I was unhappy with the election results – more like sickened, in fact. More so than at any other time since 1968. A couple of personal notes: I am unlikely to hit the road to Canada – been there, done that, have a couple of tee shirts ( not so funny). That being said, I am too old, wore out and broke down to run, so now is my time to stand and fight, whatever that may mean. I am sitting here angered and unsettled by the election results, listening to early Dylan and finding the way back to long-forgotten rage. I ask myself what did they do in Hamburg the night after Hitler was elected? Buckle up: it is going to a rough ride.
“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.” Nittai of Arbel said that. By which he might have meant to say that we must “trust that evil will be repaid.”
The day is short and the task is great. Rabbi Tarfon said that.
He also used to say, “It is not up to you to finish the work, but you are not free to abandon it.”
Note: Hillel said in Micah, “If I am not for me, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?” Indeed there will be no going gently into the good night. No fuckin’ way.
Outside my door they are marching in freezing northwest rain. I remember marches like these; they were about the war in Vietnam, about civil rights. Effectively, they were about the rights of the citizens to protest. They changed the ways in which many of us saw the world. Will today’s actions change the palpable texture of our fear in the face of a Donald Trump administration? Yes indeed they will if only for the sense of knowing who our brothers and sisters might be. Me, I went for another short run and came inside to write. Do what I can do, do what I must.
When I was a little guy, I went to a Jewish Liberal, Zionist summer camp that was meant to take the sons and daughters of the nouveau riche and teach them some humility. Hard canoe tripping, heavily themed all-day programs were part of the process. And there were inevitable sing-alongs – many were standard camp songs, but in addition there were folk songs from freedom movements around the world, mostly from pre-war Germany and the Spanish Civil War. One of the tunes has been with me since then (the Eisenhower administration). From the Spanish Civil War it was “Freiheit” (Freedom); it chilled me then and it does now. It came from the German brigade that fought with the International Brigade. I have written elsewhere that my father raised money in New York for the Lincoln Brigade that also fought the Fascists.
Spanish heavens yield their burning starlight
High above our trenches in the plain;
From the distance morning comes to greet us,
Calling us to battle once again.
We’ll not yield a foot to Franco’s Fascists,
Even though the bullets fall like hail,
With us stand comrades, they are fearless,
And for us there can be no retreat.
Pretty romantic stuff and damn stirring, heart-rending in retrospect. They fought, they died, and the world went on. I found cocaine and whiskey, self-pity and a desperate sense that I had missed my rightful time. That last part was fuzzy-headed nonsense. But here we are again and while it might yet be too early to say this, “The barbarians are at the gates.” And crazy as it is, they look just like you and me.
So as always I find myself turning to song lyrics as I run. I was struck today by these from “The Messenger” by Ray Wiley Hubbard.
Now I have a mission and a small code of honor
To stand and deliver by whatever measures
And the message I give is from this old poet Rilke
He said “Our fears are like dragons guarding our most precious treasures.”
Enough outa me today. I have run, written, eaten and I am about to shower – a very good day. The streets of the world are filled with people who believe that the world is what we make of it and that now is our time to make it a better place for all of us and all of those who are comin’ down the road.
Photo by Michael Lebowitz. All rights reserved.
Poster image: No original copyright found (United States Library of Congress)