Monday, September 29, 2008

... still holding up this little wild bouquet.

I don't think I've ever felt this much faith in the possibility built into our system of government to move our species toward freedom and compassion.

It has been hard -- everyone says "in the last eight years," but hasn't it really been twenty-eight years, since Reagan was elected -- to believe that we could ever buttress ourselves against such a tidal wave of ignorance and bigotry and greed, let alone push back. There have been a lot of moments recently when I've wondered if this big experiment in self-governance is in its death throes, but, maybe because I've been studying American history again, rereading the founding documents, recognizing that the so-called founding fathers knew it would be a constant struggle against tyranny, this morning I'm thinking maybe we're not doomed.

The Leonard Cohen album that this song "Democracy" is on came out in 1992, which is the last time I felt hopeful. I'm less naive now. What Clinton taught me is that even though Democrats might be more in sympathy with my stances on particular issues, they can be just as cynical about government and politics as Republicans. But cynicism is cynicism and the end does not justify the means.

The first presidential election I voted in was the one in which Reagan was elected for his first term. There has not been a president in my adult life who has not been a lying bastard. An Obama presidency will not just change the agenda. Hillary Clinton could have done that. What Obama offers is a tangible change in the way we interact with our government. A fundamental change in the way we are treated by our president.


It's coming through a hole in the air,
from those nights in Tiananmen Square.
It's coming from the feel
that this ain't exactly real,
or it's real, but it ain't exactly there.
From the wars against disorder,
from the sirens night and day,
from the fires of the homeless,
from the ashes of the gay:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

It's coming through a crack in the wall;
on a visionary flood of alcohol;
from the staggering account
of the Sermon on the Mount
which I don't pretend to understand at all.
It's coming from the silence
on the dock of the bay,
from the brave, the bold, the battered
heart of Chevrolet:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

It's coming from the sorrow in the street,
the holy places where the races meet;
from the homicidal bitchin'
that goes down in every kitchen
to determine who will serve and who will eat.
From the wells of disappointment
where the women kneel to pray
for the grace of God in the desert here
and the desert far away:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

Sail on, sail on
O mighty Ship of State!
To the Shores of Need
Past the Reefs of Greed
Through the Squalls of Hate
Sail on, sail on, sail on, sail on.

It's coming to America first,
the cradle of the best and of the worst.
It's here they got the range
and the machinery for change
and it's here they got the spiritual thirst.
It's here the family's broken
and it's here the lonely say
that the heart has got to open
in a fundamental way:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

It's coming from the women and the men.
O baby, we'll be making love again.
We'll be going down so deep
the river's going to weep,
and the mountain's going to shout Amen!
It's coming like the tidal flood
beneath the lunar sway,
imperial, mysterious,
in amorous array:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

Sail on, sail on ...

I'm sentimental, if you know what I mean
I love the country but I can't stand the scene.
And I'm neither left or right
I'm just staying home tonight,
getting lost in that hopeless little screen.
But I'm stubborn as those garbage bags
that Time cannot decay,
I'm junk but I'm still holding up
this little wild bouquet:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

1 comment:

jdjb said...

pulling that one line out of this song (for the title of your entry) makes such a pointed statement which caught me off guard with a lump in my through when I got to it while singing along with leonard and the girls. lovely.