amiri baraka's somebody blew up america

topic posted Sat, January 22, 2005 - 3:59 AM by  michael
Somebody Blew Up America

By Amiri Baraka

They say its some terrorist,
some barbaric
A Rab,
in Afghanistan
It wasn't our American terrorists
It wasn't the Klan or the Skin heads
Or the them that blows up nigger
Churches, or reincarnates us on Death Row
It wasn't Trent Lott
Or David Duke or Giuliani
Or Schundler, Helms retiring

It wasn't
The gonorrhea in costume
The white sheet diseases
That have murdered black people
Terrorized reason and sanity
Most of humanity, as they pleases

They say (who say?)
Who do the saying
Who is them paying
Who tell the lies
Who in disguise
Who had the slaves
Who got the bux out the Bucks

Who got fat from plantations
Who genocided Indians
Tried to waste the Black nation

Who live on Wall Street
The first plantation
Who cut your nuts off
Who rape your ma
Who lynched your pa

Who got the tar, who got the feathers
Who had the match, who set the fires
Who killed and hired
Who say they God & still be the Devil

Who the biggest only
Who the most goodest
Who do Jesus resemble

Who created everything
Who the smartest
Who the greatest
Who the richest
Who say you ugly and they the goodlookingest

Who define art
Who define science

Who made the bombs
Who made the guns

Who bought the slaves, who sold them

Who called you them names
Who say Dahmer wasn't insane

Who? Who? Who?

Who stole Puerto Rico
Who stole the Indies, the Philipines, Manhattan
Australia & The Hebrides
Who forced opium on the Chinese

Who own them buildings
Who got the money
Who think you funny
Who locked you up
Who own the papers

Who owned the slave ship
Who run the army

Who the fake president
Who the ruler
Who the banker

Who? Who? Who?

Who own the mine
Who twist your mind
Who got bread
Who need peace
Who you think need war

Who own the oil
Who do no toil
Who own the soil
Who is not a nigger
Who is so great ain't nobody bigger

Who own this city

Who own the air
Who own the water

Who own your crib
Who rob and steal and cheat and murder
and make lies the truth
Who call you uncouth

Who live in the biggest house
Who do the biggest crime
Who go on vacation anytime

Who killed the most niggers
Who killed the most Jews
Who killed the most Italians
Who killed the most Irish
Who killed the most Africans
Who killed the most Japanese
Who killed the most Latinos

Who? Who? Who?

Who own the ocean

Who own the airplanes
Who own the malls
Who own television
Who own radio

Who own what ain't even known to be owned
Who own the owners that ain't the real owners

Who own the suburbs
Who suck the cities
Who make the laws

Who made Bush president
Who believe the confederate flag need to be flying
Who talk about democracy and be lying

Who the Beast in Revelations
Who 666
Who know who decide
Jesus get crucified

Who the Devil on the real side
Who got rich from Armenian genocide

Who the biggest terrorist
Who change the bible
Who killed the most people
Who do the most evil
Who don't worry about survival

Who have the colonies
Who stole the most land
Who rule the world
Who say they good but only do evil
Who the biggest executioner

Who? Who? Who?

Who own the oil
Who want more oil
Who told you what you think that later you find out a lie

Who? Who? Who?

Who found Bin Laden, maybe they Satan
Who pay the CIA,
Who knew the bomb was gonna blow
Who know why the terrorists
Learned to fly in Florida, San Diego

Who know why Five Israelis was filming the explosion
And cracking they sides at the notion

Who need fossil fuel when the sun ain't goin' nowhere

Who make the credit cards
Who get the biggest tax cut
Who walked out of the Conference
Against Racism
Who killed Malcolm, Kennedy & his Brother
Who killed Dr King, Who would want such a thing?
Are they linked to the murder of Lincoln?

Who invaded Grenada
Who made money from apartheid
Who keep the Irish a colony
Who overthrow Chile and Nicaragua later

Who killed David Sibeko, Chris Hani,
the same ones who killed Biko, Cabral,
Neruda, Allende, Che Guevara, Sandino,

Who killed Kabila, the ones who wasted Lumumba, Mondlane,
Betty Shabazz, Die, Princess Di, Ralph Featherstone,
Little Bobby

Who locked up Mandela, Dhoruba, Geronimo,
Assata, Mumia, Garvey, Dashiell Hammett, Alphaeus Hutton

Who killed Huey Newton, Fred Hampton,
Medgar Evers, Mikey Smith, Walter Rodney,
Was it the ones who tried to poison Fidel
Who tried to keep the Vietnamese Oppressed

