It’s difficult to give thanks in America when we’ve decided bravery is simply a matter of bullying and bigotry. When we’ve forgotten courage was once a defense of the weak and that sustaining humanitarian values was what we imagined we stood for. At least that’s what we said. At least we used to say it. Maybe we only said it between 1932 and 1945. And maybe even then we didn’t mean it. Ask Japanese-Americans. Ask the Jews of Europe. Ask the men who were experimented upon at Tuskegee. Today you might ask the brave men and women fighting the Dakota Standing Rock pipeline. What values does America defend? One is tempted to say, “thanks are so old school.”
I’m giving thanks for our literary culture and it’s unafraid practitioners—those who dare say the Emperor has no clothes, who still believe our souls can clap their hands. From Chris Abani to Carolyn Forche; W.S. Merwin to Ethelbert Miller; Alberto Rios to Sam Hamill—oh it’s a long list…Rita Dove to Dorothy Allison; Marvin Bell to Natalie Diaz; Mark Doty to Gregory Pardlo—the list is vital, enduring, sweet and sour, filled with ichor and iodine, our tough minded American writers who believe still in Walt Whitman, Allen Ginsberg, Gwendolyn Brooks, John Dewey.
I think the coming years will be painful, arduous, and mean spirited. When, last week, Newt Gingrich floated the idea of a new House Un-American Activities Committee, one could only imagine the plan was already “off the work bench” as Newt never has an original idea and “The Donald” hates contrarianism, free speech, the press, academics, and science. I’ve seen several posts on Facebook quoting Bertolt Brecht’s famous lines:
In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing.
About the dark times.
Against this, or alongside, one may add Churchill’s axiom: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
I’m giving thanks for the continuation, the fights to come, the ardor that is poetry and literature, the rising notes and the silences just before them when we imagine impeccably how the song will go.