Dare to Share? (Thanksgiving Thoughts)

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By Arjun Janah


I wander off, from working life, to see and hear what’s new,
And here is what I find — which now is openly in view.
I see the people in two camps (though some are in-between)
And one of them is calling for an ending that’s obscene.
They’re calling for the cops to do what those for hire do best,
To beat up on the ones who dare, their binding chains, to test.
But since the ones who’re testing are these students, who are white,
Or women who are white as well, this gives the rest a fright.
For pepper spray and rods and boots, when used on those who’re darker
Or poorer may be quite okay — and safely out of sight,
Or even guns and bullets, used when we’re asleep at night,
But when it’s done in daylight, with reporters gathered near,
To those who’re lighter, richer — why, then some refuse to cheer,
Though others still approve — and only wish they’d done it sooner.
To both these camps, the other one is certifiably lunar!
And here’s what those in power are now thinking. Hear them say,
To others of their kind, “Let’s stop this wretched thing, today!
“For if some question, what was held for longest time as true,
Then what’s to save some other things from critical review?
We bomb the regions far away — and people burn in hells.
But see, there are no pictures and that story, no one tells.
But what to do when people rise up here, in this, our street,
Or merely sit — near places where we one-percenters meet?
They circumvent the ban on mikes by echoing together!
They point out things that no one did without the tar and feather!
They even give out food and books — and people pause to think…
They’re rodents! If not driven out, this ship of ours might sink!
So hear our drums of war and how we beat them, till at last
Our lust for blood is satisfied. But has the danger passed?
Oh no! These books they distribute, in public in the square,
Must now be gone! And so must those, who advocate we share!”
I wondered off, from working life, and this I saw and heard.
I wondered loud, if rich should share. But I was called a turd.
But here is what some others said, who came to my defense,
And what they said, to me at least, made somewhat better sense.
“Remember that the ones who lived, in this, our bounteous land,
Remembered those who came by ship, but did not understand
The land or cultures that were here. They were, by climate, beaten
And surely would have perished — as do all who haven’t eaten
The season long. But natives came — and gave, it’s said, of maize,
Of turkey and of other things. This did the saved amaze
And they gave thanks (as we still do) not to the ruddy “Indians”
But to their God, their Savior Christ, in these, their new “dominions”.
And natives gave them implements — and other things they needed,
For they were used to sharing all — and those, in trouble, heeded.
But when one needed something back, and asked, this raised a fever
On those who understood him not, and called him, “Indian giver!”
And so it’s been. They’re vanished now, the ones who knew to share…
But should, in turn, these folk depart — who now, to sharing, dare?
Babui / Arjun
2011 November 24th, Th. (Thanksgiving Day)

Author: Shahidul Alam

Time Magazine Person of the Year 2018. A photographer, writer, curator and activist, Shahidul Alam obtained a PhD in chemistry before switching to photography. His seminal work “The Struggle for Democracy” contributed to the removal of General Ershad. Former president of the Bangladesh Photographic Society, Alam set up the Drik agency, Chobi Mela festival and Pathshala, South Asian Media Institute, considered one of the finest schools of photography in the world. Shown in MOMA New York, Centre Georges Pompidou, Royal Albert Hall and Tate Modern, Alam has been guest curator of Whitechapel Gallery, Winterthur Gallery and Musee de Quai Branly. His awards include Mother Jones, Shilpakala Award and Lifetime Achievement Award at the Dali International Festival of Photography. Speaker at Harvard, Stanford, UCLA, Oxford and Cambridge universities, TEDx, POPTech and National Geographic, Alam chaired the international jury of the prestigious World Press Photo contest. Honorary Fellow of Royal Photographic Society, Alam is visiting professor of Sunderland University in UK and advisory board member of National Geographic Society. John Morris, the former picture editor of Life Magazine describes his book “My journey as a witness”, (listed in “Best Photo Books of 2011” by American Photo), as “The most important book ever written by a photographer.”

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