When my sister Patti and her friend Karen Bossart were little girls, they were asked to sing a song for entertainment at the Republican Convention. Unbeknownst to those who asked them, my parents and hers were some of the few democrats in town. Imagine their surprise when my sister and Karen got up and sang wearing these badges! When we all got together earlier this summer, it just so happens that Karen had saved her badge, which now forms a reasonably appropriate illustration for this post.

In response to my today’s post “The Three Stooges and Campaign Reform,”  Mark Aldrich sent me a link to  THIS YouTube video of Leonard Cohen singing his song “Democracy.”  The lyrics are below:


It’s coming through a hole in the air,
from those nights in Tiananmen Square.
It’s coming from the feel
that this ain’t exactly real,
or it’s real, but it ain’t exactly there.
From the wars against disorder,
from the sirens night and day,
from the fires of the homeless,
from the ashes of the gay:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.
It’s coming through a crack in the wall;
on a visionary flood of alcohol;
from the staggering account
of the Sermon on the Mount
which I don’t pretend to understand at all.
It’s coming from the silence
on the dock of the bay,
from the brave, the bold, the battered
heart of Chevrolet:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

It’s coming from the sorrow in the street,
the holy places where the races meet;
from the homicidal bitchin’
that goes down in every kitchen
to determine who will serve and who will eat.
From the wells of disappointment
where the women kneel to pray
for the grace of God in the desert here
and the desert far away:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

Sail on, sail on
O mighty Ship of State!
To the Shores of Need
Past the Reefs of Greed
Through the Squalls of Hate
Sail on, sail on, sail on, sail on.

It’s coming to America first,
the cradle of the best and of the worst.
It’s here they got the range
and the machinery for change
and it’s here they got the spiritual thirst.
It’s here the family’s broken
and it’s here the lonely say
that the heart has got to open
in a fundamental way:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

It’s coming from the women and the men.
O baby, we’ll be making love again.
We’ll be going down so deep
the river’s going to weep,
and the mountain’s going to shout Amen!
It’s coming like the tidal flood
beneath the lunar sway,
imperial, mysterious,
in amorous array:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

Sail on, sail on …

I’m sentimental, if you know what I mean
I love the country but I can’t stand the scene.
And I’m neither left or right
I’m just staying home tonight,
getting lost in that hopeless little screen.
But I’m stubborn as those garbage bags
that Time cannot decay,
I’m junk but I’m still holding up
this little wild bouquet:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

I must admit that these lyrics puzzle me.  I think its message is pessimistic and ironic and to a degree hopeless.  Perhaps he is saying that everyone will get fed up enough with the decay of democracy in the U.S. to do something about it, but it still feels to me that the overall message is one of irony.  Everyone is fed up.  The hints of encroaching democracy are more obvious in China in Tiananmen Square (although I believe by the 1990’s democracy had been pretty much squelched in China as well) than in the land of democracy and opportunity for all.  Where is this change coming from?  It is obvious it is not coming from the power brokers and wealthy who have sold democracy for their own enrichment.  It must, then, come from us.

How then does Cohen see us–we who must bring back democracy? The family is broken, democracy ain’t exactly real and it ain’t exactly here. Gay rights seem dead (remember, this is 1990), the homeless fill the streets, auto companies are failing, wars are being waged, sirens are wailing (much like Cohen himself) and women are complaining in their kitchens. Everybody seems pretty unhappy. Even Cohen chooses to retreat into escaping into his TV set, declaring, all the while, that he is as indestructible as those garbage bags that will still be around for the judgement day.

To me, it looks like the outlook is pretty desultory.  But this was what–25 years ago?  What does the situation look like now?  Lest this post get too burdensome, and because I have an appointment in an hour, please come back later for my answer.  Yes, I do have the beginning of one in drafts.  Just not the time to complete it.

My thanks go to Mark Aldrich, one of the best commentators on the blogs today, for providing the impetus for this post.  Mark, you might have more illuminating words to speak about these lyrics. I welcome the input of all.  I am not as versed in politics as most.  I can barely stand to watch the news anymore, and I think I’m not alone in this.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t care what happens in this world.  I think we each do what we can in the way that most suits our personality. If you are reading this, chances are you have chosen the same way I have–blogging–and I thank Mark and all of the others out there in the world who bring us sound and fair reportage of what is going on.

Later tonight I am actually going to bring to you another Leonard Cohen song that I think perhaps holds out a bit more hope for us–and perhaps a few solutions.  Thanks for reading.  I welcome your comments.

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About lifelessons

My blog, which started out to be about overcoming grief, quickly grew into a blog about celebrating life. I post daily: poems, photographs, essays or stories. I've lived in countries all around the globe but have finally come to rest in Mexico, where I've lived since 2001. My books may be found on Amazon in Kindle and print format, my art in local Ajijic galleries. Hope to see you at my blog.

3 thoughts on “DEMOCRACY

  1. lghoelson

    You said,”( although I believe by the 1990’s democracy had been pretty much squelched in China as well)”
    Where is this change coming from?
    Change has to come from within ones heart after the conscience finally wakes up. Rarely happens in individuals. If it does in a country a revolution is on the menu.
    Be ironic for the US to learn Democracy from our number one trading partner, China.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. lifelessons Post author

      That’s what I thought and I agree with your comment about revolution as well. How are things ever going to come about if the entire structure of those in power is corrupt? I was in China for the normalization of relations with the U.S. It looked at that time that such great things were going to be happening regarding freedom of speech, but the muffling began and has continued with limits to the internet. Seems hopeless. What is going to happen to bring change?


  2. Pingback: ANTHEM | lifelessons – a blog by Judy Dykstra-Brown

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