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October 17, 2017

Silent Salute: Veterans and Soldiers of Love


The things we are drawn to, the affections that capture our hearts, there is a source from which these emotions flow outward to inhabit our passions. There’s a reason why I am writing this article to thank veterans and why I’m expressing my admiration and reverence for those who put on the uniform. But before I start explaining my affinity for veterans and the deference I have for the mind-bending hardship they go through from the first day they step into training camp to their last breath on earth, let me first say thank you. And when I say thank you, it’s not just thanking veterans for their service—really what I am saying is thank you for your sacrifice.

The weight of 300 million are put on the backs of a few as soldiers, marines, air men and seamen from every corner of this nation do their part to serve and protect their neighbors and fellow citizens. It is no secret how I am repulsed by the military-financial complex that our overgrown and over-bloated government unleashes unto the world. But my stance against oppressive politicians in DC and their patrons on Wall Street should not in any way be construed as a condemnation of veterans. In my travels over the past two years, as I became a sojourner without a choice, who I ran into over and over again were the very veterans whom I hold in the highest esteem. In the midst of my hardship and tribulation, my occasional need to wallow in self-pity and despair would be washed away by seeing a homeless veteran who called the same mission I called home his home too.

From South Carolina, Georgia, Iowa, New York and Colorado, a two year exodus became really at an education that made me refocus my perspective of injustice. See, what corporate America and our duplicitous politicians and pundits rarely show is the aftermath that veterans go through when they come back home from the horrors of wars. Men and women swallowed whole by PTSD, shock-trauma, missing limbs and lost friends are expected in a fell swoop to readjust to society and forget about the terrors they saw on the battlefields. Many come back home too broken to fit in—spouses unable to cope and families unable to understand—countless tens of thousands end up homeless all alone as the conglomerate band plays on using patriotism to hide the profits that wars make. A nation overflowing with wealth relegates veterans to the periphery of indigence as a moneyed few hoard all for themselves using warriors as billboards to make yet more money. Sins begetting sins as greed keeps birthing greed.

Those of us who never put on the uniform and who think that war is something that takes place either between football teams or on PlayStations are too distracted by rat races and trivial conquests to really understand the plight veterans go through. In a lot of ways, the fortunate are the ones who perish on the battlefield for the living have to bear the pain of survivor’s guilt, the torment of withered bodies, and the gnawing memories of blood and crying children. War is the utmost of human follies and worse yet the 9th circle of hell for it reduces human beings into pawns on a chess board of the powerful. But those of us who either protest against war or cheer lead for it can never phantom the crucibles and ordeal of having once fought in a war.

In all honesty, I am no different than the average American in this sense. Not too long ago, I used to rage against immoral wars all the while stepping over homeless veterans as I was sipping my latte on my way to the Pentagon. Imagine that, at once I worked at the focal point of power making friends with countless service members all the while looking away from veterans who did not come back in one piece from Afghanistan, Iraq and the endless wars we keep initiating throughout the world and instead were falling to pieces on the very sidewalks of DC that tourists segway on with full glee. It’s a natural reflex I presuppose, the injustices of the world too much so we find it easier to look beyond the indigent before us and instead fight against injustice in far off lands.

Yet, in spite of my indifference, there was and always will be a part of me that held a special place for those who serve and for veterans in my heart. There are many reasons for this; one of which is the fact that my father was a veteran of the Ethiopian Imperial Navy who trained right here in the states with the US Navy. In fact, it was because of the Naval exchange that the Ethiopian Navy had under King Haile Selassie with the United States that my father developed an undying love for America. My father Fikremariam Million saw in America blessings in abundance; a place where foreigners can arrive at the shores, find homes, and then have opportunities to build a new life with their hands and hard work. In most corners of the world, one’s birth limited one’s endeavors. But in America, my father saw a land where his children could do the one thing he was never able to do—to attend college and maximize our potential.

So before my father even met my mom, he had set his sights on America. The same year and a month before I was born, Emperor Haile Selassie was deposed, the ruthless Megnistu Hailemariam took power shortly thereafter and ruled with an absolute iron fist. After a conflict broke out with Somalia in a proxy war between the US and USSR, life in Ethiopia was becoming more and more onerous and dangerous. My father decided to seek refuge in the same place he once saluted US naval officers. We arrived in America without a possession, we had to sneak out of our own nation as my father devised a scheme to pluck us out of Ethiopia one by one without setting off red flags that we were leaving. My father, may he rest eternally in peace, is my hero above all for this reason; he left a life of upper-middle class comfort in Addis Abeba working at the Ethiopian airlines to come to America as a penniless immigrant and worked three and four jobs at a time to feed his family and provide the pathway for me to gain a college education and fulfill the one dream he never accomplished. The dreams of my father thus were not just his dream but the dreams of my father’s father as well, for my father grew up without a father since his dad was silenced forever after World War II concluded.

