As anger and grief morphs
Into the habits and vagaries of daily life
The heart is circled by its waggin’s
In loo of revolutions more roil
Too be stuck
Only to be
Haunted by cursory echoes
Of lives a custom to be frayed
Of what might be
Into the unbreakable
As knot the tear or stricken
The heart fastens
Awe that grows
This poem addresses the challenges of palpable anger and grief “normalizing” as time goes on. The necessities and sheer habits of everyday living bear down on overflowing passions, often sublimating such powerful emotions into more comfortable or familiar patterns. This can tamp down more revolutionary impulses for changes in life. Such coping is commonplace.
Such a process causes me to reflect on the current post-election era. I remember the outrage when Baby Bush beat Al Gore only with the intervention of the Supreme Court, in the face of a popular vote loss and electoral college squeaker fraught with voting irregularities and inadequacies. I noted how the un-sexy issue of the mechanics of voting and elections receded from consciousness in due course within a matter of months. Multiple presidential election down the road, many of these election and voting deficiencies continue largely unfixed. The electoral college has taken US to school again! Plus, the striking down of key elements of the Voting Rights Act has left state-level shenanigans with voter suppression to run rampant. Add in the increasingly surreal gerrymandering of voting districts and the democratic process is literally moot for most of America in national elections.
While our national democracy stays the course on being massively dysfunctional at so many levels, this election cycle, a vicious cycle, is a quantum leap in dangerous effect. The sexism, racism, anti-Muslim, and anti-immigrant xenophobia reached for new heights and historic lows during the campaign. Women, people of color, Muslims, and immigrants have legitimate reasons to worry on both a daily basis and what looms in the future. Misogyny, white supremacy, and xenophobic nationalism are being baked into the Donald Trump regime. While in many ways this is nothing new to disenfranchised folks, the stunning respectability of sexual assault braggadocio, scorn of Black Lives Matter, collusion with white supremacists, and a national fortress mentality could easily converge into the most authoritarian presidential administration in our lifetimes, if not ever, in America.
This poem is a warning of the dangers of “normalization,” and a call to the difficult, lifelong, trans-generational work that needs to be done. I don’t believe that such work can be done unless it is equipped with hope. This poem culminates in the hope that by reaching deep and going long the solidarity of wholehearted people will supply needed power to resolute minds and steadfast hands to further incarnate seemingly impossible justice for all.
Dealing with endemic injustices calls for a demanding balance between daily coping and cultivating a long-haul way of life that shrewdly generates and regenerates, creates and recreates, produces and reproduces just and heartening habits of behavior and ways of being in the world. Will the better side of America prevail over the genocide of America? All I can say is that when sides are drawn, I know which side I hope and plan to be on. As Martin Luther King, Jr. so plainly observed and prophesied, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” Though I would update this a bit and expect to see sisters steadfastly leading this fight. Some things don’t change. This can be a good thing.