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Posts Tagged ‘Carl Sandburg’

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He was a king or a shah, an ahkoond or rajah,
the head man of the country,
and he commanded the learned men of the books
they must put all their books in one,
which they did,
and this one book into a single page,
which they did.
“Suppose next,” said the head man, who was
either a king or shah, an ahkoond or rajah,
“Suppose now you give my people
  the history of the world and its peoples
  in three words— come, go to work!”
And the learned men sat long into the night
and confabulated over their ponderings
and brought back three words:
  “Born,
   troubled,
   died. “

This was their history of Everyman.

”Give me next for my people,’ spoke the head man,
“in one word the inside kernel of all you know,
  the knowledge of your ten thousand books
  with a forecast of what will happen next—
  this for my people in one word.”
And again they sat into the peep of dawn
and the arguments raged
and the glass prisms of the chandeliers shook
and at last they came to a unanimous verdict
and brought the head man one word:
   “Maybe “

–A fragment of #49 from The People, Yes from poet Carl Sandburg

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Born-Troubled-Died.

It may not have the breathtaking poetic sweep of Person-Woman-Man-Camera-TV but the addition of that one word condensed from all the gathered knowledge of man, that simple Maybe, is a sign of hope. A sign that despite the worst efforts of kings and would-be kings, the people will overcome.

Maybe.

 

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“Approaching Storm”- Now at the Principle Gallery


Lately, I have been reading bits and pieces from a book of Carl Sandburg poems called The People, Yes. Published in 1936, it is an deep reflection on the American people at that time, in the midst of the upheaval of  the Great Depression. It is a broad work that attempts to span the multitudes, much like Whitman and his Leaves of Grass.

As I say, I have been reading it piecemeal, picking it up at loose moments. Each time I am struck how relative it is to this time even though it is nearly 85 years old. For all the technological and societal changes that have occurred, for all the progress and sophistication we assume took place, we are still pretty much the same and pretty much in the same place. Still maintaining many of the same conceptions and misconceptions, still as biased and still as vulnerable to being manipulated.

One verse from this book that I keep coming back to is shown above, at least its beginning, #102.

It begins with bits from President Lincoln’s July 4, 1961 speech to Congress, one in which he justified his actions in the aftermath of the Confederate’s attack on Fort Sumter. In it, he outlined how the leaders of the Southern rebellion stoked the enthusiasm for conflict among the people living there through the dispersal of misinformation and fallacies. Some things never change, eh?

Reading Sandburg’s take on this is a bit scary. It seems to reflect what has happened here so well. The public has been barraged with lies and hateful, divisive rhetoric for the last three or so years to the point that we are without moorings. And now, in this unsteady state, we are experiencing the convergence of events that have been precipitated by these actions.

We are reaping the whirlwind.

And, unfortunately, the man and his accomplices who have done this, who have unleashed this awful power, can no longer control its direction or the scope and range of its destructive power.

As Sandburg put it:

 Is there a time to repeat,
“The living passions of millions can rise
into a whirlwind: the storm once loose
who can ride it? You? Or you? Or you?
        only history, only tomorrow, knows
        for every revolution breaks
as a child of its own convulsive hour
shooting patterns never told of beforehand”?

As I say, some things never change. There will always be those who try to benefit from inciting chaos and division upon the people. But, as it has always been, these devious people have never been able to reliably predict or control the whirlwind they let loose.

The public mind generally has the final word in such matters.

And it is speaking now.

 

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If the facts are against you, argue the law. 

If the law is against you, argue the facts. 

If the law and the facts are against you, pound the table and yell like hell.

— Carl Sandburg

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Pound the table and yell like hell. That’s where the republican party of trump ( neither the party or the man deserve a capital letter) is at this moment in history. Facts and laws are not on their side so they turn to bluster and diversion.

They take us to the Theater of the Absurd.

Yesterday, a large group of republican congressman stormed a SCIF to disrupt a deposition taking place in the ongoing Impeachment Inquiry, brandishing cellphones and yelling. Now,  SCIF stands for Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility which is a secured place where highly sensitive classified material is handled and personal electronics are strictly forbidden. To intentionally bring a cellphone into a SCIF would normally result in the offending party losing their security clearances and possibly their job. This is not a secret and all members of congress know the purpose and rules attached to a SCIF and the hearings that take place within them.

