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  • Writer's pictureJohn Patrick Starling

The Better Part of U.S.

-Requiem for hardened hearts


For the better part of

Two hundred fifty years, 

And longer still…

There's been this struggle among us, 

An epic test of wills that, like so many far off wars

That never will be won, but

By the setting of the Sun,

And the beginning of the day, anew.

Night is coming across our land

And again, it's time to choose a side, be 

Declarative about your Constitution,

Who you are.

And where you stand.

Sixteen Twenty? Sixteen Nineteen? 

Who knows nowadays which came first, 

America's "original" - or aboriginal sin.

And where, and why did it all begin?

A pure hearted pilgrimage gone bad

Pale faced, poxed and suffering refugees 

Arrive "at last, at last…"

And still they die in tens of scores, 

Widows, marry widowers, and 

Swaddle the infant of yet another

Mother whose husband also died…

They buried her well outside the village, 

Wrapped in blankets, 

So the men who dug the grave

wouldn't touch the open sores.

And in Jamestown, there were already slaves.

"It's good country, new, and vast, and fertile -

If a little wild  - and overgrown with savages, 

But this land is our land, and the slaves will tame it for us

And the Indians are dying off as fast as we can kill them anyway, so

The only thing remaining is, what shall we name it?"

God called upon some of us, 

But not the better of us 

To hold his fellow man, woman and child  in human bondage

Tethered to each other in iron chains, and separated 

For financial gains, because…

"...we need a breeder, and that girl child -

We don't yet need her...

Just another 'nigger' mouth to feed."

And so, they were sold, off 

To separate plantations.

This is how oppressors build wealthy nations.

But, come Sunday go-to-church, sit and listen 

To the new preacher use the Old Testament,

To justify, and testify that...

"In this great State, in which 

We have finally found ourselves,

As in Biblical times…

This is the Will of God.

After the service the children are welcome to play together 

As long as it's with their own kind."

The girls skip ropes, and share their hopes

And squeal, as the boys try to push each other down

And then they clasp their hands together saying 

"This is the church

And this is the steeple…"

But some of God's children,

Weren't people. 

Seventeen-hundred and seventy six

Some stood for, and some stood against 

This "Word of God",  but all argued His meaning, 

Our reason, economies, and leanings

Throwing words like cannon balls. 

Foreshadowing battles to come

They faced off together in ale houses

And hallowed halls.

Quaker abolitionist argued 

From the highest rafters of the New Covenant…

Down to the simple, sturdy craftsmanship 

Of the table, set upon the wooden floor.

They remained locked, 

In rhetorical battle with their Southern counterparts,

Like so many doors.

And finally…

Chained together in the indelible ink of history, 

Of common threat, and thusly common cause…  

They reckoned themselves once and for all

To be "Free men", and therefore self-determined.

And so, it was settled.

We settled.

So the Southern landed gentlemen, and 

The poor white folk beneath of them, could maintain 

Their property rights, and dignity, and 

Standing in society, forever more.

"We are endowed by our Creator 

To be of two races, of which we are the greater.

Our superiority is plain to see, and evidenced by Divine Providence… 

For we are not the ones in chains."

Are we not?

I think that question still remains

To be answered.

Contempt for the suffering, and suffrage of others 

Is a long untreated cancer of the soul

From which, there honestly may be no cure. 

Except to treat each other, and thus our selves well,

With love and compassion 

And the constitution to endure.

For if we seek the better part of us 

There is salvation on God's golden shore, an end

To the wheel of Dharma that keeps us wanting  

More, and more 

And more.


It's complicated.

We're a mixed and mottled nation, 

Battered, bruised, and yes… 

In some ways broken.

But, unbowed.

We are red, white, black and blue.

We are brown, and we are Asian.

And we are brave - and we've been "yellow" too.

Drafting an army, and napalming our way through

The jungles of South East Asia, just doing what we do.

While little white men talked big shit in Washington, while

Dodging what they all knew, to be self-evident - and true.

That love is the answer. 

And if you cannot see that... 

I wish you only rest, and peace,

You must be exhausted.

Contempt fatigues the soul, and

Hate is hard work...

Categorizing other humans, 

In order not to be the least.

It requires so much effort

To hold each other down, while

So high above the - "other".

I'll admit that it takes strength, but 

That's strength that you could use for all of us

A strength that truly makes you stronger.

Some would argue, and 

I'm among those who would,

That love itself is what constitutes these United States

And holds U.S. together, when we begin to drift apart.

Falling far from the message of Christ

And the better angels of our Creator, our 

Declaration, Constitution, creed and code.

That we are bound together, not by the chains of history

But by the moral imperative to shoulder each other's load, well

Into the future.

If I could, I'd go back in time…

Not to right the wrongs of peoples past

But to you, when you were a just child,

I'd sit you on my lap and listen to you cry

And let you tell me who it was 

That hurt you so bad that time - and why?

Or listen to the sorry stories you were told,

Passed down to you like Gospel gold from your family tree

From which you're dead certain your vindication will someday be hung-

A notch above the big limb where "them coloreds" used to be strung.

But child, that tree is gone to ground now, and

Those sap stories are getting old, but 

I'd listen thoughtfully… 

To the victim stories you were told.

And maybe we'd discover then, 

that "he" or "she" or "they" or "them"…

All those people that have hurt you,

They've all been hurt by someone too,

They hurt just like me, and

They hurt just like you.

And no it isn't fair what happened, that 

Dimmed the better part of you, and 

Dulls the better part of U.S. - but that's over now

And it's time to choose, in which "God We Trust".

You my lost and lonely child have this 

Golden chance for freedom

That comes with each morning Sun

Arriving as the simple Truth 

For you to reject, or behold. 

Before you get too old 

And set in your ways. 

Before the end of days, 

Before the darkness 

Settles in your ageless soul. 

Breathe the past in deeply

Exhale… and let it go.

Let it all go, 

And start anew

White people.  

Start anew 

Black people. 

Brown people. 

Red, and yellow people too.

Take a good honest breath, and

Let it go into the wind… 

Into the trees, and the rivers - and 

Back to the wandering seas.

Back from whence we came, 

Be it across the Middle Passage, 

The Northern Atlantic, 

Or the Bearing Strait.

Back before we started keeping score,

With colored spray, or finger paints

On the sides of the walls we've built between us,

And long before that… our fire-lit caves.

Back before we were all slaves.

I'd travel with you, if I could,

And intercept your childhood, and

Shine a brighter light, and lend my voice

Not of reason, fact or faith

But, to help you make a better choice

In that moment when you so unwittingly resigned

Yourself to trading love for hate.

I'd hold you gently, and redirect you, 

Warning sternly of your fate

And how it so weakens U.S. 

One and all…

And will someday consume the best of you.

But not the better of U.S. all.

~John Patrick Starling

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