A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
“I have a good life. I’m financially secure. My kids have stayed married, and my grandkids are doing well. John and I are free to travel, to do whatever we want. We’ve had a few bumps in the road but, overall, I’m at a place in my life where I should be able to relax and not worry.”
“I hear ya. I keep wondering why I give a shit. Why am I so committed to turning things around?”
“This administration has thrown my whole life into turmoil. My time isn’t my own — I feel compelled to protest, to march. I have trouble sleeping, and my stomach’s off. I don’t want to watch the news, but I have to know what’s going on. Then, after watching, I’m so upset I can’t enjoy my many blessings.”
“I know. Why do I care what’s happening out there? I have health insurance and a pension. My days of sexual harassment and unequal pay for equal work are behind me. I’ll never need an abortion. My son won’t get shot just because he’s black. I’m not an undocumented immigrant or endangered species.”
“So, let’s take a break. We’ve earned it now that the midterms are over, right?”
“Right. It’s time for younger generations to step up. Besides, we’ll be gone before climate change makes our planet uninhabitable.”
“True. But…mass shootings make us all vulnerable. And what about our grandkids’ future?”
Mellow classic rock on Sirius radio wafts through the car:
Go Your Own Way, Take it Easy, Your Song.
“Have you heard that militia groups are racing to the border to confront ‘the caravan’? I’m so afraid something bad will happen. Those people are seeking asylum, for cryin’ out loud! It’s wrong. It’s so damn wrong to treat them like criminals! What if children get slaughtered?”
“Maybe that’s what it’ll take — something reallybad happening — for our nation to change direction. We’ve become so desensitized that it might take a shocking, horrific event to roust our morality.”
“But haven’t enough really bad things already happened over the last two years?”
“Yup, they sure have. And I hate to think it could get worse. But, historically-speaking, Inez Milholland’s death was a turning point for women’s suffrage. And the Kent State shootings helped end the Vietnam War. And Harvey Milk’s assassination and the AIDS epidemic emboldened the gay rights movement.”
“I still hope no one gets hurt at the border. I wake up at three in the morning worrying about it. I can’t look at the faces of those poor little kids.”
“Me neither. What can we do?”
“I don’t know…I just don’t know. But we can’t do nothing, right?”
“Right. We can’t do nothing.”
Brown Eyed Girl, Teach Your Children, Fire and Rain
accompany the sounds of silence.
Copyright 2018 Patricia A. Nugent
Patricia A. Nugent is the author of They Live On: Saying Goodbye to Mom and Dad and the editor of the anthology Before They Were Our Mothers: Voice of Women Before Rosie Started Riveting. Find more of her essays at www.journalartspress.com.