A lockdown letter from the US

The United States biggest problem in my opinion is that very few of us see us as a community.

We are consumed with “personal liberty” rather than a shared sense of responsibility to our fellow Americans.  The individual is regarded as more important than any group.  America is so darn big – Texans don’t feel connected to New Yorkers, Californians don’t feel akin to Iowans, etc.  So it would be helpful to have a leader or a party that sought to unite us all — this is a huge challenge.

I tried to explain to a fellow Christian that it would have been so much more Godly to have our ministers pleading with their congregants to stay home and worship instead of insisting on having crowded church services.  That way we don’t spread the virus to our neighbors who don’t go to the same church … it would have been a way to demonstrate a way to “Love your neighbor” instead of whining about how the government was taking away our right to worship.  It would only be for a season — Insisting on OUR right to worship is indicative of the “us vs them” mentality.

What can I do about it?  What can we do about it?

Higher education needs to be affordable – something close to free — Not loans but grants, and low tuition.  A better educated electorate would be a more well informed electorate.  Pour more money into better education from K to college.

Work at getting Americans to adopt MANDATORY VOTING – Australians pay a fine if they don’t vote – their voter turnout is nearly 98% – American turnout for a presidential election is roughly 55 – 60%

Make voting days paid holidays – expand the ways Americans can vote – whether by mail or in person but make it much more accessible and less likely to cause financial hardship.

Re-enact the Fairness Doctrine so everybody who watches or listens to political commentary hears an opposing view – reduce the echo chamber effect.

Maybe have near universal military conscription – every able bodied high school graduate would serve 2 years – and have all the conscripts mingle throughout the USA – a way for Californians to get to know Texans and Iowans and New Yorkers – a way to expand their cultural and ethnic boundaries.  I realize this would be a very very tough sell … and maybe not work as well as I think it might.  Put the conscripts to work on public projects like parks, environmental cleanup, disaster relief etc.

And we need to educate people that the forms of socialism we need to help each other is NOT a slippery slope to communism.  Higher taxes mean a better standard of living for everyone — a more healthy environment – healthier people – better services for each of us and all of us.

Educate educate educate educate —

Corona Days

The year 2020, like 1066 and 1914, will be forever remembered for one thing only. If I survive till 2021 I’ll note it in my diary as a year of horrors; neither I nor my family have yet got Covid but there have been various disasters in my circle and some of my friends have died. But, as someone said to Wilfred Owen when he was returning to the front, at least your experiences should be good for your poetry! Literally thousands of poems have been and are being written about the plague and the lockdown. CORONAVERSES, edited by Janine Booth and published by Roundhead Publications, is an anthology by forty-three poets which came out as early as April. And WRITE WHERE WE ARE NOW, the creation of Carol Ann Duffy and Manchester Metropolitan University, is an online anthology which includes some marvellous work. Shoestring Press will be bringing out its own anthology, LOCKDOWN AND AFTER, next spring, and I’m currently reading poems for that. The one which follows is one which I wrote in March, just before the lockdown, inspired by a walk along Oxford Canal where we are not now encouraged to go:

CORONA DAYS

Corona days, trudging along the silent towpath

by the canal, wishing that it was the sea,

each day I hear, singing along the airwaves,

fresh news of death, divorce, disability.

How distant now the days when I was battling

three months ago, to set the world to rights.

Now, every trivial move must be considered.

I gasp for sea air. I envy the red kites

who wheel above us, back from near-extinction,

enraptured, each day feasting on roadkill.

Celandines, crowsfoot fringe the path where few now

step out, spring colours, radiant and cruel.