Letter to America

By John Lane

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Dear America,

I guess your in-box is blowing up, so I will be brief. Since I am writing a letter I should address my grievances and fears about our shared political future point by point, but most of what I am feeling is still hard to explain. My mood is still more storm than cold front. The past few weeks have been surreal, America. No, these weeks have verged on Dada, or even early 80s Punk or bad gameshow TV. Reality at times has felt like a Johnny Rotten solo, and at other times like a faulty Vanna White spin of the Wheel of Fortune, and at other times like a low-budget movie so bad Ronald Reagan wouldn’t even star in it. I am telling you how I feel because I want your heart’s voice to shout down my head, America. I want riots in my aortas. I want to stun this mealy month in its tracks and not let it be normalized by passing time. That is what’s most important. I am telling you we are living in strange dangerous times and should not abstract them.

I want to bore you with the details, so here goes. I’ve heard them all because I have been awake through this Dark Night–the plywood cabinet he’s hammering together full of billionaires used as nails, the Twitter wars, the vigil at the Tower on Fifth Avenue, the speculation about the family move, the Facebook live broadcasts from the barricades, the endless calls not to normalize, the case for recount, the appeal for the overthrow, the lawsuits bouncing like radio signals off the dome of justice, hate pooling like greasy run-off in nation’s outer swales, the vanquished candidate shopping in an indie bookstore for solace, the parading dark suits animated by coal plants, the syntactical terror of the full transcript, whole zip codes in Portland lining up at the metaphoric cliff edge like the Zealots at Masada.

But I digress. I’m told I am better at anecdote than polemic, so here goes. I was shopping for Thanksgiving yesterday, America, and I decided to try to be full of reconciliation and not judge the 63 percent of my neighbors who voted for him for the decisions of their own hearts or minds, but just to smile and be kind. After all, didn’t Leonard Cohen tell us there is a crack in everything and that’s how the light gets in? I’m religious too, America. I believe in synchronicity, so it’s no coincidence Leonard Cohen died on election eve. (“No whining,” that’s what Leonard Cohen told an interviewer he’d learned after decades of religious practice.)

So America, back to the checkout line where I am standing behind a colleague we’ll call Thomas. “Hello Thomas!” I say, generating enthusiasm for my newfound nonpartisanship. I smile warmly and shake his hand as if he is another companion in the huge surging mess of human existence just demonstrated by our election process. “Happy Thanksgiving.” He shakes my hand and seems surprised I’m so bubbly after such a defeat, probably thinking, “What’s up with one of the most notorious liberals on campus being nice to me when he’s usually coming at me like a buzzsaw about climate change?” and once he sees my guard is down he launches into a friendly lecture as he always does, explaining how he is headed up to spend the holiday with his highly successful corporate daughter and that she has requested he bring these “high-dollar papayas” (“Can you believe it! These two papayas cost me $6!”) I smile more, trying to listen, as David Brooks has prompted us liberals to do, and say, “That’s great, Thomas, have a happy Thanksgiving!” I shake his hand as he exits, and he strides out, the victor that he is.

The checkout clerk says, “Oops, your friend didn’t pay for his papayas.”

I paid for his papayas, America. I know this isn’t as clear as one of those Jesus parables I learned in Sunday school, but I’m afraid this is all I’ve got. Looks like we’ve all been left holding the bag.

For our shared future,

John Lane



John LaneJohn Lane is a poet, essayist, professor of environmental studies, and paddler. His latest books is Coyote Settles the South, a quest narrative exploring pioneering canines. In the fall his next book of poems will appear, Anthropocene Blues.
Read essays by John Lane previously appearing in Terrain.org: “Chronophilia”  and “A Hole in Time.”

Photo of fruit aisle at grocery store by StockSnap, courtesy Pixabay. Photo of John Lane courtesy John Lane.




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