Categories
Independence Day Stories

Flash Fiction: The Best Word

By Maliha Iqbal

A solemn boy of seven was busily writing away without a thought about the world. He was perspiring and his clothes were damp. There were beads of sweat on his forehead as he knitted his brows in concentration.

Suddenly a woman in her thirties came into the room and looking at him said “Samad! Take a break! You ought to be tired by working like that since morning and that too with a power cut! It’s so hot!”

“Mother! Please don’t worry about me, the heat doesn’t bother me” replied the boy with an earnest look on his face.

His mother merely stared at him, mumbled “what a child!” and left.
She rushed to a quiet corner of the house with tears welling up in her eyes. Once she was out of earshot, she began weeping and muttering over and over again, “Oh! How the child loves to study! If only I could give him a better future! His books are his only solace from the grief and miseries of his life!” She soon stopped herself as she recalled her husband’s last words before he left the world. “You should be a source of inspiration, courage and love to Samad, never show your sorrow, face your troubles with a smile.” Yes! That’s what he said and that’s what I’ll do! She thought and smiled suddenly which lit up her face.

Samad lived in a war-torn country. Many had rebelled against the government and the country was at civil war. There was an epidemic of poverty, and all had fallen prey to this.

It was nearly 9 O’clock in the evening when Samad silently slipped out of the back door of his house and hurried through the lonely streets to a tiny, dilapidated building tucked away in a corner. A contented look came over his face as he entered the building and greeted his educator.

Ah! That was his school! How he loved going there! Samad went to school in the silence and aloofness of night — most children in the country did because of the fear of rebel attacks. Samad had few children in his school, only seven and he was the brightest among them.

They had recently started learning English and today their teacher had an interesting idea.

“All of you have to write your favourite word of English language on your slates and then one by one you will come out and tell the whole class why it’s your favourite. You have ten minutes,” announced Mr. Blake, their teacher. He wanted to test the children’s vocabulary and spellings.

Soon the room became silent as each child began to write. Samad finished his work much earlier than the given time and stared idly at the light bulb in the room which was flickering occasionally. It gave a dull glow and swarms of insects had gathered around it. Out of nowhere a loud explosion was heard followed by shouts of terror. The rebels!

The teacher shouted, “Keep calm! Don’t be frightened! Hold my hand and don’t let go of one another.”

Everyone slowly began walking out of the building in a single file but suddenly the lonely streets seemed to have come alive, and people bustled about. In the chaos and confusion, Samad was separated from everyone.

He did what any wise person would have done and began running towards his home which was nearby, the slate still grasped in his hands.

He was out of breath, but he wouldn’t stop at any cost. Finally, the front door of his house came into sight, and he ran faster still.

Suddenly there was a loud explosion and Samad saw large flames before he fell to the ground. Bruised and bleeding, he got up, limped a few steps and collapsed.

An agonized mother found her son the same night with a slate gripped in his lifeless hands. On the slate was the word “HOPE” written in a shaky handwriting. Isn’t it the best word? Doesn’t it provide you with the courage to strive towards your goal? Hopelessness itself is the end of life. Even insects are attracted towards a source of light for navigation and warmth, or should we say a source of hope?

Maliha Iqbal is a student and freelance writer based in Aligarh, India.

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Categories
Independence Day Index

Fourth of July Special, 2021

I CELEBRATE myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you...

(Excerpted from Song of Myself, Walt Whitman, 1881)

Fourth of July, was the date that Walt Whitman’s anthology, Leaves of Grass , was published for the first time. The year was 1855. This was a book with poetry that embraced all humanity. The writing did not look for philosophical labels but reached out to all mankind touching the hearts of millions beyond the poet’s own lifetime, rising above races, rituals, politics, economics and hatred.

On that same date, in the century preceding the publication of this book — on 4th July, 1776 — thirteen colonies that had been established by immigrants in the continent of North America signed Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, freeing themselves from the British yoke after they populated the landmass that had been occupied by American Indians for many thousands of years. The date continues to be celebrated as the American Independence Day with much fanfare. Borderless Journal presents to you writing that celebrates the occasion. Perhaps when at leisure, some of us will pause to wonder if independence and democracy bring freedom to all concerned.

Poetry

Colours of Life

We move on to the exquisite poetry of Jared Carter on the colours of life we can experience in America. Click here to read.

American Dreams

Michael R Burch with his powerful poetry not just reaffirms the history of the country but also brings in the legendary Mohammed Ali to seek the voice of sanity and humanism. Click here to read.

Prose

Summer Studio

Jared Carter writes of a childhood in the mid-twentieth century America. Click here to read.

