Let me begin by borrowing from a poem I wrote almost four decades ago titled, Man-kind? The first two verses reads, “Angry fearsome visages grunting, sighing! Mumbling curses, a hate, a deep searing hate etched on the brow. An evil eye, a cruel mouth, fear, distrust, and malice – frustration beyond repair and ivory towered rhetoric fuels the flame. The rhythm of the death dance quickens, some faces contorted with glee others with pain. Bodies in the heat of passion and uncaring, unfeeling grinding in the excesses of frustration, spell bound, we watch and our minds merge with the players of this gross spectacle and we become one. Throats constricted with lifelong bitterness howl! Bellies denied of fullness roar as we are caught in a vortex of despair.” Clive Williams.
This dark, brooding and scathing poetic verse was written in response to witnessing man’s inhumanity to his fellow man, in pursuit of political power; while writing this poem, I felt the weight of my people’s burden as they were forced to endure a political system that gave rise to a polarizing tribalism, resulting in the establishment of garrisons and a tribal/political culture that created the reign of terror Jamaican’s now endure. To think then, that those verses would prove to be prophetic, would have been wishful thinking, but, lo and behold, my thoughts written over forty years ago, from a Jamaican perspective, eloquently describes the America we live in today.
Because I want to convey the relevance of my poetry, both to the American reality as well as our own individual destiny, I ask that you focus your attention on some choice words from that dark poetic rendering. The words are FEAR, MALICE, DISTRUST and HATE. The most recent flash point for the manifestation of those emotions was Charlottesville, Virginia where it was demonstrated that man’s evolution is being arrested by a growing class of sociologically detached, (some deranged), individuals desperately hanging on to a twisted view of the world. White Nationalists consisting of Klansmen, Neo-Nazi’s and Skin Heads who constitute the worst assortment of America’s past and present are preparing for war, and they are convinced they now have an ally in the people’s house.
Very recently a former Neo- Nazi, Christian Picciolini, founder of the non-profit peace advocacy organization, Life after Hate, shared on National Public Radio that white nationalists of all stripes have infiltrated the mainstream successfully as law enforcement officers, teachers, politicians, as well as the professions. Since the message of white power is alive and thriving in America; Picciolini suggests that we confront this hate with compassion, understanding, and empathy, he writes, “Hatred is born of ignorance. Fear is its father and isolation is its mother.”
How do we overcome FEAR, MALICE, DISTRUST and HATE? I know of no other way, but to respond with understanding, compassion, empathy – and a love that surpasses all understanding, but we must first learn to love ourselves. Until then we are caught in a “vortex of despair.”