by Sherry Marr
I have taken part in many protests in my life: for civil rights, against the Viet Nam war, (Make Love, Not War, Give Peace a Chance), the women’s movement, justice for Aboriginals, the climate crisis. In 1993, I was on the blockades to save the old growth forest in Clayoquot Sound, at that time the greatest act of civil disobedience in Canada.
I have a strong sense of truth and social justice; I have expressed this in my poetry all my life. My spirit rises up against all that is unjust. But I was always hopeful that the transformation of consciousness on the planet would occur before all was lost. So I have been having a hard time since 2016, watching things play out for our neighbours south of the border, watching civil liberties roll back, racism become hostile and overt, civility, dignity, decency being over-powered by hatred and division. Blatant corruption is occurring at top levels, unchallenged; the good guys get fired; the snake-charmers get richer. All the smug grinning smiles of collusion, the dead eyes, are an affront to my sensibilities.
Where to start: too many things to protest; it is a theatre of the absurd. We are so far down the rabbit hole, it makes me think of that old saying: “Been down so long, it looks like Up to me.” In Canada, newscasters have a hard time hiding their astonishment at the words they are reading on the teleprompters. Yikes.
Add the corona virus to this, and one can be forgiven for growing too discouraged for words. Yet somehow we must rally. (And for certain every person qualified to vote needs to exercise that right in November 2020.) Our job as poets is to reflect the world around us, throw light on difficult topics, bear witness, advocate for change, at the very least leave a historical record of the times we are living through, in case humanity somehow survives, and there are people alive in the future to read our words. At least we can say “we tried.” Future humans will see that, when it became a struggle between dark and light, we poets were the canaries in the cages, singing out.
My heart rose up with the water protectors at Standing Rock, whose peaceful and prayerful protest was met with militarized police, pressure hoses, rubber bullets and arrest. trump (I will never use a capital T for him, my own small rejection of his political presence) proposed legislation that would brand these peaceful warriors – and other peaceful protesters – “terrorists”. Yet check this out:
It was trump who incited these people to “Liberate your state; fight for your great Second Amendment.” He called these “protesters” of social distancing “good people.”
Join me in a moment of speechlessness.
“Give me liberty or give me death”, the placards say, of the directives to wear masks and practise social distancing to prevent the spread of the virus. This might quite literally come true. “Gun up,” people are saying south of the border. Methinks they have found a strange issue to protest.
I worry about the coming election. Will they “gun up” if they don’t like the outcome? I worry about a lot of things. The New York Times has projected the possibility of Ivanka trump as President in 2025, followed by the abolishment of term limits for President. Hopefully this will not happen; hopefully I won’t live to see a further slide from American democracy to power by the potentates.
Brendan suggested, since we can’t meet in the streets to voice our protests (and it probably would be scary, with all those enraged people running around with guns half-cocked), we can do an online protest. That appeals to me.
There is no shortage of things to protest: the armed militants on the state capital steps; the president himself; government corruption; assault weapons; the suffering and abuse of wild and domestic animals; the destruction of wild habitat; what we eat, how it’s treated and where it comes from. The need for social distancing and testing to save lives, the many lives being lost in all the political uproar, in a situation that should be anything but political. (Leaked statistics from the White House estimated covid deaths could reach 3,000 per day in the U.S. by June 1st. And the administration seems unworried about the loss of life). (Source: Business Insider)
Animal rights. Human rights. Immigration. Warming seas. Plastic. The climate crisis. The urgent need for a switch to clean energy.
Take your pick. Unfurl your banner. Tell us about what keeps you awake at night, what worries you most, what you feel needs to change. What is happening in your part of the world that concerns or appalls you? Give us your outrage or, if you can muster it, give us some hope, and a direction to head in.
Valerie Kaur has said this time can be viewed “not as the darkness of the tomb, but the darkness of the womb”; that we can emerge from this time of transition transformed, and begin to live on Mother Earth as one part of creation, rather than the unthinking, dominant species we have been. We live in hope.
Your challenge: Bring us your protest poem. Let’s join our voices in this forum to speak of all that is wrong or, conversely, all that we can make right.
I look forward to reading your words.