Saturday, January 04, 2014

"A dead man’s dream" by Carl Wendell Hines Jr.

Now that he is safely dead,
Let us praise him.
Build monuments to his glory.
Sing Hosannas to his name.

Dead men make such convenient heroes.
For they cannot rise to challenge the images
That we might fashion from their lives.
It is easier to build monuments
Than to build a better world.

So now that he is safely dead,
We, with eased consciences will
Teach our children that he was a great man,
Knowing that the cause for which he
Lived is still a cause
And the dream for which he died is still a dream.
A dead man’s dream.

Carl Wendell Hines Jr. “Now That He Is Safely Dead.” (1971)

Comment: When Hines wrote this poem he was lamenting the memorialization of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's legacy - particularly the parts that obscured his political critique and message.

The poem has since been used to make the same point about Malcolm X's legacy and it is not a stretch to do the same for Gandhi, Steve Biko and Nelson Mandela among others.

I would even go so far as to say this poem can be applied to the Prophets Jesus and Mohammed whose political messages have been largely blunted by the obscuring power of institutionalized religion and the associated navel-gazing punters of so called faith.


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