The poem-a-day poem in my inbox this morning is by Rena Priest and it’s called The Index and it feels solidly apropos this morning (https://poets.org/poem/index-0?mc_cid=091f8058c4&mc_eid=03fcdf422b). Priest riffs on the idea that “the meek shall inherit the earth” was an agreed upon promise early in our human story. She goes on to see/imagine it actually coming true after a long period during which the earth is thoroughly trashed and the meek are crushed by the wanton greed and cruelty of the oppressors. The premise is that those whose Indexes show they came by their fortunes by murdering, embezzling, poisoning, cheating, trafficking, and dominating other humans and nature will be able to afford passage off the planet and can head off to claim another earth-like planet within their reach – or rather, their grasp.
It’s a wonderful redo of the old, bullshit premise that was surely designed as a social control tactic – promise people that if they nicely put up with whatever abuse is dished out then some unknown day in the near (or very, very far) future, they’ll finally get to claim (reclaim, actually) the earth. Obviously the twist of being left behind to deal with a depleted, disrespected planet is pretty depressing, but Priest throws a final, redeeming curve by closing with the stanza:
“The meek shall inherit the earth,
and what shall we do with it,
but set about putting aside our meekness?”
How about that plan? It could obviously go very badly sideways if the meek who finally inherit the earth re-distributed themselves along the old lines with some taking advantage and others continuing in their meek comfort zones (i.e., what is familiar). It is, however, a powerful idea that all meek folks could put aside their meekness and shelve that debilitating ‘just wait, if you stay docile and meek, you’ll get yours, some day (maybe)’ deal that so many of us have swallowed hook, line, and sinker.
To be clear, I’m choosing to interpret “meek” as referring to any and all of us who’ve been marginalized by the (still) dominant culture. Also to be clear, many millions of us marginalized people long ago shelved the idea that we needed to stay quiet and meek.
Still, I think there’s a lesson to be wrested from the combination of this poem and the painful, incredibly disappointing, election cycle we’re in the midst of, which is that the meek among us need to shed all vestiges of docility and claim our real power.
Should Biden pull through and get the minimum requisite 270 Electoral College votes, it’ll be a step in the right direction, but really, it will be a very tiny baby step that won’t be enough to check you or your hateful momentum. Moreover, a Biden squeaker, which is the best we can hope for at this point, signals that our basic assumptions about ubiquitous human decency must be reexamined, and likely tossed. It also signals that those of us who’ve historically been assigned meek roles must do some serious soul searching to figure out how to take care of ourselves from a survival standpoint as we forge more assertive, effective paths forward.
The situation where someone as vile, racist, and corrupt as you can induce 68 million people to vote for him is absolutely mammoth, and frankly overwhelming. You’re a known quantity now, and still, nearly half the electorate wants to keep you. I have no idea how to right this ship. It’s abundantly clear, though, that if we don’t right it soon, we’re all in very, very deep trouble.
May we be safe from unholy racists.
May we be willing to keep our chins up and hang in.
May we also know that strength doesn’t preclude feeling very, very tired.
May we accept that there’s a shit ton of work to do.