My father always gave credit to the Navy for setting him on the right path and in the process talked endlessly of the virtues of service. My father was a military man through and through, almost every movie he loved and that I watched at his lap was about the military. The Great Escape, Where Eagles Dare, Kelly’s Heroes, the Green Berets, these were some of my father’s favorite movies as he somehow recaptured the kinship and bond he once had with his fellow naval mates through these films. To this day, when I watch these movies, my father’s memory invades my cortex and I am comforted by his once embracing hug. His adoration of the military transferred to me, I grew up in awe of anyone in a uniform and wanted in my heart to one day follow in the steps of my father.

But there was something beyond just my father and the raw power movies have in our lives that drew me to those who served. I would find out in time that my bloodline is full of war heroes who sacrificed endlessly defending their nation from would be colonial powers. My dad’s father Million Tedla was a Fitawrari  (vanguard commander) in Haile Selassie’s imperial guard who was beloved in Gonder, Ethiopia for his bravery and command as he resisted Mussolini’s fascist army. While Haile Selassie was in England, it was patriots and freedom fighters like Fitawrari Million Tedla who stayed behind and thwarted brown shirt tyranny. My grandfather on my mother’s side was also a patriot who fought against the Italian army; both of my parents were born from gallant men who put their lives on the line fighting mustard gas and tanks with outdated weapons and unimaginable valor.

Add to my two warrior grandfathers my grandmother on my mother’s side who also put her body between harm and Ethiopia’s children in order to defend her nation. My grandmother Yewebdare Abebe’s exploits were so renowned that Emperor Haile Selassie awarded her a medal of honor for the fortitude she displayed against the Italian army. The cruelty of life, with one hand Haile Selassie rewarded the valor of Yewebdare and with the other ordered the execution of Million Tedla—too much valor can be seen as a threat by those who harbor power. The valor I speak of, the courage and distinction of my grandmother is not the exception, just like everywhere else in the world, the hubris of men always pales in comparison to the quiet strength of women. That quiet strength erupted into fierce rebellion when Mussolini unleashed hell on my birth country,. Mussolini ordered the use of chemical weapons and terrorism that equaled the brutality of Hitler in order to fulfill his ambitions of joining the colonial club and to satiate his thirst for vengeance after the humiliation the Italians felt during the battle of Adwa a generations prior to the monster Il Duce birth. Yewebdare did her part by being part of the resistance; her story is no different than the story of countless men and women who refused to submit to oppression and rose up against those who tried to rob them of both dignity and freedom. We might give unto Caesar taxes but we—the totality of humanity from east to west, south to north—should always rise up against would be Caesars who monopolize power and accumulate wealth to squelch our God given right to freedom and happiness.

It’s no accident really, my connection to those who served their nation and who sacrificed gallantly to protect their country is infused with generation after generation of men and women who answered the call when the call came. Sometimes I feel a tinge of insignificance seeing how my ancestors fought and bled for their beliefs while I only pontificate from the sidelines as I fight against injustice. This bloodline of warriors goes back all the way to Atse Tewodros II, the emperor of Ethiopia who was a legendary tactician and a brilliant war strategist. He was able to unite Ethiopia through sheer tenacity befitting a Marine leatherneck and defended Ethiopia against aspiring colonists a century before World War II. This is the story of the world I guess, time cannot mend the brokenness of this planet as every century keeps witnessing malignant powers using benevolent intentions and duplicitous double-speak to shackle other nations into bondage.

