United Corporations of America

tomato paste

That’s where I live, in the good ole UC of A, where companies rule.  People don’t.

Take Congress’ spending bill.  It would push back against the USDA’s attempts to have healthier lunches.  In the bill, pizzas and tomato paste would be considered vegetables.  (And how silly of me, I thought tomatoes were fruits! :))

Don’t we have an obesity problem in this country?   A group of retired military leaders think so.  They’ve criticized Congress’ changes to the USDA’s recommendations because they recognize poor nutrition in school lunches is a national security issue.  Obesity is the leading medical disqualifier for military service.

Once again, corporate interests are protected at the expense of children.   What trumps tells what the country values, here in the good ole UC of A.

Image:  Ross Catrow

Beauty Will Save the World


Beauty Will Save the World.   — Fyodor Dostoevsky

Do you believe that?  Or do you believe Dostoevsky was full it and his phrase is sentimental nonsense?

I know beauty won’t solve everything, but more and more I believe it has saving power.  I lost faith in it about nine years ago.  I stopped writing poetry and didn’t write for approximately six years.  I couldn’t see what my poetry was adding to the world.  I felt despair about the Iraq War, the arrogant actions of the Bush Administration, and our culture’s narrow and revolting focus on reducing everything to utilitarian and economic ends.

But then I woke up.  I needed to write.  I needed poetry in my life.  I felt less of a human and less of who I am without it in my life on a daily basis. 

And I need to share beauty with other humans.

And I think this is true for all humans.  We need the mysterious and profound in our lives.  We need art and beauty as antidotes to the relentless pragmatism, efficiency, and results-focus that is prevalent in our culture.

And we need to share beauty in community.

We aren’t just about getting things done.  We are better than that.  We need beauty to be the imaginative, compassionate, and caring people we can be.

Beauty isn’t just about poetry and art.  It can have many looks.  Redemption is beautiful.  Forgiveness is beautiful, and the acts of these in public is incredibly beautiful.

 The world desperately needs beauty.  We need places where people can stand together and be uplifted in its presence.

A task of leadership is to bring beauty into the room.

Image: Nosha

About Suffering


Musee des Beaux Arts
W. H. Auden

About suffering they were never wrong,
The old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

W.H. Auden wrote the above poem in December 1938 on the eve of World War II. Just last week, on November 9, was the anniversary of Kristallnacht, the night in 1938 when German Nazis coordinated a nationwide attack on Jewish homes, businesses, and synagogues.

The event was called Kristallnacht, which means, “Night of Broken Glass.” It’s generally considered the official beginning of the Holocaust. Before that night, the Nazis had killed people secretly and individually. After Kristallnacht, the Nazis felt free to persecute the Jews openly, because they knew no one would stop them.

How too often we turn away from each other’s suffering, and don’t show courage. At Penn State too many people who were considered leaders turned away from the disaster. They may have heard “the forsaken cry,” but for them “it was not an important failure.” Sadly, other things were more important.

And it appears, the sexual predator continued on, though clandestinely, knowing no one would stop him.

Image by Pieter Brueghel, The Fall of Icarus

Oil-tempera, 29 inches x 44 inches. Museum of Fine Arts, Brussels.