Who put a price on Lenin's head

Who put the Jews in ovens,
and who helped them do it
Who said "America First"
and ok'd the yellow stars

Who killed Rosa Luxembourg, Liebneckt
Who murdered the Rosenbergs
And all the good people iced,
tortured, assassinated, vanished

Who got rich from Algeria, Libya, Haiti,
Iran, Iraq, Saudi, Kuwait, Lebanon,
Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Palestine,

Who cut off peoples hands in the Congo
Who invented Aids
Who put the germs
In the Indians' blankets
Who thought up "The Trail of Tears"

Who blew up the Maine
& started the Spanish American War
Who got Sharon back in Power
Who backed Batista, Hitler, Bilbo,
Chiang kai Chek

Who decided Affirmative Action had to go
Reconstruction, The New Deal,
The New Frontier, The Great Society,

Who do Tom Ass Clarence Work for
Who doo doo come out the Colon's mouth
Who know what kind of Skeeza is a Condoleeza
Who pay Connelly to be a wooden negro
Who give Genius Awards to Homo Locus

Who overthrew Nkrumah, Bishop,
Who poison Robeson,
who try to put DuBois in Jail
Who frame Rap Jamil al Amin, Who frame the Rosenbergs,
The Scottsboro Boys,
The Hollywood Ten

Who set the Reichstag Fire

Who knew the World Trade Center was gonna get bombed
Who told 4000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers
To stay home that day
Why did Sharon stay away?

Who? Who? Who?

Explosion of Owl the newspaper say
The devil face cd be seen

Who make money from war
Who make dough from fear and lies
Who want the world like it is
Who want the world to be ruled by imperialism and national
oppression and terror violence, and hunger and poverty.

Who is the ruler of Hell?
Who is the most powerful

Who you know ever
Seen God?

But everybody seen
The Devil

Like an Owl exploding
In your life in your brain in your self
Like an Owl who know the devil
All night, all day if you listen, Like an Owl
Exploding in fire. We hear the questions rise
In terrible flame like the whistle of a crazy dog

Like the acid vomit of the fire of Hell
Who and Who and WHO who who
Whoooo and Whooooooooooooooooooooo!

Copyright (c) 2001 Amiri Baraka. All Rights Reserved
posted by:
  • > Who know why Five Israelis was filming the explosion
    > And cracking they sides at the notion

    The "Five Israelis", were merely Israeli citizens who worked for a
    moving company (and thus also happened to have boxcutters on their
    persons) -- and like nearly anyone with a camera in visual range of the 9/11
    attacks, began taking photographs-- the reported laughter and jeering in
    one news source was reported as "Now America knows what we go through"
    in another news source. Also keep in mind that the hysteria that
    followed the attacks that resulted in the harrassment and wrongful
    arrests of people of "Middle Eastern appearance," included quite a few
    Israelis-- many of whom happen to be of Middle Eastern appearance as
    they are Middle Eastern.

    [In fact, plenty of non Middle Easterners were arrested and harrassed. There was a very well publicized instance in my neck of the woods about an Indian Sikh being arrested on the train.]

    > Who knew the World Trade Center was gonna get bombed
    > Who told 4000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers
    > To stay home that day

    To this day, no one has identified a single Israeli who worked in the WTC who received a phone call to not go to work that day. This myth appears to have originated from the Israeli Embassy issuing a statement of concern for the 4000 Israeli nationals living in New York City who had not yet reported their whereabouts to the Embassy.

    It is also preposterous that somehow 4000 Israelis would receive such a warning and not a single one would attempt to either save their non-Israeli coworkers or report the warning to American authorities. It is also preposterous that the Israeli government would not warn its closest and most powerful ally of an attack in the works.

    Feel free to criticize the Israeli government; Israelis do it all the time. However diseminating these urban legends is purely antisemitic.

    > Why did Sharon stay away?

    Sharon was scheduled for a meeting of the UN General Assembly in New York that was to run from 9/24 to 10/5 -- though it was rescheduled after the 9/11 attacks. So, it was the UN General Assembly that told Sharon to "stay away" on 9/12/2001.

    If one does a google search to seek out news sources that maintain that these controversial passages are the truth, the top two websites are Pravda (formerly the official state newspaper of the USSR) and Stormfront, a neo Nazi organization that proclaims itself the "White Nationalist Community."