So you see, my connection to veterans and those served is part and parcel of my genetic disposition. I myself once had the opportunity to serve America, my nation I now call home, as a pathway opened up for me to attend West Point. The joy that my father felt when he first saw the West Point offer was one that to this day I remember with full clarity. The opportunity to be among the greats was the reason my father sacrificed all to come to America—his son was about to be a West Point cadet and he could not stop gloating about it. I, being the rebellious teenager and caught up in seeking the validation of my school mates and fellow scofflaws, met his gloat with negligence. As he was driving himself to exhaustion working endless hours in his taxi only to go about town trying to collect endorsement letters from Senators and well known figures within the community, I was busy drinking alcohol, exhaling haze, and chasing girls. It was my SAT score that opened the door to West Point, my endless days of playing hooky and a sinking GPA likewise closed the door. It broke my dad’s heart when he realized that the dreams of his son attending West Point was no more. In time, disappointing my father in such a way and wasting the chance to become an Army officer would be the locus of my biggest regrets.

But life is serendipitous if nothing else, I ended up working as a consultant for the Department of Defense and in consulted with each branch of the military. One of my closest friends, Curtis Brumsfield, was an Army ranger who on more than one occasion stepped between me and harm during bygone days. Beyond Curtis, I had the blessing of meeting and befriending endless active duty military men and women and veterans. While working at Fort Belvoir in Virginia, I would head over to the NCO bar and revel in the endless stories veterans told of humor and hardship—comforting each other with silent salutes and compassionate embraces. I realized why my father loved the Navy so much and why he wanted me to attend West Point. I understand his dreams for me even more with the wisdom that comes from adversity and pains. These men and women bonded to such an extent because pain is the glue that binds one soul to the next.

Pain is the glue that binds one soul to the next. I had to repeat that because those words just made me pause and reflect, for it was pains that bonded me and stitched my heart with innumerable veterans over the past two years. Although I admitted to being indifferent at times in the past, there were other times—way before my life shattered from upper-middle class comforts to lower rung distress—that I would run into veterans on the streets of DC who were homeless and would have the most amazing conversations with them. Most people really are missing a lot as they judge homeless people based on class; some of the most intelligent and wise men and women are the very same ones we keep passing daily as we occasionally throw them change. One particular indigent veteran named Mr. Black became a fixture in my life for almost a year; he would tell me war stories from Vietnam right in the middle of 9th Street as he interlaced funny moments with the most heart breaking memories.

Little did I know that my interaction with Mr. Black was nothing more than a training ground, a boot camp of sorts, preparing me for what life had in store for me. And this is where I separate veterans and those who serve from my criticism and condemnation of the few who are serving all of us to the wolves. There is a bright red line between those who serve and those who perpetuate injustice. You don’t have to look too far, 50/50 chance that the next homeless person you meet in your city is a veteran. They feel the heat of injustice more than the rest of us, to have once bled for this nation and then be bled into the submission of impoverishment is a sin of the highest magnitude. As those who cheer for wars as they ring cash registers all the while living in opulence, those who suffered in the name of “freedom” are left to fend for themselves making homes of free cardboard boxes and newspapers.

For the rest of us, we are fed given pretenses of freedoms in order to give us a sense of control when we have none of it. Freedom of speech in America is no more and the American dream that my father sought is being relegated to the trash bin as our nation and really the entire world is being chewed up by pernicious oligarchs who deploy their billions to hire politicians and policy experts to turn this planet into a giant pyramid scheme—resources and wealth flowing from the 99% to a malignant few who feed on the rest of us. More and more people in the media know this and some of them would actually would say so on the record if they were actually brave enough to risk losing their jobs. This is not a theory I speak of, in time I will tell my story of what happens when one is a bit too effective in organizing people and speaking against power. I am only here writing this story because of the courage and valor of one Officer Beaufort from the Fairfax Police Department who stepped into the fire to pull me out of the inferno.

I do not know where to draw the line when it comes to culpability but I know one thing, I will never place responsibility of the hell that is being loosened on the world for the sake of money on the shoulders of veterans or those who serve. In fact, if I speak up against the monstrosity and cronyism in DC and Wall Street, I do so on behalf of the veterans I kept meeting in state after state who were broken by this bankrupt system. You see that picture above of the soldier shedding a tear as she salutes, her name is Alicia Watkins. She was a staff sergeant who served in Afghanistan only to come back home and become homeless. Her story is not the exception, more and more Alicia’s struggle is the rule. We ask these young men and women to put it all on the line to fight unjust wars;  in return we have them waiting in lines at the VA and soup kitchens when they return back from war.

