Keeping My Shoulder to the Wheel

It’s been a helluva week – one in which I’ve turned off the television, not read the newspaper with my usual devotion, spent little time on social media, and drank more wine that I really needed.

I know I’m not alone.

Recently, I’ve written about choosing not to be angry, about what the most radical things are that I can do every day to achieve that goal. And I’ve been reminding myself I wrote those words, reminding myself that anger doesn’t always accomplish what we hope. It was really hard to keep that in mind as Kavanaugh became a justice on our Supreme Court. It was excruciating to keep that in mind when Trump declared that Kavanaugh was proven innocent of Dr. Ford’s accusations against him. Never mind that he was proven nothing other than being a privileged white male firmly ensconced in the Good Old Boys Club. Never mind that our president is living in an alternative reality.

Deep breath right here.

Know what I have in front of me on my dining room table where I’m sitting with my laptop working on this post? Piles of poetry books. This whole past week, I kept hearing a line in my head, America when will you be angelic? That line is from Allen Ginsberg’s poem, America, written in 1956. I reread the whole thing this morning, marveling at how much this poem, written before I was born, still resonates, how much it still feels relevant. I stumbled over some of the references, but thought about how slowly a culture moves toward a different ideal. Change cannot occur overnight, especially not if part of the goal is to convince the people that they need change at all.

Sometimes it helps to step back and think about things over the course of a decade. Twenty-five years. A century. Ginsberg wrote America a long time ago, and there are some changes that have happened since then that are good, including more opportunities for women and people of color, and more acceptance of the LGBTQ community. But our current administration does make us feel like we’ve slipped backwards in our ability to care for one another and offer a progressive and comprehensive social safety net, and Ginsberg’s lines near the end of the poem nail that feeling:

America this is quite serious.

America this is the impression I get from looking in the television set.

America is this correct?

I thought about what has brought me hope in the past year and realized that it’s kids and new voters who bring that hope. The kids I saw rallying after the Parkland shooting, the kids who went to Washington DC and spoke in front of thousands, the kids who call bullshit. They may not be in the news right this minute, but they’re still out there, waiting to go to the voting booth in November. So are their parents. So are the millennials who seem to get maligned in the press all the time, but who are a lot savvier than that for which they are credited.

And so am I still here, waiting to go vote. Near the end of America, Ginsberg wrote, I’d better get right down to the job.

So should we all.

If you want to read America by Allen Ginsberg, click HERE.

18 Comments

  1. You were not drinking alone this week!
    Disappointing and destructive to our system of democracy. Yet, I get the feeling maybe people felt this way when President Obama was in charge and we were not listening. This feeling that government was not listening to the people has not just surfaced.
    You are right that we all must feel hopeful that the younger generation will not put up with this crap! Will be outspoken, get elected, vote. Maybe stop the huge amounts of money that flow into the democratic process from not “We the people” but from “They the corporations and rich who can buy a vote in Congress”.
    Vote America! Vote like this is the last time we will be allowed to vote! Let our voices be heard.

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      1. Sorry to do that to you. But, I really fear for our rights. I protected them for so long I want to make sure that our children are able to enjoy democracy and not live under authoritarian rule.

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  2. I’d be more hopeful about America’s youth if they weren’t so distracted by their digital devices. I could be wrong, but I think the Parkland kids were a temporary anomaly. Lots of forms of “dope” out there, to keep the masses complacent. We’re a stupid, lazy electorate.

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    1. I’m aware that many people appear addicted to their digital companions, but those devices also offer a broader way of communicating and getting information than was available during my own young adult years. I believe those kids from Parkland are still trying to make a difference; they just aren’t visible in the news right now. There are too many other things that have taken over the news cycle, which is a fickle thing always. This could be my idealistic side pushing away reality or it could be me trying very hard to find a place where I don’t feel so cynical. Whichever, I’m going to remain hopeful for this election cycle. It’s the best I can do right now.

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      1. You’re certainly right about our fickle news media (and they’ve contributed greatly to the makeup of the current cabal in Washington). I also agree about your “broader way of communicating” comment. But we’re now finding that excess of information does not necessarily mean meaningful information, or that it translates into greater knowledge, or greater calls for social action. Check out the book “The End of Absence” if you get a chance. Most scanning, scrolling, texting, tweeting, beeping etc. (by kids and adults) is primarily petty and superficial. It’s a “Me” oriented ecosystem that’s pulling us away from both nature and each other, in powerful ways…similar to television, except this leisure technology is 24-7.

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  3. Comparison of current leisure technology to television is an apt one. And I have thought often of social media and its extensions as today’s opiate of the masses. The problem is, and has always been, that people need to think a little more consistently about the broader implications of their behavior, whatever it is. Those who are determined to be thoughtful will figure out how to harness available technology or available institutions (be those institutions religious or political or whatever) for the greater good. Those who only want a hit of empty-headed leisure without the hard work of maintaining the society that produced it will continue to have life happen to them.

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    1. I totally agree. It’s not the technology per se, it’s how we use it. That’s why I’m concerned about today’s youth. They haven’t attained the maturity and foresight to make good decisions about this avalanche of 24-7 technology/information. Smartphones are still toys for them. Will they in 10 or 20 years from now? That remains to be seen. But I don’t see many parents setting good examples.

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      1. You are determined to be negative about this! I encourage you to find some positive examples. You’ll feel better for it. And remember – we all made lousy decisions when we were young and our elders worried about where we would be in 10-20 years, too.

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      2. I’ve definitely been accused of being negative! I’ll aim to be more positive, if you’ll read that book (“The End of Absence” by Michael Harris). Lastly: yes, we were all young once. And now that we’re older, look at the leaders we are electing (President Obama excepted). Maybe we should have spent more time removed from television. Peace.

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