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If I Were A Voice
If I were a voice, a persuasive voice,
That could travel the wide world through,
I would fly on the beams of the morning light,
And speak to men with a gentle might,
And tell them to be true.
I’d fly, I’d fly, o’er land and sea,
Wherever a human heart might be,
Telling a tale, or singing a song,
In praise of the right – in blame of the wrong.
If I were a voice, a consoling voice,
I’d fly on the wings of air,
The homes of Sorrow and Guilt I’d seek,
And calm and truthful words I’d speak
To save them from Despair.
I’d fly, I’d fly, o’er the crowded town,
And drop, like the happy sun-light, down
Into the hearts of suffering men,
And teach them to rejoice again.
If I were a voice, a convincing voice,
I’d travel with the wind,
And whenever I saw the nations torn
By warfare, jealousy, or scorn,
If I were a voice, a convincing voice,
I ‘d travel with the wind,
And whenever I saw the nations torn
By warfare, jealousy, or scorn,
Or hatred of their kind,
I’d fly, I’d fly, on the thunder-crash,
And into their blinded bosoms flash;
And, all their evil thoughts subdued,
I’d teach them Christian Brotherhood.
If I were a voice, a pervading voice,
I’d seek the kings of Earth;
I’d find them alone on their beds at night
And whisper words that should guide them right
Lessons of priceless worth;
I’d fly more swift than the swiftest bird,
And tell them things they never heard
Truths which the ages for aye repeat
Unknown to the statesmen at their feet.
If I were a voice, an immortal voice,
I’d speak in the people’s ear;
And whenever they shouted ‘Liberty,’
Without deserving to be free,
I’d make their error clear.
I’d fly, I’d fly, on the wings of day,
Rebuking wrong on my world-wide way,
And making all the Earth rejoice-
If I were a voice-an immortal voice.
My hands are wet with blood. They are crimsoned with the blood of a man I have just killed.
I have come here today to confess. I have committed murder, deliberate, premeditated murder. I have killed a man in cold blood. That man is my master.
I am here not to ask for pity but for justice. Simple, elementary justice. I am a tenant… My father was a tenant before me and so was his father before him. This misery is my inheritance and perhaps this will be my legacy to my children.
I have labored on a patch of land not mine. But I have learned to love that land, for it is the only thing that lies between me and complete destitution.
It is the only world that I have learned to cherish. And somewhere on that land I have managed to build what is now the dilapidated nipa shack that has been home to me.
I have but a few world possessions, mostly rags. My debts are heavy. They are sum total of my ignorance and the inspired arithmetic of my master, which I do not understand.
I labor like a slave and out of the fruits of that labor I get but a mere pittance for a share. And I have to stretch that mere pittance to keep myself and my family alive.
My poverty has reduced me to the bare necessities of life. And the constant fear of rejection from the land has made me totally subservient to my master. You tell me that under the constitution, I am a free man-free to do what I believe is just, free to do what I think is right, and free to worship God according to the dictate of my conscience. But I do not understand the meaning of all these for I have never known freedom. I have always obeyed the wishes of my master out of fear. I have always regarded myself as no better than a slave to the man who owns the land on which I live. I do not ask you to forgive me nor to mitigate my crime. I have taken the law into my own hands, and I must pay for it in atonement.
But kill this system. Kill this system and you kill despotism. Kill this system and you kill slavery. Kill this despotism and you set the human soul to liberty and freedom. Kill this slavery and you release the human spirit into happiness and contentment. For the cause of human liberty, of human happiness and contentment, thousands and even millions have died and will continue to die.
Mine is only one life. Take me if you must but let it be a sacrifice to the cause which countless others have been given before and will be given again and again, until the oppressive economic system has completely perished, until the sons of toil have been liberated from enslavement, and until man has been fully restored to decency and self respect.
You tell me of the right to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But I have known no rights, only obligations; I have known no happiness; only despair in the encumbered existence that has always been my lot.
My dear friend, I am a peace-loving citizen. I have nothing but love for my fellowmen. And yet, why did I kill this man? It is because he was the symbol of an economic system which has made him and me what we are: He, a master, and I, a slave.
