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Rants & Reason

Let America Be America again

11/30/2016

So, what holiday comes to mind when you think of the results of the 2016 elections?

For Republicans, the holiday might be Christmas or Thanksgiving.

For folks on opposite sides of the aisle, it may be the promises or the plagues anticipated in the New Year.

Democrats may liken the election to the horrors of Halloween, only this time real and not just for fun.

For pollsters? APRIL FOOL! for those anticipating a Democratic landslide.

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Instead of a holiday analogy, those of a literary or historical bent may be driven to appropriate speeches, poems or songs.

First to my mind when thinking of a bitterly divided nation was a well-quoted passage from President Abraham abeLincoln’s second inaugural address, “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds…to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

Amen!

Then a daughter flagged for me “Let America Be America Again,” a poem by Langston Hughes (1902-1967). Harry Belafonte had used it in a New York Times column just before the election. Consider a few stanzas from that:

Let America be America again.

Let it be the dream it used to be.

Let it be the pioneer on the plain

Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)…

O, let my land be a land where Liberty

Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,

But opportunity is real, and life is free,

Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,

Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?

And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?…

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,

I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.

I am the red man driven from the land,

I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—

And finding only the same old stupid plan

Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak…

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,

The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,

We, the people, must redeem

The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.

The mountains and the endless plain—

All, all the stretch of these great green states—

And make America again!

Consistent with such hopes was the Declaration of Conscience voiced in 1950 by Republican U.S. Sen. Margaret Chase Smith on the floor of the Senate and in opposition to fellow party member Sen. Joe McCarthy of Wisconsin:

“I do not want to see the Republican party ride to political victory on the Four Horsemen of Calumny — fear, ignorance, bigotry, and smear.”

Which leads to what President-Elect Donald Trump might call “The Losers’ Song.”

We shall overcome,

We shall overcome,

We shall overcome,

Someday,

Oh, deep in my heart,

I do believe that

We shall overcome,

Someday.

Perhaps best to go with Lincoln:

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds…to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

Amen! But Maggie Smith’s Declaration is haunting. ♦

strentz21

Herb Strentz is a retired administrator and professor in the Drake School of Journalism and Mass Communication and writes occasional columns for Cityview.

 

 

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