by Lyla Johnston, ’12
Listen to her poem here:
“Call Me Human”
from birth we etch these lines
engrave them in your mind
by the rockets red glare
the bombs bursting mid air
the war it begins
to make the imaginary country
as real as your skin.
America does not exist
It’s an idea men have obsessed over since 1776.
an excuse we use to manifest a reality that
destroyed the destiny of Native civilization.
They always told me I was an American
“But can you show me America?”
Can you tell me where it is?
I have been looking searching for it all my life!
Looking for the reason why my people had to die.
But the only place I could find America is inside your mind.
They said, no don’t you worry… just
Put your hand on your heart
Now turn towards the flag.
There it is. Right there. Don’t you see it?
There you go.
I pledge allegiance to an illusion
called the United States of America
And to the non-existent boundaries
for which it stands
Under a Christian god
With which we legitimize the genocide
of its indigenous peoples
America does not exist
but is a psychological sickness we catch with years
of exposure to public schools and baseball games
and once we believe America is real we believe we have a reason to
steal a reason to kill.
The Long Walk 1865
9,000 Navajo are marched with barred at their backs
herded like sheep for over 400 miles
to their concentration camps.
In the name of america
Wounded Knee Massacre 1890
When the U.S. Cavalry descended on a Lakota camp
with 530 women and children
And with “America” in their minds
Red and white stripes blinding their sight
sunk bullets into the chests of children
that could have been their own
In the name of America
Look on the twenty dollar bill and you’ll see the man who
marched 15,000 cherokee—
pregnant women, their children the elderly—
from Georgia to Okalahoma
in the name of America.
Do we remember what has been done in the name of an abstract nation
Or has it all been buried with out hearts and tongues.
and i should not hate fireworks on warm summer nights
and i should not hate a combination of colors
and i should not hate dead men on paper money
and i should not hate.
So let me tell you that I love you
Dear president of the imaginary sates of america
Dear school teacher
Dear man behind the curtain
Let me tell you I love you
And I am leaving it in the past
Let me tell you that I too am in love with my motherland
But know that this Earth is the foremother of your forefathers
She existed before Hancock and before Nixon
Before money before America
And that she will exist long after America is forgotten.
Raising hands to our hearts for a fairytale
That America is anything more than a word
We’ve drawn so many maps, put so many flags in the ground
We put labels on the land
draw imaginary lines in the sand
but people hear me and separate your fact from facrication
this is the projection of our imagination onto
the holy earth.
Today we unite to remember what is real
To remember that humanity is real
A beating heart is real
The earth beneath us is real
But America is but a thought that
has turned brothers into contenders
Histories into myths
Entire cultures into forgotten languages
And the free mind into a society, deceived
So please do not call me American
do not call me Native American
please call me human
And do not call this land America
If you listen hard she will tell you her true name
as the nighthawks dive at twilight
as the wolves howl at moonlight
as the waterfalls rage cascading
When the avalanches fracture breaking
She WILL tell us her true name with earthquakes
That split states and break fences to
Remind us she does not
Belong to us.
But that we belong to her.
Lyla Johnston is a super senior studying at Stanford. She is so madly in love with the earth and its inhabitants that it’s hard for her to get down the street each day without falling over in euphoria. She would like to help bring the healing salve of love and truth to a world wounded by painful confusion and illusion.