Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Zero Tolerance

Logo of the Zero Tolerance Policy at Queen Mary University of London Student Union

Various countries have laws for zero tolerance of: Using certain pesticides and chemicals, Bullying in the workplace, Dealing Narcotics, Driving while intoxicated, Belonging to gangs, Using weapons and drugs and violence in schools, and increasingly, Discriminating on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation and religion in many settings.

And by international agreement since 2012, all countries have zero-tolerance for genital mutilation: 

The International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is February 6, today. 


Midweek Motif ~ Zero Tolerance
     Zero-Tolerance is controversial, and hard to enforce.  This is not just because one law doesn't fit everyone, but because laws are applied unevenly.  In the USA, biased law enforcement has led to a racist "school to prison pipeline," for example.

     But when Zero Tolerance becomes a law, its job is to prevent future damage.  Changing behaviors by enforcement now is meant to change attitudes over time.   Does this work? Can it work? Should it work?

     Here are 2 personal examples:  

(1) I recently witnessed a speaker at a library event give contact information for female circumcision, and no one objected.  A lady next to me shushed me when I bristled, and said, "We try to tolerate everybody."  Later I asked the Library Director why he allowed it, and he said he hadn't heard it.  People try not to know, I think.  But how can I be shocked when I didn't follow through myself?    
(2) In my high school English classroom, I had zero tolerance for hate speech of any kind.  To enforce it I had to insist students were in MY space, not public space where free speech is legal.  Imagine the debates!  I had to renew the contract with each new group of students. 

Your Challenge:  Take one tiny piece of this vast topic to illuminate in a new poem using your stories, images, experience, wishes, and potential solutions.  Feel free to focus on FGM.  

(Chess et al. 1988)
Γ―ƒ˜If we listen to the public, we will devote
scarce resources to issues that are not a
From "Crisis Communication," a slide share 
by Dr.Arivalan Ramaiyah Director of Praxis Skills Training and Consultancy
“We were all involved in the death of John Kennedy. We tolerated hate; we tolerated the sick stimulation of violence in all walks of life; and we tolerated the differential application of law, which said that a man's life was sacred only if we agreed with his views. This may explain the cascading grief that flooded the country in late November. We mourned a man who had become the pride of the nation, but we grieved as well for ourselves because we knew we were sick.”  ― Martin Luther King Jr.
Genial poets, pink-faced   
earnest wits—
you have given the world   
some choice morsels,
gobbets of language presented
as one presents T-bone steak
and Cherries Jubilee.   
Goodbye, goodbye,
                            I don’t care
if I never taste your fine food again,   
neutral fellows, seers of every side.   
Tolerance, what crimes
are committed in your name.

And you, good women, bakers of nicest bread,   
blood donors. Your crumbs
choke me, I would not want
a drop of your blood in me, it is pumped   
by weak hearts, perfect pulses that never   
falter: irresponsive
to nightmare reality.

It is my brothers, my sisters,
whose blood spurts out and stops
because you choose to believe it is not your business.

Goodbye, goodbye,
your poems
shut their little mouths,   
your loaves grow moldy,   
a gulf has split
                     the ground between us,
and you won’t wave, you’re looking
another way.
We shan’t meet again—
unless you leap it, leaving   
behind you the cherished   
worms of your dispassion,   
your pallid ironies,
your jovial, murderous,   
wry-humored balanced judgment,
leap over, un-
balanced? ... then
how our fanatic tears
would flow and mingle   
for joy ..
Farah Gabdon's poem "Woman"
(The Finnish League for Human Rights, Oct. 2016, Helsinki, Finland.)

'It is a foolish thing,' said I,
'To bear with such, and pass it by;
Yet so I do, I know not why!'

And at each clash I would surmise
That if I had acted otherwise
I might have saved me many sighs.

But now the only happiness
In looking back that I possess —
Whose lack would leave me comfortless —

Is to remember I refrained
From masteries I might have gained,
And for my tolerance was disdained;

For see, a tomb. And if it were
I had bent and broke, I should not dare
To linger in the shadows there.


Please share your new poem using Mr. Linky below and visit others in the spirit of the community.   

(Next week Sumana’s Midweek Motif will be ~ Love)


  1. Poems like Goodbye to Tolerance are eye openers. Also the Hardy poem. A great prompt Susan.

    1. Thank you. I was afraid it was too heavy. But it helped me unleash some of what I was feeling last night listening to the US president speak. Timely for so many reasons. I'm going to your site now!

  2. I could write a whole treatise on what there should be zero tolerance of. But i tried to restrain myself. The times we live in are heavy, and we need to not be in denial, if anything is going to change. I look forward to reading the responses. Thanks, Susan.

  3. Wow! "Woman" is awesome. Hard to believe those old horrific practices are still going on. We need to make the Great Leap as a species, and soon.

  4. This was a good and challenging prompt for me. So much to say but words escaped me. I did my best.
    I love the "Woman" poem too and I read up on FGM. Too much injustice can be tolerated under the guise of religious/cultural practice. Thanks for leading me to learn something today. Have a great day Susan.

    1. I'm glad the motif didn't turn you away. Thank you!

  5. Hello Poets! Came back to PU after a long feels wonderful!! Here is something I wrote after a long time.And the more I write,
    the deeper the wound etches....Thanks Susan for the inspiration.
    Shall come back tomorrow to read all the beautiful entries. Happy Wednesday...

  6. Hello everyone, am hoping that the weather is being kinder to you than me. As Toronto has had sleet, this morning and freezing rain, forecasted for the evening.

    This poem may shock some people, as I don't support the zero tolerance movement, when it comes to punishing children for bullying. I.e., expulsions for young children, as it doesn't apply any nuance to the problem at hand. Like taking an atomic bomb to hit a house fly.

    1. No shock. The form (that I have yet to try) allowed you to get your point across. I love this analogy "Like taking an atomic bomb to hit a house fly."

  7. Thanks for the chance to vent about the topic. LOL.

  8. Great quotes, thoughts and poems, Susan.
    Enjoy your week!
    Wonderful to share my poem :)


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