The irony of life, the same way I once wanted to have camaraderie with soldiers and veterans, God protected me through painful adversity so that I could stand should to shoulder with soldiers and awe inspiring warriors through the basic training offered at Fort Homeless. It was at this fort that I found the embrace of the kindest and most giving veterans as they enveloped me with love replacing the void of those who skulked away when injustice arrived at my doorsteps. I don’t know if I could ever fully explain what I went through over the past two years, in so many ways I feel like Jonah swallowed up by a whale. Yet amidst this chagrin comes the clarity of an awesome God who placed me in His arms and protected me from harm. After 35 years in Northern Virginia, I sought refuge in the most unlikely places as fate and God’s grace took me to South Carolina.

It was in South Carolina that I met veteran after veteran who bracketed me with comfort and gave me friendship. The tinge of sadness and loss was ameliorated during the most trying time of my life because angels—most of them veterans—kept saluting me when I was feeling down. I learned one lesson during my time at the Pentagon and Fort Belvoir, civilians are not really supposed to salute those who serve for the act of saluting is really an act of saying “I too was there”. We should not trivialize this most profound gesture by letting overpaid athletes and vacuous stars abuse this act of fraternal bond. Yet as I hesitate to dare salute those who served, it brought tears to my eyes so many times when homeless veterans and struggling soldiers would keep saluting me even though I did not deserve it. One day, I told a veteran that one of my biggest regrets was never attending West Point and he responded “it’s God’s grace, maybe he was saving you for something greater.” This wisdom did not come from a pundit on TV but from a struggling veteran next to me.

We are living in tumultuous times where it seems the world is being set on fire through a mix of anger and avarice. Brother is being set against brother and sister is turning on sister as we are all being led to think that our adversary are those who look different than us. So in a way I am writing this not only to honor veterans but to also tell those of us who never served to pause and think. I too was once part of the outrage ranting against police officers for the injustices a few commit against many. But in honesty, it was a police officer who saved me and it was countless police officers in Greenville South Carolina—most of whom were veterans themselves—who befriended me. I will return one day to Greenville SC if only to thank the police department there for at once protecting me and sheltering me with kindness. We have a way on focusing on the few who do bad as we ignore the many, from veterans to police officers, who have it in their hearts to serve even if they are flawed just like the rest of us.

The enemy are not those who we are led to believe, all of us are in this together for we are all being oppressed by a few who benefit through our collective misfortunes. If we are going to fight against injustice, let us do so in a spirit of unity and oneness and understand that most of us have been enslaved by the system. Police officer after police officer I talked to over the past two years acknowledge that a few bad apples ruin it for the rest. This is not to dismiss the horrors of shooting unarmed men or running roughshod over innocent people but those of us who rightly see red when we are painted with a broad brush of stereotypes should be very careful about repaying that deed to others—the sins of a few does not taint the whole. In my heart I know that most police officers are good people who are doing their jobs even if they don’t agree with the status quo and most of them are also miffed by this runaway government that is taking from us to sustain themselves and enrich their corporate patrons. Paychecks make slaves out of many men; I once worked at Booz Allen Hamilton, a defense contractor, while I was ranting against the defense-financial complex. I was not willing to walk away from my job even as I was raging against the Iraq war. So why should I ask police officers to do the same, how many of you would walk away from your job in order to protest the excesses of Wall Street and corporatism. Pure idealists end up homeless, the rest of us rationalize in order to pay the rent.

Besides, know this one thing. There is a reason why all this animosity is being waged on the airwaves and why we are constantly being incited to act out in rage. Demagogues on all sides, from Republicans to Democrats and pundits of all stripes, are intentionally pushing us to the brink of open hostility for a purpose. As long as we let emotion blind us, it will be easier for the powerful to pillage us. Moreover—please pause to assess what I am saying next—the one thing that stands between an openly fascist government that will oppress us with impunity is the fact that we have a decentralized police force and veterans who are part and parcel of the community. So when the police departments across the nation are being centralized under the federal government—which is blatantly anti-constitutional—that should be a smoldering red flag. Add to that how we are being encouraged to dehumanize each other, various sides screaming and yelling past each other, there is a reason for this as well for it is easier to use brute force against those who have been dehumanized. Stop pointing fingers for pointed fingers eventually lead to pulled triggers. Extend a hand instead and interlock fingers with your supposed adversary and you will find out that your adversary is actually your friend.

