Social Justice Poetry

Howard Richard Debs

The “Backfire Effect” – Untruth versus Poetry | A Social Justice Poem by Howard Richard Debs

So Chicken Licken believes the sky is falling
because an acorn drops upon his head; he
tells his close associate Henny Penny who
is flabbergasted at the thought and the
two march off to warn as many as possible
as quickly as they can, those such as
Goosey Loosey, Turkey Lurkey, Ducky Lucky,
all greatly concerned about their pending
doom and wondering how they
might ward off this catastrophe. They
urgently go together to see Cocky Locky,
known to be a problem solver without compare
and after presenting their case, he responds
in his usual measured and steady manner:
“The facts are these my friends” he begins,
“look up and see the sky is still in its place
on high above, the clouds still sail by
following the winds aloft, there
is nary a piece of firmament displaced,
the evidence is as clear as the day itself.”
But the others are unconvinced, even more
so do they fear their time has come, it is the end.
Instead of being comforted by the logic given, they
yet more staunchly conclude they are in harm’s way.
They start to run wildly about, trying to escape many
are trampled in the melee, and blindly fleeing
the remaining horde falls off a cliff and dies.
“Belief is the stronger of the truth.”

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Author’s note: It’s been a rough time for the truth. Now I know why. Buried in a social science journal is the answer, the “backfire effect.” Misinformed people do not change their minds once they have been presented with facts that challenge their beliefs, au contraire they are likely to become more attached to their mistaken beliefs, so assert the experts. We need something more than facts to turn the tide against untruth. I urge poetry.

Payday Lender Customer Briefly Seen on TV | A Social Justice Poem by Howard Richard Debs

Good evening, I’m Harriet
Ashbury your roving reporter at WNTV
and I’m standing here in the middle
of this establishment talking to people
waiting in line to take out loans against
their next paycheck. The new Consumer
Financial Protection Bureau has
just proposed regulations for
these types of short term small loans
and we want to find out what those
who use these think. So your name is?
Have you been to this place before?
Oh, yes, many times, I’m here
to refinance and get $150 now to pay the rent
it’s due before my next paycheck goes through.
Where do you work?
I’m at Burger Bob’s
mostly in the back doin’ fries.
How much do you
earn if you don’t mind my asking?
I make eight bucks an hour, they have me work
30 hours, so they don’t pay no benefits;
my mom, she can’t work has a bad back, she takes
care of my two little girls so I can be at BB’s, so it’s
hard making it through each week
with groceries, rent, you know what I mean.
Where’s your husband? Do you have a husband?
He left me, he drank pretty much. It’s better he’s gone.
Where do you live? Tell me about where you live.
We live at the Acres Inn
just a little ways down the street.
You mean you all live in a motel room?
Can’t you get assistance, like food stamps,
that sort of thing?
I don’t qualify, that’s what they told me,
anyway I don’t want a hand
out, we make it OK.
Isn’t the Acres the place
that just was cited by the Health Department?
Yeah, we got rats, roaches, you try not
to think about it, stay outta their way.
Will you have enough to pay
off the loan when it comes due?
Prob’ly not, it’s alright, I’ll
roll it over like usual.
But you keep paying
and doesn’t the interest just add up?
I don’t have no choice, I wanna have
a place for us — we gotta live.
That’s all the time we have,
I’m Harriet Ashbury reporting for WNTV, now
back to the newsroom for your local weather.

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