September 5, 2011

A Labor Day Lament

Last night, inspired by the celebration of Labor Day today, I was listening to the music of Woody Guthrie, Cisco Houston, Leadbelly, and others. Why couldn’t I write the kinds of songs they did, I thought? So I set to work doing that, inspired by their examples and my own frustration with the current political scene. Today, I am continuing my efforts and offer the poem below. I have not yet put it on my Web site, since it probably deserves a bit more tinkering on my part, but I thought it important to post at least a draft of this effort on Labor Day proper. Your thoughts and suggestions are welcome. This could be a song, though I don’t have a tune in mind.

Two explanations are in order for those who might miss the references in the poem. “New order of the ages” is a motto from the reverse of the Great Seal of the United States, a translation of Novus ordo seclorum.” The final line of the penultimate stanza is taken from the famous union song, “Which Side Are You On.” (One can almost sing the poem to “Which Side Are You On.”)

A Labor Day Lament


With bosses making millions,
There are millions unemployed,
Millions more downtrodden workers
Whose dreams we have destroyed.
America the beautiful,
America the strong,
New order of the ages—
Where, oh where, did you go wrong?
We look for Christian charity,
For pity toward the poor;
We find instead indifference
And the rich demanding more.
Pollution from our smokestacks
The breath of infants robs,
But they tell us regulation
Will only kill our jobs.
America the beautiful,
America the strong,
New order of the ages—
Where, oh where, did you go wrong?
Our politicians ponder
How to fool the average Joe
Into thinking every problem
Can be solved by saying “no.”
For despoiling our prosperity,
No bankers go to jail;
We’d rather crush the middle class
Than let a big bank fail.
America the beautiful,
America the strong,
New order of the ages—
Where, oh where, did you go wrong?
Corporations are just people
In a somewhat different guise;
Judges let them rule the country,
For their judgment’s surely wise!

The unions are retreating;
Their time, it’s said, is gone;
Amidst our countless troubles,
Tell me, which side are you on?

America the beautiful,
America the strong,
New order of the ages—
Where, oh where, did you go wrong?


The Great Seal of the Unites States


Update, 9/9/2011: A second (I hope, improved) version of the poem can be found here.

Update, 9/16/2011: What I expect is the final version of my poem is now available on my Web site here.

8 comments:

  1. Nicely written and sadly very true. I posted it to my Facebook with appropriate credits.

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  2. Ditto what Buck said.
    It truly boggles the mind. 80+ percent of our fellow citizens profess to believe in God in some shape or form. Every religious tradition of my acquaintance, monotheistic and otherwise, has a commitment to justice and compassion. It really does not compute.

    What will the children say?

    Blessings on the path, Tim Cole

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  3. Good one, Lionel, and sadly enough, all too true.

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  4. Very well done. I was just about ready to cut/paste it to my Facebook page without even thinking that there are (or should be) copyright issues. I did send a link to your blog to a friend who appreciated the poem very much (instead of copy/pasting the poem on a private e-mail)

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  5. Well, it’s always nice to know someone cares about copyrights.

    I didn’t even post the poem on my Facebook page. Besides, my post includes an explanation as well as the poem, and Facebook isn’t really good for anything that isn’t short.

    When I post on Facebook, I write a short description and post a link, usually with a short excerpt.

    Anyway, Peter, thanks for your note and promotion.

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  6. I really did want to share and shout it out, but of course things are just never so simple. It's a real pity when it is the message that you want to share, and yet the real world says 'tis better to stare than to share.

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  7. Peter,

    You have my permission to share it with the copyright notice (“Copyright © 2011 Lionel E. Deimel, Ph.D. All rights reserved.”) included. A link to it on my blog would be nice, but not necessary.

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  8. On the matter of sending text, rather than a link, there is always a danger that the text at a particular address may change over time. This is often, though not always, a reason to send a link.

    In particular, I have revised the above poem and have added a link on the page to the revised poem, which I think (and hope) is an improvement over the original.

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