I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (Bidder 70)

Image by: Steve Rhodes

Grist.org published Tim DeChristopher’s first letter from prison today.  In the letter, Tim shares the shares the story of the opportunity for freedom which he forgave to stand firm on his principles.

Side note: If you’re not familiar with his plight, I recently wrote a post covering Tim’s story.   If you don’t want to dig in on the post, at least go read his statement, which I reproduced in its entirety at the end of that post. (Check it out.  It’s a powerful, hope-filled piece from an inspiring leader of the environmental movement.)

Tim’s first jail cell missive cuts through the din of the day’s political clatter.  At a time when many surreptitiously repudiate their beliefs for personal gain, Tim stands firm with his principles.  His actions stand in stark contrast to those of political candidates who knowingly deny the consensus of climate science.  When given the chance to recant his earlier statements, and thereby avoid jail time, Tim stood firm.  Here are his words:

If I had ever doubted the power of words, Judge Benson made their importance all too clear at my sentencing last month. When he sentenced me to two years in prison plus three years probation, he admitted my offense “wasn’t too bad.” The problem, Judge Benson insisted, was my “continuing trail of statements” and my lack of regret. Apparently, all he really wanted was an apology, and for that, two years in prison could have been avoided. In fact, Judge Benson said that had it not been for the political statements I made in public, I would have avoided prosecution entirely. As is generally the case with civil disobedience, it was extremely important to the government that I come before the majesty of the court with my head bowed and express regret.

(The rest of Tim’s letter is available here.  I assure you, it is well worth your time.)

I’ll close today’s post with the impetus for today’s title, Maya Angelou’s poem of the same name.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

By Maya Angelou

The free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with fearful trill
of the things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill for the caged bird
sings of freedom

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

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