“Is it as funny when the indoctrinated look like you?”
I’ve been teased for not liking the decorative vibe of a certain bar (which will remain unnamed) near Central Square, in Cambridge. But coming from a country whose “leaders” have used completely hollow pseudo-socialist jargon and notions for decades in order to grind every functioning institution into the ground, I think I can be forgiven for not finding “revolutionary” themed locales in most-definitely-capitalist Boston particularly amusing, whatever the intentions of the bar owners may be.
And this casual embracement of some cool notion of “revolution” is not just a thing I see here in the States; while I can only commend the current sustained efforts of the student protests in Venezuela, I remember not too long ago, back in 2007, when protesting became popular as “the thing” for young, hip kids to do. My generation grew up watching our parents don baseball caps, T-shirts, and signs, take pots and pans to bang their frustration publicly, joining organized marchas every week or so. We would see them come back, a bit fatigued but often uplifted, and we barely realized that we had actually been a tiny bit concerned for their safety, not until we felt the faint rush of relief to see them totally unscathed.
We also saw those same parents drink glasses of wine in the wee hours of the morning of the April 11th, 2002 coup d’etat, only to awaken to see them balk at an unalterable, very real political reality. Our parents eventually dropped their signs and hopes for change, and refocused their efforts to surviving in an ever-deteriorating political world. So how could I take up “protesting,” just because it was cool to say you had felt the burning sensation of tear gas coursing through your nose, eyes, and throat, and you had thrown a few rocks at the cops? And how can I sit in a bar with large framed photos of Lenin, Che Guevara, and Mao, and chuckle at my own cool irony?
But ignoring my own sourness, today’s poet, Kelly Tsai, voices some of my frustrations in a much more eloquent and funny fashion. This poem is “Mao”: