This poem by beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti was written in 2007, but he might as well have penned it yesterday for all of the truth that it contains. The elements that Ferlinghetti writes about have always been there, but have flashed into flamboyance in the age of Trump.
“Pity The Nation”
Pity the nation whose people are sheep,
and whose shepherds mislead them.
Pity the nation whose leaders are liars, whose sages are silenced,
and whose bigots haunt the airwaves.
Pity the nation that raises not its voice,
except to praise conquerors and acclaim the bully as hero
and aims to rule the world with force and by torture.
Pity the nation that knows no other language but its own
and no other culture but its own.
Pity the nation whose breath is money
and sleeps the sleep of the too well fed.
Pity the nation — oh, pity the people who allow their rights to erode
and their freedoms to be washed away.
My country, tears of thee, sweet land of liberty.”
Ferlinghetti turned 100 years old on March 24. He co-founded the famous City Lights Bookstore, in San Francisco, and he still works there. Language is his life’s blood and readers and other writers are his brethren. We’re so lucky a talent like this is amongst us and still producing.
Ferlinghetti unfortunately echoes the sentiment of another great and wise American, Abraham Lincoln. I have oft-quoted this particular insight of Lincoln’s, but will do so once more, because it is so appropriate: “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”
We are a house divided now, and that is understatement. Another quote on that topic comes to mind, “He who bothereth in his own house shall inherit the wind.” The level of internal dissension in this country hasn’t been this high since Lincoln’s time, and is of no avail. But it continues.
Ronald Reagan’s solution was that these internal dissensions would vanish if only there was a threat from outer space. This is what he told the United Nations.
“In our obsession with antagonisms of the moment, we often forget how much unites all the members of humanity. Perhaps we need some outside, universal threat to make us recognize this common bond. I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world. And yet, I ask you, is not an alien force already among us? What could be more alien to the universal aspirations of our peoples than war and the threat of war?”
Don’t hold your breath. I don’t think the deus ex machina of an invasion from space is going to save this show, this isn’t Greek theater, although it is a tragedy. No, we’re going to have to do this ourselves. I think the first step is to realize that some people in this country, Trump’s hard core base, are hopeless. They embrace falsehood as fact and you cannot dissuade them of that. They turn it around and say that that’s what you’re doing. The answer, I believe, is in the silent majority, but not the one Reagan spoke of. I’m talking of the self-disenfranchised, the people who don’t believe that their vote matters. If we can mobilize these people, then I think America can stay America, and stop plunging headlong down this negative and profitless path. At least, that is my fervent prayer. Let’s get out the vote!