According to RankingAmerica, the United States ranks 15th in the world in literacy, 24th in freedom of the press, 31st in quality of living, 33rd in acceptance of evolution, 37th in healthcare, 37th in upholding the rule of law, 41st in privacy, 46th in civil liberties, 49th in life expectancy, and 57th in fairness of elections.
We keep dropping steadily in these rankings, but Americans keep reelecting the lying politicians responsible for it. Every election is a lethal injection of more of the same, so the death spiral continues. We haven’t hit bottom yet, but we can damn well see it from here.
If free falling into oblivion is the best we can do, maybe it’s time to just pack up all our stuff, load up our SUV‘s, and head back across the Rockies, back across the Missouri and the Mississippi, back across the Ohio and the Cumberland and the Shenandoah, all the way back to Jamestown and Plymouth Rock and Ellis Island. We can haul down the last flag, set all our guns down at the shoreline, apologize to Native Americans for 400 years of Manifest Larceny, and slink back across the sea where we came from.
That would be a memorable way to atone for centuries of selfishness and stupidity, but unless God himself parts the Atlantic, gives us all a shove, and tells us to follow the pillar of fire until we hit land again somewhere, we’ll still be here, piling up the consequences of our selfishness and stupidity unto the seventh generation.
This is over, unless the Bearers of Light get some help from the rest of us. We’ve seen them gathering and we’ve seen them taken away, we’ve seen them sing and we’ve seen them silenced, we’ve seen them arrested and we’ve seen them imprisoned. The media calls them protesters, but they’re much more than that. They’re the Light in a land of darkness, they’re the Courage in a land of fear, they’re the Truth in a land of lies, they’re the promise of Healing in a world of pain.
Reinhold Niebuhr labeled the capacity to defy the forces of repression “a sublime madness in the soul.” Niebuhr wrote that “nothing but madness will do battle with malignant power and ‘spiritual wickedness in high places.’ ” This sublime madness is dangerous, but it is vital.
Homer, Dante, Beethoven, Melville, Dostoevsky, Proust, Joyce, W.H. Auden, Emily Dickinson and James Baldwin, along with artists such as the sculptor David Smith, the photographer Diane Arbus and the blues musician Charley Patton, all had it. It is the sublime madness that lets one sing, as bluesman Ishman Bracey did: “I’ve been down so long, Lord, that down don’t worry me.”
Protests aren’t just an option anymore, they’re a sacred obligation, they’re a moral imperative, they’re the only way out of this two-party system deathtrap we’re in.
Sublime madness isn’t an affliction, it’s transcendence. It takes you beyond all fear, it empowers you, it’s an awakening beyond all awakenings. So let your spirit fly, rock your gypsy soul with the music of resistance, rock the whole world with it.