Poet's Notebook: We shall see

A eulogy for the administration that might have been.

click to enlarge Poet's Notebook: We shall see
Jeanne Meinke

Mine—by the Right of the White Election!

Mine—by the Royal Seal!

Mine—by the sign of the Scarlet prison—

Bars—cannot conceal!

I like to think that Hillary Rodham, when she was a serious young student, read Emily Dickinson’s poem. (Emily who? says the Donald, scratching his belly). In it, the quiet and overlooked (in her lifetime) Dickinson is shouting in almost Trumpian tones “Hey, I did it! Ignore me now!” Great writers, even mousy ones, often have total confidence in their poems. These lines are similar, though more exultant, to Shakespeare’s conclusion of his “Sonnet 18”: “So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,/So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.” In Dickinson’s poem, though, there’s a more contemporary note, a defiant feminist recklessness, a passionate in-your-face exhilaration.

Exhilaration? Despite the subtle smuggling of Hillary’s name into the word, there’s no “exhilaration” here after this soul-crushing defeat.  Not even relief that it’s over: America has chosen a man completely estranged from our former ideals of statesmanship (not to mention common decency). Whatever you think of President Obama’s policies, one glance at him and his family conveys intelligence, class, and grace. The realization that the boorish coarseness of Donald Trump is replacing him is horrific.

Hillary Clinton and Tim Caine seemed steady and prepared to follow in Obama’s footsteps for the difficult work ahead. With some help from Congress, we might actually have prospered! (Compared to the rest of the world, we’re already doing well.) Of course, they would have watched Clinton’s emails like a hawk, maybe appointing several permanent Republican committees to read each one as it headed out. 

This election was an astounding victory for a party that did nothing for eight years besides attack Obama and Clinton, wasting taxpayers’ money on phony targets, while setting back problems like climate change, education, and gun laws at least a generation. And now, encouraged by FBI Director James Comey’s unprecedented double entry into this election with his late partisan bombshell — which may well have turned the election — the GOP has lowered the bar for allowable political behavior for decades to come. All we have left is Saturday Night Live.

Post-election, we’ll have a largely unhappy citizenry who, despite great strides since the Depression, are angry at the obvious inequalities in our system. Of course, they’re mad at the wrong people. Every respectable study has shown that immigration is good for America, and lifts our standard of living. We can feel relieved that, while England’s anger at the other has resulted in Brexit and a split with Europe (the cost of which is rising by the day), ours has at least a chance of being smoothed out by our inability to pass anything. We shall see.

Clinton would have been fine. A popular senator, she worked well across the aisles. As a bonus, she would have been unlikely to dally with a page boy, knowing firsthand how such indiscretions work out in the White House (she learned about the “Scarlet prison” from Bill; Dickinson just imagined it, maybe thinking of Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter). Given half a chance, Clinton would have been a fine president, joining other leaders like Chancellor Angela Merkel (Germany), Prime Minister Theresa May (England), State Counselor Aung Sun Suu Kyi (Myanmar), Prime Minister Beata Szydło (Poland), President Tsai Ing-wen (Taiwan) and many more. I hope Trump can behave himself while dealing with these dignified leaders. Lord knows what they’re thinking right now!

So back to Dickinson’s wonderful poem. After this long, hard election year, I like to imagine those two strong women, Emily and Hillary, holding hands on the steps of some celestial White House, our first great visionary poet with the first woman president of the United States, hands uplifted before the unknown future and the hopeful and hungry crowd.  

    (The poem has a sadder ring now. This vision’s been set far back — is misogyny stronger than racism?)

Mine—here—in Vision—and in Veto!

Mine—by the Grave’s Repeal—


Delirious Charter!

Mine—long as Ages steal!

—”poem #411” by Emily Dickinson (1830-1886 )

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