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After Bush

by Zettel 

Posted: 29 June 2008
Word Count: 228
Summary: I guess in politically motivated poetry content and ideas will always dominate form. But worth a try I think.

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After Bush

Let us dare to speak of hope
of aspiration not of doubt
Let John and Robert rest in peace
with Martin by their side
For they have been dishonoured
their sacrifice denied

Let us with courage separate
as wise and thoughtful men once did
opposing claims of church and state
that every creed and faith and race
through justice blind be ever free
to show their homeland’s human face

Let us pray to all Gods or none
the men of death will soon be gone
hubris proud ignorance put down
lethal greed of the corporate state
with honour tempered checked by law
United States not caliphates

Let this now fragile threatened earth
unite us all in face of death
we can decide yes we can choose
eight more years of war and strife
body bags on the evening news
shall we choose death will we choose life?

Let the world’s children give us pause
obscene guns in guiltless hands
kill and burn in a liar’s cause
We fall in step to marching bands
to bomb and mine and shoot ideas
when all they need are helping hands

Let the shamed and shameful circus leave
with smirking mirthless grotesque clown
we must resolve never again
to place our trust in foolish men
have faith in hope trust our ideals
yes we can not whether now but when

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Comments by other Members

James Graham at 20:37 on 02 July 2008  Report this post
On first reading it was these lines

Let the shamed and shameful circus leave
with smirking mirthless grotesque clown

that struck me as particularly apt - as well as your undaunted affirmation at the end (and elsewhere) that there is hope and that we can change the world for the better.

I find myself agreeing with so much in the poem. I think I’d have reservations about John F. Kennedy, and might have wanted to squeeze Roosevelt in instead, but agree that the best Americans of the past half century and more have been dishonoured by the Bush administration. On radio not long ago, a New York man-in-the-street said in a vox pop interview, ‘I know it’s a heck of a thing to say, but I believe this is the worst president in our history’.

I agree too about church (or mosque, or synagogue, or temple) and state and the need to recognise the ‘lethal greed of the corporate state’. I wish I could share all of your hope, though. The ‘grotesque clown’ will go, and be replaced (barring a lethal dirty tricks campaign) by Barack Obama, who is certainly far more intelligent and more mature than Bush, but who will find himself at the head of a corporate state, and like LBJ or Clinton will discover there are many things he would like to do but can’t. Still, it’s worth saying that the world can change, that ‘another world is possible’. We must keep on making this affirmation.


Zettel at 09:48 on 03 July 2008  Report this post
Thanks James

I think hope starts not with belief in politicians but in ourselves. Because we can achieve more together than separately that leads us I think to add to our hope in ourselves, hope in a system of government that will provide a just way of combining our efforts.

As such the worst of what Nixon and Bush have done is not just disgrace the memories of men who whatever their flaws, died because they were trying to do something - they disgracced the office of President, corrupted the language of politcs and squandered the willingness of some of the electorate to have hope and work to bring it about. I love the bloody-minded independence of the British (and I mean British because Scots, Irish, Welsh, Cornish and English are all bloody-minded and independent but in their own way - the British I think long to be led, but hate to be governed - that is the philosophy of the warrior. There is a little mileage though it is a bit glib, to say that the Americans long to be governed but hate to be led.

As for Kennedy - when he said "ask not...." I believe he meant it for all his privilege and personal flaws. As to a leader - watch the documentary Fog Of War(I reviewed it on WW) about the cuban missile crisis which includes real live footage of some of the conversations during the crisis - this is enough to prove JFK' s strength of will and leadership to resist the powerful efforts of the military to bounce him into armed conflict. He WAS a statesman despite some appalling mistakes Vietnam being one and I suspect he knew that. I agree about the quality of Rooseveldt but the poem sort of places itself in my lifetime and I think it can truly be said that Kennedy on was literally a different world.

Obama may have a benefit denied many Democratic Presidents - a democratic Congress and Senate. THe appaling thing about Aemrica is that they elected Bush twice. The great thing is that the voices of dissent, though muted, have never ceased to mock, to challenge. Honourable men and women have been using the law fight the obscenity of Guantanamo for eg. We need both our politicians and especially the media and the press to recover their professionalism and personal ethic. And there we both reach the same block - the power of the corporate state, and there Chomsky becomes hard to resist. Not sure what we do about it - I do know we' ve got to try. As Margaret Mead said " Never doubt that a small group of intelligent and concerned citizens can change the world - for that is the only thing that ever has."

I guess it need passion and it needs hope. Without those...what is there?


a hopeless idealist


Ticonderoga at 15:53 on 04 July 2008  Report this post
Except they didn' t elect him twice.........he convinced them that they had after much mandacity and electoral jiggery-pokery!!!
Good muscular, musical writing for muscular, musical ideas.........




OOOhhhh - MENDACITY, of course!!!

Big Daddy

V`yonne at 16:09 on 04 July 2008  Report this post
We fall in step to marching bands
to bomb and mine and shoot ideas
when all they need are helping hands
We do indeed if we are not careful. A wonderful poem. Thank you for the read.

Zettel at 00:45 on 06 July 2008  Report this post
Ti, Vy

Thanks for the comments.

I guess it should be persondacity!

Wish Obama wasn' t trimming mind.


