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Tag Archives: Poetry

America The Not So Beautiful

Dissent is Patriotism

I believe I wrote this (see below) during the administration of George W. Bush who, at the time, I thought was the worst President I had lived through. Harry S. Truman was POTUS when I was born (1947) but the first I remember is Ike (Dwight D. Eisenhower). With the election of Donald J. Trump, I have lived through 13 presidencies, most of them two-termers.

Now that I’ve figured that out, and despite not being superstitious, I can’t help but note that Trump is number 13 and, were I triskaidekaphobic, that reality (a difficult word to use in the Drumpf era, no?) would be significant. In this case, I consider it amusing, but entirely random.

At any rate, inasmuch as I’ve begun using this space to share some of my other work from different venues and applications, I have some old poetry and the like I will no doubt put up on occasion. Some of what I’ve written (and bothered to keep over the years) is not what I would consider complete, as I sometimes just jot stuff down as it occurs to me and often don’t actually spend the time completely fleshing it out.

One day I guess I was thinking of the song “America The Beautiful”, as I’m wont to do at times, since I love to sing and patriotic songs — as well as religious ones — are often particularly beautiful. It doesn’t mean I believe in them, at least not any longer . . . and not for a long time, but they’re pleasing to the ear musically, if not lyrically. So here’s a verse of that song, as rewritten by me at least 10, more likely 15, years ago.

Oh beautiful for specious lies
That shelter capital gains
For the poor and elderly
Who endure financial strains

America, America
Your God damned lies I see
Have replaced thy good with two-bit hoods
And political chicanery

I’ve known for a long time the reality of what this country stands for is far from what most of us were led to believe (read “brainwashed”), but I still feel it’s important to think of those things as aspirational. As Robert F. Kennedy said “There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”

I wish this truly were the greatest nation on the planet, but it’s not. If you think about it, I don’t believe there is such a thing. Different nations lead in different areas of government, economy, and society. There isn’t one that truly stands out as “the greatest”. We can leave that to Muhammed Ali, who really was just that. 😉

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But, I Thought you Meant . . .

Why do some people seem to think that language can be treated like art . . . always? Language, of course, frequently finds its expression in art; witness poetry, musical lyrics, etc., but it is not – by itself – a pure art form. Language exists, surely in the context of business and economics, philosophy and religion, as an endeavor of some precision in communication and, dare I use the word, collaboration. People can’t share what they know, or work together on a project for which the outcome they seek is collectively desirous, without having the ability to communicate absent misunderstanding or, at the very least, with a minimum of misunderstanding.

Mathematics is a form of language. Imagine if someone argued that an expression might be used sort of willy-nilly, depending on how one was feeling at the moment. Imagine someone saying, when confronted with the misuse of a mathematical expression, “well, you know what I meant.” Yet, people do this with language all the time. As for my real peeve here, it seems I am often accused of being too “lawyer-like” when I insist on the accurate use of words. I just don’t understand this. Why do people think dictionaries or thesauri exist? For entertainment purposes?

I am not here talking about the incorrect use of “to”, “too”, and “two” or “your” and “you’re”, maddening as those may be. I am more interested in the misuse of synonyms, especially when there are crucial differences – subtle as they may be – between one word and another. There’s a reason those words exists and it is directly related to those differences. For instance, let’s look at the differences between the words “lucky”, “privileged”, and “promising” – all three synonymous according to Merriam-Webster online. “Lucky” means “having good luck”. It could easily refer to one instance, however small the result, or an entire lifetime. “Privileged” means having or enjoying a special capability or position based either on happenstance (which would be lucky) or through hard work and successful endeavors. “Promising” means one might become privileged at some point, or successful, but there is no guarantee and it looks to the future, not some result of the past. Both “privileged” and “promising” may contain elements of luck, but they aren’t proper substitutes for the word “lucky”. They are somewhat imprecise synonyms for it.

Now, lest I be accused of a level of curmudgeonliness far exceeding that I am actually guilty of, I am merely attempting to point out how cavalier some can be with language and, when they’re called on it, how adamant I have found some to be in defending what is, in my opinion, an indefensible position. Call me a member of the language police if you will, but I like as much precision in my discussions as possible.

PS – This post was “incited” by a conversation with my wife; a conversation that recurs every now and again 🙂 Do you think I’m too sensitive? Do you think I used the word “incited” improperly; that I should have used “instigated” or “stimulated” or maybe even “inspired”? Just wondering.


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