"Mending the Nation" by Jon McNaughton‘What Song Shall I Sing?’ by James A. Tweedie The Society January 20, 2020 Beauty, Culture, Poetry 32 Comments What song shall I sing for a nation divided By politics, race, economics, and power? By what sweet refrain shall our nation be guided Through all that we face in this dark, bitter hour. Around me the clash of cacophony rages, The music of dissonance pierces my heart. For each group and faction creates and engages Its own sacred anthem that sets it apart. With everyone marching to different drummers And bellowing words set to different tunes, It sounds like ten million insane guitar strummers All stomping their feet on ten million balloons. Perhaps I’m naïve to think deep down inside us A melody lingers that unites us all. A song we can sing with our neighbor beside us With words we once knew and may yet still recall. A song celebrating the things that unite us; A song that embraces our hopes and our fears. A song full of laughter for things that delight us; A song that remembers our trials and tears. A song that cries out for the lost and the lonely; A song that inspires us to give of our best By saying, “I’ll do it!” instead of, “If only . . .” A song that reminds us how much we are blessed. A song that warns not to take freedom for granted; That justice and liberty wither away Unless they are constantly pruned and replanted, Protected and equally shared every day. A song which someday we will find ourselves humming As each of us adds our unique harmony. A song filled with hope for the years that are coming. A song of America, home of the free. For some, such a song would be too controversial. The media pundits would laugh it to scorn, And parody it as a TV commercial For soda, perhaps, both outdated and worn. Today, some who lead us sing songs of division, Which glorify anger, despair, and chagrin, While mocking and pouring contempt on the vision That celebrates character rather than skin. Refusing to follow their dire incantation Is “proof” you’re misogynist, racist, or flip. And any expression of pride in our nation Is now called “political partisanship.” And then there are those who will try to rename you, And call you “pathetic,” “a failure,” or “dumb,” Attempting to insult, discredit, and shame you, While squashing you under their opposing thumb. Express an opinion and someone’s offended, For lines have been drawn in our national sand. On Fox some won’t find their positions defended, On Facebook and Twitter some find themselves banned. In spite of it all I will choose to keep singing Of hope in the midst of our national brawl. Our bell may be cracked, but the song must keep ringing: “One nation . . . with liberty . . . justice for all.” James A. Tweedie is a recently retired pastor living in Long Beach, Washington. He likes to walk on the beach with his wife. He has written and self-published four novels and a collection of short stories. He has several hundred unpublished poems tucked away in drawers. Views expressed by individual poets and writers on this website and by commenters do not represent the views of the entire Society. The comments section on regular posts is meant to be a place for civil and fruitful discussion. Pseudonyms are discouraged. The individual poet or writer featured in a post has the ability to remove any or all comments by emailing submissions@ classicalpoets.org with the details and under the subject title “Remove Comment.” Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window) 32 Responses Joe Tessitore January 20, 2020 Very beautiful, James, and your final verse brings it together perfectly. Reply Anna J. Arredondo January 20, 2020 I agree with Joe. I choose to keep singing of hope with you, James, in spite of it all. In the words of the psalmist (Psalm 39:7) “And now what am I waiting for, O Lord? My hope — it is in You.” Reply Alan January 20, 2020 Socrates was quoted as saying: “I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world.” With globalization and worldwide communication, I wonder whether separate countries will last much longer. In case they don’t, we might need to sing something like this: “One world . . . with liberty . . . justice for all.” Or, eventually, “One universe . . . with liberty . . . justice for all.” Having a united world or universe doesn’t mean that there cannot be differences among people. It just means that those people have learned to appreciate their differences and to live in harmony. As a song is (or can be) composed of different notes that make up a harmonious melody, a universe can be composed of different kinds of individuals whose lives form a kind of intrinsic harmony. Reply Margaret Coats January 20, 2020 “Celebrates character rather than skin” is an apt allusion to Martin Luther King’s thought and words. Fine poem for the day when the United States remembers him. Reply Rod January 20, 2020 Great poem James – I have to say I found the rhythm faltered once or twice but overall a great job! I particularly enjoyed your last two verses. Thank you. 