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  • by Janet St. John

Art & Soul Short #11

Joseph Pennell. American, 1857 – 1926. Hail America. 1909. Mezzotint. Print. Gift of Mrs. Jane C. Carey in memory of her mother, Mrs. Addie Burr Clark. Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington.

Failing in coal-smoked darkening night, what should we hail about you, America, arrogance, lost empathy, deep-seated racism, sexism, fear? You are nothing to kneel before, no leader to follow. Not this planet’s judge and jury. You don’t have that right, don’t even protect the rights you’re founded upon. Oh, America, democracy devolved into corporate oligarchy; future charity case; looming storm sky. Your representatives represent themselves, seek re-election not results. Wall Street owns them, so do oil men, sellers of insurance, promoters of unsustainable agriculture, makers and suppliers of medicine, all industries that keep us sick. I cannot hail a country that drills sanctuaries and sacred spaces, pockets money and turns blind eye to chemical poisonings of people, water, land, and sky. I will not praise a government that perpetuates dirty energy, keeps us drugged up and plugged in, headline-hypnotized, and barely getting by on "living" wages. Let’s get this one thing straight: There is no making a country great by spinning its clocks backwards. No hailing white men who seek to restore old order to the future they fear. They will not restore anything worth living for. Never hail demolishers. Hail creators. And maybe hail whatever good is left in America, before it crumbles Roman-Empire-style, before ice caps melt, oceans swell and swallow it from sea to churning black-depth sea, from coasts to heartlessland. Do not hail poser presidents, clown congresses, anyone lacking torch-lit reason, common sense, compassion. Hail feet-on-ground awareness of the living body we are privileged to live upon, together. Pray we no longer be parasites, but best microbiome. Not cancers, but immunity. Not mere predators, but players in larger ecosystem. Come on, America, Americans, let's do our part! Let’s build right reasons to salute not just this country but everyone's, all humanity, each species. We need something worth praising. But for now, let us hail only pinhole light, tiny beacons, and every small hope.

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