This point of view now shows how the underprivileged have been used and abused.  It expressed how America was built with their blood, sweat and tears, all in the name of freedom, yet they still are not free. The poem goes on to point to all of the injustices that the American people have endured. The poem gets more intense as it goes along, almost as if the once quite mumbles of the minorities has now grown into a movement that has become empowered and decided to take a stand. The last few lines of the poem remind us of the constitution of the united states by starting with “we the people.”
 
“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!”

After giving a voice to the minorities, Hughes reminds the reader that this country was made by the minorities and that “we the people” stood for them. He ends his poem, that now sounds like a powerful movement, with the hope of making America into what it once was and restoring the country to its glory. Hughes makes the reader feel so many different emotions as he gives glimpses of the many different lives that have slaved for this country, all in the name of freedom. In one small poem he is able to make the reader sympathize with the poor whites, the black, the native Americans, and all of the other groups of people who have struggled to make their dreams a reality. I think Hughes was way ahead of his time, and if he had come out with this poem a decade or two later, it could have easily started a revolution. I can see how many freedom fighters such as Martin Luther King could have easily been inspired by Hughes’ amazing way with words.

 
It is hard to say whether this poem is pro-American or anti-American. I don’t see it as either one really. It is truthful and blunt. It shows the glory of what America stood for and also reminds us how far away America is from really accomplishing what it set out to achieve. It is neither an African American poem or an American poem. This poem is raw and speaks to all Americans, rich and poor, black and white. It tells the rich that they are living a lie and it reminds the poor that they are the ones that built this country. I am sure that the primary audience would end up being the African Americans, simply because they were the ones who would most likely relate to it the most. They were also the ones who so desperately wanted to have a voice at that time and who were probably quite sick of having to keep their personal views quiet. Regardless of who the primary audience was, this poem has something to say to all Americans, even today. I personally still relate to what he says about America and it’s greed. Even today, I see many minorities struggling to make ends meet, doing the day to day work that keeps this country going, while the rich just get richer and richer and don’t even have to get their hands dirty. This is a timeless poem that is sure to inspire all walks of life for many years to come!
 
 

 

Is our left brain killing humanity?

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Where is our future headed if left brain thinking is the sole concern of education? It seems that as humanity has evolved, society has tended to focus more on left brain activites than on right brain activities. Although some may see this as more sophisticated, there is a huge problem with this. The left brain is nothing but a calculating computer. It can take the facts, the numbers, the figures, and all of the data and make decisions based on this. Any computer can do these same basic calculations. The problem, however, is that there is a huge piece of humanity that is missing from this equation. Emotion. Without emotion we loose our humanity. What is in store for humanity if we focus on the numbers and calculations and leave the right brain to shrink and shrivel. How will we survive as a species without love, compassion, and creativity? What seperates us from animals without these deeper aspects of ourselves?

The American educational system continues to encourage left brain thinking all the while dumbing down the right brain activities. When there are funding cuts, it is usually the arts that go first. Our children are being raised to be consumers. The powers that be are not thinking about our children being able to think outside of the box. In fact, they prefer to keep them in the box, easily controlled and easier to manipulate. The more we focus on the bills, the price of gas, the paychecks, and our jobs, the less we focus on the ethics. The more concerned we are with the numbers, the less we are concerned with what is right and what feels good for the whole. The issue at hand is that as we continue to encourage left brain thinking, and diminish right brain thinking, we begin to loose our humanity. There is nothing wrong with left brain thinking as long as it is balanced with a good amount of right brain thinking, but we need them both. We need to balance reason with compassion. We need to balance the facts with imagination. It is important to be able to follow steps and directions as required with linear thinking, but occasionally there is no map or instruction book. Sometimes we end up in situations where we must use our imagination and vision to figure our way around a problem. What will our future be like when our children can no longer function under such circumstances?

 

Its time to start thinking holistically, with our right brains more often. The linear thinking of the left brain has us so distracted by the figures that we are not looking at the big picture. Without the vision of the right brain, we focus on the here and now of the situation, leaving the future out of the equation. What good will all of the money in the world be if we fail to look at the big picture and protect the planet that we live on? What good is money when there is no air to breath or water to drink? We cant spend all that money when we are dead. When decisions are made based on highest profitability instead of the greater good for all, we begin to loose our humanity. Take one look at how our governments and big businesses are functioning and it is easy to see how much humanity has already been lost due to these ways of thinking. Our clothes are made in other countries where children sweat and suffer working for pennies a day so that we can have high quality clothes at a good price. Most of our countries big businesses don’t rely much on their right brain faculties such as compassion and love. This just wouldn’t be profitable. What will happen if we continue down this road? How human will we be if we continue to cut the humanities out of our education and our daily lives?

 

Martha Nussbaum was right when she said that we are in the middle of a crisis. In her book, Not for Profit, she says, “We are in the midst of a crisis of massive proportions and grave global significance. No I do not mean the global economic crisis that began in 2008. At least then everyone knew that a crisis was at hand, and many world leaders worked quickly and desperately to find solutions. No, I mean a crisis that goes largely unnoticed like a cancer; a crisis that is likely to be, in the long run, far more damaging to the future of democratic self-government: a world wide crisis in education.” (p. 1) We can not continue to look the other way while our children are brainwashed and our society is dumbed down any more than it already has been. We and our children are desensitized by the news and the television shows daily. We are loosing our morals and our imagination. Society as a whole is loosing its compassion. We can’t afford to loose any more of the humanities in the educational system or our daily lives. We can’t afford to loose anymore of our humanness.