Category Archives: Quandaries and Rants

Power, Shared

Power, Shared   —by Jinny Batterson

It’s been an unsettled week for those with putative power. While various autocrats and autocrat wannabes strutted before stadium crowds, riots broke out elsewhere in the capital city of India. In the U.S., Democratic Presidential hopefuls stood behind podiums and yelled at each other. Despite posturing by those who want us to believe in their power or leadership potential, for the moment evidence points to a microscopic organism known as “Covid19,” or just “the corona virus” as the most powerful living entity on earth.

Since an initial outbreak began in central China a couple of months ago, the virus and the serious illness it can cause has spread to every continent except Antarctica, with the biggest outbreaks outside China in Italy and Iran. Over two thousand have died, with over 80,000 sickened enough to require hospitalization. Entire regions have been on lockdown, global commerce has been dented, stock markets have plunged. 

U.S. media attention has also focussed on former media mogul Harvey Weinstein, who was convicted in New York of rape and sexual assault. He’s facing a prospective prison sentence of at least five years, as pundits weigh the significance of his conviction for other victims of sexual assault. Future Weinstein appeals and trials loom. 

Meantime, this year’s Black History Month is drawing to a close. It seems likely that our current national powers that be will do their best to ignore it. Meanwhile, here in North Carolina, early voting for next Tuesday’s March 3 primary election will end along with February on Saturday, “leap day.”  

In American politics, it is a recurring mantra that the power of the ballot is supreme. Struggles to gain and exercise voting rights have ebbed and flowed throughout our history. History reminds us that the oppressed will continue to use both overt and covert means to subvert the systems oppressing them and to gain access to power. History teaches that no solitary or absolute power can last forever.

A bit before the current corona virus outbreak, news outlets in early 2020 covered U.S. and European approval of a vaccine against the ebola virus, which had caused a major epidemic in western Africa in 2014. An article traced the international cooperation and lucky connections that capped generations of work by scientists and public health workers across three continents and at least a generation to create and distribute the vaccine (https://www.statnews.com/2020/01/07/inside-story-scientists-produced-world-first-ebola-vaccine/). Many of those involved in the project gained little in fortune or fame, but simply believed in what was to them a worthwhile cause. They helped produce another tool for the public health response to any current or future ebola outbreak.  

So, when we bother to pay attention, recent weeks may also remind us of the immense shared power of a voluntary, uncoerced “yes.”  

     

American Democracy: Listening to Two Georges

American Democracy: Listening to Two Georges   —by Jinny Batterson

Back before most holidays were on Mondays, we celebrated George Washington’s birthday each year on February 22. Though the fable about young Georgie chopping down the cherry tree and then owning up to his misdeed is likely more legend than truth, it is quite true that our first national President could easily have been re-elected in 1796 and chose not to run for another term. Instead, Washington sent a letter to Congress expressing his sense of the young country, thanking his colleagues for the opportunity to serve, looking forward to his retirement, and warning the new republic of some of the pitfalls it might face going forward. He cautioned against the forces of geographical sectionalism, political factionalism, and interference by foreign powers in the nation’s domestic affairs. 

For the past century and a half, nearly every year around the time of Washington’s birthday, a U.S. Senator has been assigned to read Washington’s entire farewell letter and then to inscribe his or her name and brief remarks into a leather bound book maintained by the Secretary of the Senate (https://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/minute/Washingtons_Farewell_Address.htm). I haven’t yet found a record of which Senator will have the honor of doing the 2020 reading.  

As this year’s election cycle heats up, I am often outraged by the depths of corruption in the current U.S. national administration. Rather than “draining the swamp,” this administration has done its utmost to fill said swamp with sleazier, bigger alligators. Factionalism seems the order of the day. Both documented instances and rumors of foreign interference in our electoral process abound. Our current chief executive rarely confers with advisors and bridles at any criticism. He relishes vilifying opponents. He fires or forces resignations of long-term military and civil servants seemingly at will. He believes that only his views and desires matter, a sort of universal pass—“you have to let me, because I’m the star.” 

