To entertain us

To entertain us
And occupy our minds
We have political theater
In which highly paid performers
Enact a tragi-comedy called “Democracy USA!”

If we don’t pay close enough attention
We begin to believe the play
Is true.
If we don’t pay close enough attention
We get all riled up
About presidential elections,
About scandals and intrigue in high places.
We argue endlessly with each other
About candidates and platforms
As if what we thought,
As if who we planned to vote for,
Made any difference
In the machinations of the powerful.

If we don’t pay close enough attention
We will find ourselves
Rooting vociferously against the latest
Exaggerated caricature of Alien Enemy
Who “threatens our freedom, our way of life,
Our very existence,”
When all that the so-called villain wants
Is some improvement
In living standards and life expectancy,
Some reduction of poverty and infant mortality,
For which audacious desires
The actual reduction will be
To rubble.

Oh, it is a fine piece of drama,
“Democracy USA!”
And the audience plays an essential role.
If we were to walk out of the theater
The curtain would drop, the auditorium would go dark,
And the actors would have to find
Honest work.

Buff Whitman-Bradley’s newest book is And What Will We Sing? a collection of protest and social justice poems spanning the last 25 years. He podcasts at and lives with his wife, Cynthia, in northern California. Read other articles by Buff.