When in Doubt, Turn to Whitman

I’m amazed at the timelessness and timeliness of this poem written well over 100 years ago. Here are the rules in my class, and I expect my blog readers to follow because this blog is somewhat like my class – minus the grades and complaining. (I plan on using an excessive amount of dashes in this post – inspired by Whitman).

Rule 1: Read the poem before you make a judgment on it.
Rule 2: Think on the poem. (We used this poem in a department meeting exercise today and spent a solid 10 minutes individually thinking on it before our discussion – I could have used more time.
Rule 3: Don’t distract your neighbor.
I’m entrusting this poem to you. Let it become a living text in your hands -or on your computer screen. Let it speak to you and let it speak for you on this Election Day.  I’ll see you on the other side of the poem after you have done your reading and thinking to give my commentary.
     Walt Whitman
If I should need to name, O Western World, your powerfulest
scene and show,
‘Twould not be you, Niagara—nor you, ye limitless prairies—nor
your huge rifts of canyons, Colorado,
Nor you, Yosemite—nor Yellowstone, with all its spasmic geyser-
loops ascending to the skies, appearing and disappearing,
Nor Oregon’s white cones—nor Huron’s belt of mighty lakes—
nor Mississippi’s stream:
—This seething hemisphere’s humanity, as now, I’d name—the
      still small voice vibrating—America’s choosing day,
(The heart of it not in the chosen—the act itself the main, the
quadriennial choosing,)
The stretch of North and South arous’d—sea-board and inland
—Texas to Maine—the Prairie States—Vermont, Virginia,
The final ballot-shower from East to West—the paradox and con-
The countless snow-flakes falling—(a swordless conflict,
     Yet more than all Rome’s wars of old, or modern Napoleon’s:)
the peaceful choice of all,
     Or good or ill humanity—welcoming the darker odds, the dross:
—Foams and ferments the wine? it serves to purify—while the
heart pants, life glows:
These stormy gusts and winds waft precious ships,
Swell’d Washington’s, Jefferson’s, Lincoln’s sails.
We live in a majestic country from the East (Niagra) to the central (Colorado) to the west (Yosemite and Yellowstone). But what makes our nation great is our choosing day – NOT the person that we choose but the ACT of choosing itself. This greatness of this ACT in itself makes the mighty Mississippi seem like a stream. As the votes come in across the nation like snowflakes falling from the east to the west, we choose in PEACE – good or bad – we choose in PEACE. This choosing ACT serves to purify us, and democracy lives on.
I love American, democracy -and Whitman.

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