Six thousand years — the lifespan of civilization.
And in that time, one generation brings to life
the generation to follow. Mothers brood over little ones.
Fathers teach right from wrong. Parents, as best they can,
train their offspring not to be brutes,
curbing their little cruel impulses, their selfish desires.
And throughout these ages the wise ones took in hand
a slender sprig, a bending reed, a small instrument,
to correct the little ones who went astray,
to teach them early that they must answer for their actions.
The wisdom of the ages.
Generation passing to generation a heritage of lessons gathered:
self-control, respect, justice, even compassion —
lessons never learned apart from suffering.
And yet a generation comes, detached from those before,
needing no wisdom from the past, self-assured,
men of power, men in suits, making their decrees
in a remote place:
Do not tread the ancient path! Do not teach the old lessons!
Abandon the time-tested ways! Forsake the wisdom of the ages!
And for those who do not abandon the ways of civilization,
they send out the enforcers — armed men
to tear nursing babes from their mother’s breast
and children from their parents
who walk in the ancient ways.
And the children do not rebel against the injustice.
They have been trained with the reed-like rod
to obey and show respect,
to control themselves and wait.
But what would you do, enforcers, if the children said no?
What would you do, remote men in suits,
if they resisted you
tearing apart the bond of their family?
Would you beat them with your night stick?
Would you shoot them with your gun?
Would you fry them with your taser?
Would you lock them in a cage?
Would you chain them up in shackles?
Would you dull their minds with drugs?
What if they preferred
the chastisement of a parent
to your display of force —
you who forbid the ancient ways
We learned subsequent to writing this poem that our question had been answered. See the post, “Question Answered.”
We learned the judges would order the use of force and the police would obey these orders if the children said no. There are nations in the world where the possibility of saying no for conscience sake is being denied. In the past these nations have been called totalitarian. Amazing a number of such nations are still called “liberal democracies.”
Words don’t mean so much any more, it seems.
This poem forms the narrative background for our video, “When the Spanking Stopped, All Hell Broke Loose.”