Maybe we need to see each other less as adversaries and more like soldiers in the army of God. Our pains are interconnected and it’s only through our oneness we can make progress towards lessening injustice. So lets be less antagonistic towards one another and be more like battle friends who are all struggling in the warfare called life. Instead of being crabs clawing each other, lets unite and claw at the barrel of injustice. To the endless veterans who I was blessed to have met in countless states, thank you for the salutes you gave me over and over again and I return your salutes with a silent salute of my own. To Nick, the veteran who stays at the mission I’m at for the moment and continuously greets me with the sharpest of salutes, my father in my heart salutes you back trooper. To the one sergeant I ran into in DC in February on at the outset of my journey, first of all you are right, sergeants are the best for they are the leaders who walk and march at the front-lines with their men. Moreover, you were absolutely right about the most beloved position in the military being the cook because nobody wants to get on the cook’s bad side. I am a cook now feeding an army of broken men as I live with them; life is magical, what I missed at West Point I found in the midst of distress.

To the rest of veterans and current soldiers in America and really veterans throughout the world over, I thank you and pray for your health and wellness. May we stop wars because the only enemy we should be focused on is the enemy of hopelessness. There is no difference between us, irrespective of nationality, race, creed, religion or ideology, we are bonded by the love within us and the hope we have for our children. Veterans know this more than most for it takes the horror of wars to make us realize the bond of humanity that binds all 7.8 billion people throughout the world. These lessons I learned from my father, a once veteran, and countless veterans along this journey called life. I will forever be grateful for the kindness and friendship countless veterans have imparted in my soul. I did not have to attend West Point to join in the army of a greater power and that is the blessing behind that burden I see now that I am looking for it. I was blessed to have made friends with noble men and women who had holes in their shoes but whose hearts were made of gold. Any man can pick up a gun but only a true soldier of God can return malice with love and give kindness above all to a world that is badly in need of it. #SilentSalute

Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”   ~ Ecclesiastes 4:9-12  (this verse was told to me by an army veteran at the outset of my journey to South Carolina on a greyhound bus)

Silent Salute 

To the soldiers who sacrificed
Did their duty without asking
I express outrage against injustice
Over immoral wars and endless carnage
I am speaking out for you in the process
 
Veterans in the end understand one thing
Their fellow men were never their enemy
To this day fierce rivals from past conflicts
Embrace after the last bullets have been fired
 
Soldiers salute and do their duty that is best
The sorrows they go through alone
Trauma induced by bodies and reduced humanity
Only to come back home and encounter Satan’s embrace
 
Flash backs prompting cold sweats
Bullets and blood droplets
Too much for the mind to process
Those who die in wars are fortunate
It’s the veterans, the survivors
Who carry the burdens of these remembrances
 
Fallen comrades and innocent children
Indiscriminately swallowed whole by turbulence
Tears mixing with blood stains
Cries drowned out by battle drums
War is humanity’s utmost blemish
 
Concealed by propaganda and theatrics
Patriotism birthing negligence
Our conscience is subverted into ignorance
As we enjoy disengagement’s bliss
Veterans suffer depression’s kiss
Politicians, profiteers and Hollywood
Glorifying war horrors by bending reality
Obfuscating suffering with special effects and rhetoric
 
But to the soldier their truth is the opposite
Rat-tat-tat-tat bullets shattering God’s presence
Untold masses disappearing into graves and silence
We wave flags thanking them for service
They shiver alone bearing the cost of compliance
Final judgments by way of triggers and buttons
 
Only to come back home
Shock and awe replaced by shock trauma
Nightmares that never end
Being continually transported back to mayhem
The battle field redrawn into the mind’s synapses
Piercing quietness with shrieks and terrors
 
Spouses who grow estranged
Children unable to comprehend
Concern pixelating into absence
Loneliness the only friend that remains
The proud and few become islands
Invisible wounds breaking cognizance
This is why so many end up homeless
Many more embracing suicide’s cuddle
Despair muffles life and blends into darkness
To be met by society’s mind numbing indifference
 
We step over them daily
Once warriors turned into the indigent
Salutes being returned with diffidence
Yet in this silence I stand for you
May God forever bless you
Where you are broken
May you mend into fullness
 
Sergeant Black in DC
Vietnam War survivor
Gunny Stevens in Greenville
Korean War survivor
Derrick in Colorado
Iraq War survivor
Frank in Ankeny Iowa
World War II survivor
Countless others who I have met
Had the honor of sharing meals with
May your struggles be fleeting
But your blessings be eternal
In silence I salute you

Exodus

My life has been a journey
Full of moments implausible
I used to joke not too long ago
That I was the Ethiopian Forrest Gump
Then the surreal took a turn to the truly sublime
As my life was touched and injured by malevolence

