Another light went out today
howl for his passing and our loss
let not the dying of this light
kill light or grace or passion
poetry as politics
insurgency as art
Another light went out today
Our Time Is Now: Power, Purpose, and the Fight for a Fair America by Stacey Abrams
Through the lens of her campaign for governor and the voter organizing prior to and subsequent to that contest, Stacey Abrams looks at democracy in the United States, finding it both wanting and worth fighting for. That democracy is flawed by design and from the beginning is evident to any who read history, as she neatly summarizes:
“Though the Founding Fathers gave a nod to universal equality in the Declaration of Independence, they abandoned the aspiration by the time they penned the country’s organizing documents. Let me be clear here: the codification of racism and disenfranchisement is a feature of our lawmaking—not an oversight. And the original sin of the U.S. Constitution began by identifying blacks in America as three-fifths human: counting black bodies as property and their souls as nonexistent.”
Voting rights are fundamental to democracy, and the denial of voting rights has continued from the founding documents to the present day. Vivid stories of her own parents’ experience in asserting those rights and of today’s denial of voting rights, especially (though not exclusively) to Black voters show the urgency and immediacy of the continuing battle for voting rights. Without the vote, participation in democracy is impossible. That is both her thesis and the struggle to which she urges readers: “Our Time Is Now is my longer, more complicated answer to how we can frame and revise voting rights and the architecture of American democracy for the current age.”Continue reading
Begin Again focuses on James Baldwin, and I have not read enough of Baldwin, or recently enough, to appreciate it as well as I would wish. I read Baldwin (and Richard Wright) long ago, sitting in high school classes that bored me, reading because they did not. From Wright and Baldwin and Malcolm X and Piri Thomas, I learned of race and a world beyond my small, white home town. They opened doors to the world for me.Continue reading
Today I was going to write about farm subsidies going to big ag
and about speed-ups on poultry processing lines
which correlate with higher rates of COVID infection
as well as less-serious traditional injuries
like crippling pain from repetitive motion
and the occasional sliced-off finger.
Then insurrectionists marched into the Capitol
wearing MAGA hats, carrying Trump flags,
pushing aside police and barricades.
I had bookmarked a story about rusty patched bumblebees
and another about monarch butterflies—endangered, but
denied protection because there are too many endangered species
so there’s a waiting list for protection,
like the waiting list for asylum, which has no end date and
does not care whether you live or die.
Then my Twitter feed exploded with
Senators being led away to safety
Representatives scrambling for
gas masks and hiding places.
Today, on Epiphany, I planned
to take down the Christmas tree.
Instead I sat glued to Twitter and television
watching democracy crumble and wondering
where are the police where are the soldiers where are
all of those people who are supposed to defend the country.
In fifty years of marches, I have seen armored officers,
gas-masked and in riot gear,
carrying batons or guns or bayonets,
spewing tear gas or pepper spray.
Today I saw
police taking selfies with insurrectionists
Neo-Nazis posing in Congressional offices
Confederate flags carried through the Capitol
looters carrying off podiums and papers
“Murder the media” scrawled on a wall
men yelling “Wait ’til we come back with rifles”
The stock market closed higher,
Dow Jones up by 437 points.
The President said he loves his mob.
A journalist asked:
was today an insurrection, revolt, riot, terrorism, a mob?
Whatever it was
not with a bang but a whimper
of thirteen arrests.
They will be back.
Waiting for 2021.
Waiting for a vaccine.
Waiting for water to boil.
Waiting for bread to rise.
Waiting for Trump to leave.
Waiting for Biden to begin.
Waiting for a white Christmas.
Waiting for the snow to stop.
Waiting for the world to make sense.
Waiting for people to care about facts.
Waiting for inspiration.
Waiting for a poem.
Waiting for a rebirth of wonder.
Waiting for Godot.
Advent is a time of promise and a time of waiting. Two verses from the Magnificat, Mary’s song in Luke’s Gospel, describe a future that does not yet exist. These verses voice promises of a future we still hope and wait for.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;
He has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.
Over the past five months, 7.8 million Americans have fallen into poverty. That is “the biggest jump in a single year since the government began tracking poverty 60 years ago.” Poverty has risen most rapidly for people of all races with a high school education or less, for Black families, for households with children.Continue reading
“Who are you? What do you have to say for yourself?”
These are the questions put to John the Baptist, according to today’s Gospel. The authorities sent people to question him. The powerful people of the time, the representatives of the rulers, wanted to know what side he was on. Was he a threat to the powerful, to the authorities? They wanted to know whether he claimed to be the Messiah or Elijah. No, replied John, neither of those.
John quoted the prophet Isaiah: “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.'”
That’s not reassuring. Like Isaiah, John is someone sent by God. His voice is the voice of a prophet, and prophets always threaten the powerful.Continue reading
In today’s Gospel, the beginning of the Gospel of Mark, we read:
“As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.'” John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
Some sin is personal and some is social. Some sins are intertwined, the personal and social sin feeding on and supporting one another. Racism is such a sin.Continue reading
Keep awake. Beware. Keep alert.
This is a Gospel message for pandemic times, and for the national and global crises that we are living through right now.
Pope Francis sent a message about our response to these crises, writing in the New York Times on Thanksgiving Day:.
“Sometimes, when you think globally, you can be paralyzed: There are so many places of apparently ceaseless conflict; there’s so much suffering and need. I find it helps to focus on concrete situations: You see faces looking for life and love in the reality of each person, of each people. You see hope written in the story of every nation, glorious because it’s a story of daily struggle, of lives broken in self-sacrifice. So rather than overwhelm you, it invites you to ponder and to respond with hope.
“These are moments in life that can be ripe for change and conversion.”
Walking in Winter
Early morning waking, two cats in the bed. Early morning shoveling, wet snow below, bright sun above. Afternoon dilemma: nap or walk? Snow and ice or quilt and cat? Am I 70 years old? Or 70 years strong? Bed beckons but I resist, choosing blue skies, bright sun, snow and slop and ice, and Yak Trax. Last time I tried these ice-biters, I hated them. But I am older now, and need insurance for old bones. Or so I think. In half a block, the first one falls off. Another block before I notice, and retrace my steps to find it. Carrying their failed coils, I continue, down wet streets, through puddled alleys. I'm 70 strong and, dammit, I am gonna walk.