Satire depends for its effectiveness
Upon the supposition a way through
Absurdity, aggressiveness, and mess
Can be discerned; that what is good and true
Is clear and held by all those who profess
To be the thoughtful, decent person who
Knows right from wrong, feels empathy and shame,
And seeing evil, calls it by its name.
Since his election, I’ve been mostly sickened
And stunned in equal measure. I have tried
To understand those whose bruised hearts were quickened
By his excess, who felt that they’d been lied
Enough to, who enjoyed that he’d no slick and
Genteel stump speech; and worried that the tide
Was running out—so they gave him their vote:
He’d tip the ship, sure; but he’d float their boat.
I’m not unsympathetic to the claim
That the elites get more than their fair share;
That for the working stiff, the social game
Is rigged against him; those who say they “care”
Don’t understand the pressures; that the blame
Goes to both parties; and that one’s despair
At straight-talker, glib hack, or bland patrician
Makes one vote for an anti-politician.
Through all the flimflam, rudeness, and deceit
He’s sullied us with; through each simpering flob
And pestilential snot-stream that each tweet
Smears over us; through all the pain this slob
Inflicts on us each day, I’ve tried to meet
His voters halfway. But no more, this yob
Has not my pledge, and nor should he from you:
If you cared for this land, you’d say so, too.
Step up! “The Mooch” was fired from the cannon,
His brief role in the circus done and dusted.
Priebus was shown the exit, and Steve Bannon
(The conjuror of smoke and mirrors) busted.
The ringmaster, of course, remains: the man on
Whom all the nonsense hangs. These bozos trusted
That they would have his ear, be in the know.
What fools! For treachery is his m.o.
The oleaginous Sebastian Gorka
Has gone. He blames the enemies inside
The White House: saboteurs, says this big talker,
And would-be Democrats, who have denied
The big “creep” (aka Hillary’s stalker)
His nationalist agenda. You decide
Just whether the head barker needs a hand
In ruining his “plans” for this great land.
He neither wants to learn or work or read.
He’s idle, ignorant, and apathetic;
Attacks the very people that he’ll need
To get things done. Yet, like a forced emetic,
Or a medieval quack who wants to bleed
The sick body to cure it, or ascetic
Who hopes gnosis emerges from starvation,
The enema of the people scours the nation.
And there is something cleansing, I confess it,
In what he’s forcing us to expurgate.
A boil or cyst—no matter how we dress it—
Must at some point be drained. And just to wait
And hope it goes away (rather than press it)
Will only let it ooze and suppurate.
His sickening and poisonous derision
Has made on legion lesions an incision.
Just what is it emerging from the stew?
What mucilaginous and rancid chunk
Of undigested hate plops into view?
What seborrheic pustule has this punk
Squeezed with his tiny fingers? What moist poo
Dribbles from his fat cheeks? What slimy gunk
Stinks up the public sphere, backs up the pipes?
And leaves us a despoiled stars and stripes?
What sooty spittle’s foaming on the tongue?
What melanomas bloom upon the skin?
What oily film that coated either lung
Has been hacked forth to tar each double chin?
What pungent rash has now (unbidden) sprung,
And made us sweat and pullulate within?
(Is part of this disgraceful condemnation
The shameful verse that forms this compilation?)
What rotten wind’s been loosened from the bowels?
What halitotic eructation freed?
What mucky bin of sanitary towels
Or skidmarked underwear stained with old seed
Has been left out, unwashed, and now befouls
The air? What scabby, loathsome demon breed
Stumble like moldy zombies through our streets?
Clad in their polo shirts and slacks not sheets?
Fascists, that’s who. Them and the KKK,
The neo-Nazis, and the “alt-right” crowd.
These men (and women) act as if it’s they
Who are the honorable ones—the avowed
Custodians of what’s good—whose rebel gray
Should rise again and don on the whitewashed shroud.
All it required was authority figures
To wrest the country from the Jews and niggers.
And now they’ve found their leaders. One, Jeff Sessions,
Is poised to once more lock up black men (“thugs”)
To make the world safe for those whose transgressions
Are white collar in every sense. On drugs
(Also again) he’ll wage war, with concessions
I’m sure for most whites (poor or rich). The jug’s
For criminals, as long as they aren’t armed
With licensed guns. They’ll walk the streets unharmed.
We’ve known a long time of the other guy,
He’s shown his racial animus for years.
His father loved the Klan, and it’s clear why
He asked about Obama’s birthplace: fears
About a black man wielding power lie
Behind the sell-out Giuliani’s jeers
That Obama loved not America.
And now we have the black-clad Antifa.
This is the game the right wing likes to play.
To set up some equivalence, sow doubt.
