Praise to the Brave: A Poem. Part I of the “It Can’t Happen Here” Series.
PRAISE TO THE BRAVE: A Poem
In this world today there are those
who will push a ticket
and stretch it out
and stretch it away. And if you
want to follow them to the end of the earth
be my guest — I will not be the worse for it
but you might be. I am only warning you.
It’s a final warning
and there will be no other. Take it from me,
I could say, or don’t take it at all. But listen,
at least listen. No one’s listening
today. No one’s listening
anyway. I still listen,
maybe only to poke holes. I’m just like you,
I didn’t say corrupted.
How long till you stop listening
to those statesmen with their silver words
who’ll tell you everything except this —
that they’ll never win,
that you’ll never win,
that we’ll never win
How long till you start listening
to the cynic who says you’re stealing
his sunshine, when all you wanted
was a little shade to throw back at him?
And if the sun shines brightly on me
does it not also on you? Some of us
realized this lifetimes ago. Nothing’s
new under the sun but the sun also
rises and the sky is still blue.
Don’t sit there expecting things to change,
they won’t. Don’t sit there self-righteous
acting as if we’re so much better
when you’ve stayed the same. Just listen
for a hot second and shut your mouth
and hear it how it is and see it with
your eyes. You have eyes for a reason.
Praise to the brave, long as they stand. All hail
the tyrants, long as they reign. And long live
the cynics, long as they live. Sun, shine
on our heads and our temporal crowns. God bless
our transience, God bless the shadows
that follow us round. God bless
us all, in peace and in war — God bless
the sinner, God bless the whore. God bless
the mighty, the forgotten, the proud — God bless
the earth, our disavowed.
Some refuse to hear it how it is and
this will never change. If it could
then history would’ve thrown off
its old tired circles, cast off
the vicissitudes of fate,
the tides of fortune,
the pitfalls of chance,
the cartwheels of destiny and
I would be mute and
I would be grasping
for words like these. If men
This is the first part in a mini-series here on the blog centered around Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 novel It Can’t Happen Here. I will be reviewing the novel later in the series, and it may strike you as a strange choice on my part to begin with a poem — a poem that may make little sense right now.
But I’m hoping that you’ll revisit this poem after reading some of the other entries in the series. This poem, “Praise to the Brave,” was my response to a conversation hosted at a family friend’s house surrounding the play version of Lewis’s novel. It was this conversation that first got me thinking about some of the fallacies of modern liberalism, of which this poem addresses a few.
The basic message of the poem, to try to make it clearer, is a critique of the belief that humans and the human world changes in any appreciable way over the course of, say, 100 years. I won’t argue that, on a rational level, humans haven’t “evolved” somewhat over the past, say, 1,000 years, but I would certainly argue with anyone who claimed — as these family friends were claiming — that the people of 1935 were “so blind” and how in the world could we have regressed to the point in 2016 at which America elected Donald Trump?
I don’t personally believe it’s fair to call either the Germany population of 1935 or Trump supporters stupid as a general statement, but that’s exactly what these self-avowed liberals said. In my eyes, it’s an incredibly self-righteous statement and revealed to me what I dislike about modern liberalism. I’ll note that I, in terms of traditional politics (not what we see today), sit very central. This is not a stance I intend to change. It allows me to see both sides of every issue, and in my eyes that’s a good thing.
In the next entry in this series, I’ll be talking more about that conversation. I hope I’ve piqued your interest! Thank you very much for reading. If you loved this piece, check out another poetic reflection: “The Piping for the Flocks.”
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“Suspended Animation,” a brief poem about the mental discomfort and anguish caused by isolation during the COVID-19 crisis.
“Dill Weed Dreaming,” a short poem tying love and loss to the changing of the seasons. Inspired by the power of smell.
“Song for the Gallows,” a very short poem about crime and punishment.
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