• Kathleen Cassen Mickelson

Keeping My Shoulder to the Wheel

It’s been a helluva week – one in which I’ve turned off the television, not read the newspaper with my usual devotion, spent little time on social media, and drank more wine that I really needed.

I know I’m not alone.

Recently, I’ve written about choosing not to be angry, about what the most radical things are that I can do every day to achieve that goal. And I’ve been reminding myself I wrote those words, reminding myself that anger doesn’t always accomplish what we hope. It was really hard to keep that in mind as Kavanaugh became a justice on our Supreme Court. It was excruciating to keep that in mind when Trump declared that Kavanaugh was proven innocent of Dr. Ford’s accusations against him. Never mind that he was proven nothing other than being a privileged white male firmly ensconced in the Good Old Boys Club. Never mind that our president is living in an alternative reality.

Deep breath right here.

Know what I have in front of me on my dining room table where I’m sitting with my laptop working on this post? Piles of poetry books. This whole past week, I kept hearing a line in my head, America when will you be angelic? That line is from Allen Ginsberg’s poem, America, written in 1956. I reread the whole thing this morning, marveling at how much this poem, written before I was born, still resonates, how much it still feels relevant. I stumbled over some of the references, but thought about how slowly a culture moves toward a different ideal. Change cannot occur overnight, especially not if part of the goal is to convince the people that they need change at all.

Sometimes it helps to step back and think about things over the course of a decade. Twenty-five years. A century. Ginsberg wrote America a long time ago, and there are some changes that have happened since then that are good, including more opportunities for women and people of color, and more acceptance of the LGBTQ community. But our current administration does make us feel like we’ve slipped backwards in our ability to care for one another and offer a progressive and comprehensive social safety net, and Ginsberg’s lines near the end of the poem nail that feeling:

America this is quite serious.

America this is the impression I get from looking in the television set.

America is this correct?

I thought about what has brought me hope in the past year and realized that it’s kids and new voters who bring that hope. The kids I saw rallying after the Parkland shooting, the kids who went to Washington DC and spoke in front of thousands, the kids who call bullshit. They may not be in the news right this minute, but they’re still out there, waiting to go to the voting booth in November. So are their parents. So are the millennials who seem to get maligned in the press all the time, but who are a lot savvier than that for which they are credited.

And so am I still here, waiting to go vote. Near the end of America, Ginsberg wrote, I’d better get right down to the job.

So should we all.

If you want to read America by Allen Ginsberg, click HERE.

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