Monday, 14 November 2016

W.H. Auden, Martin Luther King and Donald Trump

Here is a fine poem by W.H. Auden. It is called "Epitaph on a Tyrant".

Perfection, of a kind, was what he was after,
And the poetry he invented was easy to understand;
He knew human folly like the back of his hand,
And was greatly interested in armies and fleets;
When he laughed, respectable senators burst with laughter,
And when he cried the little children died in the streets.

Donald Trump has just been elected president of the USA after a campaign based on fomenting hatred and an open disdain for the Rule of Law. See how many of our “respectable” politicians and opinion-formers are eager to laugh when he laughs. Shudder at their sycophancy.

Many people in the US are fearful of a Trump presidency – not least American Muslims. We should not think that this is nothing to do with us. Here are some quotes from Martin Luther King to help dispel that idea.

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”

“…the greatest tragedy was not the strident clamour of the bad people but the appalling silence of good people.”

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

One thing we can do is to let Theresa May know that we oppose her giving Trump backing without giving him any signal at all that she cares what he does in terms of the law and the norms of a decent society.

This is the final verse of another poem by Auden entitled "1 September 1939".

Defenceless under the night                                                                          
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

We may feel despair at what is happening in the world but we need to “show an affirming flame".

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