The Story of a Bald Eagle & a Turkey

A photo-essay by Penny and Michael B Wilkes explores the history of how the bald eagle soared to be the emblematic bird of America, instead of the turkey. Click here to read

An Immigrant’s Story

Candice Louisa Daquin’s ruminations tells us what it means to be an American immigrant in today’s world and in the land that prospered under immigrants. Click here to read.

Categories
Independence Day Poetry

Colours of Life

By Jared Carter

         Cicadas in the Rain

Only when it began to rain could I hear it,
in late summer, after they had all risen high
in the saucer magnolia tree – a soft, slow rain
at first, while the light still held in the west.

That sound so familiar, so unhesitant, but never
during a storm, and yet with drops plashing
and pelting through the leaves, their voices
coalesced in ways I had never heard before –

some strange harmonic of summer’s ending,
some last reinforcement or challenge – mounting
against the rain’s insistence, trying to outdo it,
seeking a pulse within the larger immensity,

and succeeding, as though a door had opened,
and I heard pure sound issuing forth, stately
and majestic, even golden, while all around it,
darkness, rain falling, trees bent by the wind.

(Excerpted from Darkened Rooms of Summer)


        Slaughterhouse

There were no cattle prods back then.
          We beat and whipped
The ones that broke away. The pens
          were re-equipped

To move them more efficiently.
          For some, a sheer
Incomprehensibility
          took over.Fear

Made them submit.Convulsed with pain,
          a few cried out
To something that could not explain
          or hear their shout.

Jared Carter’s most recent collection, The Land Itself, is from Monongahela Books in West Virginia. His Darkened Rooms of Summer: New and Selected Poems, with an introduction by Ted Kooser, was published by the University of Nebraska Press in 2014. A recipient of several literary awards and fellowships, Carter is from the state of Indiana in the U.S.

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Categories
Independence Day Musings

An Immigrant’s Story

By Candice Louisa Daquin

I have an English accent because I learned English in England. After nearly 20 years in the US this is an accent, I wish I could rid myself of, owing to the assumptions made. I’m neither English nor imperialistic and Independence Day has always been challenging with comments like: “Well your side lost!” shouted my way a few times. I want to say, we’re all universal now, we all come from a multitude of places, accents and skin color aren’t accurate reflections of anything so stop being small minded.

Despite this, Independence Day has grown on me. Why? If I didn’t grow up in America, why would it really relate to me? Neither English nor American, it was hard to relate to. But you know what helped? Getting naturalized. Granted. I didn’t grow up in American schools pledging allegiance to the flag. This does inculcate and cause a great deal of loyalty which has brought 50 states into relative harmony, which is more than the EU could ever achieve in Europe.

Binding together such a melting pot of differing cultures into one ‘American culture’ is what made America, American. This is no small thing. And when you are an immigrant, there is nothing more emotionally rewarding than gaining that foothold, that coveted opportunity, to be part of the American Dream. The only question is, does it still exist, the dream part?

I would argue it does. As much as economically I know we can’t go from cotton picking farmer to CEO quite as readily as once we did, and that there are striations and class divisions in this country, even as we deny them. Though racism and bigotry continues to deny swaths of society, and affirmative action, permits entry, it’s more complicated than a straight shot to success the way we might have once imagined it, in the 1950’s heyday.

As I wasn’t alive in those days, I can’t speak to whether they were mythologized but I can say, America was affluent after World War II in a way Europe couldn’t imagine, being decimated in every respect. As such, there were leaps and bounds made in America that weren’t mirrored in much of the rest of the world. Like anything, this didn’t last, and America is no longer the leader of the world, if ever it was. But the dream is still alive, maybe as much in our imaginations as reality. Maybe it’s the idea of it more than the actuality of it.

That said, people send their kids to American universities to help them succeed, almost against modern wisdom. There are better schools elsewhere but we are still somewhat spellbound by the lure of big recognizable names, just as Hollywood continues to thrive, despite larger industries like Bollywood. We are sentiment to the America of old, and as such, the modern America can benefit from this and it does.

Independence gave America more of her identity than she had when she was being bled dry by the English royalty. America exists because of immigration. Native Americans were slaughtered in droves in order to ‘make way’ for the hordes of then foreigners. Parts of Mexico (Texas, New Mexico, California) were essentially stolen (or rightfully won, if you read some history books) in unfair wars, the French stupidly sold Louisiana and the Russians sold Alaska. These pieces came slowly together, and when the British lost America, the idea of truly being unfettered came into being and painted the American psyche.

