The brown fog of electoral wasteland and the excarnation of the religious right


As all Grow Mercy readers (the crowd in the phone booth) know, it’s not often I hold forth politically. But the spectre south of the 49th has me seeking some kind of catharsis for my internal churn. (As I was moiling, the muse burned.) Writing it out helps. The following then is a sort of purge, and so departs from the usual aim of this blog. You are therefore more than forgiven should you cease reading at this point.


Have mercy upon the American voter: caught in the brown fog of electoral wasteland; caught by the constricting choice, or rather non-choice, of apparent soullessness or warped foolishness; caught with the option of a nod toward servitude to the grand system or acquiescence to abject loutishness; caught in the despair of either a quick or more prolonged national degradation; caught in the horns of voting for someone whose single virtue is that they are not the other person; and finally, caught by the notion, masquerading as imperative, that voting for a third party is a wasted vote…have pity.

But have more for the block of voters known as the religious right—the Christian conservative/evangelical Republican. For wave upon caustic wave of fact-less, bloviating and bilious screed, backed by uber-boorish conduct has finally flayed the faith of even the semi-conscientious—driven them to the other side, or to no side, or to seek life-support for the party itself—and has left those who have remained, de-fleshed, scrabbling and scrambling for shreds to cover their bony essence, that is: allegiance to party before fidelity to professed faith.

Seemingly, less than a generation ago, integrity of character and something called Christian conduct was hailed as the hallmark of a candidate’s qualifications. Apparently these no longer matter, or are overlooked, dismissed (as a conspiracy of lies from the other side), excused or even defended and biblically re-storied. Not long ago, a candidate of such low inclination and high exhibition would have been seen, not as viable or suitable for the office of President of the USA, but as an indictment against its very culture—not as some saviour, but as exacting judgement. At best the progeny of Crusty.

In the chilly void of ordinary decency, the clammy pressure of calculated piety, the dank sloughs of daytime gospel shows—their whitened-toothed leaders with their considerable hair urging the flock to vote triumphantly—the brown fog has swept in. Here, one might even pause to recall the Moral Majority’s or Christian Coalition’s oft and eager smears on that old devil humanism, with tears of nostalgia. I am no Old Testament scholar, but I’ve read my Amos and have imagination enough to guess what the boiled old prophet might have said about the current candidate(s). And perhaps also about those who clutch gilded KJV’s while imagining their man a modern Moses with a mic.

I realize of course that I’m an outsider with a limited view, and I have my own blinkers and biases, but the thing is, this election matters, it matters not only to neighbouring nations, but to our globe. As such, I cannot merely say, what the hell, but must say, have mercy on us all.

Early in the morning you enter my mind.


It happens like this: I’ll be sitting outside and the reclining light of a near full moon will glance off my shoulder onto my fingers and let me, make me, work these keys to find the song that will change your life.

Then, by breakfast, those words, that very tune, will slide off my toast and land on the floor sticky side down, leaving me to scour the oh-so-sober morning for meaning, for reasons, for something to give you, tell you, show you, relieve you, strengthen you, heal you.

By the afternoon, the moon is a lie, the sun is a tin ball, rolling in grey, the wind is bending windows and I see cold rain hit your back like a shotgun.

Nothing is fair.

And while I’m here, let me be clear: this attempt to bring you a galloping word to ride in the pink of a new dawn, also signals my weakness, my denial, my fear for what comes to us all. And these lines full of arms that try to hug you across the miles—might be as much for me as for you.

But know this: though frail, I will stay faithful.

For all the days of your darkness, all the dangers of earth and sky, all the dirty corners in all those clinics, all the shadows that rattle against your evening shutters, all the hunger you can’t fill, and the hunger you don’t feel, for all the sleepless middles-of-nights, waiting for light at the edge of your curtain, I will never not think of you, never not pray you rise to the given day, never not carry a weight for you, never abandon you.


the self-estrangement you’re experiencing is normal

i assure you, the self-estrangement you’re experiencing is normal:
look around, your driveway is clean,
in your backyard there are squirrels and birds,
on the sidewalk people wave, say good morning,
the church on the corner is almost attended;
on the other side of the water,
barrel bombs fall, 50 or more a day,
blinded families, newly deaf, cry out,
bleeding children stumble in the street,
mothers breath chlorine gas,
ash and dust, mists of blood, never settle,
and you sing of mercy, write poetry,
to a sleeping god.


(The White Helmets  –  The Syrian Campaign)

Nibbled to death by ducks

A bit of truth, a bit of whimsy…

habitsOn the Inner Harbour walkway,
two men, dressed neatly, stand stately
beside their “literature” carts.
They glisten with pity as I approach.

Magazines they hold to their chests say:
Awake! (I have been caught dreaming),
Answers to Life’s Questions
(they have spotted me without any),
and, How to Harness your Habits
(they have discerned my unbridled many).

They are disciplined, vigilant, Awake!
to my sky-gazing subterfuge.
Weighed and found wanting, my blasé un-blessed,
I lift lukewarm eyes to their watchful towers,

follow their prescient glare across Government street,
see The Empress Hotel—even as it receives refurbishing—
in final decay. Everywhere they look they see ends, while I,
not-of-the-elect, wish for things to go blithely on, or get better.

Beside them a busker sings Ozark Mountain Daredevils’
“Standing on a Rock”; on the other side, a man
with a unicycle and trained ducks starts his show:
unblinking and baked for Paradise, they take no notice.

By dusk they will be nibbled to death by the ducks,
still they will stand, survey their end, and sinking,
bless the ducks—while I with reprobate soul,
will carry on, obliquely existing.

(This song has always made me happy. And the busker did a fine cover.)