Pity the Nation: the handwriting was on the wall

In 1933, writer Kahlil Gibran’s poem “Pity the Nation” was published posthumously in the book The Garden of the Prophet. In 1933. This poem has inspired several important writers over the years, including American poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

In 2006 Ferlinghetti published his version of Gibran’s Pity the Nation. In 2016. Fourteen years ago. Its prescience is beyond sobering. He clearly saw what many of us were blind to.

(After Khalil Gibran)

Pity the nation whose people are sheep
And whose shepherds mislead them
Pity the nation whose leaders are liars
Whose sages are silenced
And whose bigots haunt the airwaves
Pity the nation that raises not its voice
Except to praise conquerors
And acclaim the bully as hero
And aims to rule the world
By force and by torture
Pity the nation that knows
No other language but its own
And no other culture but its own
Pity the nation whose breath is money
And sleeps the sleep of the too well fed
Pity the nation oh pity the people
who allow their rights to erode
and their freedoms to be washed away
My country, tears of thee
Sweet land of liberty!

Lawrence Ferlinghetti
San Francisco, January, 2006

The handwriting has always been on the wall. We just don’t see what we don’t want to see or believe what we don’t want to believe. Oh, we like sheep.

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21 Responses to Pity the Nation: the handwriting was on the wall

  1. iidorun says:

    Jane – this definitely needs to be shared! I am going to send out if that is ok?

  2. K E Garland says:

    Yes. It seems to be a cycle that a nation’s people continue to fall into.

  3. I just posted that poem in a “message to the president” on Whitehouse.gov. Too bad Trump’s illiterate.

  4. Dr. John Persico Jr. says:

    Reblogged this on Aging Capriciously and commented:
    This is a wonderful blog post from Ms. Jane Fritz whom I regard as one of the best bloggers on the Internet. Be sure to visit her site which she calls Robby Robin’s Journey. Her posts are always interesting and well written and thought provoking.

  5. Dr. John Persico Jr. says:

    Great post. I will copy the poem for my fb page. May I reblog this Jane? It sums up what so many of us see as happening all around us. The pity is that our grief seems to be the joy that others share. John

    • Jane Fritz says:

      John, I’d be honoured to have you reblog it. I know; how did Ferlinghetti see the future so frighteningly we’ll back in 2006? So many share the grief in both the US and UK, as well as beyond. I can’t imagine that those who feel joy fully understand the precipice of authoritarianism upon which they stand. 😥

      • Dr. John Persico Jr. says:

        Jane, On my blog this week (I got sidetracked from my “Four”) but I wanted to comment albeit somewhat humorously on the Trump circus. I put a quote allegedly from Plato that says: “Democracy passes into despotism.” I wonder if that is inevitable? It seems to be what is reflected to a large degree in the poem you posted. BTY, I wish my poetry and sense of rhythm was better. I could hear the Monkeys song in my mind and somehow related that to the impeachment hearings. My wife says my text and rhythm does not match the song. I need a better sense of rhythm.

        • Jane Fritz says:

          Lol. I read your lyrics, with which I am obviously and sadly in full accord, but I didn’t know the song so couldn’t sing in. Plato’s quote is frightening in the extreme. Who could imagine that we’d ever see this situation. Why don’t the Republican politicians see the danger? Is it really ONLY about votes and money? Is this REALLY what the US has come to?? I weep.

        • Dr. John Persico Jr. says:

          Jane, I wrote a blog a while back titled the “The Road to Trump Began 4500 Years ago.” In this blog, I try to describe the change in paradigms from Monarchies to Religion to Politics to Business. I see Trump as the culmination of a 4500 year march to an unbridled system of Capitalism that is based on greed and materialism. Trumps base of political supporters are ardent believers in this system. Even the poor people that support him have a groundless belief that Capitalism will take care of them. I like George Carlin’s monologue on “The Rich Have a Club”. My blog is at https://agingcapriciously.com/2017/01/08/the-road-to-trumps-success-began-4500-years-ago/

  6. Reblogged this on Eyes in the back of my Head and commented:
    This extremely sad and true. True for here, now. I read it with tears in my eyes. This very scene is playing out before our eyes. Reblogged from Jane Fritz, wise woman with heart.

  7. This extremely sad and true. True for here, now. I read it with tears in my eyes. This very scene is playing out before our eyes.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      I share your tears, Joyce. Somehow the “people” have to figure out how they’re being manipulated in each country and vote for real change. The manipulators are very clever, and have lots of money behind them. It’s taken too long for many of us – me for sure – to have our eyes opened.

  8. barryh says:

    Reblogged this on I can't believe it! and commented:
    Thanks to Jane Fritz for blogging this beautiful retelling of Khalil Gibran’s poem. It is uncannily prescient of the situations we now find in UK, US and too many other nations across the world, as if the lessons of history are felt in need of being learned again. Pity the nation indeed.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks for the reblog, Barry. Yes, the warnings in this poem can be found in many countries, but when we find them in the US and the UK, seen for so long as leaders of liberal democracy, one must work hard not to despair.

  9. A telling piece of verse

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