Thinking About Yeats

The Second Comingyeats
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
I am a retired English professor, and I once spent a semester in college reading Yeats for a tutorial. This poem comes from World War I, but the first stanza resonates especially strongly with me today. In the United States at the moment, half of the population appears to be in mourning while the other half is jubilant. Clearly this is no way to coalesce to face the very real problems facing this society.
There is no going back to a mythical “great America,” as I have written previously. The very notion damns a sizeable proportion of our citizenry for whom America was anything but great. It is like a 19th century Confederate longing for the “good old days of slavery,” with our “happy Mammies” and “nigras” who “knew their place.”
The way forward is the only way available. No one knows what it looks like, but it certainly won’t be full of steel mills and “the little woman” at home. May we face reality with hope rather than bitterness and blame. May we find a way to  redirect our “passionate intensity” into rebuilding a nation with “justice and liberty for all.”

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