Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The First Tuesday After The First Monday In November

Today is Election Day in the country in which I was born.  Here is my prediction:  whatever the outcome, on Wednesday morning the United States of America will go on being the United States of America.  Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and the rest of that brilliant, star-crossed group knew a thing or two.  Here, in the words of Clint Eastwood, is one of the things they knew:

"I would just like to say something, ladies and gentlemen.  Something that I think is very important.  It is that you, we -- we own this country.  We own it. . . . It is not politicians owning it.  Politicians are employees of ours."

                       Stanley Spencer, "Mending Cowls, Cookham" (1915)

               Politics

You say a thousand things,
Persuasively,
And with strange passion hotly I agree,
And praise your zest,
And then
A blackbird sings
On April lilac, or fieldfaring men,
Ghostlike, with loaded wain,
Come down the twilit lane
To rest,
And what is all your argument to me?

Oh yes -- I know, I know,
It must be so --
You must devise
Your myriad policies,
For we are little wise,
And must be led and marshalled, lest we keep
Too fast a sleep
Far from the central world's realities.
Yes, we must heed --
For surely you reveal
Life's very heart; surely with flaming zeal
You search our folly and our secret need;
And surely it is wrong
To count my blackbird's song,
My cones of lilac, and my wagon team,
More than a world of dream.

But still
A voice calls from the hill --
I must away --
I cannot hear your argument to-day.

John Drinkwater, Tides (1917).

                               Stanley Spencer, "The Roundabout" (1923)

4 comments:

Alex said...

Hello, Stephen - if I may address you by your first name.

As I'm supposed to be an impartial spectator, it would be impertinent of me to say more than I would not have voted for Mr Obama - if I were an American citizen.

After many weeks of saturation coverage in the media, it is good to be reminded that the United States of America will go on being the United States of America regardless of the election result. Thoughtful people value a life outside politics. There is an aesthetic refuge for them in books, music, conversation, and the natural world which, one hopes, politicians can never disturb with their 'progressive' cant and inane slogans.

Thomas Mann said, "It is foolish to take politics seriously, to care about it, to sacrifice one's moral and intellectual strength to it. All one can do is survive, and preserve one's personal freedom and dignity." I'm tempted to agree with these sentiments and reinforce them by reading Shelley's Ozymandias.

Chris Matarazzo said...

A perfect poem, Stephen. It couldn't sum up my feelings better. Same goes for your intro.

Stephen Pentz said...

Alex: thank you very much for those thoughts -- they hit the mark perfectly. And I appreciate hearing these sorts of observations from a perceptive person outside of the U.S.

This business about presidential elections has been a mania of American culture from the start, of course. But, as you state, the "saturation coverage of the media" has increased the noise a thousand-fold. (By the way: the speculation as to the 2016 election will likely begin within the next week or so. I kid you not.)

The key is to tune out the noise, of course. And, on that point, your third paragraph and your quote from Mann (which is wonderful) describe very well how it is done.

And, yes, I hadn't thought of it, but "Ozymandias" does make perfect reading in conjunction with these sorts of events!

As always, thank you very much for stopping by.

Stephen Pentz said...

Chris: it's always good to hear from you. Thank you for the kind words.

As Alex observed in his comment above, the "saturation coverage in the media" is enough to drive one to distraction, isn't it? And it's difficult (speaking for myself) not to get sucked into it. Which is why I return to Drinkwater's "Politics" (and poetry in general) when the noise level starts to make my ears ring. I wish I wasn't so weak.

The whole thing is such a colossal waste of personal and societal energy, emotion, and spirit. But it's like the proverbial slow-motion train wreck you can't help but watch.

And, yes, I walked outside beneath a blue sky today and watched the remaining leaves flutter on the boughs. And the U.S.A. is still here.

As ever, thanks for your thoughts.