Declaration of Interdependence: Poems for an Election Year

by Janet Wong

I pledge acceptance
of the views,
so different,
that make us America

To listen, to look,
to think, and to learn

One people
sharing the earth
for liberty
and justice
for all.

copyright ©2012 by Janet S. Wong

This poem appears in Declaration of Interdependence: Poems for an Election Year and was also included by Caroline Kennedy in her anthology Poems to Learn by Heart.

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Like many people, I am not into politics. Civil liberties, human rights, social justice—these are good words, but they always have been just words to me. Some people go absolutely crazy, foaming at the mouth, with talk about the Constitution. I would rather talk about puppies.

I feel angry when I hear about unfairness and bigotry, the powerful taking advantage of the weak. The thing is, though, I have never witnessed anything horrible. I have never seen someone beaten bloody, tortured to talk. In other parts of the world, you might get your tongue cut off for speaking truth that the police did not want to hear. Lose your hand without so much as a trial. In other parts of the world, a twelve-year-old girl might be sold as a bride, to pay off her family’s debt. If I lived in a place like that, I bet I would be more political. But I live in the suburbs of New Jersey. My biggest problems are bad air conditioning and too much traffic. Wait: Maybe these are my biggest problems because I live in a place where the government allows people to foam at the mouth over the Constitution.

What would happen if I went to the supermarket and there were only two checkout lines, one for men and one for women? In another country, the people in power might say, “So what?” In this country, our civil liberties give us voice. We can complain, we can picket, we can sue, we can shut the store down. Separate is not equal in that context. What would happen if I went to the doctor with a serious condition that would change my life forever—but the doctor was afraid to help me because it was against the law? I would ask, “Is that law justified?” In this country, we can challenge unconstitutional laws.

I hope my words inspire you to look around, to read the papers, to talk about what’s going on in the world, to vote (or encourage people to vote)—and to take the initiative to contribute, in your own best way.

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