So aside the obvious connotations and a holiday for most American’s who might not consider the historical import of Independence Day, what else does it represent? For many immigrants such as myself, it represents a change from what was. I didn’t grow up patriotic to a country, that was a foreign concept, and yet, as I stood in the Naturalization ceremony and put my hand over my chest and sang the songs, and waved the flag, as absurd as it felt on one level, it also felt very meaningful. That surprised me and my friends ‘back home’ might laugh to read this, but that’s what happens when you immigrate, or what should happen, you become something new. To me that’s what Independence Day is all about, a way forward from who you were before. Most of us could learn something from that, as we tend to be stuck in our ways, unable to relate to change and new concepts. There still is something deeply alluring about America and it’s our ability to take in a great variety of different people from all around the world and still retain a sense of what being American is, including transmitting this feeling to those newcomers as they arrive.

For this reason alone, we should all be proud to be American. For all the negatives, such as continuing racism and oppression, poverty and sexism, there are so many positive things about being American and that’s why so many people try to immigrate to American every single year. It’s no coincidence we’re continue to be a highly sought country to live in, it’s not simply our perceived economic opportunities, it’s the whole enchilada and that includes this elusive concept of what ‘being’ American is.

Many of us even from other countries, grew up deeply influenced by Americana. That included the golden years and even what came afterward, because Americans are very self-confident and they really know how to put their best foot forward. Social media may have us believe all is negative because there are those who like to criticize and never say anything positive, but this doesn’t really change things as much as we think. People still envy our freedom throughout the world and it was a hard-won freedom that none of us should forget, no matter where we live and where we intend to live. Freedom is something to never take for granted, and in this sense, Independence Day is a universal theme, freedom from oppression and the right to self-expression.

I hope American’s remember how lucky they are and spend less time fighting and more time appreciating those things we tend to take for granted. I can have an opinion in this country that disagrees with everyone and nobody will come and arrest me and take me away. Even if people don’t like my differences, I am protected by law and allowed to be different. Those are liberties many people don’t have, and I am mindful of this when I think of traveling as a gay woman, or for that matter, as a woman!

That said, we should also be mindful that freedom can vanish almost overnight, unless we make the right decisions in how we vote, and be aware of plans to undermine freedoms. Those who believe immigration is wrong, often point to increased immigration leading to less jobs, more change and an erosion of The American Way. I don’t agree, because the American way is immigration, it always has been. Sometimes bad (killing Native Americans, taking African slaves). Sometimes good (growing a country from people from every part of the world). If it didn’t work to have immigrants, America as we know it, wouldn’t exist.

However, with population increases, come difficulties, not least a lack of jobs, economic opportunity. So, we cannot simply open the gates without due care to the realities of this. The answer lies in being merciful to those who need better lives, and realistic about what we can do versus what won’t work. Equally, we need to be mindful of those who live here now and meet their needs as much as we help others. I feel lucky I have had a chance for a better life but I also miss my culture and the nuances of where I came from. I want others to have the chance I had, and I believe if you work hard and you are an honest person, you should be given that chance. Where that may fall short is when a person from a different culture fails to realize part of immigration is accepting you are coming to a different country and you must respect that country. If say, you are a man who is used to disrespecting women because your home country condones that, you cannot bring those values to a new country and expect that to work. In this sense, immigrants must be as responsible as the host country in their success as an immigrant and respect the host countries values. I feel safer in America as a gay woman and as a woman than so many other countries throughout the world. I don’t want that to change, and I want women from countries that condone gender-based-abuse to feel they can come to America and be unmolested.

We all make America better, when we respect this delicate balance. I for one feel immigrants are the most likely to vote and be active in making change, because they are both grateful and excited to have the chance. When I was naturalized, I was asked if I would vote because it was part of my ‘duty’ as an immigrant to give my input. I have voted in every election and I try not to bury my head in the sand about anything that matters because I feel it’s my duty to have my eyes wide open, that’s how we keep our independence and our freedoms.