It’s likely to take a great deal of work by a lot of us, combined with a small modicum of luck, to reorient our national politics, whose slide into sectionalism, factionalism, and interference by foreign powers has tainted both political parties for a good while. Within my voting adulthood since 1968, we’ve had one Presidential resignation, two Presidential impeachments, plus several other national scandals. During the same period, we’ve had major changes in our media landscapes, our manufacturing processes, our economy, our demographics, our communications and transportation technologies, and the state of the global economy. Nevertheless, President Washington’s concerns are still relevant. 

A more recent former President had a bit of trouble correctly quoting an earlier proverb, but got the gist of it across. In 2002, George W. Bush admonished a Tennessee audience with a paraphrase of the aphorism: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”  It’s high time we listened to both Georges.   

To Our Macho Valentines

To Our Macho Valentines 

Dearest Valentines,

We need to talk. 

When a disturbed young man sprays death on twenty first-graders with an assault rifle, when an aging oligarch bases a political campaign on insult, intrigue, and innuendo, when an ex-student defames Valentine’s Day by gun-murdering former schoolmates, when inconclusive wars kill thousands, displace millions, cost trillions, drag on and on,
we are overdue for some serious readjustments.

Our over-reliance on competition, violence, vengeance and
warfare needs to be scaled way back.

Ages ago, marauding bands with the best available clubs and spears made sense. Settlements were sparse, beasts huge, weather harsh. Outward threats were plentiful.
Now billions of us live in cities, where we vainly pretend to manicure and
manage nature, ignoring our dependence. Most threats are manmade, but our fears and habits of protections have yet to catch up with our
changed circumstances.

Human violence has thrust out everywhere: world wars, holocausts, genocides, civil wars, mass rapes, terrorism, alongside more intimate horrors.
We may mouth misleading terms–“collateral damage”–but it doesn’t help.
Our knowledge of the desolation we inflict on each other still sticks in our throats. 

So for a few moments,
drop your swagger,
your snigger, your armor,
your weapons.
Come join our quiet circle.
Don’t bring us presents–
no flowers, no chocolates,
no well-intentioned but futile
promises to keep us safe.

Just sit. Breathe.
No words, no gestures.
Open your senses.
Experience life’s 
interweavings.

Soon we’ll finish.
Then you can go back to media sports.
But first we’ll say our piece plainly:
though we may have admired your youthful feats
of physical or mental prowess, we won’t stop loving you
when injury, illness, or old age waylays you. 

Actually, when you’re not too loud, we love you best of all when you
lie snoring peacefully beside us, just as human and vulnerable as we are,.

With deepest affection,  

Your Partners

While We Were Away

While We Were Away    —by Jinny Batterson

While we were away, heartened by or hiding from
The tropical sun, walking the sandy beaches at dawn
Or swimming in warm waters midmorning,
While we were away, the early daffodils began
Blooming, but the tulips lured by a mild January
Got chomped to the base by browsing deer.

While we were away, the birdbath I’d emptied
To avoid having it cracked by winter ice
Was instead picked up and overturned by
March-like winds, though the bird feeders
Continued their cooler weather work of
Helping prospective parents bulk up for spring.

While we were away, a new-to-humans virus spread from
An initial center at the Chinese city of Wuhan
To most regions of the globe, engendering worry,
Research, and sales of face masks and hand sanitizer,
While the U.S. legislature continued its descent into more
And more abstruse angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin debate.

While we were away, the British government,
Having at length realized it no longer ruled the world,
Completed another step in its bid to ignore that world,
To hoard what remained of its material wealth,
Announcing to erstwhile partners that it had chosen
Instead to take its marbles and go home. 