James Graham at 12:18 on 06 July 2008  Report this post
I think we live in an age when we need to go on affirming the things you affirm in this poem. Sometimes it seems that’s all we can do - either express our hope and passionately and eloquently as we can, and/or raise voices of dissent, devote a lifetime as Chomsky has to pointing out a multitude of wrongs. But the possibility of needed changes actually coming about seems very remote. Maybe most dissenting voices would agree that we need: 1. Much, much more democracy - ways of preventing people like Mugabe from trashing it, and bringing them to justice if they do and ways of separating the democratic state from the corporations (a new kind of ‘secular’ state). 2. A massive global effort to end extreme poverty, and indeed not-so-extreme poverty. To make it possible for people to get out of bad lives and into fulfilled lives. Etc. etc. Where to begin?

Maybe with me it’s the mentality of old age. ‘The world’s in a terrible state’. But it often does seem that the wrongs and injustices are overwhelming. All we can do is sing ‘We shall overcome...some day’. But as you say, if we don’t hang on to that, what’s left?


Zettel at 10:28 on 07 July 2008  Report this post

I feel much the same. Don' t know about your circumstances but I have a son 24 and a daughter 28 and it does sort of make a difference to one' s view of these things. One thing i do believe with an increasing certainty and it picks up on Chomsky directly - our picture of the world, even our own country, is largely media acquired and what we see is a heavily distorted view. My only real beef with Chomsky is that he tends to take that truth and then goes slightly paranoid with it. He is good on how structures condition politicians military etc to behave the way they do but underlying it is a sense he has that this is akin to individual intention, which gets a bit one dimensional for me.

Something more pervasive but apparently innoccuous seems to me to distort the picture we get obvious though it may be: journalists in every media do not have, perhaps never have had, simply telling the facts as their primary objective - thier task always is to take the fcts and tell us the story. They impose a narrative on events that events themselves do not possess although events do obviously have connections and links. The need for story appears to be one of our deepest human needs to the extent that we even see our lives and the lives of others, as a narrative, a story. I guess it is one of the fundmental ways in which we come to terms with a random universe and invest it with meaning. I have no problem with that on an individual level but because as individuals we asssimilate, are attracted to facts etc most when wrapped up in a ' story' that explains why we will buy media that presents it to us in that form. But then in a competitive media we end up with being sold packaged ' news' instead of being informed of facts. Selling by definition sells to a market and is necessarily driven by appealing to the largest number possible within that market - and simple empiricisim shows we will buy bad news because it is exciting, or anodyne news because it is comforting. Bliar was the most anti-democratic PM we have ever had, but the worst thing he did was to mess about with the BBC. And sadly he won. THAT' s when it MATTERS that single indidividuals or small groups of individuals behave with courage and integrity and CAN change things for the better. The old BBC Board folded and the new TRUST makes a lot of noise about the wrong things - their key reposnsibility is to see that the BBC remains totally independent politically - this lot wont have the guts. And Bliar knew it. The BBC were right about Iraq but they, and all the media let us down by not nailing the Kelly story beyond doubt and especially missing Elizabeth Wilmshurst for at least 9 months.

Sorry to go on, but like you, I think these issues are important and interesting. The pardoxical fact about GW Bush is that one of the most powerful weapons against tyrrany is mockery - but in his case, recalling Tom Lehrer' s remark about Kissinger, Bush was SO dangerously stupid, SO manifestly inept and incompetent, that he defied even mockery. I don' t know what we learn from that but however Obama turns out, at least there is SOME substance to get our teeth into if necessary.




PS: Past tense for Bush was wishful thinking. So was assuming Obama had won. NO hostages to fate.

PPS maybe we should fight for liberal values like Raphael Nadal fights at tennis - now there's determination and conviction for you!


James Graham at 11:41 on 16 July 2008  Report this post
Z, I agree with you in all you say about the media and the narratives and significances imposed on events, which events may not themselves possess. And strongly agree about Blair’s attack on the BBC. I know one or two people who still vote Labour, but have stopped arguing with them. After Blair standing ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with (in your words) the ‘mirthless grotesque clown’ Bush, and then later his attack on the integrity of the BBC, and the sacrifice of David Kelly (a man of real integrity) Blair and his clique did democracy some serious harm. In other ways - mainly the erosion of civil rights - this undermining of democracy continues post-Blair.

Your view of Chomsky is interesting. I haven’t read him for some time, but perhaps he isn’t clear enough about two concepts that Foucault puts forward somewhere in his writings - the distinction he makes between connaissance and savoir - which could perhaps be translated as ‘surface knowledge’ and ‘underlying knowledge’. Politicians and military and corporate leaders, as well as lesser power holders such as school or hospital managements, have a surface knowledge of what they are doing, but are generally unaware of what it all adds up to. They use the prevailing surface discourse of the age, but cannot see the underlying significance of what they do. Foucault’s savoir is knowledge beyond the scope of any individual or institutional actor on the political scene. The military-industrial complex, or the White House, do not intend to bring about the historic changes to which they contribute their intentions are on a surface level of what they perceive at the time as being the correct aims and actions. So if Chomsky superimposes a sense of intention on the institutions that exercise power, maybe - for all his strengths - he isn’t bringing the subtlety of Foucault’s concepts into his analysis.

You’ve no need to apologise for going on!


ellynelly at 10:42 on 24 September 2008  Report this post
Dear Folks,

Thanks for this example of the poem as a way to speak out on political issues.

The in depth discussions after the poem has also got my brain thinking about things that perhaps I don't think about enough.


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