Sunday, January 20, 2013

The New America

In the aftermath of Election Day, 2012, much was written about the birth of "the new America." As Howard Fineman wrote,
 President Barack Obama did not just win reelection tonight. His victory signaled the irreversible triumph of a new, 21st-century America: multiracial, multi-ethnic, global in outlook and moving beyond centuries of racial, sexual, marital and religious tradition.
"But his victory is something more," Fineman continued, "a sense that we are all in this together as a society, no matter who we are or how we live our lives."

Four years ago, I wrote this poem in response to attending the 2009 inauguration:
We Were There, Together

We were there,
pressed together as once we
packed the holds of separate ships,
the stolen or the fleeing;
squeezing closer
to make room in the subway car
unwilling to leave even one behind.

We were there,
waiting together as once we
shuffled in the desperate lines,
hungry for food or for work,
driven from our lands,
picket lines and protest lines;
turning smiling faces to those
in front and behind,
"Where are you all from?" -
from Florida, from Washington, from Maine.

We were there,
all our differences together where once we
were divided by the devil's game
of measuring humanity in fractions,
by the terrible chasm between owner and owned
and the loss of soul in the gap;
gloriously gathered,
multicolored, multicultured,
multifaith multitudes,
a hand-lettered poster proclaiming,
"The Re-United States."

We were there,
rising together,
emerging into the sun from the long, dark passage,
summoned by the shared need to be present for this January day
linking hands and lifting hearts,
the swelling tide of feeling 
spilling tears over the lip of our eyes,
so many assembled that the generated heat
shimmered in the air above us.

This is what we have won:
ourselves and each other,
to fiercely hold these truths,
to keep our eyes and our hearts open,
to see ourselves in each other
in our schools, our streets and our prisons
and so, together,

there is work to be done
so much good
work to be done.

(Sketches created from a recent school visit, Oceanview School, Portland, Maine)

The fact of our glorious variety is not new. What is new is our growing ability to see each other, and to define ourselves by the strength of that brilliant diversity, and to understand the depth of our connection.  

The New America is a vision that includes all of us.

1 comment:

Michelle Cusolito said...

Annie, I came here to search out this poem from 4 years ago and here it is in a new post. Hooray!

Your words made me cry 4 years ago when I read it upon my return from inauguration. You precisely captured my feelings when I was at a loss for words. Your words made me cry again today, the day after returning from President Obama's second inauguration. The energy was different this time, but neighbors still talked to neighbors all packed in together and celebrated together. I'm so happy that my children's first memory of a president is THIS president at THIS time in history. Next up... a woman!