in america, we like our heroes dead

By Matthew Bendert

in america, we like our heroes dead
dead where they can’t hurt us anymore

we like our heroes dead, preferably
gunned down in the middle of the street
(that most american of deaths)
or beaten or suddenly taken by fatal disease
because martyrs can’t be martyrs
’til martyrdom makes them safe;

in america, we like our heroes dead
because living heroes are dangerous

because living heroes have a mind
of their own and, let’s be honest, symbols
aren’t supposed to think for themselves
aren’t supposed to “correct the record”
or contradict the story, the TRUTH!
OUR truth! that most american of liberties,
to believe what we want no matter the facts;

we like our heroes dead because
symbols don’t have endorsement deals
martyrs can’t be hypocrites
(at least not anymore)
and a ghost is far less terrifying
than an angry black man or brown woman
or native man or empowered woman,
far less terrifying than a living, angry person;

threats of change from the mouths of ghosts
are lovely words carved on monuments
and memorials and memorized by 12-year-olds,
but the living take sides, make mistakes,
mistakes and confessions and off-hand remarks,
fallible inconsistencies unbecoming of our
american gods of integrity and liberty and
moxie and grit and just the right amount of rebellion;

we like our heroes and gods dead in america,

dead

where they can’t hurt us anymore

 

Matthew Bendert is a California-based poet and photographer. He occasionally performs spoken word and has published poetry in the print journals Montage and Roads Are Real.