Poetry Friday: Celebrating Election Day with Alice Walker – Democratic Womanism

Poetry Friday is hosted by Ed at Think Kid, Think!

Tuesday was Election Day.  I thought that this one was extra special (although I say that every election day, I know!), and not only because I would be voting alongside my son, who would be voting for the first time, but because I felt that there was so much at stake.  Especially in this political climate, I think, for women.  So much of what I thought was settled policy is now at stake in this election for women, for myself and for my daughters, and for all American women.  And then, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, there was also the issue  of climate change and the survival of our planet.  So we went to the polls, my son and I, and made our choices – we participated in our democracy.  It was a wonderful moment, coming out of our poll booths at the same moment, and acknowledging this participation.  So, for this Poetry Friday, I have a new poem by Alice Walker. “Democratic Womanism.”  I had first heard of this poem when Alice Walker read it during an interview on Democracy Now! and was able to find a copy of it online.  I loved it immediately: 


“Democratic Womanism”
You ask me why I smile
 when you tell me you intend
 in the coming national elections
 to hold your nose
 and vote for the lesser of two evils.
 There are more than two evils out there,
 is one reason I smile.
 Another is that our old buddy Nostradamus
 comes to mind, with his fearful
 400 year old prophecy: that our world
 and theirs too
 (our “enemies” – lots of kids included there)
 will end (by nuclear nakba or holocaust)
 in our lifetime. Which makes the idea of elections
 and the billions of dollars wasted on them
 somewhat fatuous.
 A Southerner of Color,
 my people held the vote
 very dear
 while others, for centuries,
 merely appeared to play
 with it.
 One thing I can assure
 you of is this:
 I will never betray such pure hearts
 by voting for evil
 even if it were microscopic
 which, as you can see in any newscast
 no matter the slant,
 it is not.
 I want something else;
 a different system
 entirely.
 One not seen
 on this earth
 for thousands of years. If ever.
 Democratic Womanism.
 Notice how this word has “man” right in the middle of it?
 That’s one reason I like it. He is right there, front and center. But he is surrounded.
 I want to vote and work for a way of life
 that honors the feminine;
 a way that acknowledges
 the theft of the wisdom
 female and dark Mother leadership
 might have provided our spaceship
 all along.
 I am not thinking
 of a talking head
 kind of gal:
 happy to be mixing
 it up
 with the baddest
 bad boys
 on the planet
 her eyes a slit
 her mouth a zipper.
 No, I am speaking of true
 regime change.
 Where women rise
 to take their place
 en masse
 at the helm
 of earth’s frail and failing ship;
 where each thousand years
 of our silence
 is examined
 with regret,
 and the cruel manner in which our values
 of compassion and kindness
 have been ridiculed
 and suppressed
 brought to bear on the disaster
 of the present time.
 The past must be examined closely, I believe, before we can leave
 it there.
 I am thinking of Democratic, and, perhaps
 Socialist, Womanism.
 For who else knows so deeply
 how to share but Mothers
 and Grandmothers? Big sisters
 and Aunts?
 To love
 and adore
 both female and male?
 Not to mention those in between.
 To work at keeping
 the entire community
 fed, educated
 and safe?
 Democratic womanism,
 Democratic Socialist
 Womanism,
 would have as its icons
 such fierce warriors
 for good as
 Vandana Shiva
 Aung San Suu Kyi,
 Wangari Maathai
 Harriet Tubman
 Yoko Ono
 Frida Kahlo
 Angela Davis
 & Barbara Lee:
 With new ones always rising, wherever you look.
You are also on this list, but it is so long (Isis would appear midway) that I must stop or be unable to finish the poem! So just know I’ve stood you in a circle that includes Marian Wright Edelman, Amy Goodman, Sojourner Truth, Gloria Steinem and Mary McLeod Bethune. John Brown, Frederick Douglass, John Lennon and Howard Zinn are there. Happy to be surrounded!
There is no system
There is no system
now in place
that can change
the disastrous course
the Earth is on.
Who can doubt this?
The male leaders
of Earth
appear to have abandoned
their very senses
though most appear
to live now
entirely
in their heads.
They murder humans and other
animals
forests and rivers and mountains
every day
they are in office
and never seem
to notice it.
They eat and drink devastation.
Women of the world,
Women of the world,
Is this devastation Us?
Would we kill whole continents for oil
(or anything else)
rather than limit
the number of consumer offspring we produce
and learn how to make our own fire?
Democratic Womanism.
Democratic Socialist Womanism.
A system of governance
we can dream and imagine and build together. One that recognizes
at least six thousand years
of brutally enforced complicity
in the assassination
of Mother Earth, but foresees six thousand years
ahead of us when we will not submit.
What will we need? A hundred years
at least to plan: (five hundred will be handed us
gladly
when the planet is scared enough)
in which circles of women meet,
organize ourselves, and,
allied with men
brave enough to stand with women,
men brave enough to stand with women,
nurture our planet to a degree of health.
And without apology —-
(impossible to make
a bigger mess than has been made already) -—
devote ourselves, heedless of opposition,
to tirelessly serving and resuscitating Our Mother ship
and with gratitude
for Her care of us
worshipfully commit
to
rehabilitating it.


Here is the video itself:
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6 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: Celebrating Election Day with Alice Walker – Democratic Womanism

  1. So many great lines and powerful ideas in this poem. "Notice how this word has "man" right in the middle of it?/ That’s one reason I like it. He is right there, front and center. But he is surrounded." Yes.

  2. *Fist punch*YES!(and add another WOW to the list from me!!)Thanks for sharing. This is a keeper. A call to action. The women (and voters) of New Hampshire have gotten us started, let's step up and keep it going!

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