🙂 Reply David Paul Behrens January 20, 2020 Outstanding, thoughtful and heartfelt. Reply David Watt January 21, 2020 A fine patriotic poem which rightly highlights the fact that expressing pride, or simply an unfashionable opinion, often leads to a derogatory label. Reply C.B. Anderson January 21, 2020 Jeez, man! Although I applaud your essential optimism, I don’t know what hope you hold out, or what remedies you suggest, for those of us who face persons who obviously do NOT favor liberty and freedom of expression. I hope this isn’t just your kumbaya moment. That would be a great disappointment. How, then, do we deal with the likes of Adam Schiff et al. without descending into to loathsome morass of never-ending conflict? My question is serious, not merely rhetorical. Reply James A. Tweedie January 22, 2020 C.B. Thank you for the applause! I am, by nature and by cultivation, both an optimist and a realist. Jesus himself tells me to be as wise as a serpent and as innocent as a dove. I am under no illusions concerning the deep divisions in our nation and the danger they pose to the essential principles of freedom, liberty, and justice on which our nation was founded. I believe my poem acknowledges and articulates the seriousness of our “national brawl” while expressing a desire for a more united future. My question to you is also serious: Have you no hope for a more united future for our country? Have you thrown in the towel? Can you not see that to hit a target one must aim high? If dreams are to become reality, the dreams must be larger than life? That, like Dr. King, we must climb to the mountaintops in search of a “Promised Land?” That, like Lincoln in his First Inaugural Address, we must seek the impossible? Considering the extreme, uncompromising divisions of this nation at that time, were his words foolish? Naive? or Visionary? “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” When Isaiah, Hosea, Jeremiah, and Jesus challenged their contemporaries (and us) with the image of the kingdom of God and invited them (and us) to seek this kingdom first and above all else, were they living in times less divided and less acrimonious than our own? When you reduce the “hopes and fears of all the years” to a “kumbaya moment” and refer to such profound yearnings as a “disappointment,” then I can only wonder what your vision for the future of our nation might be? It does no lasting good to fight against something unless one is also quite clear about what he or she is fighting for! In many ways, our current national divisions appear to be intractable and it may be that the sectarian diseases that seek to deepen these divisions may be incurable. Whether or not the fullness of my hopes will ever be realized, I intend to sustain them, proclaim them, and seek to manifest them in whatever ways, large or small, that I can; if not nationally, then, at least, locally. Reply C.B. Anderson January 23, 2020 My immediate neighbors and I get along very well, as long as we don’t engage in the discussion of national politics. But it pains me to have to hold back the expression of It’s not MY VISION, but I think hard times are a-comin’. I see it in the tea leaves I dispose of every morning. Perhaps I should switch to coffee, because as far as I know, nobody reads anything from coffee grounds. James A. Tweedie January 22, 2020 C.B. While defending my hopes for the future I see that I have neglected to respond to your question: “How, then, do we deal with the likes of Adam Schiff et al. without descending into to loathsome morass of never-ending conflict?” My answer to that question is, “I have no idea.” As Lincoln pointed out in his Second Inaugural address, when opposing sides each call on God to prosper and advance their side of the argument, the result will be a winner-takes-all conflict, with God’s wrath being proportionately meted out on both sides. Patrick Henry famously said, “Give me liberty or give me death.” When both sides of a divided nation claim that epithet for themselves, then death will be the inevitable result for one side or the other, and perhaps for both. In Lincoln’s day, the result was literal and very physical. In our day, I can only pray that it will be political and electoral. Hopefully, at some point, our national leadership will see where this is heading and will–for all our sakes–find some way to rein it in. I say “hopefully” but, for the immediate future, at least, I am not particularly optimistic. Kyrie eleison. Reply C.B. Anderson January 23, 2020 My only objection to what you state above is that “national leadership” is such a vague abstraction that there is no practical means to arrive at anything approaching or attaining that ideal. If you and I (and a select few others) were the only persons inhabiting this world, then I think all of these problems could be resolved amicably. But, alas, there are many persons who elect not to have commerce with our hypothetical sodality. Reply Susan Jarvis Bryant January 22, 2020 I love everything about this tour de force of a poetic anthem. It sings of every problem we face in today’s divisive society of identity politics and downright hatred with rhyme, rhythm, and aplomb. I’m with you on the closing stanza hope front. If only people would stop trusting everything they hear and read and start opening their eyes to the beauty of the world around us and the common ground we share as human beings. I believe that most of us want liberty and justice for all. Perhaps we should start listening to each humble individual’s song and not the caterwauling cacophony of the overbearing elite. We might find we’re singing from the same hymn sheet. Thank you for this thought provoking, admirably composed read. Reply James A. Tweedie January 22, 2020 Susan, You are very welcome. Reply C.B. Anderson January 23, 2020 Susan, I loved it also, but I’ve never had a bite of that pie in the sky. Reply Susan Jarvis Bryant January 23, 2020 C.B., I completely understand where you’re coming from. I’m just hoping that “the thing with feathers” may weather the storm. However, I will admit