While we were away, we played old and new games,
Each winning some, losing others. We purchased
Travel mementos from some of the tropical peoples who’d
Made both British and American empires possible.
Returning either tanned or more freckled,
We’ve brought back some adjusted mental context
That may prove useful while we are at home.

Virtual Reality, Deepfakes, 1000 Hours Outside…

Virtual Reality, Deepfakes, 1000 Hours Outside…   —by Jinny Batterson

As a boomer, I notice that my faculties are slowly declining. Also, habits younger folks now have are different from the ones I grew up with. Back in the 1950’s, parents and other adults fretted that we children and teens might turn into zombies from drinking too much unhealthy milk (contaminated by radiation from atmospheric nuclear tests) and watching too much television. Most nuclear testing has by now gone underground. The media landscape has evolved considerably. 

Now we have virtual reality. According to a recent article in Forbes Magazine (https://www.forbes.com/sites/solrogers/2019/06/21/2019-the-year-virtual-reality-gets-real/#3338ad6e6ba9), this technology is rapidly gaining adherents: “Worldwide, VR market volume is expected to reach 98.4 million sales by 2023, generating an installed base of 168 million units with a worldwide population penetration of 2%. Growth is forecast across all regions and countries, with China leading the way.”  Will all of us eventually be festooned with virtual reality headsets that enable us to sense ourselves anywhere, anytime we want?  

A somewhat different concern is the use of artificial intelligence capabilities to produce digitally altered “deepfakes,” seemingly genuine online videos of fictitious scenarios.  Bloomberg News recently raised an alarm:  https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-01-06/how-deepfakes-make-disinformation-more-real-than-ever-quicktake. (It may be relevant to note, in this political season, that Bloomberg’s chair, Michael Bloomberg, is a U.S. presidential candidate.) The same day, Facebook announced that it planned to ban deepfakes from its platforms, though without a lot of detail about how it intended to accomplish this. 

My reaction to the ongoing media onslaught has been to avoid too much media exposure. A generally mild January has aided my effort, kicked off by a “First Day Hike” in a nearby state park. Such hikes started a number of years ago, and last year enticed over 55,000 individuals to take January 1 hikes in parks in all 50 states (https://www.stateparks.org/initiatives-special-programs/first-day-hikes/ ).  

The family walking behind me as I hiked were carrying on a lively conversation about a program for their school-age children called “1000 hours outside.”  Started among home schooling parents, the program is an attempt to counteract the tremendous number of hours most youngsters spend in “screen time.” According to the effort’s website blog (https://1000hoursoutside.com/index.html/), “1,000 hours outside, though daunting, is doable over the course of a calendar year… If kids can consume media through screens 1200 hours a year on average then the time is there and at least some of it can and should be shifted towards a more productive and healthy outcome.”

My childhood eons ago was not as scheduled as that of current-day youngsters, but my recollections are that we spent most of our non-school, non-chore time outside, and had to be called indoors to supper, sometimes protesting vehemently. 

As a former computer professional, I’ve spent many hours of “screen time.” I’ve also benefited from advances in transportation technology to travel widely to natural areas around the globe. Through thousands of hours outdoors in many different weathers and climates, I’ve developed a perspective shared by many farmers, fishers, and foresters: We humans are a small part of creation. 

Though we’ve developed technologies with hugely destructive potential, we’d have a much harder time surviving without the rest of nature than the rest of nature would have surviving without the human race. No advances in virtual reality or deepfakes can change that.

Playing for a Tie

Playing for a Tie…   —by Jinny Batterson

Most of the formal games I play are board games. Competitive athletics were pretty much out of the question for this lifelong klutz. Growing up, my brothers, sister and I got lots of gift games at Christmas to carry us through the cold weather months—classics like Monopoly, Clue, Stratego, plus other “big hits” of the time that haven’t aged as well. Once we got a little older, we were given word games like Scrabble. As my vocabulary grew, I got to be a pretty good Scrabble player in my first language, English. In high school, I played a few casual games in French, but English tile values for letters like “q” and “z” were inappropriate and we never got a French-based set, so the Scrabble fad in French club quickly died out. 

