Can we make America great just once?

Can we make America great just once?
We’ve seen iridescent glimmers
In Reconstruction, Thomas Jefferson’s pen,
Eisenhower’s Farewell Address and his sending troops to Little Rock
In JFK’s and Obama’s elections,
In Biden’s first weeks, nullifying a racist autocrat’s policies
In the antiwar movement’s push to keep the US out of World War I
In Emma Goldman’s smile, Woody Guthrie’s guitar and Claudette Colvin’s bus seat
In the holiness of MLK, Franz Wright and Leadbelly’s voice
In the magic of all-night Beat 42nd Street cafeterias in Times Square
In the defiance of Ilhan Omar and Gabe Sterling
In the perseverance of William Dawes and Paul Revere
In the protests of Thoreau, Abbie Hoffman and the Black Panthers
In the written word of Whitman, Plath, Kerouac and Toni Morrison

America’s been great, with open arms to immigrants and
the ease of starting new businesses
But a swarthy shadow often deluges the American face,
casting the country into a gray-pit cauldron, steaming with misery –
In countless KKK lynchings, post-9/11 Muslim surveillance,
World War II-era Japanese American concentration camps,
anti-Semitic institutional barriers and anti-Irish riots,
hundreds of years of black slavery and Native American genocide, followed by
Jim Crow, mass incarceration, reservations and casino compensation

America, I beseech you –
Can you grasp onto luminescent moths in scintillating campfire while purging the boot-on-neck shadow?
Can you indoctrinate reason, reality and decency so that future racists won’t subvert it?
Can you lasso the sun and not treat poorer nations like dirt?
Can you capture the internal flickering flame, so that Lady Liberty’s torch isn’t blown out by harsh winds, and perseveres eternally?

Peter F. Crowley is an independent writer and scholar with a M.S. in Conflict Resolution, Global Studies from Northeastern University. His writings can be found in Truthout, Mint Press News, Boston Literary Magazine, Ethnic Studies Review and several other publications Read other articles by Peter F..