If Obedience Is a Condition of Existence, Then We Must Resist by Disappearing

Culture, Economy, Justice, Plus ça change motherfuckers, Poetry, Things that Actually Happen, War and Politics

Even though it might sound harsh and impolitic, here is the bottom line: if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you. Don’t argue with me, don’t call me names, don’t tell me that I can’t stop you, don’t say I’m a racist pig, don’t threaten that you’ll sue me and take away my badge. Don’t scream at me that you pay my salary, and don’t even think of aggressively walking towards me.

A cop writes that he has the right to shoot
a man for walking too aggressively,
shoot if he delays or if he flees,
shoot if he fails to kowtow or salute,
shoot if he gets too smart or thinks he’s cute.
The predicate of law is immunity
for lawmen; ours is a cop timocracy,
the badge the only property, the boot
the only vote. The price of life is death,
therefore, if you don’t wish to buy it, you
must make an effort never to be born.
Not far away from here, borne on the breath
of a heat-bleeding highway, a hawk or two
rise in spirals over the mice-filled corn.

9 thoughts on “If Obedience Is a Condition of Existence, Then We Must Resist by Disappearing

  1. The thin blue line emotes.
    Tells the squares the rules.
    The good man, the holy man,
    holier than you, anyway,
    in his green suburb, with “good schools”,
    takes offense.

    Why, in his name, should
    a bully push people around?
    Why must men be “detained”?
    Why must thugs not walk aggressively?
    Why must rioters not be heeded?
    Why must there be rules?
    Can’t we all just get along?

    Why, he can follow the rules.
    He does follow the rules.
    Every day. Every goddam day.
    It’s not hard for him.
    How he resents it!

    Why must hawks prey on mice?
    It’s so mean. So awful.
    Pity the poor small creatures,
    timid, with watery eyes,
    imploring your succor!
    Like that poor child, Trayvon,
    executed.
    And this poor child, little Mike.
    Little six four, hulking Mike,
    Three hundred pounds strong,
    who robs as a convenience,
    who gets no challenge,
    who walks into traffic,
    who expects deference.
    So innocent. So childlike.

    He has not been there.
    He has no notion what happened.
    But he knows for sure.

    The price of life is death.
    But the price of civilization is obedience.
    He knows this in his genes.
    He submits just fine,
    but not in his head, stuffed tight with cant.
    He commands his thin blue line to take it.

    They don’t live in his suburb.
    He does not know them.
    He does not know that
    they cannot afford it.

    1. The Ogre does what ogres can,
      Deeds quite impossible for Man,
      But one prize is beyond his reach:
      The Ogre cannot master speech.

      About a subjugated plain,
      Among its desperate and slain,
      The Ogre stalks with hands on hips,
      While drivel gushes from his lips.

      – Auden

  2. Slightly edited (to be non-theistic) version of the Prayer of St. Francis (as Wikipedia makes clear, it was named in honor of him, not written by him)

    My goal is to be an instrument of peace.
    Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
    Where there is injury, pardon;
    Where there is doubt, faith;
    Where there is despair, hope;
    Where there is darkness, light;
    Where there is sadness, joy.

    I seek not so much to be consoled, as to console;
    to be understood, as to understand;
    to be loved, as to love.

    For it is in giving that we receive.
    It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
    and it is in letting go of a smaller self that we are able to recognize our wider identity.

  3. I’m always humming along one of your poems and then bam! right out of nowhere I get blindsinded by something of the avian variety. I could only remember one specific example (“The carrion birds circle against the concrete sky”) but I’m sure there have been many other instances. I’ve started donning a hat while reading your poetry.

    Btw, as you may know, my example is from the old ioz site, which is now inaccessible. This will be the last time I bring it up, but I’ll never stop holding out for its resurrection. This is the worst thing since we lost Alexandria.

    1. The old IOZ site still is there, it’s just flagged to be not robot-searchable. (Hence no Google, Bing, or other well-behaved spiders.) So, to find that perfect rebuttal you made back in ought-eight is going to require substantial work.

      1. I don’t think it’s a search issue I literally can’t access it. I would do the work if it were possible…

  4. I don’t suppose it’s ever occurred to you that your moral outrage, which has always been considerable, might find a better outlet in heroic couplets than in various flavors of sonnet.

    Try it sometime – I think the results might be truly remarkable, depending of course, on your virtuousity in handling the couplet, a prosodic form whose difficulty is always underestimated.

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