17 September 2012

Amerika: America with a "k"

If you read my last post, you may be wondering why I spell America with a "k" (Amerika). This is two fold; I am inspired by Abbie Hoffman and I seek to call attention to the mainstream culture's perception of the United States and what I see as the reality.

Abbie Hoffman

A few years ago I read about Abbie Hoffman; writer and activist. It was within the pages of Steal This Dream that I learned about Hoffman and his choice to spell America as Amerika. From page 239 of the book, Never again will I spell America with a "c," for in the eyes of Amerika we have all been declared outlaws.

Was he wrong to think that? Perhaps I'd like to think of myself as a counter-culture-status-is-not-quo type of person but look around you, there is inequality in the United States (and world) and it certainly does not have to be that way.

Let Amerika Be America Again

Then while reading another book (The People's History of the United States) I saw an excerpt of a poem written by Langston Hughes.

... I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek-
And finding only the same old stupid plan.
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak... .
O, let America be America again-
The land that never has been yet-
And yet must be-the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine-the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's
ME-
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.
Sure, call me any ugly name you choose-
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,
America! . . .

Then it hit me; America may not have ever been the greatest nation on the planet. The America of the thirties was a place where cultural barriers were institutionalized and inequality was justified. Prove me wrong: build a time machine, go back to 1930's US, walk up to the first non-white male you see, and ask them if they think America is the land of opportunity.

All of the flag waving rhetoric is depressing to me because on a daily basis, as a society, we turn our backs on our neighbors in need, persecuting those that are different, waging war in the name of self-defense, taking no action to address legitimate issues such as educational attainment and environmental degredation.

That isn't my America.

Amerika can be America

In time, with work, I believe that we can become the nation that we claim to be, a truly global world power; a nation that has stellar education for each and every citizen; a nation that believes in and practices the spirit of community; a nation where not one person goes hungry or without shelter; a nation that seeks to advance the human species well into the future; a nation with nothing to fear from its neighbors because its neighbors have nothing to fear from it.

And so, until our communities can stop playing our zero-sum games, and move forward to a future that we can all proud of, I will spell America with a k.

I am hopeful, that I will not need to wait long because I was born here, and I have a dream of an America that I can be proud of.

Further reading

Hughes, Langston. The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes. Ed. Arnold Rampersad. Vintage, 1995. Print.
Sloman, Larry. Steal This Dream: Abbie Hoffman and the Counterculture Revolution in America. Doubleday, 1998. Print.
Zinn, Howard. A People's History of the United States: 1492 to Present. Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 1995. Print.

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