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Stand and Burn

(Claudia Boleyn, 2014)

I wrote 'Stand and Burn' in 2014, when I had first become immersed in social justice and the dynamics of oppression. I'd always felt strongly about the way those that stood up for a cause were so easily dismissed by those in power - and how their advice of 'be polite and things will change' really seemed to mean: 'shut up and be quiet'. 

Today, I am publishing it here, having discovered that President Donald Trump has threatened the people of America with military action. I have been watching the #BlackLivesMatter protests, and this cause has my full support. When the people rise up against the murder of innocents, based on nothing more than the colour of their skin - they are told that THEY are the ones disrupting the peace. Yet how can a 'peace' where black people are shot down by police exist? That is no peace. 

Today I see the same arguments that I wrote this poem about resurfacing. That the anger of the oppressed is to their detriment, that it must be swallowed, that they must respond with more dignity, more diplomacy, than everyone else. That they mush carry themselves as angels, not swear, not shout, not rage at the countless murder of innocents, not show a single human emotion - in order to be allowed a seat at the table. 

It is my belief that the marginalised should not be required to beg, plead, convince, and educate, in order to be given their basic human rights. Those rights belong to all people, they are not there to be given out by the powerful, as a reward for good behaviour. 

The powerful can kill with impunity, but the oppressed can have their concerns and mistreatment dismissed because of the looting

of a minority. The stealing of material items warrants military intervention, and further death - yet there is no justice for those murdered by the police. In America, and here too, in Britain, it seems capitalism is worth more than human life - when it comes to minorities at least. 

When we tell minorities they must react perfectly in order to be listened to, we deny them the messy humanity we all possess. We hold them to a higher standard, even in their grief. To my mind that is deeply wrong. 

I pray there will be justice. 

I once told a joke about a straight person.

They came after me in droves.

Each one singing the same:

Don’t fight fire with fire.

*

What they mean is: Don’t fight fire with anything.

Do not fight fire with water.

Do not fight fire with foam.

Do not evacuate the people.

Do not sound the alarms.

Do not crawl coughing and choking and spluttering to safety.

Do not barricade the door with damp towels.

Do not wave a white flag out of the window.

Do not take the plunge from several storeys up.

Do not shed a tear for your lover trapped behind a wall of flame.

Do not curse the combination of fuel, heat, and oxygen.

Do not ask why the fire fighters are not coming.

*

When they say: Don’t fight fire with fire.

What they mean is: Stand and burn.

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