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!

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11 Comments on "Must Read: ‘Pity The Nation’ A Visionary Poem By 100 Year Old Poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti"

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Love his work! My second favorite Beat poet after Gregory Corso. This is so prescient.

Denis Elliott

Something occurred to me near the end of your piece when you cited the inherit the wind quote. We have a political Party in control of the WH and Senate that is working overtime to deny evolution! (Not to mention other science)


Hence “Conservatism”, the estate of inertness. The opposite of what the Universe and life is; constant motion.


“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.”


Something like Climate Change?

Or as it should be known, the ongoing global anthropogenic climate CRISIS.
But we can’t even have a discussion about it without the actual scientific FACTS being questioned, let alone DO anything.


Ironic that the Anthropocene Era would be the end of this fourth rock from the sun!


Certainly can’t do anything that threatens anyone’s money and the solutions are going to have big economic effects on people who have the power and money to do what they have to to protect their stack, Jack.
Challenging the science is merely a diversion and distraction from having the conversations we really need about money and power and society.

“The self-disenfranchised” — great description! However, I don’t they got that way out of the blue. As I understand it, the whole “voting doesn’t matter becuz both parties just teh same” thing was originally cooked up and promoted by the noxious RW think tanks from back in the 70s & 80s. They knew, even back then, that high voter turnout favors Dems, and so they had dream up something to get people to stay home. This was one of the rotten fruits of that effort Come to think of it, it was sort of like the Russian bot farms, before… Read more »

Jan I think you are onto something here. I have always thought that the Russians, specially Putin, were playing the long game. I also think the same of China. How best to bring down a capitalist system? How about play up to their greed? And then serve the masses an illegitimate president by way of the electorate vote.

I was one of those boots in the ground and “my vote won’t matter” was the no.1 thing I constantly heard. And then tRump happened. It almost convinced me too.

That is a very poignant poem for the times. What frightens me the most is that the voting majority for a very long time has been dumbed down. I apologize if I insult by what I said but it’s what I see and hear in the streets of America. This group of people that I speak of want to hear an easy solution for what is a very complicated problem. And that is the audience of Fascism and Nationalistic sentiments. WWI and WWII happened a century and over seventy years ago respectively. The generations borned in the 80’s and on… Read more »