Always one to be outspoken
God gave me a talent to reach people
And communicate in ways that moved them
It was in this light I got involved in darkness
And thought I could make change through politics

I decided to be a disciple of false prophet
worked harder to get the “first black President” elected
than most who were getting paid for it
as I busted my ass for free uttering “Yes We Can”
to the point of driving myself into a rut of exhaustion
I could trade war stories with his hardest campaign staffers

I believed in America we had the freedom of expression
Irony that my exodus would erupt
Because of the very man I broke my back to elect
It seems demagoguery pays well
But speaking too loudly of unity
And exposing the hypocrisy of our government’s policies
Those are electric rails that burn violently

Many will disregard my plight
Too many will choose to believe otherwise
I too, not long ago, refused to comprehend
The dangers of authority with unlimited powers

We have grown too accustomed to the tyranny of the few
As we give up liberties for security
that is intentionally disrupted
Freedom is a chimera and a pretense completely
We don’t understand the pervasive nature
of powerful bureaucracies that see us as the enemy
for nothing is more dangerous to tyranny
than the masses who finally awake and rise up
to the excesses of a corrupt and corrosive regiment

I had the audacity to question authority
Lo and behold my life was derailed completely
I could not explain in twenty books
though I met many who stood witness
like officer Beaufort with Fairfax PD
and one of Obama’s state directors
of the predicaments that I faced
As I high tailed it from DC to South Carolina
To get away from harassment
It was an exodus in my own country
That revealed to me the true nature of a collective struggle

What I experienced was poverty that saw no color
Of hopelessness that defies the isms that divide us
Black and white became inconsequential
the schisms of religion and denominations disappear
when everyone is fighting hunger and despondency
As fathers and mothers of all hues and complexion
I observed barely able to feed their own sons and daughters

It was my travels and travails that taught me a lesson
Though it’s hard to speak a common language
When the status quo is pervasively trying to divide us
Humanity is the connective tissue that binds
I shed politics instantly in light of my circumstances
In the process I got mugged into reality

Life’s most painful lesson taught me of snakes in our midst
Who prosper through our disunion
And exposed the repulsive nature
of demagogues before us
who pretend to be about us
while making a killing stoking our individual grievances

I went from seeking justice through the prism of race
To seeing injustice is an onerous burden
that derails indiscriminately
equality is found at the bottom rungs of society
The same oppression that tramples on the hopes
The aspirations of brown people in Chicago
Are the very same repressions that crumbles the dreams
Of Caucasian farmers in Kansas
The very same forces that snuff out hope globally

Don’t let hucksters on TV deceive
They get paid to blind not edify you
They prosper through our misery
Sowing grievance to individual races
In order to bamboozle the masses

The mass majority protesting with anger and despair
Yet it’s divide and conquer that pits one brother against another
If all people irrespective of ideology could gain cognition
Their voices are pleading for the same outcome and recognition

Republican
Democrat
Black
White
Christian
Muslim
Jew
Hindu
Believer
Atheist

Invisible borders erected before us
that makes us yell past each other
they fracture us into encampments
to keep us enslaved in perpetual stasis
Separating common allies into adversaries
Colonialism is practiced in America too
Tribalism, dividing one from another
In order to plunge the masses into affliction

It took a cognitive dissonance of the harshest kind
A blow where my life was turned inversely
An injury of the deepest cut
Soul sucking heartache drenched in tears
To make me see the ways of injustice
And understand with clarity the ways of the wicked

From taking part in writing one of his most renowned speeches
That Obama uttered as if he wrote it personally
As he seduced the masses at his South Carolina speech in 2008
I was invited to cover the DNC convention in 2012
Fifty feet from the President in Charlotte
Summoned to Chicago for the launching of Organizing for America
Three votes away from being his state delegate
Recognized for being an invaluable asset to his election

All the sudden I was caught in a maelstrom
seen as a nuisance for having the temerity to demand justice
For the land of my birth and the policies of this government
as they flood my native land with weaponry
backing thugs and stealing the resources of the people

It’s the foreign policy of our nation
that makes the lives of many in Ethiopia unbearable
and those globally quiver in the darkness of dejection
Don’t think what is done in our name overseas
Is not practiced on all of us here in America
Our government transformed and morphed
into a front for the corporate agenda
patriotism and the suffering of veterans used
to mask the naked greed of vile billionaires

