TCS: Election Anxiety in a Plague Year

 . Good Morning! 

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Welcome to The Coffee Shop, just for you early risers
on Monday mornings. This is an Open Thread forum,
so if you have an off-topic opinion burning a hole in
your brainpan, feel free to add a comment.

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  Somewhere inside of all of us is
  the power to change the world.

   – Roald Dahl

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This is the first year I can ever remember longing for November. Though I was born in January, at heart I want to be a Spring person: renewal, and expanding light, not patience and the long dark.

But it’s July, and every day the news seems worse: more dead, more unemployed, more dismantling of all that government should be, more flouting of the rule of law – and the endless lies, all the spewing hate, our body politic hemorrhaging from greed and corruption.  

I know that millions of American are talking about and trying to change policing in this country, to end law enforcement’s encultured fear and contempt for people they are supposed to “protect and serve,” to stop “Police Action” across the country against “the Enemy” which is US.

I know that the polls are encouraging, that Trump’s numbers are going down, that Biden’s are going up, and that GOP perennials are looking vulnerable.

But I also know how quickly things can change, how wide-spread Attention Deficit Disorder is among voting-age Americans. If the election were held today, a Blue Tsunami looks inevitable – but will it still be inevitable when November 3rd finally gets here?

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Nothing has been left undone by the enemies of freedom. Every art and artifice, every cruelty and outrage has been practiced and perpetrated to destroy the rights of man. In this great struggle, every crime has been rewarded and every virtue has been punished.

 –Robert Green Ingersoll, American author and agnostic

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Let America Be America Again

by Langston Hughes

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!


“Let America Be America Again” from The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, © 1994 the Estate of Langston Hughes –Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

Langston Hughes (1902-1967) was born in Joplin Missouri. American poet-author-playwright, social activist, novelist, and columnist.  After working his way to Europe as a ship’s crewman, he spent time in Paris, and London, then returned to the states, spending time in Washington DC, where he met Vachel Lindsay, who helped him gain recognition. He became one of the leaders of the Harlem Renaissance in New York City.

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There comes a time when people get tired of being pushed out of the
glittering sunlight of life’s July and left standing amid the piercing
chill of an alpine November.

Martin Luther King, Jr., Civil Rights Leader

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When poet and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whitter wrote this poem, there was a struggle for newly freed black men to exercise their right to vote, but no woman of any color could vote. Voting has remained a battleground, and voter suppression still has to be fought, this year more than ever.

The Poor Voter on Election Day

by John Greenleaf Whittier

The proudest now is but my peer,
The highest not more high;
To-day, of all the weary year,
A king of men am I.

To-day, alike are great and small,
The nameless and the known;
My palace is the people’s hall,
The ballot-box my throne!

Who serves to-day upon the list
Beside the served shall stand;
Alike the brown and wrinkled fist,
The gloved and dainty hand!

The rich is level with the poor,
The weak is strong to-day;
And sleekest broadcloth counts no more
Than homespun frock of gray.

To-day let pomp and vain pretence
My stubborn right abide;
I set a plain man’s common sense
Against the pedant’s pride.

To-day shall simple manhood try
The strength of gold and land;
The wide world has not wealth to buy
The power in my right hand!

While there’s a grief to seek redress,
Or balance to adjust,
Where weighs our living manhood less
Than Mammon’s vilest dust, —

While there’s a right to need my vote,
A wrong to sweep away,
Up! clouted knee and ragged coat!
A man’s a man to-day!


“The Poor Voter on Election Day” from The Complete Poetical Works of John Greenleaf Whittier, 2003 edition – Kessinger Publishing

John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892) was an ardent abolitionist, a founding member of the American Anti-Slavery Society and the Liberty Party, a lobbyist, and speaker for the cause, who was at times mobbed, stoned and run out of some towns on his speaking tours. Greenleaf was the editor (1838-1840) of The Pennsylvania Freeman, which had to be moved to a new office after the first one was burned down by a pro-slavery mob. It was after his health began to fail and he was in his late fifties that he published his first book of poetry, Snow-Bound, in 1866. The success of Snow-Bound was a complete surprise – he earned $10,000 from the first edition alone, a huge sum in an era when a carpenter earned little more than $900 in a good year. He published several other volumes of poetry, on nature, about American history, and against slavery. Greenleaf died in 1892, at the age of 84.

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It is also November. The noons are more laconic and the sunsets sterner, and Gibraltar lights make the village foreign. November always seemed to me the Norway of the year . . . 

