Langston Hughes has a poem entitled ‘I Too.’ It’s based on Walt Whitman’s classic ‘I Hear America Singing.’ For some reason, I saw the poem today while sifting through my Langston books. It got me wondering, and with all we have endured this year in 2021, just how would America sing? For sure, she would sing of being sick. Omicron has me exhausted. I’m tired and would like to really see the end of the tunnel with this pandemic. I also realize we have a long way to go if we continue along this path of not vaccinating the world. Don’t get me started on those including children under 5 that are not vaccinated. I fear for my kids under 5. Then there are the violence, a 14 year old killed while shopping with her mother, or kids killed at school for doing what they are supposed to be doing, going to school. Then there is poverty. My family and I spent Christmas eve taking care of homeless people in Saint Louis and let’s just say I am overwhelmed. Why can’t we get to the bottom of homelessness or poverty in general? I share all this to say that if Walt or Langston were to write their poem today, for sure, they would both be on track with where we are as a country, but also we would be sicker, more violent, and definitely poor. Hence my take below.
We too sing America. We are your new generation. A sick, violent, and poor generation singing as we await 2022. We sing of a pandemic, which turned the world upside two years ago, and continues along its path. The healthcare worker sings of burnout and exhaustion. The parents sing of juggling multiple stressors at work and home. The teenager sings of being in a constant state of flux, as they cope with the pandemic. The children sing of a childhood gone in disarray as the pandemic surges on. While the elders sing of isolation as they continue to bear the brunt of the pandemic. As if that’s not enough, we too live in an America where violence is more common than a Sunday rest. Your children, sing of the violence they see in their schools with classmates choosing bullets rather than books. Your communities sing too of violence on their streets, with protesters insisting that Black Lives Matter and they do. Your Congress sings of violence too, with an angry mob that would rather desecrate its halls that choose your democracy. While those we elect sing in words that would rather tear us down than build up we the people by the people. As if that’s still not enough, we live in America where one-third of your children are poor. Your families sing of not getting enough to eat with food insecurities and not getting enough to drink with water insecurities. Your poor households sing of bearing the brunt of rising prices. Your public sings of lacking systems, health, education, governments, that continue to fail to put them first. While your citizens sing of not having homes for your children. Besides, nothing seems to be transforming all we still know about America. That this too is a land that still fails to take a stand for all forms of racism, for immigrants, for rural life, for your children, who continue to sing of being sick, continue to be weary of the rampant state of violence, continue to remain poor, despite being born on fruited plains.
I pray 2022 has us singing a different note.