to avoiding flicking on the news these past few days. I fear my feathered wonder may have been struck by lightning. Joseph S. Salemi January 24, 2020 I have to side with Kip Anderson here. Saying “Can’t we all just get along?” is hopelessly naive and Pollyanna-ish. It assumes that persons like Adam Schiff and Nancy Pelosi and Bernie Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez are persons of honesty and good will, and if we all just had a nice big kumbaya-singing barbecue, we’d become good friends again. If you actually think that, you must have been living on another planet since 1968. At this moment, the biggest weakness in the conservative movement here in the United States is sentimentalists, religious dreamers, and persons who refuse to recognize that THE WAR IS GOING ON RIGHT NOW. The arms and munitions are secondary, and will come later. Reply Susan Jarvis Bryant January 24, 2020 I believe we’re on the brink of losing our freedom and we, the American, hard working, level headed citizens know it. Let’s hope the results of the next election prove this. I’m optimistic. Mr. Tweedie’s magnificent anthem has lifted my spirits. As a recent American citizen, I hope my vote and voice make a difference. Reply James A. Tweedie January 27, 2020 Joseph, Have you no dream? Have you no vision for our nation? Have you no hope? What are you fighting for? When we have crushed and defeated the Schiffs, Pelosi’s, Sanders’ and Cortez’ and the millions of other Americans we are at war with–what will we have achieved? You make it clear that you are not happy with the direction the United States appears to be going. So I ask you, what would make you happy? What direction would you have it go? And to what end? In my poem, I have attempted to articulate a fragment of my vision, a small slice of my dream. Let’s hear yours. You’ve made it clear who you are fighting against (including me, apparently). Who or what are you fighting for? I am not asking for a fight nor do I have any desire to engage in a debate. I am simply asking what, given your comment, seems to me to be a reasonable question. “Where there is no vision, the people perish,” Proverbs 29:18a PS: Re your Rodney King quote, “Why can’t we all just get along.” Despite the source, it is nevertheless a good question. To rephrase it, “Why is my vision for America so elusive; perhaps to the point of being unattainable?” Believe me, I am under no illusion that it will ever be attainable, at least in its fullness. Even so, as a Christian, I have what I believe is a good and reasonable response to to the question: We can’t get along because of Sin. And, by the way, please stop throwing insults around like confetti. It makes your position appear weak. Reply Joseph S. Salemi January 27, 2020 Dear James Tweedie — I don’t know what “insults” I have thrown around. I speak bluntly, as most Noo Yawkers do. I can’t stand soft-focus vagueness and Sunday-School niceness. It’s true that I do not suffer fools gladly, but the generalized practice of suffering fools is one of the reasons why we are in the horrid situation in which we find ourselves today. I am not fighting against you, nor against anyone else who can be an ally in this ongoing war with an increasingly dangerous and threatening left-liberal cultural Marxism. I will join with anybody — Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist, atheist, agnostic, libertine, or whatever — who hates the tsunami of political, social, and artistic garbage that is engulfing Western culture. Despite a worldwide right wing-populist rebellion, our leftist enemies are getting more vicious and more demanding every single day. So I am not picky about whom I might have as an ally in this war, as long as that ally is pointing his gun in the same direction as I am pointing mine. But I do know this: Pollyanna-ish mainstream conservatism will get us nowhere. That movement is DEAD ON ARRIVAL. Do you recall how we had to fight tooth-and-nail against the Republican Establishment to get Donald Trump nominated? The disciples of reason and light and niceness were the losers who gave us John McCain and Mitt Romney as standard bearers. Being polite and courteous and respectful with vermin like Pelosi and Schiff is nothing but slow-motion suicide. You ask what I want. I want to WIN THIS DAMNED WAR! That’s the only thing that anyone in combat can want. Once we have cleared up the wreckage, we can start to rebuild. Yes, we can’t get along because of sin. But we are never going to escape the reality and the danger of sin in this sublunary existence that we call life. We all are prey to the seven deadly sins of pride, anger, envy, sloth, lust, avarice, and gluttony. That will be the case under whatever form of government we might have. Our task is to fight sin and to beware of its lures, every second that we breathe. So it is a natural consequence that we will always have conflict and frictional relationships and savage disagreements. That’s why we “can’t get along.” But that isn’t a political issue, James! That’s just a part of the conditio humana. Mike Bryant January 24, 2020 The poem IS optimistic just as it should be. IF we give up then civilization and classical poetry is over. Organize! Make sure all your friends vote for Liberty. Let’s turn this thing around and make Mr. Tweedie’s anthem soar. Reply James A. Tweedie January 27, 2020 Dr. S, Thank you for your reply. Reply Monty January 30, 2020 Immaculately written in every poetic sense and discipline, James: as is to be expected of you these days. I also applaud your valiant