Emily Dickinson, PoetLetters 1845-1886

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This poem is about the 1973 police killing of 10-year-old Clifford Glover, shot in the back and “dead at the scene” — and the trial that followed. The celebratory words spoken by the shooter, Officer Thomas Shea, and his partner were recorded from their walkie-talkies by the dispatcher. When the precinct commander arrived, he took a look at the dead boy and asked the shooter, “Didn’t you recognize that he was a kid?” Shea’s reply is in Lorde’s poem. After the fact, Shea “thought he had a gun,” which was never found in a massive search that followed.

Power

by Audre Lorde

The difference between poetry and rhetoric
is being ready to kill
yourself
instead of your children.

I am trapped on a desert of raw gunshot wounds
and a dead child dragging his shattered black
face off the edge of my sleep
blood from his punctured cheeks and shoulders
is the only liquid for miles
and my stomach
churns at the imagined taste while
my mouth splits into dry lips
without loyalty or reason
thirsting for the wetness of his blood
as it sinks into the whiteness
of the desert where I am lost
without imagery or magic
trying to make power out of hatred and destruction
trying to heal my dying son with kisses
only the sun will bleach his bones quicker.

A policeman who shot down a ten year old in Queens
stood over the boy with his cop shoes in childish blood
and a voice said “Die you little motherfucker” and
there are tapes to prove it. At his trial
this policeman said in his own defense
“I didn’t notice the size nor nothing else
only the color.” And
there are tapes to prove that, too.

Today that 37 year old white man
with 13 years of police forcing
was set free
by eleven white men who said they were satisfied
justice had been done
and one Black Woman who said
“They convinced me” meaning
they had dragged her 4’10” black Woman’s frame
over the hot coals
of four centuries of white male approval
until she let go
the first real power she ever had
and lined her own womb with cement
to make a graveyard for our children.

I have not been able to touch the destruction
within me.
But unless I learn to use
the difference between poetry and rhetoric
my power too will run corrupt as poisonous mold
or lie limp and useless as an unconnected wire
and one day I will take my teenaged plug
and connect it to the nearest socket
raping an 85 year old white woman
who is somebody’s mother
and as I beat her senseless and set a torch to her bed
a greek chorus will be singing in 3/4 time
“Poor thing. She never hurt a soul. What beasts they are.”


“Power” from The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde – © 1997 by The Audre Lorde Estate – W.W. Norton & Company)

 Audre Lorde (1934-1992) was an American writer, poet, feminist, lesbian, librarian, and civil rights activist. She was born in New York City, the daughter of a father from Barbados, and a mother from Grenada. Her poems and prose largely deal with issues related to civil rights, women, and the exploration of black female identity. Her first poem was published in Seventeen magazine when she was still in high school. She became an associate of the Women’s Institute for Freedom of the Press in 1977, and a co-founder of Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press in 1980. She survived breast cancer in 1978, but died at age 58 of liver cancer in 1992.

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I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them
to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.

 – Susan B. Anthony, Suffragist Leader

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Poem posted on Twitter

by Lin-Manuel Miranda

“Gmorning
November
You lurch & you lumber
From bonfire to ember
From waking to slumber
You deaden the grass
& you piss in the pot
The birds all haul ass
And the pumpkins all rot
Remember, November:
Momentous elections
Ignite us, divide us,
Divine new directions
November—
Chill.”


Lin-Manuel Miranda (1980 – ) American composer, lyricist, actor, singer, rapper, producer, and playwright, best known for creating and starring in the 2015 Broadway musical Hamilton. He also wrote the music and lyrics for the 2008 Broadway musical In the Heights. His awards include a Pulitzer Prize, three Tony Awards, three Grammy Awards, an Emmy Award, a MacArthur Fellowship, and a Kennedy Center Honor in 2018. Miranda has been politically active, most notably on behalf of Puerto Rico, and raised funds for rescue efforts and disaster relief after  Hurricane Maria hit the island in 2017.

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It’s a queer sensation, this secret belief that one stands on the brink of the world’s greatest catastrophe. For it means the fall of Western Europe, as it fell in the fourth century. It recurs to me every November, and culminates every December. I have to get over it as I can, and hide, for fear of being sent to an asylum.

Henry Brooks Adams, American Historian

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About wordcloud9

Nona Blyth Cloud has lived and worked in the Los Angeles area for the past 50 years, spending much of that time commuting on the 405 Freeway. After Hollywood failed to appreciate her genius for acting and directing, she began a second career managing non-profits, from which she has retired. Nona has now resumed writing whatever comes into her head, instead of reports and pleas for funding. She lives in a small house overrun by books with her wonderful husband.
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