    If anyone wants, I can post an annotated bibliography of websites that debunk these stories that I wrote several months back.
    • one has to also take into account that this a poem, posing questions, not giving answers. that is what poetry does, it provokes thought. would you then say that ginsberg is racist when he says "them big black niggers...".
      or when brautigan says in the poem, "the south" that heaven keeps warm by "burning the souls of niggers" that these are his sentiments. no, they are meant to provoke a certain feeling of discomfort.

      i myself use the line, " niggers got a hero now, watch out, denzel won the oscar, halle won the oscar and arizona has a street in the middle of town they call martin luther king jr. street for one week a year".

      is my foot in my mouth? no. they are on the street where they should be.
      • > brautigan says in the poem,
        > "the south" that heaven keeps
        > warm by "burning the souls of
        > niggers"

        To anyone who has grown up in the southern United States, that line is clearly an indictment of the unholy alliance between the the region's Protestant Churches and white supremacy. This is a rhetorical figure called "irony." Brautigan, Ginsberg and you are clearly being ironic

        However, Baraka a.) has responded to critics by saying that he was reporting the news as if he were a journalist, and b.) uses some of the questions to suggest that things that did not happen did happen.

        With a.) Baraka claims to be a teller of literal (as opposed to metaphorical, alegorical, mythological, or ironic) truth. With b.) Baraka shows contempt for the truth by diseminating falsities and then asking who is responsible for things that never actually happened.

        • wouldn't questions posed by thousands of americans, and accusations, whether false or true. that are made, be in the public consciousness, thereby making them literal truths, and furthermore, validated in the forum of poetry?
          and one cannot flippantly excuse ginsberg or brautigan of there indictments and go on to indict baraka based upon his use of language, whether ironic or not.

          and furthermore, a poet should never have to defend his/her work to public scrutiny, the work exists as it's own body and falls under interpretation of any reader making even the most biased statement, i.e. pounds antisemetic remarks in certain cantos, objective as it falls under the category of art.

          making reports on the state of affairs, be them false or true, does mean that you agree with them.
          • as a poet, however "unsung", I cringed when I saw people pull a phrase and a line out of the poem and dissect it with the pincers of "reason" and "literalness". If the poem has a voice of it's own, this critique is mere static. If it doesn't the critique is so, so inadequate.

            In the realm of myth and archetype, the "Truth" is the most resonate vibration reflecting what people 'know' and believe. It has nothing at all to do with literal facts.

            What are we on this continent to bring up from the ashes of our pain and loss and shockwaves of the gigantic assault we already so glibly call "9/11"?

            It is a treat if our poets, our oracles, our songs are precise, but this is a luxury. Crucial is that it resonates with our whole being, and that it provokes responses where none were before, as someone already noted.

            Great Poets are shot in the back and get their hands cut off and their adams' apples smashed in, and their bodies "lost" in nuthouses when they begin to sing and speak Truth about the hungry State's agenda. When nobody else is being honest, these obscenities would not occur so often nor so fatally. So let's not critique the kibbles and snacks, let's get down to the blood and the gore and the crime of vengeance and the hard chores of cleansing not just buildings and body parts, but of cleansing/forgiving Psyche's children, too.

            Before this stuff gets more deadly.
            • So being an "artist" means one has no responsibility when making propaganda for a political or religious agenda whether we regard that as positive or negative?

              So Mark Twain is not to be judged by the fact that his stories told of the struggle against the forces of racism, capitalism, slavery, corruption, and ignorance? Funny, I thought that's one of the reasons why we still read him.

              The fact is that I don't even regard "Somebody Blew Up America" to be a very good poem-- I read it when it was first published and I would have likely not read it again had it not been for the controversy it has aroused. The only place it rises to "myth" (myth as in truth embodied in metaphor) it deals with here is the need to blame a scapegoat for everything wrong.
          • > wouldn't questions posed by
            > thousands of americans, and
            > accusations, whether false or
            > true. that are made, be in the
            > public consciousness, thereby
            > making them literal truths,
            > and furthermore, validated in
            > the forum of poetry?

            Millions of Americans believe Saddam Hussein ordered the 9/11 attacks. That belief does not make it true. Poets, songwriters, cartoonists, filmmakers, storytellers, monologuists insisting that the former Iraqi despot attacked the World Trade Center also does not make it true. It also does not make them immune from the same criticism that would rightfully be directed at a politician, cabinent member, or newspaper columnist who insisted that this untrue thing were true.

            > making reports on the state
            > of affairs, be them false or
            > true, does mean that you
            > agree with them.

            The point you fail to see is that Baraka insisted that he was reporting truthfully, that he was merely reporting the news, and that anyone who was criticizing him was practicing "censorship" and attempting to repress the truth.

            Baraka claimed the mantle of journalist-- not of artist.

            > one cannot flippantly excuse
            > ginsberg or brautigan [...]

