Wednesday, October 15, 2003

The Lamentations of October

Oh Lord, Your ways to us are mysterious. We beseech You to grant us understanding, to remove the scales from our eyes and show us the reasons for our suffering.

Oh that you allow death and destruction and sickness to be visited on Your people. That You permit flood waters to rise and fires to burn. That You send tornadoes to trailer parks and mudslides to mountain peasants.

Oh that You give tax cuts to the wealthy and pink slips to the poor. That You permit a madman on a donkey to knock down buildings with airplanes. That Kenneth Lay and Bernie Ebbers collect millions while the guy that holds up the 7-11 does time. That the good die young and the wicked endure.

Oh that the arrogant jerk gets the homecoming queen. That a muscle-bound movie star becomes governor. That not just one, but two Bushes have been President. That summer always ends, flowers always die, and Mondays follow Sundays.

Verily, oh Lord, Your ways are strange. But with baseball, oh Lord, they are exceedingly cruel.

Oh that the Yankees always win and the Red Sox always choke. That Mickey Owen, Bill Buckner, and Leo Durham couldn't get their gloves to the ground in time. That You allowed the designated hitter and artificial turf and the Montreal Expos. That we have been plagued with free agency and million dollar utility infielders and ball parks named after shooting stars of technology. That Jose Canseco and Reggie Jackson won championships and Ted Williams and Ernie Banks did not. That Pete Rose bet on games, and though we begged Joe to say it ain’t so, the Sox did indeed throw the Series. That the Dodgers moved to L.A. That You took Lou Gehrig and Roberto Clemente too soon. And just where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?

But, oh Lord, although many things exceed our baseball understanding, it is indeed easier for a rich man to pass through the eye of a needle than for us to understand Your wrath against the Cubs.

The Cubs, dear Lord, the Cubs. For ninety-five years they have frolicked in sun-drenched mediocrity. They play in the paradise of ballparks, in friendly confines ringed with brick and ivy. They lose – consistently, routinely, sometimes spectacularly – but they lose just the same. We love them despite the fact that they lose. We love them in fact because they lose. They personify loserdom – they validate our own losses.

They lost despite Ernie, who always wanted to play two. They lost while Billy swung sweetly. They lost with Santo, they lost with Sandburg, they lost with Maddux and then they lost more when they lost Maddux.

Despite all, Cub fans have remained loyal. Think of them, Lord. Inside every Cub fan is a Wal-Mart greeter. Cub fans eat hot dogs, they wear bowling shirts, they drink Old Style and like it. They ride buses. They vote, oh Lord, early and often, and do not shirk their civic obligation even after death. They live in neighborhoods and support their local parish. They speak Polish and Spanish and Russian and German and even English with a funny accent. They are Your children, if ever any could make that claim.

But now, Lord, they suffer anew and know not why. For the lowly Cubs have unexpectedly risen to knock on destiny’s door. Redemption was but a game away. Redemption was but five outs away. Prior was on the mound, oh Lord. Prior – as wholesome as the chewing gum sold by the ballpark’s namesake. Prior – young, tall, poised, dominant. The Cub fan in everyone was rooting desperately for You to smile at last and nod assent to that most unhoped for of all hopes – the World Series, Lord, the World Series.

And then, cruelty of a sort unimagined. A fan, an innocent fan. A true Cub fan, with oversized cap and big nerdy glasses and ears plugged into the radio play-by-play. A fan who undoubtedly said prayers of thanks to You for his box seat on the third-base line. A fan who undoubtedly suffered through’84 and ’89 and knows by heart the legendary swoon of ‘69. Why, if there had to be one to commit the boner of boners, to break all our hearts and surely his own, why did You let it be this poor man, this accountant, this computer geek, this Blockbuster clerk? Why if it had to be, did You not cause some drunken, bare-chested frat boy with face paint and a Mohawk to serve as the object of wrath of a horrified and dejected city?

Lord, we still have hope. There is a game seven. There is Kerry Wood. There will again be thousands gathered at Clark and Addison while millions watch vicariously, waiting for the chance to celebrate at long last, to bury the past, to kill the goat, to forgive the nerd.

Please – one Job was enough to get Your point across. Harry: use your influence.

Saturday, May 3, 2003

The War Song of George W. Bush

With inspiration from and apologies to T. S. Eliot.

