Of Protest and Outcasts and Unarmed Truth
Boris Pasternak . . .
I think that if the beast who sleeps in man could be held down by threats – any kind of threat, whether of jail or of retribution after death – then the highest emblem of humanity would be the lion tamer in the circus with his whip, not the prophet who sacrificed himself. But don’t you see, this is just the point – what has for centuries raised man above the beast is not the cudgel but an inward music: the irresistible power of unarmed truth, the powerful attraction of its example.
The music of unarmed truth has been heard at Los Alamos, it’s being heard across Canada, Bernie Sanders is composing it in Congress, it’s been sung for a son who’s gone for a soldier, it’s being sung everywhere the truth needs to be heard, by men and women of moral courage who don’t need the meaning and purpose of it all explained to them by me of all people.
They know why the caged bird sings.
The literature and music of our age echo with lyrical truth, our best writers of stories and songs know why the people are many and their hands are all empty, they know why the pellets of poison are flooding our waters, they’ve lived where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison, they’ve warned us the executioner’s face is always well hidden, they’ve seen what this country’s become, a feeding ground for the beasts of greed, a corporate hell where hunger is ugly and souls are forgotten.
Dark images from the pages of the greatest of writers are casting shadows across the pages of our own lives. Conservatives have stitched a scarlet letter on every woman who won’t submit to their misogyny. Boehner isn’t Speaker of the House, he’s Lord of the Flies. Wayne LaPierre isn’t the head of the NRA, he’s Captain Ahab, hunting down the great white whale of gun control across an ocean of blood, while posting reassuring messages like this on Twitter . . .
The lightning flashes through my skull; mine eyeballs ache and ache, my own beaten brain seems as beheaded, and rolling on some stunning ground. Oh, oh! Yet blindfold, yet will I walk to thee! Arm the teachers. Arm the children. Arm everyone. Let’s roll!
Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December, or the month after that, and each separate dying ember of democracy wrought its ghost upon the floor. And as Ahab sailed on and the Raven brought him another drink, through the mists of time I heard Obama’s vow of government transparency, but his words like silent raindrops fell, and echoed in the wells of silence.
The national security state has built walls, a fortress deep and mighty, that none may penetrate. The tin soldiers of that fortress talk without speaking, they hear without listening, they pay no attention to the serfs beyond the walls, who keep squandering their resistance for a pocketful of mumbles, such are promises. Their elections are all lies and jest, the tin soldiers hear what they want to hear and disregard the rest.
Hear your inner music and share it, because too many Americans are wandering lost between sundown’s finish and midnight’s broken toll, too many outcasts are burning constantly at stake, too many searching ones are out on a speechless, seeking trail to nowhere, too many unharmful, gentle souls are misplaced inside a jail, there are too many aching ones whose wounds cannot be nursed, too many countless confused, accused, misused, strung-out ones and worse.
The lyrics and music of Dylan and Simon, the words and themes of Pasternak and Melville and so many others, affirm that lyrical truth isn’t written in the dead language of power, it speaks in living words straight from the heart of human experience, it’s enlightenment, it’s liberation, it’s the path to healing in this world of pain.
Lyrical truth. Tell it and speak it and think it and breathe it. Heal yourself with it, heal others with it, because too many people feel like this . . .
I’ve been down on the bottom of a world full of lies,
I ain’t lookin’ for nothin’ in anyone’s eyes,
Sometimes my burden is more than I can bear,
It’s not dark yet, but it’s gettin’ there.
Only the truth can heal us, only the truth can set us free . . .