In the Name of My Father

Requiem and renewal in the shadow of Wall Street, in the light of a Georgia spring – Published on Dissident Voice, by Phil Rockstroh, May 18, 2012.

On May 1, after a day of May Day activities on the streets and avenues of Manhattan, my wife and I and a troop of other OWS celebrants marched into Zuccotti Park to jubilant exhortations of “welcome home” from a throng of fellow occupiers. The next day, my wife and I boarded a southbound Amtrak train to join family gathered at my dying father’s bedside to bid him farewell … //

… My father’s song is almost at its end.  

The endless song continues.

A song of tribute to the life of my father (or, for that matter, any human life) must combine elements of a fight song and a love song. One must love life enough to take a stand in its behalf.

During the Great Depression, my father was (again) left fatherless when his adopted father suffered a debilitating stroke, resulting in a protracted decline that left their small family penniless and homeless. Consequently, my father, along with his nearly incapacitated father and his mother managed to make their way from rural Missouri to Cleveland, Ohio, and then went on to find lodging with members of his mother’s family who had settled in Birmingham, Alabama, where shortly thereafter his father died.

In the Deep South, the dark hue of my father’s Native American skin marked him for abuse by belligerent locals. Although he had been deprived of detailed knowledge of his ancestry, his Comanche blood resisted intimidation. His tormentors wounded him deeply, but they also succeeded in opening deep reservoirs of ancestral rage.

My father harbored an abiding animus to bullies — a trait he bequeathed to me by both blood and circumstance.

Apropos: At the foot of Broadway, on May Day, I stood near a bristling array of NYPD officers who were tasked with the crucial mission of protecting the statue of Wall Street’s iconic “Charging Bull” — where I heard one of the witless, uniformed thugs, through a smirk, opine, “These rich, lazy bums go to college and study women’s studies and the history of Negroes — then come out here in the real world and whine that they can’t get a job…These brats should have thought about what they’re going to do in life when they were in school.”

I turned to face him and averred, “I guess they could follow your example and they could stand here on Wall Street…stroking a billy club…protecting ultra-wealthy criminals and their ill-gotten riches.”

Of course, he responded by calling me a socialist.

Even though that was, most likely, the first accurate statement he posited all day, I replied, “As opposed to following your noble example: choosing to spend your days as a mindless fascist bully?”

His smirk still in place, he spat, “As if you even know what a fascist is!”

I replied, “As a matter of fact, I do, and you, being posed as you are in front of that bull [with its bronze form cast to crouch in a stance of impending aggression; its form, permanently locked in a position of myopic fury] will serve as a perfect backdrop for me to illustrate the situation. Mussolini, who knew a bit about the subject, proclaimed fascism to be the merger of the corporation and the state. Therefore, since it follows that the state pays your salary, and you spend your days protecting the corporate order… that you, to a jackboot, fit the profile of a fascist…Don’t you now?”

At that, his smirk solidified into a mask of belligerent stupid. He slapped his truncheon into his meaty palm, and told me that if I knew what was good for me I better move along.

I told him that he was probably right, due to the fact, I suspect, he could very accurately and with much relish impart to me the true nature of fascism with that nightstick of his.

His lipless, reptilian grin indicated he would be more than happy to take a personal interest in tutoring me on the subject.

The ghetto that you built for me is the one you’re living in
— Bob Dylan: Dead Man, Dead Man

But the fight is not with this individual enforcer of the present, doomed order. The encounter is emblematic of what those who devote themselves to the unfolding struggle are up against: an armed and fortified wall of sneering arrogance — a violent, human torrent of surging ignorance.

For us, the living, breaching Death’s wall, possessed of the intention of changing its implacable order, is, of course, impossible — but challenging the present, calcified order — a death-addicted arrangement, created and maintained by mortal men that has existed well past its given and rightful time — has become imperative.

For my father, the struggle is nearly at its end; for those of us who remain in this breathing world, the struggle has just begun. (full text).

(Phil Rockstroh is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. He may be contacted. Find him also on FaceBook. Read other articles by Phil, or visit Phil’s websit).

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