Out of a deliberate design I killed him because I could no longer stand this life of constant fear and being a servant. I could no longer suffer the thought of being perpetually a slave.
I committed the murder as an abject lesson. I want to blow that spelled the death of my master to be a death blow to the institution of the economic slavery which shamelessly exists in the bright sunlight of freedom that is guaranteed by the constitution to every man. My dear friend: I do anguish from the weak and helpless and has laid upon the back of the ignorant labor burdens that are too heavy to be borne, I demand death!
To this callous system of exploitation that has tightened the fetters of perpetual bondage in the hands of thousands, and has killed the spirit of freedom in the hearts of men, I demand death.
To this oppression that has denied liberty to the free and unbounded children of God, I DEMAND DEATH!
‘Twas a balmy summer evening and a goodly crowd was there,
Which well-nigh filled Joe’s barroom, on the corner of the square;
And as songs and witty stories Came through the open door,
A vagabond crept slowly in and posed upon the floor.
“Where did it come from?” someone said. “The wind has blown it in.”
“What does it want?” another cried. “Some whiskey, or rum or gin?”
“Here, Toby, sic ’em, if your stomach’s equal to the work–
I wouldn’t touch him with a fork, he’s filthy as a Turk.”
This badinage the poor wretch took with stoical good grace;
In fact, he smiled as tho’ he thought he’d struck the proper place.
“Come, boys, I know there’s kindly hearts among so good a crowd–
To be in such good company would make a deacon proud.
“Give me a drink–that’s what I want… I’m out of funds, you know,
When I had cash to treat the gang this hand was never slow.
What? You laugh as if you thought this pocket never held a sou;
I once was fixed as well, my boys, as any one of you.
“There, thanks, that’s braced me nicely, God bless you one and all;
Next time I pass this good saloon, I’ll make another call.
Give you a song? No, I can’t do that, my singing days are past;
My voice is cracked, my throat’s worn out and my lungs are going fast.
“I’ll tell you a funny story, and a fact, I promise, too.
Say! Give me another whiskey and I’ll tell you what I’ll do…
That I was ever a decent man not one of you would think;
But I was, some four or five years back. Say, give me another drink.
“Fill her up, Joe, I want to put some life into my frame–
Such little drinks to a bum like me are miserably tame;
Five fingers… there, that’s the scheme… and corking whiskey, too.
Well, here’s luck, boys and landlord… my best regards to you.
“You’ve treated me pretty kindly and I’d like to tell you true
How I came to be the dirty sot, you see before you now.
As I told you, once I was a man, with muscle, frame, and health,
And but for a blunder ought to have made, considerable wealth.
“I was a painter, not one that daubed on bricks and wood,
But an artist, and for my age, was rated pretty good.
I worked hard at my canvas and was bidding fair to rise,
For gradually I saw the star of fame before my eyes.
“I made a picture perhaps you’ve seen, ’tis called the ‘Chase of Fame’.
It brought me fifteen hundred pounds and added to my name,
And then I met a woman… now comes the funny part–
With eyes that petrified my brain and sunk into my heart.
“Why don’t you laugh? ’tis funny that the vagabond you see
Could ever love a woman and expect her love for me;
But ’twas so, and for a month or two, her smiles were freely given,
And when her loving lips touched mine, it carried me to Heaven.
“Boys, did you ever see a girl for whom your soul you’d give,
With a form like the Milo Venus, too beautiful to live;
With eyes that would beat the Koh-i-noor and a wealth of chestnut hair?
If so, ’twas she, for there never was, another half so fair.
“I was working on a portrait, one afternoon in May,
Of a fair-haired boy, a friend of mine, who lived across the way.
And Madeline admired it and much to my surprise,
Said she’d like to know the man, that had such dreamy eyes.
“It didn’t take long to know him and before the month had flown
My friend had stole my darling, and I was left alone;
And ere a year of misery had passed above my head,
The jewel I had treasured so had tarnished and was dead.