Now I understand the fraudulence of our politics
And the dangers of a power unchecked
A media that pays lip service to keeping politicians honest
As they get drunk and party with the same officials they parrot
Washington DC a swamp of incestuous relationships
Literally fucking each other as they screw all of us
Where influence is traded like currency and condoms
It took the cruelest cut and a Jobian predicament
An exodus of unreal proportions
From DC to Greenville on a greyhound bus
For me to see the despotism of my own government

I too once disregarded the plight of others
Dismissed their “ramblings” as theories of conspiracy
Until theory coagulated into reality
All the sudden I discovered to my biggest dismay
the dangers of a junta in DC run amok
Crooks work by deflection
Pickpockets succeed by the thump of distractions
The powerful have perfected the playbook
Of creating confusion and hatred
In order to fleece the entirety of all of us

And no I’m not speaking of a third world government
I’m not alluding to dictators in foreign lands
The truest threat to liberty
Is the very government we keep voting into power on a regular basis
Every four years, they all come around promising hope and change
Leaving nothing but change in our pockets
and hope turning into sandwiches we feed our children
yet partisanship blinds us to this duplicity
turning on each other based on party and isms
while the rich and powerful laugh at us collectively

It seems that every revolution
Devolves into the same despotism
that gave birth to it in the first place
and the revolution of 1776 is no different
As the corrupt politician and wolves in DC
Keep using the lies of national security
To hide the scope of their economic thievery
If you want the essence of terrorism
Look to those who rob people of their life’s saving
By means of bogus monetary and fiscal policies

Wake up my brothers and sisters regardless of your ethnicity
Skin is superficial it’s our struggle that unites us as a people
Stop fighting each other and realize the ties that bind
Or else you too in time will experience your own exodus
As dissonance mugs you into cold reality
For you are only one paycheck away
Another manufactured recession
Before you understand that poverty is color blind

Let my experience be a cautious tale
Disregard politics and isms
Forget the barriers meant to cleave you from one another
Trust not the politicians who sow discord for a reason
Regardless of their political party or identification
Their sole purpose is to bleed you into subservience
Collecting checks from their rich overloads
While giving you smiles and fraudulence by the boatload

Stop worshiping the famous and powerful
who make a living from the burdens they rail against

Reclaim your sovereignty from those who prosper from dissension
Regardless of race, gender, religion or lack of it
Unite around the concept of humanism above all
In the end stand with your neighbor
The enemy is not the one you are led to believe

As for me I am blessed
Though I don’t understand God’s will
And the pain of losing everything
Having nothing but my faith in God’s promise
Walking in solitary sorrow
Is painful in ways I could never have imagined

Yet I trust things will work in His accord
Struggle I have seen many
And this too shall pass in due time
What was taken will be restored
I’m not talking about money
For what I yearn for is equality for our children
Consequences I fear no longer
Let me die speaking my truth
Instead of cowering in lies for the sake of existence
It’s through an exodus that I found my purpose
In the end, it will be God’s will that will be done::

~ The two poems are excerpts from Serendipity’s Trace, a book of our common struggles and connective hopes. Search “Serendipity’s Trace” on Amazon or “Teodrose Fikre” to find the the book  or click on the picture below ~

Meet Alicia Watkins, the once homeless veteran pictured above #SilentSalute

Teodrose Fikre
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Teodrose Fikre

Founder at Ghion Journal
Teodrose Fikre is a published author and a prolific writer whose speech idea was incorporated into Barack Obama's south Carolina victory speech in 2008. Once thoroughly entangled in politics and a partisan loyalist, a mugging by way of reality shed political blinders from Teodore's eyes and led him on a journey to fight for universal justice.

Teodrose was born in Ethiopia the same year Emperor Haile Selassie was deposed by the communist Derg junta. The great grandson five generations removed of Atse (emperor) Tewodros Kassa II, the greatest king of Ethiopia, Teodrose is clearly influenced by the history and his connection to Ethiopia. Through his experiences growing up as first generation refugee in America, Teodrose writes poignantly about the universal experiences of joys, pains and a hope for a better tomorrow that binds all of humanity.

Teodrose has written extensively about the intersection of politics, economic policies, identity, and history. He is the author of "Serendipity's Trace" and newly released "Soul to Soil", two works that inspect the ways we are dissected as a people and shows how we can overcome injustice through the inclusive vision of togetherness.
Teodrose Fikre
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