            Who was being flippant? The point was, at least with the Brautigan quote, the context was very clear to anyone who knows the role that racism and religion have played in American culture. Perhaps, if I was not an American, or at least an American who does not know about the uglier aspects of American history, I might not understand this passage (but one also should note that Brautigan was a master craftsman with very precise technique.) However, in Baraka's case, I do know the history he references in his poem, and I also know his other work; much of which I have enjoyed-- I have done the intellectual work that entitles me to say that lines of this poem amount to antisemitic propaganda.

            As far as the comparison with Ezra Pound's antisemitic statements, no matter how much we agree to his importance in twentieth centry English language poetry, we cannot escape the fact that the man held some views on race and politics that many of us find reprehensible, and while it may not be relevent in discussion of certain poems; it is relevent when discussing others.

            It is also relevent when discussing Baraka's "Somebody Blew Up America." Baraka has long insisted that art needs to be relevent to life. To argue that we ought not judge his work based on its relevence to life is to dismiss his poetry of any meaning whatsoever.

            Why is it not okay for us to dig deeply into what Baraka says in "Somebody Blew Up America" while it is okay for us to dig deeply into what he says (as LeRoi Jones) in "Prelude to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note"? Is it because one is reflects poorly on the author while the other reflects well on the author? Are we only to dig deeply into a poet's work when we have something positive to say about it?

            When an artist acts as a propagandist, are we to not discuss the content of the art?
            • that is what i am saying, that because thousands of people believe something, whether true or not, it is then fair game to report upon. and why you keep bringing up that you read it when it was first published is foolish. as you read it more and more you might find that it has extremely powerful movement. take it as a whole. and fuck it, if you don't like it, fine, but by spreading around that baraka "shot himslef in the foot whilst still in is mouth" is just as ludicrous as the statements made by baraka that you loath
              • > because thousands of people
                > believe something, whether
                > true or not, it is then fair
                > game to report upon.

                Then it is also fair game for me to say "it's not true" and to criticize those who disseminate lies. You might have heard of the First Amendment, it's that funny little thing that we enjoy because Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti, Burroughs, and Bruce all went to court and risked jail and financial loss.

                > why you keep bringing up
                > that you read it when it
                > was first published is foolish

                I bring it up to point out that I read it before it the media sensationalism and so I could judge it as a poem.

                > as you read it more and
                > more you might find that it
                > has extremely powerful
                > movement.

                I have read it more and more in part because it is a subject of a controversy. I think less of it every time I read it. It certainly has a nice rhythm, but the content is in my mind, a dumbed down version of political oratory, and I happen to respect Baraka enough to believe he is capable of better writing than that-- not that he has shown it over the last ten years or so.

                > [Ian saying] that
                > baraka "shot himself
                > in the foot whilst still
                > in is mouth" is just [...]
                > ludicrous

                I stand by it. He lost credibility in many circles in which he was previously respected. His response to criticism was arrogant and self-righteous-- and it should be noted that the work was being criticized from within the artistic community a good year before the mainstream press or New Jersey politicians heard about it. He's made himself out to be a martyr for the first amendment because some people vocalize a disagreement with what he says. The first amendment is freedom of speech, not freedom from criticism. If he cannot take criticism then he needs to stop publishing and performing to the public.

                My position has always been: a.) It's not a good poem and Baraka has demonstrated an ability to do better in the increasingly distant past; b.) there are statements couched in rhetorical questions that are both untrue, and do amount to antisemitic conspiracy theorizing.
                • look, i feel that it is not always in the best interest of the artist to maintain a respectable status, especially in certain circles (i.e. the new jersey board of arts and literature). it is better to remain true to your work. and i agree that it is not his best work, while still dynamic, he certainly has written better poems. i don't feel though that that poem is grounds for the stripping away of an honor given, and definitely not grounds for removing the grant for fuutre poets. sounds more to me like they were looking for a reason to cut that budget. to say that the poem holds no value to poetry, as many have said, simply because it rears some contraversial statements is absolutely ridiculous.

                  also, i have never hindered your first ammendment rights by disagreeing with you, rather i have secured those freedoms in doing so. and again, for the record, i still don't feel the poem to be antisemetic.

                  let's move onto some other lame argument, this one is boring me.

                  how about this: has slam negatively effected the future of american verse? has the bar been lowered?

                  i say yes, and then no. i will elaborate if you wish.
                  • This is the maximum depth. Additional responses will not be threaded.

                    Though we continue to disagree, I never felt you were denying my first amendment rights.

                    We have both stated our cases and at this juncture it is certainly best for someone else to offer another perspective.

                    I do think Baraka's statements regarding the media circus were disingenuous.

                    If you want to discuss the relationship between the slam and beat scenes, start a new thread...


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