Friday, January 20, 2017

I Pledge Allegiance to the Power of Story

I dread 12 noon today when the president elect will be sworn in. I do not pledge allegiance to
this flag waved by the cackling clowns of hate, and bought by the corporate, global monopoly. It is not the flag I took it to be. The Pledge of Allegiance is a rite forced on schoolchildren by fanatics in the 1950s, anyway. This is not one nation, nor do I believe in God. We are, it seems, not only divisible, but also divided, and now I see we always have been. There has never been liberty or justice for all.
Photo: Stan Schnier

Instead, I pledge allegiance to the fresh, brine air off the Neuse River here at The Lighthouse in Milestone, NC. I pledge allegiance to my dogs, because they pledge allegiance to me. I pledge allegiance to my husband, to my sister, to my mother, and to all those who are, or might become, my friends. I pledge allegiance also to the oppressed, to the poor, to the tortured, and to the unjustly jailed. I pledge allegiance to the third of an acre that a lawyer said I own, and to the little, old, hand-built house that sits upon it. I pledge allegiance to the spirits of the now dead, black men and women who built my house, who lived, laughed, cried, endured, and died in it. I pledge allegiance to their descendants. To my neighbors. To my town. I pledge allegiance to this beautiful earth, and all its passengers, vegetable, mineral, insect, and animal.

If I am to pledge allegiance to anything abstract, it will be to love, compassion, and respect, not to the nationalism of a military industrial complex that sucks its dark power from misogyny, racism, and the exploitation of the vulnerable, the immigrant, the groaning Earth, the corporate slave, the indebted, and the educationally-impoverished.

Further, I pledge allegiance to the resistance: I will resist against any person, idea, government, or act that is born out of greed, hate, deception, and the raw desire for economic and political power. Upon this inauguration day, I declare that "resist" is the first word I will say when I awake, and it is the last word I will say when I go to sleep at night.

Why have we Americans failed to learn the lessons of every childhood fairytale? With all the heroes and heroines displayed to us as examples, in story, why did we choose as president a Goofus and not a Gallant? Why Lex Luther,  and not Superman? Haven't legends, movies, comic books, fairy tales, King Arthur, and the Bible given us enough of an education about what the Bad Guy looks like for us to make a wiser choice?

The corporate electronic propaganda pulse, flying directly out of the omnipresent and omniscient screen they've trained us to transport everywhere with us in your pockets, has inundated our minds with the gross commercial messages that we take to be our own thoughts. We feel lost without the screen, don't we? It flashes into our eyes and works on undoing the legacy of human truths that we received from thousands of years of story. For us, the cyclops, not Odysseus.  For us Voldemort, not Harry Potter. Not Red Riding Hood, but for us, the wolf.

As a reader, as a writer, as a scholar, and as a literary translator, I call upon the power of story to remind my nation of what is good, what is brave, and what it is that makes a real hero. We need heroes now. May America soon remember to tell itself good, true stories, and may we remember that the hero's journey is a perilous one, fraught with danger, obstacles, and despair. But along the way, if we look, there will be helpers. We must look for them.

May my fellow Americans, especially those who are committed to resist, commit themselves to use the power of words only for good, and may we all find our way back home.

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