Beating Obama into a Steel Spike

Farida Bag, my Ugandan reader, sent me this very thoughtful note, along with a Carl Sandburg poem, following Obama’s re-election. I found myself turning to the poem yesterday as I realized that there is little chance of our political contentiousness subsiding. The clash with GOP rightwingers in the summer of 2011 looks like it is taking up just where it left off, as though the election was just a break from this other contest. We’ll see if the election changes the dynamics at all. Here’s Farida:

Congratulations Robin!

I feel kind of numb but happy and anxious about the next four years. I feel both joyful and somber.  I’m just going to try and savor the moments until inauguration day. After that, it will be tough going.

As much as I was frustrated and angered by Romney, I can feel some sympathy for him and his family. Some of their dreams died today. But I think the sympathy I feel for them is connected to President Obama’s generosity in manner (the bitter campaign aside) to his Republican opposition candidate.

When I think of what difficulties lie ahead for the President, the poem that comes to mind is “Prayers of Steel” by Carl Sandburg:

Lay me on an anvil, O God. 
Beat me and hammer me into a crowbar. 
Let me pry loose old walls. 
Let me lift and loosen old foundations. 

Lay me on an anvil, O God.
Beat me and hammer me into a steel spike. 
Drive me into the girders that hold a skyscraper together. 
Take red-hot rivets and fasten me into the central girders.  
Let me be the great nail holding a skyscraper through blue nights into white stars.

I think  it applies to all of us as human beings as we try to be the best kinds of citizens we can be. I hope that people begin to see the President as just that–a human being. Like the nail in Sandburg’s poem, he will be hammered by the bitterness of his opponents as well as by the expectations, disappointments and hopes of his supporters. I guess that’s the price one pays to hold that position. I pray he will have the steel for the journey ahead.

But I am feeling very, very thankful.


P.S. A line from “The Mower” by Phillip Larkin:

We should be careful

 Of each other, we should be kind,
While there is still time.

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