We are just ordinary people,
We love and laugh, sing and cry,
We work hard, pray regularly, and rear our young;
But we stand accused of sundry offenses.
We're blamed for being the ones responsible ...
Our crime is not foreseeing
That something minor would become something major.
We're guilty for being the good people who let evil
We're the good people who almost killed the future,
And your liberating intervention saved it for us all.
We are the good people, the salt of the earth;
But none shall ever forget our lapses and failures,
Just as we've never forgotten the malefactions against us.
We obey the laws, even when they're perverse.
We pay our taxes, even when they become burdensome.
We conform to social norms, even when they're shameful.
We are embarrassed and insulted by the outrages
That confront us outside our homes, inside our jobs,
And everywhere our perceptions can be controlled.
We wait in lines, submit forms, apply for permits;
We accept red-tape as part of our communal exchange.
It's an unbalanced social contract of diminished
Because we naively transferred our power.
We're guilty for wanting an end to privation,
For trusting the slogans that promised a better
For believing the lies that made us choose the lesser of
Our accusers tell us that evil is evil,
as if life was simple, as if choices were easy;
But evil is relative to pain,
And Evil almost always wears a mask of Good.
We are guilty for avoiding trouble.
We are guilty for tolerating transgressions.
We are guilty for turning aside from wrongs.
We are particularly guilty for protecting what is precious,
So every irreplaceable thing will not be disrespected,
So the sacrosanct will not be defiled by evil.
We are especially guilty for burying our hopes,
Like treasure sunken in a maelstrom;
For laying away our dreams,
Like a dessert to be savored in a distant time.
Our minor defiances and petty resistances are not victories,
Since every defiance merely prolongs our cruel captivity,
Since each resistance only provokes more repression.
We've scrawled our protests on the wall ...
The same wall where new edicts were proclaimed,
The same wall where the murder of innocents was sanctioned,
The same wall that now heralds our crimes of omission.
We document untold humiliations in underground notes.
We record our plaints and protests in private diaries.
In forgotten journals and lost papers,
Our irrelevant accounts can never be balanced.
We are too timid to be champions,
And too practical to be heroic,
Because the price of virtue has been too often demonstrated,
And we imagine that we still have a choice ...
Until some midnight enforcement disabuses our illusions.
We are guilty for counting our blessings,
And for hoping against hope.
We're guilty for surviving the intolerable,
For enduring the unendurable,
For accepting the unacceptable.
We are not unlike you,
Except it's now your turn to be the stalking-horse,
Except it's now our turn to be the Judas goat.
You did your duty by answering the call,
And the havoc that reigned was only checked by exhaustion.
Your liberation has cost you dearly,
As has our defense of hearth and homeland.
Sleep well, noble conqueror, and rest on your laurels,
For your turn will come again ...
It will come too soon.
by Frank N. Ernest
... who is a combat veteran and retired policeman; this is
his first published poem.