Pity the Nation

by  Wang Ping
A close photograph of a protestor, whose red bandana reads Missing and Murdered
Photo: Hulleah Tsinhnahjinnie

after Ferlinghetti

Pity the nation whose freedom melts faster than
Arctic ice
Whose justice defends sex predators & puts children
in jail.
Pity the nation that sells academia into corporate
Whose presidents scream “Not enough” with their
million-dollar package
Who hike up tuitions to shackle students with debts
Who turn professors into adjuncts and intellectual
Pity the nation branding youths with Divide &
Conquer logos
Who learn how to get rewards by ordering WOC
professors to “take down the syllabi!”
Calling them “racists & appropriators” as public
Pity the nation whose education becomes “just
Its giant machine squeezing hefty tuitions from
Chinese and other Asians
Who sell blood and kidneys to send their children to
America for a degree.
Oh pity the nation whose president churns lies like
Whose students get presidential awards for libeling
Grandpas from the Rez
For yelling “you should feel lucky I find your words
good enough to plagiarize”
To her professors who try to teach academic integrity.
Pity the nation as her Lady weeps for children filling
up the cages along the border
Her torch stolen to slow-burn the soles, palms, and
tongues of defiant students.
Pity the nation that bans professors from campus and
rewards cheaters and mediocrity
That condemns poetry for “manipulating emotions”
That bullies truth into silence
That gags science, deletes data, exiles facts into
That wires classrooms with eyes and ears to break
Oh pity the nation that builds its high tower upon the
bones of the Natives, slaves, coolies, Asian American
scholars, LGTBQ artists, immigrant poets . . .
Oh pity!
Oh let’s pity the nation with actions!
Let’s stand together for truth.
Freedom is never free.
Freedom takes courage, our flesh and spirit.
But it’s worth it.
It’s our reason to live—with tears of joy, joy of pride
In this land of the free and brave.

Wang Ping has published thirteen books of poetry and prose. She’s the recipient of NEA, Bush, Lannan, and McKnight fellowships, director of the Kinship of Rivers project, and professor of English at Macalester College. Her multimedia exhibitions include Behind the Gate: After the Flood of the Three Gorges and We Are Water: Kinship of Rivers.