Lit From Within

This is my 2019 end-of-year blog post before the holiday hiatus, so it seems fitting to take stock of where we’ve been and where we are, especially since we’re unsure—but intrepidly hopeful!—about where we’re going.

It needn’t be a comprehensive list; in fact, it shouldn’t be, because who would want to revisit so many moments of this past year? But if we don’t take the time to notice our victories (eyes always fixed on the next struggles), we can wind up where only the failures feel real. That’s what our adversaries focus on, but why should we help them do so?

Instead, it’s crucial to develop a taste for, a habit for, moving forward. And it’s crucial to note that our wins have been considerable.

On one end of the spectrum, just this past week Bill Cosby’s appeal of his 2018 sexual-assault conviction has been unanimously denied by a panel of three appellate judges. He remains in jail, serving a 3 to 10 year sentence. Cosby, 82, speaks with his wife and grown daughters by phone but, as he has from the first, despite their pleas, still refuses to permit them visitation, since he doesn’t want them to see him in a prison uniform. Pride is all very well, but that kind of pride doesn’t sound as if he’s learned anything about women.

At the other end of the hard-won-victory spectrum, the Congress of the United States is finally handing down two Articles of Impeachment—Abuse of Power and Obstruction of Congress—against Donald J. Trump. (We won lots more triumphs in between, but you get the point.)

While support for impeaching Trump has been showing a steady rise since August not only among previously reluctant Democrats but among those coveted Independents, many good people are frustrated that so many of Trump’s criminal and/or impeachable acts were not listed as impeachment articles, sensibly worrying that this gives a green light to such offenses in the future. Still, it’s understandable that they chose only two. Good god, if they began listing Trump’s offenses—criminal or impeachable or both—by the time they reached the 500,000th, we’d have no republic left.

More seriously, the reason offered is that the public can more easily understand these two articles. I’m torn about this. On one hand, I’m glumly afraid it’s true. Our education system doesn’t give students any backbone in Civics, so we’re a sadly ignorant, often indifferent populace, which you could argue is how we got into this pickle in the first place. Only 32 percent of Americans can name all three branches of government—and that’s a whoop-de-do increase over last year, when it was 26 percent.

On the other hand, that justification is unnervingly reminiscent of the King Arthur and Queen Guinevere characters in the musical “Camelot” blithely singing “What do the simple folk do?”; but on a third hand, I’m so desperate to end the Trump regime’s grip on the world I do not want to take any chances with too-complex Articles. On a fourth hand . . . Ok, OK, this argument with myself is becoming a Hindu goddess with eight arms.

I’ll take refuge in this: the Framers of the Constitution would understand this choice, for good or ill. Educated white male land owners (and in some cases people owners) they deliberately chose the structure of a republic because they were intensely suspicious of direct democracy, fearing that it led to mob rule. (We shouldn’t forget that the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror was only 20 years in the future and already rumbling underground.)

Mostly, I take comfort in reminding myself that if we can just get Trump out of our White House, once he’s a plain citizen he is chargeable within statutes of limitations to every civil and criminal charge he deserves. Each one of the 500,000.

All of which is to restate that there’s serious cause to celebrate yourself and each other this holiday season. This time last year we were still wringing our hands begging Hurry up, please please Mr. Mueller, while we could glimpse no real end in sight.

We still have a long way to go, hell yes. Again, it’s up to the people—and up to us to help motivate the people—so that we all bring pressure on those few GOP senators who can locate any remnant of their moral compass to use it, to go down in history as a profile in courage, not a shadow in shame. I’m not naïve and my hopes aren’t sky high about that—but if Republican Senators let Trump off, that will at the minimum leave many of them and Trump himself even more scarred and vulnerable facing the November elections.

That’s the whole of my We Did It list, but you know the rest and can add your own. The point is to stop, breathe, glance back, grant yourself an earned, satisfied smile, and raise a fist in the air.

Because we got this far. And if we got this far, we damned well can make it further.

Last, in gratitude for your companionship, your reading this blog and responding so supportively, here’s a small gift from me to you. It’s an image I recently rediscovered in one of my own poems and fell in love with all over again (honest, it sometimes happens that way, a sort of literary double-take!). The poem, titled “The Ghost Light,” is in my latest book of poems, Dark Matter. These are the lines that contain the image:

Lit from within is the sole secure way
to traverse dark matter. Some life forms—
certain mushrooms, snails, jellyfish, worms—
glow biolumescent, and people as well; we
emit infra-red light from our must lucent selves.
Our tragedy is we can’t see it.

We see by reflecting. We need biofluorescence
to show our true colors. External illumination can
distort, though. . . .

Tragically, the only time we perceive humans glowing infrared is in those military films when troops are on a stealth assault raid—to kill or be killed. Yet the light we emit is real. It’s no mysterioso woo woo, nor is it bestowed by any external power or force: no gods, no angels. Our biolumescence is scientific fact.

So when you finished reading this blog post, please “unwrap” my gift: sit for just a moment with your eyes closed, and imagine those people around you in the same room or the same city going about their lives, iridescence streaming from each of them.

What an astounding metaphor for human possibility.

Then, close your eyes again and focus on the scientific truth that you yourself are biolumescent, able to shine through the darkness, doing so at this very moment. Finally, go out into the world and carry yourself as someone who will save this planet. Because you will, lit from within.

This blog will return in January 2020.