In my twenties, I started playing two-person Scrabble games with my husband, the super-competitor. It rarely mattered if I got better letters. He was much better at word placement, racking up double words and triple letters all over the place. Eventually, he’d beaten me so consistently that I decided I didn’t want to play him any more. Much later, we arranged a truce of sorts—we would still play each other, just not keep score. 

Several years ago, a mutual friend introduced us to the word game Quiddler, which can be played more quickly than Scrabble and requires less space, using playing card sized letters rather than tiles and a board. Hubby still beats me the majority of the time, but not by the lopsided proportions he used to tally up in Scrabble. I occasionally have a long enough winning streak so I’m willing to keep trying. We’ve adapted the original rules slightly: we play eight rounds per game, starting with a hand of four cards each, adding one card with each successive hand. The close games are more fun than the really lopsided ones—a hand with no vowels or no consonants, especially in a later round, can put you behind so far it’s almost impossible to catch up. 

Winning is fun, losing less so, but the contests I cherish most are the rarest—about once in a hundred games, we wind up with a tie score. Jim doesn’t get as much satisfaction as I do from the ties, but he humors me. 

On a whim, I decided to see if I could get an internet read on what popular physical sports allow tie games. I found the resulting gem via Wikipedia: 

“Ties or draws are possible in some, but not all, sports and games. Such an outcome, sometimes referred to as deadlock, can (also) occur in politics, business, and wherever there are different factions regarding an issue.”

“Tie” and “draw” appeal to me a great deal more than “deadlock,” which sounds unduly negative. All of us will eventually wind up dead. All of us at some point experienced birth.  While we’re in between, we’ll likely experience some wonderfully positive times (weddings, children’s births, signature achievements, reunions with long-absent friends). Other times may make us wish temporarily for death: serious illnesses or accidents, natural disasters, financial reversals, tragedies for loved ones, divorces.  

In these fraught times, when so much of our media environment can seem intent on making our circumstances feel even more fraught, I want to put in a plug for ties. If we live in the northern hemisphere, we’re approaching the winter solstice, the time of year when daylight is minimal and dark is “winning.” Starting on December 22, though, our 24-hour day/dark cycle will tend again toward balance, toward a “tie” at the equinox. Nature provides two such ties per year. 

Ties have a different connotation than deadlocks; ties can be enjoyable, special.  Let’s learn or relearn how to savor them.   

 

 

Selective Memory and Finishing the Work We are In

Selective Memory and Finishing the Work We Are In  —by Jinny Batterson

I can remember parts of events that happened when I was much younger. On Friday, November 22, 1963, I was a Maryland high school student. I remember hearing our school principal start an announcement over the school intercom that day at an unusual time for announcements. I remember coming down the stairwell between the two floors of our building along with many other students changing classes. 

I don’t remember whether the announcement I heard while going downstairs was the first—that President Kennedy had been shot—or the second—that he had shortly afterward been pronounced dead at a Dallas hospital. I don’t remember whether school that day was dismissed early or whether school was canceled the following Monday for his funeral. I don’t remember much about that year’s Thanksgiving the following Thursday. 

Earlier in 1963, there had been a tense standoff between the nuclear-armed U.S.A. under Kennedy’s leadership, and the nuclear-armed U.S.S.R. under Nikita Khrushchev about the positioning of nuclear missiles on the island of Cuba, then led by Communist revolutionary Fidel Castro. I don’t remember whether my dad built a nuclear fallout shelter in our front yard before or after Kennedy was shot.  

Parts of our education when I was a student involved memorizing famous poems and speeches. I can recite most of a short Abraham Lincoln speech from a century earlier, first spoken in November, 1863 at a dedication ceremony for a military cemetery at the site of one of the U.S. Civil War’s deadliest battles:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are …testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and dedicated, can long endure.…The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. …It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us … that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

In the tragic days after Lincoln’s 1865 assassination, his Gettysburg speech was nearly forgotten. Later, the contents of the speech took on more importance. When the current Lincoln Memorial was dedicated in Washington, D.C. in 1922, the Gettysburg Address was inscribed on one of the monument’s inside walls.  

