Vox Populi: A Public Sphere for Politics and Poetry
Lord, let us first ask you to bless this table: for the weight of the feast it must bear.
As you know, Lord, we have lately had an election in our country, and as we gather as family tonight, we thank you that no part of this election will come between us, for we are unified.
Therefore let us enjoy this meal you have provided, and let nothing set before us on this table of plenty represent anything but the celebration of itself.
Bless this turkey at the center of our table, dear Lord, and let it not be suggested that the white meat represents white America, swollen from overfeeding but now sliced thin, insipid, and far from the bone. Let us not find meaning tonight in the fact that the bird’s heart is missing, or that when we removed it from its ribcage we commented on what a small heart it was for such a large fowl: appropriate perhaps, as a predictor of the bird’s short life. And of that ribcage, let us not envision it symbolizing the jail cell into which one of the candidates cruelly proposed the other be locked. And may no one here ponder long the fact of the missing head, minuscule as that head was, its brain bred for submission—for it is said, Lord, that this animal would drown itself in a rainstorm, lift its head to open its mouth, until it is asphyxiated on what the thoughtless sky sends down.
But this ceremonial bird is not America, Lord, and we were not put on Your earth for metaphor. Metaphor is a human invention, the excrescence of an idle mind.
And of the further feast: build us a wall, Lord, around dark thoughts that our homemade cranberry relish in its cut-glass bowl might symbolize the pooled blood of those who died in our ancestors’ war to defeat fascism, to preserve the dream of a free America for all; spare us, too, from the thought of it representing the life blood spilled by those who fought for civil rights, for voting rights, or lost by those who fled their native countries on bloodied feet to arrive safely into our welcoming American arms. It is simply cranberry relish, Lord.
And let the stuffing we scoop from this turkey’s cavity not be thought of as the artificially-spiced mendacities fed to the gullible, or our mashed potatoes likened to the crushed aspirations of young women everywhere, or the mincemeat in our pies seen as the pulverized dreams of students and alumni hoping for relief from the burden of student loans. Mashed potatoes are mashed potatoes, Lord, mincemeat pies mincemeat pies, and we thank you for allowing no such seductions to enter our minds. For we are family, Lord, and above all thankful that each of us here respects each, for we have been brought up righteously in Your name, and know for certain tonight that no one at this table could possibly have voted for this man who will be President.
Thankful tonight, too, to be a family that respects women, Lord, for we believe that all humans should be honored and respected, and this man of whom we sadly speak, this man who will be President, has debased women variously, has called them disgusting, has boasted of many times assaulting them. Lord, protect our daughters and granddaughters at this table, protect our wives, protect all of both genders or any sexual orientation from such brutality: please know that no self-respecting man or woman here would ever vote for such a person.
We are a family respectful of our brethren with disabilities, dear Lord, and we have seen the man who will be President viciously mock a physically-disabled journalist. We note these things carefully, Lord, and eschew them in Your name.
Many at this table are working people, people in the trades, Lord, and time after time this man who will be President has refused to pay good men and women for honorable labor performed by mutual agreement.
And we are aware, Lord, that every manner of food on this rich table was touched at least once by an immigrant to this august nation, and that this man who will be President has threatened to tear millions of immigrant families apart. No one in this empathetic family could support such a man, for we know that seldom do such men keep their promises, but often do they follow through on their threats. Thank you, Lord, for allowing us to see this.
Further, dear Lord, in this family we are assiduous payers of taxes, for we know that they fund our schools, repair our roads, sustain our libraries, pay our police and firefighters, maintain our national parks, assure the safety of our air and water, our cars and planes, the very cribs our babies sleep in, the medicines we need for ourselves and those same children. We work hard to pay those taxes, Lord, often struggle to pay our quarterlies—sometimes must borrow money to do so—and this man who will be President has refused to pay taxes though he has more money than all of us together have earned in our lifetimes. He promises to help veterans, Lord, but does not pay the taxes that would fund those veterans’ programs. He promises to cut taxes even further on the rich (is a lower rate for them even possible, Lord? Only you in your omniscience know, for we do not see the tax returns of the rich), and though this policy has been called Trickle Down, at this table tonight we will not sully a fine meal with bodily reference to what we know Trickles Down.
We are neither bigots nor racists in this family, Lord; we live as high exemplars for our children, and have never once advocated the exclusion of Muslims. And when we learned of the Ku Klux Klan’s support of this man who will be President, of his refusal to repudiate not only their endorsement but their beliefs, their actions, all of us in this family must certainly have been horrified in Your name.
Yet though we are exemplary Christians, in watching television we nonetheless have not understood the ubiquity of gold crosses displayed chest-high on the off-white rayon garments of female spokespersons representing this man who will be President, and we assert tonight that the insults we have spoken of, Lord, are as slabs of foul mud hurled into the face of Your teachings, and that turning even a temporary blind eye to any of these things would make deeply corrupt hypocrites of those at this table who would vote for such a man. Surely none of us, even in the private and shadowed recesses of our voting booths, would debase our family values that way. (We are glad you have given us mirrors, Lord, for they allow a daily assessment of much more than our appearance.)
Finally, Lord, in asking that you bless us and our meal tonight, let us give thanks for your glory, for lately we have read that since election night over 60 million Americans doubt that you exist at all, but you are here in this room with us, Lord, we feel your presence sustain us, supporting our morality, our regard for the almost-sacred tenets of the Constitution, our patriotism.
And again we thank you Lord, not only for the food on this table, but for the table itself, the weight it bears—in this year of all years.
May Your mercy be upon us. Amen.
(c) 2016 Gerald Fleming