The Past Is Not Pristine: A Response Poem To Hate In America


If Jim Morrison were still alive today
he’d be fat and bald and singing Katy Perry songs in Vegas
You know he would
and Janis would be a host on the View
hangin’ out with Whoopie and bowing down
in slavish sycophancy
at the altar of Kanye and Kim
You know she would
And John Lennon would be side to side with Dylan
pimpin’ Super Bowl Chevrolets
with the desiccated dregs
of their fading talent and fame
You know they would

I mean, the past is not pristine
We look back, again and again
through rose colored glasses
at the generations past and like to think
that they were pure and clean and tidy
but come on now, take a cold, hard look
they were a mess
they were a laughingstock
they were a disaster
just like you
just like me
just like all of us
take a look at the person to your right
they’re a disaster
take a look at the person to your left
they’re a disaster
now take a look in the mirror
what do you see?
a disaster, that’s what you see
but when you and me and everyone you know
are dead and gone and in our graves
we’ll all be remembered
as angels and superstars
you know we will

‘Cause everything looks better in hindsight
but the past is not pristine
the past was not simple and easy
or straight black and white
and contrary to popular opinion
there were no good ol’ days
of chocolate malts and apple pie
of small towns and honest morals
of family and friends and the good life, right there
within everyone’s reach
there were no good ol’ days at all

When you say,
“Let’s go back
to the good ol’ days.”

Do you mean the good ol’ days
when marriage was sacred
between one man and one woman?
when the Mexicans stayed in Mexico
and left the good ol’ US of A to us?
when women knew their place
was in the kitchen
or in the bedroom
on their knees?
when colored folk were free to choose
between staying on the farm
or hangin’ from a tree?
Is that what you mean when you say,
“Let’s go back
to the good ol’ days.”?

‘Cause those good ol’ days
may have been good
for rich
but they weren’t so fuckin’ hot
for anybody else

You see, the past is not pristine
for African-Americans or lesbian-Americans
for Mexican-Americans or Guatemalan-Americans
it’s not pristine
for impoverished Americans or transgender-Americans
for atheist-Americans or Muslim-Americans

The past is not pristine
and if you’re still able to examine our history
and see tended gardens and sparkling cobblestone streets
then maybe you should look at your hands
because the dirt has got to go somewhere
doesn’t it?