Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Prisoners of the Poets!

Either I'm getting old, or I've been spending too much time checking out conservative blogs. Today there was a Poetry Slam! assembly at the school where I work, and I found myself thinking thoughts that I don't normally think.

The content of the various poets was pretty diverse. One Asian guy talked about stereotypes in a pretty amusing fashion. Another guy gave a love poem to jazz music (which makes me want to start listening to some again). One that really stood out was a guy who complained about the state of hip-hop music. I would say that I genuinely enjoyed those. The others were fine, and I don't really want to spend too much time dissecting them, as it was poetry by young people and for young people, so I'm not really the target audience anyway.

The thing that started to raise my hackles just a tad was that there were a couple that were pretty down on American society. One of them even said that "American culture" was an oxymoron.

Okay now, before you freak out, I'm not saying that they shouldn't have been allowed to say what they wanted. I'm not even saying that there should have been some sort of forced "pro-America" poetry forced in there as well. After all, the sheer fact that they could come into a public school and express themselves so freely is a reason why this country is great. So, I applaud the spirit if not necessarily all of the ideas that were expressed.

First of all, I've been hearing this "America has no culture" line of crap for years. It's bad enough when some Eurotrash doofus says it, but I have to wonder about my fellow Americans sometimes. Is there a lot of American culture that's an absolute waste and serves as a black hole that destroys everything of value that comes near it? Sure. Things like most reality shows, baconnaise, and Toby Keith spring to mind.

But dammit! This country invented rock and roll! And if you want to be a pretentious highbrow type, we also invented jazz! What about Hollywood? Sure, it produces dreck like Rush Hour 3, but hasn't it also given us Casablanca, Citizen Kane, and The Godfather? We also have baseball, football, and basketball. And what really makes us awesome is that we have absorbed so much from other cultures that an enchilada plate feels just as American as General Tso's Chicken. And don't get me started on the craft beer scene in this country. I think that the American-style IPA is putting us on the beer map while Europeans increasingly drink stuff that's more and more watered down all the time.

Anyway, I just know that there will no doubt be a parent or two who will complain about the content of the presentation. If they want blindly patriotic babble, they can turn on Fox News. I think that with situations like this, we have to wonder why these kids feel the need to be so critical of the United States. I'm sure that many conservatives would chalk that up to some kind of brainwashing or indoctrination on the part of the public school system. That's too easy of an answer though. I think that a lot of it simply has to do with the fact that they're young. When you're young, you're full of passion, and you're starting to wake up to what's unfair and wrong about the world.

The other reason why they might be behaving this way is that they have something legitimate to gripe about. Maybe the best thing to do is just listen. If you disagree, don't complain to the authorities. These kids express themselves through poetry. I just expressed myself in a blog. Ain't America grand?

This "Stan Lee Challenge" was inspired by The Fantastic Four #19: "The Prisoners of the Pharaoh".

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