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Sleep Now in the Fire: Out of Shock, Out of Shame

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Sleep Now in the Fire: Out of Shock, Out of Shame

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A new essay by John S. Blake, “Sleep Now in the Fire: Out of Shock, Out of Shame,” tells the tale of two [in]different Joes, ignoring the wishes of Americans this holiday.


The world is my expense
The cost of my desire
Jesus blessed me with its future
And I protect it with fire

—Rage Against the Machine “Sleep Now in the Fire”


So, this Christmas, we sleep in the fire, as the two Joes read us a lullaby written in shrugged shoulders, raised eyebrows, and other motions of powerless body language.

Amazon employees, once knighted as “essential” just one year ago, are corpses left lying in the aftermath of tornadoes as their families cancel holiday plans and gifts to shop for coffins. Starbucks’ workers, hands singed on steamed milk, wrists locked saved kisses of arthritis for their future, paid less than two venti drinks an hour. And in West Virginia, where most of the citizens have eyes blue as Oxy’s, are portrayed by their Senator as fiending addicts who can’t wait for a child tax credit to call their Purdue plugs and meet them at the corner Pharmacy.

Maybe this was always the plan—President do-nothing Joe and Senator do-all-the-wrong-things Joe crab-clawing a handshake over blood-colored wine, snickering, “I’ll propose great change, and you slap it down in the Senate! It’ll be to die for.”


Also on The Big Smoke


I believed once. In the first grade, when it was time to memorize the Pledge, I practiced in the mirror—my fingers closed and straight, my heart, hopefully covered in protection (from the lie I would learn later), my head high, “One nation … God … and justice for all,” until Michael Evans on Good Times had me reevaluating my life before I had much life to live.

Jen bless-her-heart Psaki has tried to, with her slender arms, carry all the dignity and sincerity for the nation. In a recent press conference, she said, “I will say that, from the President’s viewpoint, and I saw him this morning, uh, he’s worked with Senator Manchin over the course of decades, uh, they, uh, share fundamental values, they’re longtime friends, [and the kicker] that has not changed.” We know, Jen. We know.

AOC has all but unleashed the Boricua, and Ilhan Omar [finally! someone] said what we knew, “This is bullshit.” Too bad the Squad wasn’t on the ballot.


I’d love to exclaim, over a cliff of our planet, gawking at the stars in search of God, “How do they sleep?!” But we already know—quite comfortably.


Let’s face it, the United States of America is no longer a Democracy. Face it and accept it. The majority of West Virginians are on board with every program in the Build Back Better plan that will stretch the limbs of the Government and return pride to the working-class poor, but Manchin can’t vote for it when his hands are in the pockets of the free market. Meanwhile, Biden hides behind Psaki’s skirt like a child playing a one-person game of hide ’n’ seek in a department store clothing rack.

WE are the panic-stricken mother, frantically looking for what she bore. Last Christmas, we gave this nation our grief as freezer trucks parked in front of hospitals. This Christmas, Kellogg’s will fire almost two thousand employees who dared to hold their bowls up to the top floor and ask for more. Walmart cashiers have been replaced by the customers and the workers have been shapeshifted into poorly-trained, poorly-paid security officers, watching patrons, being watched by poorly paid managers, and everybody is being watched by cameras, while black hair products, baby formula, and my razors are behind lock and key.

I’d love to exclaim, over a cliff of our planet, gawking at the stars in search of God, “How do they sleep?!” But we already know—quite comfortably. And that’s it, isn’t it? Two things gone missing almost as much as Indigenous women and girls from their territories—shock and shame. The citizens are out of shock, and politicians are out of shame. But this is the table, the lies are the spread. Let’s just eat our own hearts out and wait for Omicron to come get us.

Pass the EBT card.


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John S. Blake

John S. Blake is a cisgender, African American writer, poet, activist, and youth advocate originally from New York City and now resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Blake is a VCU Grad, MFA student at Sierra Nevada University, Watering Hole Graduate Fellow, TEDx speaker, essayist for The Big Smoke America, spoken word artist, as well as a literacy tutor, lecturer, and mentor. Blake facilitates workshops, lectures, and performs nationwide: universities, high schools, middle schools, detention centers, prisons, and youth programs.

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