“We may have lynched,” they cry, “but every day
The blacks kill one another! And you shout
Insults as we practice free speech; you say
It’s hate, and so do we of you. My lout
Is matched by yours—and each one’s views are awful.
But if there is no violence, it’s lawful.”
These views can (if you squint hard) be appealing,
Play to moderates’ dreams of liberty:
That in the public marketplace, freewheeling
Ideas on how much of history
To hold and what to let go, what is healing
And what is harmful, are calmed in degree
By letting the extremes of left and right
Have at each other in an endless fight.
Or if not that, then people of good sense
Will come together in the solid center.
That the two parties will expunge the offense
Caused by their flanks and raise up a big tent, a
Response to those who’d argue that defense
Against anarcho-fascists is (absent a
True reckoning of our past) necessary
In rendering the future not so scary.
But what if the habitual restraint
Shown by the president just isn’t there?
What if one party’s craven, its complaint
Too muted, or complacent, doctrinaire?
What if it’s calculated that the quaint
Notions of normalcy—even to care
About society—aren’t worth the sweat?
Do they think they can temporize the threat?
Is each Republican scared of attacks
Not just from him but Breitbart? Will they bow
And supine lie upon their spineless backs
To take his bullying? Will they kowtow
Because the die-hard right will send out flacks
To threaten or condemn should they not vow
Allegiance to the feckless autocrat?
And if they do so, will that then be that?
They say, of course, that it won’t get so far.
Someone will say, “Have you no decency?”
And like McCarthy his ascendant star
Will fall, and he’ll resign or cease to be
Of consequence? But it’s beyond bizarre
That nothing that he does will shake the tree
Of true believers or the fearful shills
Who will stay with him (even if he kills).
Despite his spite, his turpitude and gall,
He yet retains the love of some one-third
Of voters: those who want to build the Wall;
Who itch for phantom former greatness; heard
In the attacks upon the elites a call
For dreams that were theirs but had been deferred
By immigrants and spongers, and their sort,
Whom their man would imprison or deport.
Since Charlottesville, and Heather Heyer’s death
(Mown down by an alt-right supremacist),
We’ve barely had a chance to draw a breath
Without his obloquy, flick-of-the-wrist
Contempt for truth, or tossed-off shibboleth
To show he “cares.” He acts royally pissed
When his equivocations and neurosis
Reveal more evidence of his psychosis.
My anger’s not about the monuments
To Jim Crow, Southern history, states rights.
It’s how it’s “us” or “them”, blatant defense
That those who march with Nazis are the knights
Who should (and must) defend “us.” It’s pretense
That “heritage” is colorblind, that whites
And blacks will obviously vote with their races:
Why unify us when have our places?
Listen, supporters! He’s clearly unfit.
He won’t do what you want, because he can’t
Do what is needed to get any shit
Done. He’s undisciplined; can only rant
When smooth persuasion beckons; throws a fit
When nous would open doors, and offers scant
Examples of the skill that, brick by brick,
Builds coalitions that make D.C. tick.
But these deficiencies pale next to others:
His default is to stimulate dissension.
It’s obvious that if he had his druthers
He’d end all opposition and convention.
He yearns for battle—brothers against brothers—
As long as he receives all the attention.
If it is vulgar, conflict-rich, and scrappy,
And TV ratings break the roof, he’s happy.
But even this description makes it seem
As though there’s art behind his brash persona.
A cunning plan to drain the swamp? The dream
Of a revived America? Each donor
To his campaign to get their favored scheme
Fast-tracked to nowhere? Nonsense. A rank stoner,
Blissed out and clueless, would detect this rat
As someone who’s no cattle and all hat.
Talking of which, the monumental flood
That Harvey has poured into Houston, Tex.,
Gives him still yet another chance to blood
Himself as useful and unselfish, flex
His presidential muscle. To the mud
He then could bid farewell, as he projects
The image of a leader, reconciler,
And not a canting, serial defiler.
He could proclaim an era of resilience
In facing climate change; free up resources,
Imagination, and people of brilliance
To shape the next five decades, so the forces
Of nature might be softened, a consilience
Of Texas grit and focus that divorces
Us finally from fossil fuels and coal
And stops us digging holes and makes us whole.
Yeah, right! If you think he’ll do such a thing
Then I’ve a bridge in Brooklyn that’s for sale.
The presidency will amplify and bring
The true man to the fore (it’s still just male).
And so it’s proved. Houston will no more sting
His conscience than a dog will catch its tail.
He’ll get his photo-op and let the state
Clean up the mess, and claim that he’s done great.
Houston’s a diverse place, it represents
America in microcosm. Here’s
The first great litmus test: This president’s
High Noon, the whole ball game: it’s endless tears
Or acclamation. Handling such events
Is how a nation calibrates its fears
And aspirations for their families:
Will he lift up or bring us to our knees?