Poet's Notebook: Revolution takes evolution

We can move forward, or let outmoded distortions of reality hold us back.

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...Only the human brain

dreaming the freedom of gulls & robins

can rattle the chemical chain

that binds the flow of our bones...

Every day, a friend emails me a gorgeous nature photograph, with a quote from The Urantia Book (a kind of New Age Bible and spiritual encyclopedia). This morning’s quote was “Be not discouraged — Evolution is still in progress,” along with a photo of a Bali Hai-like lagoon with small mountain islands diminishing in the blue distance. This was welcome advice.

I was feeling discouraged, because I’d thought that America was beyond producing leaders like Donald Trump. I knew we produced “Trumps” — hey, we’ve all met a few — but didn’t believe they could wind up being more than a Dragon in the Ku Klux Klan, like David Duke cheerleading a feckless den of Southern sheetlovers. In 2008, when the Republicans picked Sarah Palin, I figured Barack Obama would win, despite John McCain’s likability and Obama’s blackness. Politically speaking, Palin was a step back on the evolutionary ladder.

The Donald would take us three steps back.

Disappointingly, the coalition of Cro-Magnons who loved Palin has grown, fueled by economic and psychological depression and the Republicans’ united refusal to welcome, or even respect, their twice-elected president. Covert racial prejudice was given a cover as “honest” rebuttals of political correctness. “You lie!” shouted Joe Wilson, after President Obama made a clearly truthful statement about the immigration bill under discussion. South Carolina has re-elected Wilson ever since.

Donald Trump started building his presidential qualifications by forging the “birther” movement, again a ridiculous idea — and straight intentional lie — easily disproved, but swallowed by millions, like the huge wall that Mexico will pay for. Trump followers don’t exactly believe this nonsense, but are following their deeper “truth”: A black man has no business being president. “Making America great again” won’t involve an America led by a black man, or a woman of any color.

Even Bernie Sanders, whom we hoped would lead us forward toward better control of banks and single-payer health insurance, acted as if he had forgotten how to count. Long after the race was over (back in April when Clinton swept through New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Connecticut), he kept fanning the flames by insisting to his young followers that “We’re going to win!” He could have stayed in the “race” attacking Trump, but instead he fanned false hope in his millions of young math-deprived fans who now think the system’s rigged. It’s not a great system, but it wasn’t “rigged” against Bernie, who was simply outvoted. (Of course the leaked NDC emails showed a pro-Clinton bias — they’ve been working for her for years, while Bernie wasn’t even a Democrat.) Bernie now should try to convince his fans — with conviction — that Hillary’s not “the lesser of two evils.” In his concession speech, on stage with Clinton, he talked so long about himself before conceding, we were hoping she’d kick him in the shins to hurry him along.

“Crooked Hillary,” “Pocahontas,” “Little Marco,” and “Low Energy Jeb” aren’t political ideas; they’re playground bullying, and the media should send Trump to the principal’s office. Many Republicans seem ready to do this. 

Evolution always has its victims (dinosaurs, Model T’s, land phones), and the human genus is still developing. Starved serfs, burned martyrs, enslaved blacks, degraded gays, and women demeaned for centuries: civilization’s slowly edging up, with the help of democratic (small and big “d”) politics. Evolution’s real (and real slow), and where it’s headed is seldom clear. With Trump and his followers flouting their and our primitive instincts, we need to prevent them from nudging it in the wrong direction.

...while visions sweep like birds

trapped in a skull-like cave

wingtips brushing the walls

the night going mad with their cries

till a few of the strongest & luckiest

skip like stones from our eyes...

—both quotes from “The Chemical Chain” by Peter Meinke, in The Contracted World: New & More Selected Poems (U. of Pittsburgh Press, 2006)

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