Pity The Nation …


Those last few lines especially sound familiar, don’t they?  Perhaps this makes the case that, “the more things change, the more they stay the same”.  Lebanese writer Khalil Gibran’s poem Pity the Nation, published posthumously in the book The Garden of the Prophet in 1933, inspired another poet named Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

Today I focus on Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s version of Pity the Nation, for although it was written and published in 2006, I think it fits the current circumstances of the United States today, as well as a number of other nations.  A bit about Mr. Ferlinghetti who, by the way, celebrated his 100th birthday last month!Ferlinghetti-birthdayLawrence Ferlinghetti is an American poet, painter, socialist activist, and the co-founder of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers. He is the author of poetry, translations, fiction, theatre, art criticism, and film narration.  FerlinghettiFerlinghetti has expressed that he is “an anarchist at heart”, however he concedes that the world would need to be populated by “saints” in order for pure anarchism to be lived practically. Hence he espouses what can be achieved by Scandinavian-style democratic socialism.

Without further commentary, I give you Mr. Ferlinghetti’s poem …

(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 conquerers
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

34 thoughts on “Pity The Nation …

  1. I had read this poem before the midterm elections last year, I no longer recall exactly where. It was in an article about the nation under Trump’s presidency. I remember thinking at the time that it was so accurate, as if Ferlinghetti foresaw the future. I should like to call attention to the photo that shows him holding a cake with candles and in the background it says “little boy a novel”. That is his recently published book (March 2019) which is called biographical fiction, though my Son tells me that it more biography than fiction. I am presently waiting for him to bring his copy for my reading pleasure. Thank-you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, the words, written in 2006, some ten years before Trump would be elected, were prophetic. I did not know of his latest book … in truth, I had never heard of the man until this poem crossed my path! Let me know what you think of it once you’ve read it!


  2. Dear Jill,

    The words “To belittle, you have to be little” fits our president perfectly.

    The poem hits too close to home.

    I feel more ashamed that I’m a part of this country that’s being robbed of its decency, honor, norms, tradition, integrity by a bunch of small men working in the White House and the US Congress. I watched Mr. Barr today, give all of us the middle finger. Mr. Barr cannot prevail. Justice Kavanaugh has to be checked. The Maj Ldr Mitch McConnell has to be stopped.

    The US Congress has no choice but to start the impeachment hearings. This president cannot continue down his path of destruction where the children suffer at the border again.

    Hugs, Gronda

    Liked by 2 people

    • I agree with all you say. It seems that the madness is escalating at an alarming rate. In the past two days he has instructed CBP to disregard a federal judge’s ruling, and now Barr is investigating the FBI saying Obama had them spying on Trump’s campaign. We are living in a whirlwind of madness and you are right … he must go, for I cannot even begin to imagine the damage he will do in the next 19 months.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Jill, this is so pertinent, especially today. The bullying, lying and jingoism is pronounced by the man in the White House. Ironically, we are less safe since he has devalued our relationships. I have seen the man in the White House adopt an even bolder approach to lying. When he gets push back from his own party, he says he never said that, even when he said it two days before.

    Unless the trajectory is changed, historians will write about how the demise of the US started in 2017. Keith

    Liked by 1 person

    • The whole point, Gibran or Ferlinghetti, is not to take the pity, but to resist, and fight to make pity unnecessary. Taking the pity is being the sheep, allowing wolves to wear sheep’s clothing, or just plain believing the wolves have your best interest at heart. Situp, listen, stand up, fight.
      Your weapons are your ideas. Your strength is your determination. Your heart is your insistence. Your bravery is your boldness. Your victory will be your epitaph…
      And your epitaph will be the world’s survival.

      Liked by 2 people

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