President Ronald Reagan looks straight ahead
and says, Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.
And 29 months later,
the sledgehammers pound.
A wall falls and East and West come together
while the whole world celebrates a Cold War won.
In history class, a teenage girl stares bleary-eyed at her textbook
imagining a day when walls might no longer be necessary.
Wondering what it would be like to walk the halls
without feeling like the Starship Enterprise on red alert, battle shields raised
waiting for an inevitable attack from Buffy and her cling-on groupies.
That band of bullying Borg against whom all resistance is futile.
Their words are rhetorical razor blades that slice so severely
that a slash across the wrists seems pure bliss by comparison.
Given time, rushing water wears down even the strongest rock
until nothing but sand and gravel remain.
A torrent of words can carve the perceptions of a teen girl
like a hot knife through butter.
Slut. Whore. Ugly. Fat.
They hit like sledgehammers.
Until pride chips.
The person she is and the budding woman she was are divided.
And they celebrate victory in this coldest war
While the weight of the world
sucks her deeper into the quicksand of depression.
Each day becomes a marathon.
Each act, another straw heaved upon the camel's back.
If perception is reality, how many times can one be
A target before they start to share the perception?
Rebecca Sedwick, Ashlynn Conner, Angel Green.
Let their names be the latest chimes of the memorial bell.
Let us listen to its alarm before we all go to Hell.
Let their ghosts haunt the soul of every criminal coward
Who ever mocked or stalked.
Of every person who has ever laughed instead of speaking out.
Let their loss be the salve that heals this nation
from even one more teenager having to endure.
All it takes for evil to prevail
is for good people to do nothing.
And we are doing a whole lot of nothing.
How many times have we turned away, pretending not to hear,
because it’s safer than stepping into the bulls-eye
to stand up for what is right?
How many times have we protected such acts behind the
conveniently crafted linguistic shield of “developing character”?
How often have we exacerbated anguish by telling someone
To just ignore it, thereby allowing the injustice to persist?
How long will we remain blind to the 160,000 children
who avoid going to school every day in this nation
because they’re too afraid of what they might hear.
Or see. Or have done to them.
School shootings happen infrequently,
but just one triggers days of Congressional debate,
national days of mourning and calls for action.
Words are the daily weapon of choice
And we conveniently ignore the thousands of lives
all filled with potential – all cut short --
as we allow the epidemic to continue.
What do we tell the next teenage girl who longs for acceptance,
but finds only assault on her esteem?
Sorry doesn’t begin to compensate for a suicide rate
nine times higher than the national average.
That’s the legacy we’re handing our daughters.
That’s the failure we’re achieving in so-called civilized society.
That’s why walls are built.
They are the final acts of desperate people
shutting themselves in to escape external pain.
We need to do more.
We need to come together
rather than divide.
We need to speak out
rather than staying secure in silence.
We need to love others
for who they are so that everyone,
not just the lucky ones,
can grow up to become
all they can be.
America. Tear down these walls.
Render them obsolete.