That’s why I took to drink, boys. why, I never see you smile,
I thought you’d be amused and laughing all the while.
Why, what’s the matter, friend?… there’s a tear-drop in your eye,
Come, laugh like me ’tis only babes and women that should cry.
“Say, boys, if you give me just another whiskey I’ll be glad,
And I’ll draw right here a picture of the face that drove me mad.
Give me that piece of chalk with which you mark the baseball score
You shall see the lovely Madeline upon the barroom floor.”
Another drink, and with chalk in hand, the vagabond began
To sketch a face that well might buy, the soul of any man.
Then, as he placed another lock upon the shapely head,
With a fearful shriek, he leaped and fell across the picture… dead!
I wept, I cried so hard. But this tears can’t bring back my sister to life. My being brought here by my conscience. I want to ask forgiveness. But can she still hear? O heart, forgive me for what I have done, please bring peace to mind.
Dry leaves were crushed down below. As if to freshen my memories that her life perished because of my selfishness.
She was my only sister. Since our childhood, I always believed that I was the favorite of our dad. One night, while I was facing all about to the mirror, with my micro mini, I puffed powder, when I saw Luisa’s face, reflecting in the mirror. “You can’t get out tonight, Lucille.” I heard a threatening tone from her. I turned to her, but I can’t resist at her sharp stare at me. “And who says so, my dear sister?” “We are to celebrate Momma’s death anniversary, you know that don’t you?” In a relaxed and condescending voice, I replied “well I don’t care. I’m going out to party tonight!”
Then I heard a knock on the door. I shouted “Help Papa!” for I knew that it was he. I pulled my hair, I tore my dress away as I was attacked by a squad of monstrous creatures. When the door opened the site Papa saw was that Luisa was holding my neck who was trying to make a rescue. But I cried so hard that made Papa grew to the height of anger. He threw Luisa to the corner, where the head of my poor sister was hit at the edge of the chair.
I slowly rejoiced for I have made a successful revenge. But when she lifted, I saw a different sparkle in her tearful eyes. “Ha ha ha ha ha!” O my, Luisa, she went out of her mind. I was not able to move, as well as Papa. Both of us were motionless. And before we returned to our senses, Luisa ran to the door and proceeded to the open gate of our house. We followed her calling out her name. “Luisa!” “Sister!” “Luisa” “Sister” “Luisa the Truck!” “Don’t cross the road, Luisa, the truck don’t Don’t DON’T!”
The next sight I saw was that Luisa was thrown five meters away from the truck. I ran to her and embraced her. Blood was all over her face. In a low but distinct voice she murmured, that made my heart break so much. She said, “Lucille, please be a good girl. I love you. Please be a good girl ‘coz Papa loves you very much.”
“Luisa? Luisa? Sister… sister!!!” From that moment I cried so hard for killing my only sister, who loved and cared for me, even at the last moment of her life.
Now can you blame me, for asking God to forgive me? Forgive me dear God, Forgive me!
It’s already twelve o’clock. Oh, God, I’m hungry! I’ve been running and hiding for almost three days. I’m dead tired. I need some rest. But no, they are looking for me! And if they find me, I will be put to jail. But, where can I hide? Leo’s father is so influential, so powerful. He is the governor of our great province and I happened to kill his son!
No, don’t accuse me like that! I’m not a murderess! Hear me, I’m begging you, I tell you I’m not a murderess.
Audience, let me explain, please.
Okay, okay, okay! It all happened in school one day. I went to the library to find a book. Then I found it. I got so engrossed to what I was reading that I almost didn’t notice the time. It was gone past six and, oh my! I think I was the only student left in the library. To my dismay, Leo was waiting for me outside. I wanted to hide but it was too late. He was already in front of me.
“Hi, Brenda! Can I drive you home?”
I shook my head irritatingly. My God, how I hate him! He often sends me scented love letters in pink stationery which I sent back all unopened. He sends me roses and chocolates, too. They are my favorites. I wanted so much to eat the chocolates, but I hate the person who gave them. So I throw them into the trash. How could I ever get away from this guy?
