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The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "To Have a Dream"

This poem came from the February 2, 2010 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by prompts from jenny_evergreen and janet_miles.  It was sponsored by xjenavivex.  February is Black History Month.  This poem tells a story of what it means to be human, and how history repeats itself so that we can keep learning from it.


To Have a Dream


The viewscreen flickers with history, its lesson
flecked with grains of black and white.
The children, my charges, sit in front of it
the ancient crowd reflected in their eyes.

     When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words
     of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were
     signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.

I am no teacherbot, filled with the chips of history.
To me this is all as new as today's download.
Although my children are growing bored
and their lunches are not yet made,
and I will surely be scolded for negligence,
I find that I cannot turn my lenses away
from the dark man shouting out the lesson.

     But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt.
     We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the
     great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come
     to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand
     the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

I am no lawbot, weighing the scales
of right and wrong; such is beyond me.
The orator speaks of justice and
I cannot comprehend his meaning.
He speaks of calculations and funds.
I am no bankbot, but I understand
the concepts of balance and equation.
He speaks of equality, and that
is a more difficult thing than math.
I am not sure that I understand it,
but I am listening with all that is in me.

     I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in
     a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin
     but by the content of their character.

I look at the four little children
in front of me, in front of him
where he speaks from the screen,
and I see that their skins range
through shades of pink to brown,
and I realize that I had never known
that once it would have mattered.
All I have ever known is that
they are human children, and
therefore infinitely above me.

I turn over my hands and
light from the viewscreen reflects
on the silver skin of my palms.
A bit of understanding comes
slowly to the surface of my mind:
To have a dream is to be human.

     I have a dream  today!

I, too, am human.

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10 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
siege From: siege Date: February 10th, 2010 06:04 am (UTC) (Link)
This one touches me. When I was small, I don't remember having imaginary friends. Instead, I had an imaginary double, a robot who looked and thought just like me so I could be in two places at once. A robot who liked me and was my friend, and almost a brother. But he was talked of only in play with my sister, as we discussed our childish travels across the universe, to planets made of cookie dough (various types, baked and unbaked; she had a chocolate chip mine there, I think) or bread or machinery (it was a robot factory, of course, for the company I owned that made my double, but I forget the name now).

Also, I've been considering recently how artificial brains might be made, and the development of intelligence in things which are made rather than growing of themselves.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 10th, 2010 06:16 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>>This one touches me. <<

I'm happy to hear that.

>> When I was small, I don't remember having imaginary friends. Instead, I had an imaginary double, a robot who looked and thought just like me so I could be in two places at once. A robot who liked me and was my friend, and almost a brother.<<

How sweet!

>>But he was talked of only in play with my sister, as we discussed our childish travels across the universe, to planets made of cookie dough<<

I love this. Thank you so much for sharing.

>>Also, I've been considering recently how artificial brains might be made, and the development of intelligence in things which are made rather than growing of themselves.<<

I have explored this idea variously in fiction and poetry. You'd probably like the silico androids in my science fantasy universe. Their bodies were built, but they were intended only as sophisticated robots with programming to mimic human emotion. It was a surprise to everyone that some of them woke up and had souls.
siege From: siege Date: February 10th, 2010 07:04 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

I'm thinking that as we advance, we'll be creating circuits out of plastic films soon enough; and with the description (and now subsequent invention/discovery) of the memristor, we have an electronic component which may in fact simulate a neuron in its behavior. Imagine multi-dimensional films or foams of plastic memristors, woven in clumps of neural columns to simulate the structure of a natural brain, given an initial weighted charge which is then quickly trained for a particular purpose -- but able to easily learn new tasks over time.

An adaptable, damage-resistant artificial brain, made of cheap materials. It wouldn't grow, and neurons couldn't grow new dendrons, but it would think almost exactly as we do. It would probably age, but only at the rate that the base materials decay, which could be made as fast or slow as we wanted (within reason). The only thing we'd need then would be safety measures and assistive devices (like silicon-based circuits that wouldn't age nearly so fast) which help train an uncertain young mind and support an uncertain old one to its retirement, and we'd have a race of thinking machines.

Alternatively, we could learn to create holographic or fracture-based circuits in monocrystals (as a friend of mine has done psychically), and store data and functions in the charges and circuits created thereby. In fact, such systems could support each other. Mass storage of memories, perhaps, allowing robot and human to back-up mindstate and experiences, perhaps to share with each other. (She does in fact use hers as a means of holding memories to support her error-prone and forgetful living mind, as many other people use notepads or their computers.)
siege From: siege Date: February 10th, 2010 07:09 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

And here's where I miss the paid feature that lets you edit comments.

I meant to add the word "commonly" in my first sentence. We're already making electronic circuits on plastic films, we're just not making CPUs on plastic due to process cost and heating problems (that's one primary reason our brains are water-cooled, with large reservoirs inside; the other primary reason is impact cushioning).
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 12th, 2010 06:29 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

That sounds like a promising line of development.

Alas, I do not think that humanity is responsible enough to create a new sentient race yet. We have not even learned to treat each other decently on a consistent basis. Adolescent races ought not to beget new races for similar reasons why teenagers should not have babies.
jenny_evergreen From: jenny_evergreen Date: February 10th, 2010 02:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm so glad this got funded! My private view brought tears to my eyes; it's perfect!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 10th, 2010 06:49 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm glad you found this so touching.
aldersprig From: aldersprig Date: July 30th, 2010 05:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
I like this. It reminds me of Asimov's "The Bicentennial Man." (such a better story than the movie).
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 31st, 2010 02:43 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm glad you like it. Although I'm not a big fan of Asimov's writing, I have to admit that I like some of his themes.
red_trillium From: red_trillium Date: August 2nd, 2010 04:46 am (UTC) (Link)
I like this too. It makes me think about the current generations, the post-60's Civil Right's kids. I know not everyone is taught to respect diversity but I can hope that more kids are learning this, are hearing Dr King's speeches and hopefully thinking instead of striking them off as "old history".

I have his Drum Major/Mountain Top and his I Have a Dream speeches on vinyl. I pull them out and listen to them sometimes, the last time was at Obama's win.

And yet, with as far as we have come (ie--Obama), how sad is it that I prayed when I went to bed the night of his election win that I wouldn't wake up to some nut having assassinated him? How sad that I knew some of my former country-people enough to know there were those who would do that just because of his skin colour or his family's religion.
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