Wednesday, August 12, 2009

cummings the patriot

Mailer opined in Why Are We at War that" America" had become America's religion, refering to the supporters of the Iraq War who would invoke the safety of the nation when defending our right to invade and occupy nations that had never attacked the United States. Insane, he thought, and I agreed, and wondered what other diagnosis from a literary figure I could find to support my notion , stolen from W.C.Williams, that the pure products of America go insane. And then I happened upon this poem from e.e.cummings:

next to of course god america i
love you land of the pilgrims’ and so forth oh
say can you see by the dawn’s early my
country ’tis of centuries come and go
and are no more what of it we should worry
in every language even deafanddumb
thy sons acclaim your glorious name by gorry
by jingo by gee by gosh by gum
why talk of beauty what could be more beaut-
iful than these heroic happy dead
who rushed like lions to the roaring slaughter
they did not stop to think they died instead
then shall the voice of liberty be mute?”

He spoke. And drank rapidly a glass of water

ee cummings

This keeps with his concentrated genius for putting back in the politician's faces with their own politicized babble, but only after taking a hammer to it. Under all the huff and puff about God, glory and country stands revealed forces that would have us all fearful, in debt and apathetic to calls for change. How appropriate for the current climate; the poem, though, does not let us off the hook; we are complacent with the fools for letting them have their way. The shock of this poem is that there are many of us, these days, decades after this was written, who recognize our own voices saying moronic things like this.

Might there come a time, should the Obama initiatives work and Our Country again starts to fulfill it's promise, that some good poets would feel moved to write something positive about America and mean it, without commission, salary, title? Will we have a poetry again that speaks truthfully of our virtues rather than our insanity?

1 comment:

  1. Camp Pendleton, 1959: in the wake of Sputnik, top-secret U.S. Military mission against the Commies coalesces around blonde-haired, white-teethed maniac with perpetually grinning perfect white teeth, standing perfectly erect in Marine Commander's office. This man is a notorious cannibal and the plan is to parachute him behind the Iron Curtain, where he will eat his way to the Kremlin.

    "Red flesh! Red flesh!" (sound of snapping teeth flecked with spittle, as glazed eyes grow so wide that brows are pushed to the top of the scalp.)

    "You'll do, son...remember, tell them your name is Uncle Sam, Jr. -- now here is your flag..."


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