“Hey, Leo, wait a minute! If you want to drive me home, thanks, but no thanks! I’m old enough to go home on my own, okay? So, please stop following me like a dog! And besides, I’m too young for love and I don’t accept any suitors, understand?”
“But, Brenda, I love you! Can’t you understand? I can give you anything you want. Say it and you’ll have it. And, Brenda, remember, I can get everything I want by hook or crook. So you’d better be good to me or else. Ha… ha… ha…!”
And he started laughing like a monster. I got so scared. I know how powerful his family was, but I still insisted, “Leo, how can you be such a jerk? I don’t like you and I don’t love you. In fact, I hate you! Now, will you leave me alone?”
But instead of leaving, do you know what he did? He pushed me so hard against the wall and started kissing me. I was shouting for help, but no, no one was there!
“Somebody, help me, please! Please, please! Help! Help!”
Then he gave me a big, big punch on my stomach. Oh my God! It was painful!
But even before he reached for me again, I spotted a rusty knife and grabbed it.
“Now, Mr. Leo Monteverde, try to kiss me again, attempt to rape me again, and I will never ever forgive you! Go to hell! Um… um… ummm!”
I didn’t know how many times I pushed the rusty knife in his body. Then I noticed something. Blood, blood… there’s a blood on my hands!
Leo, Leo…! Oh, God! I killed Leo! No, I’m not a murderess! He was going to rape me and I just defended myself. I didn’t mean to do it, I’m not a murderess! I’m not a murderess! But I killed Leo…! I killed him! I’m a murderess! Ha! Ha! I’m a murderess! Ha! Ha! Ha!
I will rest here, awhile. His face! His face! Not comely now. There is no beauty in it. It is scarred into my heart. It is burned into my soul and never will it lift from me until I die. Die? Will death quench the flames which consume me? Traitor, not endless years in hell can even pay the crime of murdering the son of God.
And last night, he dealt with me so gently. He washed my feet. He bade me to put my hand into the cup with his, while in my purse there jingled the coins which bought his blood. It was better for that man that he had never been born. Who? Who but I, who but I, I who betrayed him!
“What you do, do it quickly.” He knew, and kept my sin a secret.
“Friend, where unto have you come, Judas, Judas, do you betray the Son of God with a kiss?”
Friend! Friend! He called me his friend. The man I betrayed called me his friend. How hell must have laughed. Why did not the mountains fall on me?
Why did not the earth gape and swallow me up? Why did not the sea overwhelm me? Friend. Ha! Ha! Friend. Ha! Ha! Ha! The world will know Judas as the friend.
The world will point to Judas as a by word, and as a pledge of broken faith!
Do you think Judas you can hide from the father of your friend Jesus? Not even in hell can I escape. Not in the grave for the earth will spurn my corpse. Not in the heavens for Jesus the friend is there.
What hope for Judas? What hope for Judas? Not even in hell can I escape for he called me devil, and devils cried out: torment us not, Jesus, Judas, faithless friend, devil, one of whom it would have been better not to have been born.
There is no hope for you, no hope, no hope…
I’m proud of my dirty hands. Yes, they are dirty. And they are rough and knobby and calloused. And I’m proud of the dirt and the knobs and the callouses. I didn’t get them that way by playing bridge or drinking afternoon tea out of dainty cups, or playing the well-advertised Good Samaritan at charity balls.
I got them that way by working with them, and I’m proud of the work and the dirt. Why shouldn’t I feel proud od the work they do – these dirty hands of mine?
My hands are the hands of plumbers, of truck drivers and street cleaners; of carpenters; engineers, machinists and workers in steel. They are not pretty hands, they are dirty and knobby and calloused. But they are strong hands, hands that make so much that the world must have or die.
Someday, I think, the world should go down on its knees and kiss all the dirty hands of the working world, as in the days long past, armored knights would kiss the hands of ladies fair. I’m proud of my dirty hands. The world has kissed such hands. The world will always kiss such hands. Men and women put reverent lips to the hands of Him who held the hammer and the saw and the plane. His weren’t pretty hands either when they chopped trees, dragged rough lumber, and wielded carpenter’s tools. They were workingman’s hands – strong, capable proud hands. And weren’t pretty hands when the executioners got through them. They were torn right clean through by ugly nails, and the blood was running from them, and the edges of the wounds were raw and dirty and swollen; and the joints were crooked and the fingers were horribly bent in a mute appeal for love.