and defiant determination to ‘sing your song’: but, alas.. it’s hopelessly and irretrievably in vain, ‘coz there’s no way back now for your nation. The reasons for that are in the first two lines of your poem: “a nation divided by politics, race, economics and power”. * Politics: Which has been inherently corrupt for at least a hundred years; and as times have become more modern, so the corruption has become more sophisticated, and will continue to do so. * Race: America is, in general, an insular nation. Insularity is the perfect breeding-ground for racism. In some cases, one might label it an ‘innocent racism’ – “Oh, but their insularity means they simply don’t know any better” – but it’s still racism: and racism is hereditary, hence becomes institutionalised. * Economics: American’s historic hunger for, and religious worship of, money . . is the reason it’s in the mess you describe above. And that hunger and worship will never abate, James.. it can’t. It’s hereditary. If anything, that hunger is more voracious today than ever. * Power: In the American psyche, power means money and money means power. As such, many who attain money are doing so to seek some sort of power (on differing levels: even down to those who wanna be the richest resident on their street; and the (false) status which comes with it). See? It’s irretrievable, James: too irretrievable to merit even the merest mention of salvation. It’s too deep-rooted in the American idea of how humans should exist. As I said once before on these pages . . America’s last chance of salvation came on a certain day in 1970: a day which became known as The May-Day Massacre. Before that day, and all through the 60’s, many American artists were trying – through their art – to warn America of where it was heading . . bands, songwriters, poets, artists, writers, cartoonists, magazine editors . . they were all desperately trying to warn America (its people and its powers-that-be) “Look, if you don’t try to change things now, it’ll be much worse in the future”. They were practically pleading, begging: “Listen to the words in our songs”. But America didn’t listen; America just dismissed them as drug-crazed hippies; belittled them; made new laws to silence them; jailed them; EVEN KILLED THEM.. as they did on the aforementioned day in 1970 at Kent University, when they brought in the Army to open fire on innocent, unarmed American teenagers: killing 4 or 5 and injuring maybe a dozen more, some for the rest of their lives! And what were these kids doing to warrant being fired upon? They were protesting about the rampant American bombing of thousands of peasants in Cambodia (which’d been going on secretly for 2-3 years previous; but had only just come into the public domaine). And that was it, James. All through the 60’s, America totally ignored all the warnings by some of its clearest thinkers, its writers, etc; and on that May day, America made it emphatically clear, once and for all, that it would never listen. That really was the day that America lost any chance of future Salvation. And now look . . Everything the “drug-crazed hippies” were warning about is happening. They knew more then than many Americans know today! It’s ironic, James, that many of the sentiments expressed in your poem: “a melody to unite us all” . . “sing with our neighbour” . . “humming in harmony” . . were the very sentiments for which the clear-thinkers were vilified in the 60’s. The peace and harmony you search for in your poem, they were searching for back then. If, hypothetically, the clear-thinkers had seen your poem back in those days, they might well have adopted it as a battle-cry; and someone like, for example, Country Joe McDonald might’ve turned it into a song. But in this day-and-age, it can only fall on deaf ears. What a shame. Reply Mike Bryant January 31, 2020 Monty, I agree completely. Fortunately, those same clear-thinking hippies have infiltrated the the US government and are well on the way to completing their coup. With the election of Bernie Sanders we will finally have entered the “age of Aquarius “. Peace, Brother. Reply Joseph S. Salemi February 2, 2020 If Sanders were to be elected, our freedom, our property, our money, and our lives would be forfeit. He is the Jeremy Corbyn of American politics, and just as maniacally dangerous. I would advise persons who are non-American, or British ex-pats living in France and Nepal, to keep their mouths shut about the United States. Live in a dream world if you wish, but don’t tell us Yanks how to live. Got that? God bless Donald Trump. Monty February 5, 2020 Well, you’ve actually got something right: I really do live in a ‘dream’ world. Every day’s just like a beautiful dream. And in this ‘dream’ world, many other westerners have been saying in recent days: “Keep Trump in office: give him another 5 years . . he’ll do more harm to America than any foreign power could do”. Rod January 31, 2020 Monty, I too agree with your every word. In fact yours is one of the most well-founded comments I have been privileged to read. Being an Englishman living in New Zealand I know little of American politics but I can clearly recall a parallel political embryo developing in the UK in the days of Harold Wilson and Edward Heath et al. Those were the days when the voices of Dylan, Seeger, Baez, Donovan and others too numerous to mention were crying out in warning and condemnation but the Establishment machine steamrollered on – all powerful and rapacious. A very sad situation (beautifully illustrated by James’ poem ) resulted as we