Saturday, March 15, 2008

Damned if they do, damned if they don't, damned if they exist

I just found this poem about prejudice against Asian immigrants and workers in the United States, and I liked it so much I thought I'd share. It was written by Ambrose Bierce for one of his newspaper articles in 1878, which was reprinted in S.T. Joshi's Documents of American Prejudice:
John Chinaman, your race I hate,
Because you "won't assimilate."
You say you will? I know you will,
And so, my lad, I'll hate you still.
For what you will, or will not, do,
I hate you, and for t'other too.
Severely hold yourself aloof,
Or eat of salt beneath my roof.
A beggar be, or earn your bread
By thieving, or by work instead.
Bring Mrs. John and make a home;
Or mateless o'er the country roam;
Or, if your taste incline you, bring
That other woman--horrid thing!--
To learn our language and compete
With ladies of the larger feet.
Eat rat unspiced, or mutton spiced,
And worship Joss, or Jesus Christ.
(Man's creed depends, and much beside,
On what he eats, and if it's fried;
And heathen merely are a folk
Their pig that purchase in a poke
And cook it like John Rogers, one
Or Persecution's overdone.)
Our laws examine, with intent
To guilty plead, or innocent,
When haled before the magistrate
To justify your broken pate;
Or don't examine. All is one--
I'll hate you from the rise of the sun
Until (also because) the seas
Allay his flame--until you please
To stand aside and make a ring
For Paddy when he's brandishing
His fair and lordy length of ear
In this contracted hemisphere.

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