Their claim was that these hearings and depositions are being held in secret, suspiciously away from the eyes and ears of the public. That’s not completely untrue. These hearings are closed to the public just as criminal investigations grand juries are before charges are issued. This is an investigation, a gathering of evidence. It is not a trial.

These men– it was all white men, as an aside– all know this and are being intellectually dishonest in trying to attack the process to divert attention from the facts and law. In fact, about a quarter of those involved in this bit of guerrilla theater were part of the committee holding the hearing and could have been there, if they had chose to do so. They chose to pound the table and yell instead.

Some of these men were part of the Benghazi hearings from a few years ago. Almost every witness in this investigation gave depositions behind closed doors. There were over 100 of these secret depositions. Only one witness testified publicly. Hillary Clinton sat for eleven hours before the committee and ate their lunch. She had the facts and law on her side and didn’t pound the table and yell.

They wished they had kept her testimony behind closed doors.

In fact, the primarily republican committee addressed and defended the secretive nature of the investigation in the final Benghazi report. And during the hearings, a non-committee member, Darrell Issa, tried to enter the chamber and was escorted out by the sargeant at arms at the request of Chairman Trey Gowdy, who said, to his credit, there were rules to these types of inquiries that must be upheld.

The closed nature of this investigation is not unusual. These men know that. They can’t honestly argue against the facts that have come out or the laws that are potentially being enforced. They only want to create a shiny object to divert our attention, to change the narrative.

So, they act like the whiny babies they really are, pounding the table and yelling.

But wait, to add a layer to this weird theater experience, there was testimony in another yet trump lawsuit yesterday that was overlooked a bit by the press. His attorney, as a line of defense, attempted to convince a panel of Appellate Court judges that trump was exempt from having to provide his tax returns and other financial records and was above investigation or arrest of any kind.

He was forced to actually say that if trump shot a person on Fifth Avenue he could not be arrested or investigated until he left office.

He is literally above the law, according to his lawyers.

Absurdity.

And those are only two instances in one single day. You can add last night, at a rally,where trump boasted about a wall he is building in Colorado, much to the consternation of the folks living there. Or his ridiculous statements earlier in the day in trying to spin his complete betrayal of the Kurds and subjugation to the Russians and Turks in Syria.

Theater of the Absurd, folks.

Look past the table pounding and the yelling. Calmly examine the facts and the laws. Just because they are putting on a show with their absurdist company doesn’t mean you have to sit through it.

Oh, and stay off Fifth Avenue. Today just might be the day the demented fool attempts to prove his point.

God, or whoever is in charge of this runaway train, help us all.

 

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Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance.

–Carl Sandburg

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I like this line from poet Carl Sandburg. I think any artform acts in that way, as an echo of the person who formed it trying to bring that created remembrance forever to life. I often write about trying to see that sense of life in my work, that quality where the work has a feeling of movement–life— and seems to speak with its own voice.

What it is saying is an echo of what I was feeling in the moment it was created. And if I have done my job well, it sets these echos, these shadows, dancing. A reverberation from the past, the creators own echo sent into the future. A voice that will continue to speak, to echo, long after its creator has gone.

Or as Victor Hugo similarly stated: What is history? An echo of the past in the future; a reflex from the future on the past.

Maybe it’s too early on a Sunday morning to try to work on logic that is somewhat circular. I think I’ve said what I want to say here but the better part of it might still be in my head. Alas, that’s the way it will have to stay.

For this Sunday morning music here’s a fittingly titled song, Echo, from the celebrated British folk trio, Talisk. It has a building intensity that I very much like. Give a listen.

The painting at the top is a new piece  whose title is A World of Mystery, an 18″ by 24″ on canvas. It is headed to Alexandria with me next Saturday, September 22 for my annual Gallery Talk at the Principle Gallery. The talk, which starts at 1 PM, features a drawing for a painting of mine as well as several other goodies. Hope to see you there.

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