all know. My son, 32, recently summed everything up most succinctly with his revelation “The human race is screwed Dad!” To which I replied to the effect that if only we had all followed the Ten Commandments things would be so different. (He withdrew gracefully to think on that !) Reply Mike Bryant February 2, 2020 To Rod and Joseph… do you mean that the communist hippies are NOT the saviors of the world? Please don’t let Monty hear you say that. He is a true believer, besides, isn’t “Imagine” the anthem of all clear-thinking, caring, intelligent people everywhere? Is a sarc tag necessary on this comment? Monty February 9, 2020 Well, if you know “little” about American politics, Rod, I can tell you that you know more about it than me. But one need know nothing about that nation’s politics to understand where things went wrong; one need only know the American story . . . A group of europeans, a cuppla centuries ago, invaded the land of another race to begin a social-experiment, and named it the land of the free; they were ‘free’ to virtually wipe-out the native race. And so the experiment began, and who knows where it might’ve led to if it wasn’t for the intervention of two things along the way: Gunpowder and TV – especially the latter, whose adverts spawned the unstoppable machine of mass-consumerism (which, in turn, developed a hopeless lust and need for money, spanning all the classes). And as was proved at the aforementioned Kent University, nothing would, or ever will, be allowed to prevent that machine from functioning at its fullest capacity. That’s the American story . . the story of a machine. I too was born in England, Rod, and there I remained until moving to France twenty years ago (when I was 37). Thus, I’m aware of the Wilson/Heath era, and how those Cabinets suppressed our own alternative thinkers of that time; but those actions, I feel, were done for different reasons than those of the aforementioned ‘machine’. With Britain, it was more of an image thing, such as: 1/ At that time, it was still clinging-on to its so-called Empire. Hence, to maintain its image overseas, everything had to be seen as being prim-and-proper at home (stiff upper-lip, and all that bullshit). 2/ The Establishment was exactly that . . established! For centuries, an unshakable system had been in place to keep the Monarchy monarchic and the Aristocracy aristocratic. It simply had too much power for anything which threatened that system. So the system won, as systems nearly always do. The same result was achieved on both sides of the pond: but on this side, it was achieved differently . . . for example, can you imagine the British Cabinet deploying the Army on a shoot-to-kill mission against unarmed British teenagers? And today? I certainly feel that it wasn’t unreasonable of your son to make his claim; but I would qualify it by saying it only applies to the western-world. The undeveloped world may be our only hope! Rod February 9, 2020 As always Monty your remarks make perfect sense. And to think I spent much of my childhood ( at a Boys’ home in Devon) watching Westerns, dressing up as a cowboy, running around with a cap gun and rifle ! Just about all of us were under the impression that the Red Indians were the baddies and that Wyatt Earp, Davy Crockett and The Lone Ranger could do no wrong. Ah well you live and learn ! Incidentally I was taken by your comment in the other thread where you referred to “proper poetry” being under threat. Couldn’t agree more. I have been arrogant enough down the years to think that my work could be classed as “proper poetry” but alas I have yet to find a publisher who would agree. I qualify that by saying that many folk have said to me that ” I don’t normally read poetry but I really enjoyed yours because it rhymes and is easy to read !” You have a good grasp of history Monty – all the best for your travels. Monty February 13, 2020 We certainly do “live and learn”, Rod. We began by being told the Indians were the baddies; then we grew to learn they were the goodies; then we grew a bit more to learn who the real baddies were/are. Regarding you not being able to find a publisher for your own “proper poetry”: have you tried submitting any here at SCP? Rod February 13, 2020 Yes I have Monty and I’m thrilled to say I have been well received here at SCP. However, I have to say I didn’t start out to write for the benefit of my fellow poets ( gratifying though that is!) but to write rhyming poetry that the general public would enjoy, relate to and find easily readable. I have yet to find a mainstream publisher who thinks I have been successful in that regard. For example, a few years back I wrote a rhyming trilogy for children entitled “The Chronicles of Sir Hifford Wilkingford-Bisset”. It was the story of the adventures of a monkey who emigrated from Africa to the UK, saved the Queen’s hat from disaster on a windy day and ended up becoming a knight. I sent the story to my niece who was teaching in the Dominican Republic at the time. Her class of 9-10 yr olds absolutely loved it – they just couldn’t get enough of it! Lived and breathed it they did. But all the mainstream publishers – (some 20 plus that I sent it to ) had to say was ” It doesn’t fit with our current curriculum” or words to that effect. I felt very nonplussed by that – and I still am to this day. And yes I know J.K.Rowling was knocked back many times before Harry Potter finally came to print! Cheers Rod Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYour email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.