The Day that Bob Hope Died

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by Giles Li
(July 28, 2003)

Bob Hope died yesterday
and I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but it seems fitting
because hope died yesterday for me as well.

Hope died for Sheng Hao Tang
when he was beaten to death at the corner of Tamworth and Boylston
on his way home to Beach St
after morning qi gong on the Common.

Hope dies for this 70-year-old man
when he drew his last breath as the victim of a mugging
robbed for a handful of dollar bills.
the same money he and his wife used to raise 5 children
money from his years as a chef in China
and working at a flour factory in Boston.
money that would have bought dan tat and haw flakes for his grandchildren.

Hope died on the front page of this morning’s newspaper
as staffwriters jostled for space with department store ads
to relay their memories of the late, great, 100-year-old comedian
while news of Mr. Tang’s death
was relegated to an article about the city’s recent increase in violent crime,
proof positive that hope died for many
a long time ago.

Hope died for Tony On on Independence Day
at Bayside when he was stabbed to death
while watching fireworks explode infinitely overhead.
Newspapers speculated about his gang affiliation,
because he was from Dorchester,
because he was Vietnamese,
because there are never easy answers after the killing og a high school student
who never made the paper before.
No staffwriters wrote three-inch-wide columns about Tony’s life.
No staffwriters even cared that he was dead,
just like they never cared about him when he was alive.

Hope died for Kai Leigh Harriet
when she paralyzed from the neck down
by a stray bullet
while playing with sunlight on her porch.
And while newspapers did devote space to this 3-year-old girl
who survived a shooting,
none of them wondered why a 3-year-old girl
shouldn’t be able to play on her porch,
or why people feel the need to carry guns in the first place,
or why there has never been a serious effort
by the powers that be
to get guns off the streets.

So as newspapers trip over each other,
trying to pay tribute to him,
and President Bush makes a press statement about the life
of this great man
Bob Hope,
I will continue to listen to the silence
as tribute from the rest of us.
For Sheng Hao Tang
For Tony On.
For Kai Leigh Harriet.
For all the lives ended and altered by violence
who never got their fair space in the newspaper.

Bob Hope died yesterday
and I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but it seems fitting
because the rest of us are still struggling so hard
to keep hope alive.

© Giles Li