Let us go then, you and I,
When the bombs' smoke is spread out against the sky
Like their victims etherised on makeshift tables;
Let us go through cratered, shrapnel-littered streets,
The muttering retreats
Of Arab troops in unrelenting hells
And toppled maniacs in buried cells:
Streets that follow like my tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lure you, deaf to worldwide opposition . . .
Oh do not ask, 'What was it?'
That made us go install our puppet!

From the flight deck sorties come and go
Dropping on targets far below.

The terror fog that clouds the thoughts of fearful brains
The terror threat that haunts the dreams of fearful brains
Licked its tongue into the dark days of McCarthy,
Lingered with the fools that ask for chains,
Let fall upon its back the soot of burned up freedoms,
Slipped by the Congress, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it faced a soft and token fight,
Curled tight about our rights, with most asleep.

And indeed there will be time
For the terror threat that permeates our lives
Clouding the thoughts inside our fearful brains;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a war to meet the terrors that we meet;
There will be time to murder, recreate,
And time to loot the works and change the lands
That shift and pose a problem for our state;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for some UN indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Of those repackaging our history.

From the flight deck sorties come and go
Dropping on targets far below.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, 'Do I dare?' and, 'Do I care?'
Time to give back and replace with prayer,
The civil liberties that once were there -
(They will say: 'How their rights are growing thin!')
The anchor's gloat, and chiseled jaw, and never ending grin,
His necktie patriotic, and emblazoned with a spangled pin -
(They will say: 'But how his bites and clips are thin!')
Do I go
Before the UN first?
In a conflict there is time
For decisions and revisions which a conflict will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all
Have known the high life, beer blasts, pretzel swoon,
I was granted my first term by silver spoon;
I know the voice votes dying with a dying call
Beneath the gavel of the Senate room.
Global power I assume?

And I have known the ayes already, known them all -
The ayes that boost you in the formulaic phase
And when I am formulaic, prowling on a whim,
When I have whims and Congress at my call,
That's how I can begin
Defiscalizing dividends for all my wealthy friends.
Global leader I presume?

And I have known the arms already, known them all -
Arms that are nuclear or not, but chers
(But in the night fight, downed on targets fair!)
Is it military dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that fly along a laser, to resurrect a Shah.
Global power I assume?
And how should I begin?

Shall I say, I was blessed with trust, lacked Ivy feats,
But watched the smoke that rises from the rooms
Of business men in cuffed sleeves fixing me the Rangers? . . .

I would have lost, but for the hanging chads
Scuttled in haste and shame by tarnished courts.

In the briefing room, with evidence, Powell pleads urgently!
Spinning humdingers,
Rumsfeld . . . Franks …and troops malinger,
(Cheney's seen no more, for his security).
Shall I, after Iraq's been purged of vices
Have support to thwart the next fake crisis?
But though I have prepped the masses, kept afraid,
Though I have let Korea (grown slightly bold) restart their bomb reactor,
They are not Muslim - and hence no great matter
I have seen the image of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the French and Russians block the vote, and snicker
And in short, I was enraged.

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the Ba'ath, the Taliban, to see
Among the battle plans and paranoid security,
Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the interests into the will
To roll out at last some comprehensive health plan,
To say: 'I am Roosevelt, come with the Deal,
Come back to help you all, I shall help you all -
If one, settling a lawsuit on appeal,
Should say: "It is now what is fair for all.
It is now fair, for all.'

And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while
After the anthrax, and the Twin Towers, and the panicked streets,
After Kyoto, after the scandals, after the stocks that tanked and made us poor -
And this, and so much more? -
It must be possible for justice to be seen!
But as if the major networks told the truth in programs on the screen;
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a lawsuit or sentencing a shill,
And citing the Constitution, should say:
"It is now fair for all.
It is now what is fair, for all."

No! I am not Abe Lincoln, nor was meant to be;
Am reborn in the Lord, one that will do
To swell an ego, start a war or two,
Despise the French; no doubt, the dainty fools,
Presidential, glad to stage a ruse;
Politic, reckless, and iniquitous;
Fond of death sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous -
Almost, at times, a fool.

I grow bold . . . I grow bold . . .
I shall wear down Congress till my tax cut's sold.

Shall I part with old allies? Do I dare the peace to breach?
I shall send troops preemptively, cruise missiles where they'll reach.
I have heard Al Qaeda talking, each to each.

They'll die in caves or else hang separately.

I have seen bin Laden's terror in my dreams
Bombing the White House, bringing small pox back
When the wind aids the bio-chem attack.

We have tinkered with the world economy
And nations propped with World Bank loans and yet
The ingrates cannot service all their debt.