29 May 2007

How we save ourselves though I haven't gotten to the part about how we save the world.

Activism is a stressful activity. It's far more comfortable to go about your daily life going to work, taking lunches, sipping cappucinos in the late afternoon, and preparing for the evening's television lineup. It's also far more easy to invest your time in the also-very-pressing needs of your children or career.

I'm not much of an activist, because activism takes a hell of a lot of time and sad to say while I'm willing to go to marches and write letters, I'm not willing to join organizations and do the hard work of organizing a movement, recruiting members, and god forbid become some sort of leader -- if only of a local group -- who would be called upon to give speeches and go on tours and otherwise take on another full time job.

I sort of did that -- minus the touring -- when we worked to organize a graduate student and adjunct union at the university. I was involved in that effort for four or so years, and when it fell apart, I was exhausted (the movement regrouped and eventually won, but I was not involved in the final organizing drive: I'd burnt out and decided I would concentrate on finishing my dissertation). It's hard work.

So I respect Cindy Sheehan for pulling out of the anti-war movement. It has been depressing for me, at my rather shallow level of involvement, to watch the betrayal of this country by its leaders, to every day be faced with more and more evidence that BushCo ignored and undermined any warnings about this hubristic war in Iraq and then sought to punish those government workers who as part of their jobs raised warnings about the administration's predetermined course of action. This attitude of blind loyalty has spilled over to all facets of this corrupt administration's governance, from installing anti-science administrators to block scientific studies of the environment and human biology to installing religious-right ideologues in the Justice Department to "sanitize" even the career positions (illegally of course).

Yet you turn to the supposed opposition party, the Democrats, and while you see some hemming and hawing, it's mainly because they're the ones getting screwed out of positions and lucrative lobbyist monies and not because there's been a tremendous miscarriage of justice. The true ideological opposition to the Republican onslaught on the Constitution and our system of governance comes from the outsiders who are mainly ignored and outcast from their own party. Let us not forget that of the Democratic senators, 29 voted in 2002 to allow BushCo sweeping war powers in Iraq. 21 voted against.

Of course, now it turns out that of the 100 senators in our esteemed Senate, 94 of them didn't even bother to read the Iraq intelligence report before they voted for the war. Of course, the report was wrong, the product of an intensely partisan effort by the Bush Administration to massage the intelligence to misrepresent and inflate Iraq's threat, so it's not like the senators would have learned anything useful from it, but you'd think they'd take a bit more seriously their duty toward the nation in such matters as, oh, let's say, getting us involved in war.

So as I said, I respect the decision Cindy Sheehan has made to return to a more private life, because it's hard work banging your head against brick walls and the solid rock that occupies much of our legislators' craniums, let alone the unfathomably irrational and incompetent stuff that lies between the ears of our current President.

The stories of the end of empire are never uplifting: they are filled with corruption, incompetence, and callousness. Still, I have hope, like Lawrence Ferlinghetti did so many years ago, that we can somehow overcome this morass and "await a rebirth of wonder":

I Am Waiting
By Lawrence Ferlinghetti

I am waiting for my case to come up
and I am waiting
for a rebirth of wonder
and I am waiting for
someone
to really discover America
and wail
and I am waiting
for the
discovery
Of a new symbolic western frontier
and I am waiting
for the
American Eagle
to really spread its wings
and straighten up and fly right
and I am waiting for the Age of Anxiety
to drop dead
and I am
waiting
for the war to be fought
which will make the world safe
for anarchy
and I am waiting for the final withering away
of all governments
and I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder


I am waiting for the second coming
And I am waiting
For a religious revival
To sweep thru the state of Arizona
And I am waiting
For the
grapes of wrath to be stored
And I am waiting
For them to prove
That God is really American
And I am seriously waiting
for Billy Graham and Elvis Presley
to exchange roles seriously
and I am waiting
To see God on television
Piped onto church altars
If they can find
The right channel
To tune in on
And I am waiting
for the last supper to be served again
with a strange new appetizer
and I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder


I am waiting for my number to be called
and I am waiting
for th eliving end
and I am waiting
for dad to come home
his pockets full
of irradiated silver dollars
and I am waiting
for the atomic tests to end
and I am waiting happily
for things to get much worse
before they improve
and I am waiting
for the Salvation Army to take over
and I am waiting
for the human crowd
to wander off a cliff somewhere
clutching its atomic umbrella
and I am waiting
for Ike to act
and I am waiting
for the meek to be blessed
and inherit the earth
without taxes
and I am waiting
for forests and animals
to reclaim the earth as theirs
and I am waiting
for a way to be devised
to destroy all nationalisms
without killing anybody
and I am waiting
for linnets and planets to fall like rain
and I am waiting for lovers and weepers
to lie down together again
in a new rebirth of wonder


I am waiting for the great divide to be crossed
and I am anxiously waiting
For the secret of eternal life to be discovered
By an obscure practitioner
and save me forever from certain death
and I am waiting
for life to begin
and I am waiting
for the storms of life
to be over
and I am waiting
to set sail for happiness
and I am waiting
for a reconstructed Mayflower
to reach America
with its picture story and TV rights
sold in advance to the natives
and I am waiting
for the lost music to sound again
in the Lost Continent
in a new rebirth of wonder


I am waiting for the day
that maketh all things clear
and I am waiting for
Ole Man River
to just stop rolling along
past the country club
and I am waiting
for the deepest South
to just stop Reconstructing itself
in its own image
and I am waiting
for a sweet desegregated chariot
to swing low
and carry me back to Ole Virginie
and I am waiting
for Ole Virginie to discover
just why Darkies are born
and I am waiting
for God to lookout
from Lookout Mountain
and see the Ode to the Confederate Dead
as a real farce
and I am awaiting retribution
for what America did
to Tom Sawyer
and I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder


I am waiting for Tom Swift to grow up
and I am waiting
for the American Boy
to take off Beauty's clothes
and get on top of her
and I am waiting
for Alice in Wonderland
to retransmit to me
her total dream of innocence
and I am waiting
for Childe Roland to come
to the final darkest tower
and I am waiting
for Aphrodite
to grow live arms
at a final disarmament conference
in a new rebirth of wonder


I am waiting
to get some intimations
of immortality
by recollecting my early childhood
and I am waiting
for the green mornings to come again
youth's dumb green fields come back again
and I am waiting
for some strains of unpremeditated art
to shake my typewriter
and I am waiting to write
the great indelible poem
and I am waiting
for the last long careless rapture
and I am perpetually waiting
for the fleeting lovers on the Grecian Urn
to catch each other up at last
and embrace
and I am waiting
perpetually and forever
a renaissance of wonder

3 comments:

Secret Rapture said...

My inaugural address at the Great White Throne Judgment of the Dead, after I have raptured out billions! The Secret Rapture soon, by my hand!
Read My Inaugural Address
At = http://www.angelfire.com/crazy/spaceman

Reya Mellicker said...

Secret rapture ... huh??

Cuff: LOVE the poem, thank you! I've never read it before, something I should be ashamed of since I lived in San Francisco and spent a lot of time at Citylights Books.

As for activism, hmmm. My parents were totally involved in the Civil Rights movement and the protests against the Vietnam war. They felt so passionately about it that they completely neglected us, their kids. I don't hold it against them, but I don't think it's possible to live a life and be an activist at the same time.

The people I know in San Francisco who have been at it for decades have become so hardened, cynical and bitter and kind of violent, too, not much better than the people they're against. I don't think activism is good for activists. Maybe it's something people could dip into for awhile, then get out. I don't know what the answer is.

Secret Rapture said...

I get that response quite frequently.