Reflection on “How Dare You”

by Christópher Abreu Rosario

This is a reflection on the prayer “How Dare You.”

What a powerful responsive prayer. The reciter openly declares their frustration in all three stanzas. What is unclear, and perhaps purposefully, is who the reciter is calling out. It could be God, their pastor, a politician, a person who exists in a higher-class structure. It could even be Dr. Carvalhaes, who is visiting the group the reciter belongs to with well wishes. It could be that this reciter is tired of people coming in to visit their pain, to witness, and then to walk away.

The reciter of this poem raises three main concerns: (1) lack of access to basic necessities, (2) systemic racism and classism, and (3) destruction of the earth. The prayer moves from the individual, to the community, to the world. Additionally, the unifying force of the entire prayer is the hypocrisy of the target/recipient. This hypocrisy mirrors the structure, as the reciter is showing more care for the individual, community, and world in their lament than the recipient does in their empty words.

The first sentence of the second stanza is vital. The reciter has grouped “powerful corporations, political elites, churches, [and] foreign powers” as being cared for more than the people. I am concerned that in this unknown context, churches are grouped in with capitalistic structures. I appreciate that the context of the reciter is unknown because this can be true anywhere and is probably true everywhere.

I am also drawn to the fact that every stanza begins with “how dare you {insert in/action}?” and ends with a question. The first two end-of-stanza questions illustrate the consequences of the recipient’s in/action, while the last stanza points directly to the recipient with a question they must answer: “Who the hell do you think you are?”

I think of Jesus asking, “who do you say that I am?” (Mt 16:15; Mk 8:29; Lk 9:20) to the disciples, as if Jesus will not reveal himself. And yet, we humans have no trouble declaring our titles and credentials as we walk into spaces with an air of arrogance that speaks domination to those who inhabit that space. So, the reciter asks: “who the hell do you think you are?” and our answer needs to be a humble “no one” because we are not the Christ. What would happen to empire if everyone knew themselves as humble, including leaders?