The Inscription reads as: GALVESTON WAS THE PORT OF ENTRY FOR THOUSANDS OF IMMIGRANTS WHO SETTLED IN TEXAS AND THE SOUTHWEST. FEDERAL LAYS ENACTED IN 1875 ENDED THE UNRESTRICTED ENTRY OF IMMIGRANTS INTO THE COUNTRY AND LED TO THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE AREA’S FIRST U.S. IMMIGRATION STATION AT GALVESTON’S PIER 29. THERE U.S. CUSTOMS OFFICIALS CONDUCTED MEDICAL EXAMS, BAGGAGE INSPECTIONS AND FORMAL PROCESSING OF IMMIGRANTS. THOSE FOUND TO BE DISEASED OR INCAPACITATED FACED DEPORTATION. THE U.S. CONGRESS CHOSE GLAVESTON OVER NEW ORLEANS AS THE SITE OF A MAJOR NEW FEDERAL IMMIGRATION STATION IN 1906. PLANS TO BUILD AN IMPRESSIVE IMMIGRANT LANDING STATION ON PELICAN ISLAND COMPARABLE TO NEW YORK’S ELLIS ISLAND FACILITY WERE NEVER FULLY REALIZED. THE SCALED DOWN STATION, FULLY OPERATIONAL BY 1913, WAS DAMAGED BY HURRICANE WINDS IN 1915 ABD CLOSED IN 1916. tHE IMMIGRATION OFFICES WERE SUBSEQUENTLY RELOCATED TO A BUILDING ON GALVESTONS’S 21ST STREET.
A NEW 3-STORY IMMIGRATION STATION CONTAINING IMMIGRATION OFFICES, DORMITORIES, MEDICAL FACILITIES, A KITCHEN, AND DINING AND RECREATIONAL AREAS WAS COMPLETED HERE AT 1700 STRAND IN 1933. IT WAS USED AS AN IMMIGRATION AND DEPORTEE-STAGING FACILITY UNTIL ABOUT 1940 WHEN IT WAS CONVERTED FOR USE AS A U.S. CUSTOMS OFFICE. Photo and inscription courtesy: Creative Commons

Candice Louisa Daquin is a Psychotherapist and Editor, having worked in Europe, Canada and the USA. Daquins own work is also published widely, she has written five books of poetry, the last published by Finishing Line Press called Pinch the Lock. Her website is www thefeatheredsleep.com

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Categories
Essay Independence Day

The Story of a Bald Eagle & a Turkey

Text by Penny & photographs by Michael B. Wilkes

Photography by Michael B. Wilkes, FAIA

Independence Day, celebrated on July 4, commemorates the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America. In 1774, on June 11, the first Continental Congress (John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Robert R. Livingston, and Roger Sherman) worked on the draft of the Declaration of Independence.

The group designated Thomas Jefferson to write the text because of his superior writing skills and what they called his, “felicity of expression.”

The document declared that the thirteen American colonies would unite as free and independent states. They signed it into action on July 2 in 1776 and broke away from the British government under King George.

Now we celebrate Independence Day on July 4.

Photography by Michael B. Wilkes, FAIA

The Continental Congress gave Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson the job of designing an official seal for America. The idea for the bald eagle proposed in 1782, received acceptance. It included an olive branch with arrows in the talons to symbolize war and peace.

Photography by Michael B. Wilkes, FAIA

When Benjamin Franklin saw the eagle on the Cincinnati medals, he felt it looked like a turkey. He said, “The turk’y is in comparison a much more respectable bird. Though a little vain and silly. The turkey remains a bird of courage who would attack any British grenadier who should presume to invade the farm yard with a red coat on.”  Franklin wanted the turkey as the national bird.

Photography by Michael B. Wilkes, FAIA

Congress adopted the eagle design on June 20, 1782. The bald eagle appeared on official documents, currency, flags, public buildings, and other government-related items. Instead of a turkey, the bald eagle became an American icon.

Photography by Michael B. Wilkes, FAIA

In the late 1800’s, America was home to 100,000 nesting bald eagles, but the number of birds shrank because of habitat destruction and excessive hunting. In 1978 the bald eagle arrived on the endangered species list. Bills passed protecting the elegant bird. In 1995, the bald eagle population had recovered enough for the status of the bald eagle to be changed from, ‘endangered’ to ‘threatened’.

In 2007 the “threatened species” list no longer included the bald eagle.

Photography by Michael B. Wilkes, FAIA

The Bald Eagle soars as America’s national symbol with its fierce beauty and proud independence. It symbolizes the strength and freedom of  The United States of America.

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Penny Wilkes,  served as a science editor, travel and nature writer and columnist. An award-winning writer and poet, she has published a collection of short stories, Seven Smooth Stones. Her published poetry collections include: Whispers from the Land, In Spite of War, and Flying Lessons. Her Blog on The Write Life features life skills, creativity, and writing:  http://penjaminswriteway.blogspot.com/ . My photoblog is @: http://feathersandfigments.blogspot.com/

Michael B Wilkes is an award winning architect and  photographer who has collaborated on three books of poems with his wife Penny Wilkes. On two occasions he has received recognition among the 100 Most Influential peoples in San Diego by the San Diego Daily Transcript. Michael B Wilkes site:  http://mbwilkesphotography.com

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