Once, we marched as one

Sam Friedman

Summary: Poem on the war in Ukraine — Editors

Four years ago, we chanted together,

“Say their names,”

“I can’t breathe,”

“Black lives matter,”

“Defund the police.”


But what do you chant


as Russia racializes


as Russian soldiers rape and torture

in Bucha and Mariupol

as if they were cops or the KKK

here in the USA?

What do you say

when Russian pundits and Russian leaders sneer,

“There is no Ukrainian nation,”

regurgitating the self-same lies

as Zionists about Palestinians,

Stalin about Jews,

and generations of American presidents

about Cheyenne and Sioux?


Today, you echo these self-same racist lies,

blame NATO,

mutter “what about,

what-about, what-about…”

an endless list of American hypocrisies and atrocities

we all oppose,

but you mutter about only to distract our eyes

from bombed-out schools and a racist war

which you support

even when you hem and haw and say “Not me.”


Once, we marched as one.

Once, I heard your words

and thought you thought as we.


But now, as I cry Anathema

at your betrayal of the freedom struggles of centuries,

I sob in tears

that you, who once marched against racism,

now speak and march in its defense

and somehow call it “peace.”


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