Truth in a post-factual era: A poem for Inauguration Day 2017

What is Truth?
asked Pontius Pilate,
washing his hands of
any responsibility for the consequences
of believing lies,
of not believing lies but still
letting them stand without challenge.

“It depends on what the meaning
of the word ‘is’ is.”
said Bill Clinton, dancing
every which way but truth,
slick-talking his way out of
any responsibility for truth-
telling.

Prefects, presidents, politicians,
duck and dive and dance
around the always-dangerous,
avoidable, evadable, plausibly
deniable
truth.

Now comes a post-factual president,
ranting, tweeting, lying:
pretender, poseur, profiteer,
beyond truth, beyond facts, beyond
caring.

Are we beyond caring?

I believe,
we say,
I believe that we will win.
I believe
chant crowds marching down cold November streets,
cry mourners keeping vigil on hot July nights.
I believe in you and in me and in all of us together.
I believe there is no monster under the bed.

          “It is our duty to fight for our freedom.
          It is our duty to win.
          We must love each other and support each other.
          We have nothing to lose but our chains.”

I believe love is stronger than hate.
I believe that we, the people, will win. ,

          “Power concedes nothing without a demand.
          It never did and it never will.”

Prefects, presidents, and politicians:
power-ful.
Power concedes nothing –
not justice,
not truth,
not even bare facts.

We are the people:
the demanding,
chanting, believing,
persevering, powerful
people.

          “Caminante, no hay camino.
Se hace camino al andar.”

We take the streets,
fill the streets,
claim the streets.

Power concedes nothing without a demand, and we
demand justice
now.

Against all odds,
against all reasonableness,
against all prefects, presidents, and politicians,
against all powers and principalities,
I believe that we will win.

I believe that it is our duty
to love each other
to support each other
to break chains
to speak truth to power
to speak truth to each other
to fight
to win.

I believe that we will win.

Quotations:
Assata Shakur: “It is our duty …”
Frederick Douglass: “Power concedes nothing … ”
Antonio Machado: “Caminante, no hay …”

 

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