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Unbutton Our History

Unbutton Our History Video and Poem by Paul Richards

by Paul Richards

Spilling a jar full of political buttons
sent a thousand memories crashing
across my desk into my mind.

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Unbutton our history

The 1960s traumatized the USA
in unimaginable ways.
Living inside our great hopes and dreams
of a world without war,
full of justice and harmony,
we never guessed the next half a century
would be dominated by the exact opposite.
We had no clue that our cultural and political dissenting
would usher in an era of continuous war,
riots, racism, sexism and militarism
like the world had never seen before.

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The array of old buttons conjured up
all the joys and hopes of an era coming alive again,
like lights going on in a deep dark basement
underneath a Trump Tower.

The spirit and irreverence
of those pins still resonate:
Cocaine Import Agency for CIA.
Draft Beer Not Students.
Strike!
Boycott Grapes.
Cuba Si, Yankees No.
Bullshit scrawled over the scales of justice.
Preemptive war is Terrorism
printed around a peace sign.
Huey Newton, Ho Chi Minh, Mao, Lenin, Zapata
Images of great anti-heroes.
So many years and so many marches,
protests and cries for justice.
All in my memory
popping up again and again
as the decades roll past.

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Police lines from archives refusing to die,
buttons now cultural icons
of a past reborn of necessity.

The USA/empire turning from ugly to uglier,
from unfair to insane,
from science to religion,
from hypocrisy to hatred and violence,
from melting pot of genocide to war against the world.

Home owners sitting on the fences of suburbia
knocked to the ground by neoliberal bank bailouts,
now wandering homeless in central city encampments.
Concentration camps springing up nationwide
under the banner of ICE and Homeland Security,
grabbing children from migrant families
just like they did to the tribes
when we jailed them on their reservations.
Nothing new here.
Just the awakening of a nation
to the truth after a long cocaine/opiod laced dream
that could never have lasted and
whose end is a real bummer.

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