They weren’t pretty hands then, but, O God, they were beautiful – those hands of the Savior. I’m proud of those dirty hands, hands of my Savior, hands of God.
And I’m proud of my hands too, dirty hands, like the hands of my Savior, the Hands of my God!
Once upon a time, the tao owned a piece of land. It was all he owned. But he cherished it, for it gave him three things, having which, he was content: life, first of all, and liberty, and happiness.
Then one day the Spaniard came and commanded him to pay tribute to the crown of Spain. The tao paid tribute. And he was silent — he was certain that he was still the master of his land.
The Spaniard became rich. But with riches, evil entered into him and he came to the tao a second time. He read to the tao a formidable document saying: “According to this decreto real, which unfortunately you cannot read, this that you have been paying me is not tribute but rent, for the land is not yours but mine.” The tao paid tribute and said nothing … He ceased to be a freeman. He became a serf. Still the tao held his peace. The rent went up and up. The tao starved.
And this time at last he spoke. Not in words, but with that rustic instrument with which he cleared the land once his own — the bolo. He transformed it from an instrument of tillage to an instrument of death, and with it drove away the stranger. Then he returned to his field saying: “Now indeed shall I again be master of this land, once my own, but stolen from me by the trickery of quicker wits than mine.”
But the tao was wrong. For the land had another master. This time not a stranger, but his own countryman grown rich. The tao had a new name, kasama, which to us means partner, but which to the tao meant still a slave, for once more he suffered from his countrymen the same things he had suffered from the stranger: the rents, the usury, and all the rest of it.
Yes, the tao returned to his field thinking that he was free. But he soon discovered that he was still a prisoner. His prison, a two-room shack, rent by every wind, without any comforts, except that three families have there the privilege to starve. The tao’s home has become his very prison. Its doors, if you can call them such, are wide open. It is a prison nonetheless. For the tao is bound to it, not with chains of steel, but with a stronger chain — his honor. To this day, the tao remains a slave, a prisoner of the usurer.
No wonder, then that tao, being a slave, has acquired the habits of a slave. No wonder that after three centuries in chains, without freedom, without hope, he should lose the erect and fearless posture of the freeman, and become the bent, misshapen, indolent, vicious, pitiful thing that he is! Who dares accuse him, who dares rise up in judgement against this man, reduced to this sub-human level by three centuries of oppression. The tao does not come here tonight to be judged — but to judge! Hear then his accusation and his sentence:
I indict the Spanish encomendero for inventing taxes impossible to bear.
I indict the usurer for saddling me with debts impossible to pay.
I indict the irresponsible radical leaders who undermine, with insidious eloquence, the confidence of my kind in our government.
You accuse me of not supporting my family. Free me from bondage, and I shall prove you false.
You accuse me of ignorance. But I am ignorant because my master finds it profitable to keep me ignorant. Free me from bondage, and I shall prove you false.
You accuse me of indolence. But I am indolent not because I have no will, but because I have no hope. Why should I labor, if all the fruits of my labor go to pay an unpayable debt. Free me from bondage, and I shall prove you false.
Give me land. Land to own. Land unbeholden to any tyrant. Land that will be free. Give me land for I am starving. Give me land that my children may not die. Sell it to me, sell it to me at a fair price, as one freeman sells to another and not as a usurer sells to a slave. I am poor, but I will pay it! I will work, work until I fall from weariness for my privilege, for my inalienable right to be free!
BUT IF YOU WILL NOT GRANT ME THIS … If you will not grant me this last request, this ultimate demand, then build a wall around your home … build it high! … build it strong! Place a sentry on every parapet! … for I who have been silent these three hundred years will come in the night when you are feasting, with my cry and my bolo at your door. And may God have mercy on your soul!