We are now experiencing another test of the viability of our democratic institutions. Each of us brings different memories to an ongoing impeachment inquiry. Witnesses and questioners interpret incidents differently, partly based on their training and point of view. Our current President ran for office touting the belief that our nation could return to a time when the U.S. was preeminent in global affairs. As an astute businessman, he could “fix things.” Some seem to think his position grants him nearly unlimited license to promote his own interests. Attempts to remove him from office are “character assassination.” Others less charitable to the President point out that our political system is based on checks and balances designed to restrict any one person or political entity from rigging the system to his own benefit, from “fixing things.” 

Absent from the immediate debates and questioning are considerations of the impacts of global over-dependence on fossil fuels to human and planetary health. Scientists tell us that both the United States of America and the rest of the world’s nations have only a decade or so to drastically curb our output of the climate-warming gasses produced by burning fossil fuels if we are to maintain a planet capable of supporting human life as we know it.

On another wall of the Lincoln Memorial is his second inaugural, delivered in March, 1865, just over a month before his assassination. We might be wise to remember its conclusion:  

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle… to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations. 

Regardless of the outcome of our immediate political crises, climate change requires all of us to strive on, using whatever tools of intellect, wealth, compassion, and ingenuity are at our disposal, to finish the work we are in.     

Surviving the “Oiligopalypse”

Surviving the “Oiligopalypse”   —by Jinny Batterson

Oiligopalypse—noun: slow-moving global destruction due to the concentrated political and economic power of a small group of fossil fuel interests. 

As Hallowe’en approaches, it seems appropriate to spend time thinking about scary things. Looking around, the oiligopalypse is the scariest thing out there: An oligarchy of oil interests steering us into a slow-motion apocalypse of unimaginable proportions and duration. Even the horrific imagery in the Biblical book of Revelation may not exceed the fires, floods, and wholesale unraveling of ecological and social fabric that we are just beginning to experience.

The oiligopalypse has been many years in the making. The first hints of possible negative impacts on earth’s climate from over-reliance on fossil fuel combustion came over a century ago, during the “Gilded Age” of wealthy industrialists in the late 19th century. In more recent times, concerns focused instead on possible fossil fuel shortages, after a consortium of oil-exporting countries began to restrict supply and to demand higher prices for their crude oil. A difficult period of adjustment led to more efficient use of fuels, innovative ways (like fracking) of extracting more fuel from existing deposits, and greater use of previously discarded “by-products” such as natural gas and methane. 

In the early 1990’s, we experienced both the first Gulf War, to force Iraqi troops out of Kuwait’s oil fields, and a highly publicized global attempt to mitigate human climate impact via the 1992 Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit. Retreating Iraqi troops set fire to hundreds of Kuwaiti oil wells and damaged dozens more, creating a plume of smoke and ash visible from space and fusing about 5% of Kuwait’s surface area into impenetrable “tarcrete.” During the Earth Summit, a binding agreement on biological diversity was signed, along with an initial framework convention on confronting climate change.   

Since then, we’re made halting attempts to address climate change and to rein in our use of fossil fuels, both individually and collectively. Globally, efforts have often foundered on the differences between already-industrialized economies and those still in the process of becoming more fully industrial. Many “developing” nations have bridled at what they view as strictures from North Americans and Europeans to “do as we say, not as we did” without providing needed development assistance to ease global transitions away from fossil fuels.  

Greenhouse gas levels, in the meantime, have reached dangerous heights. Extreme weather events such as prolonged droughts, heat waves, wildfires, floods, and monster storms have been decisively linked to human-induced climate change. Earth’s oceans are warming, sea levels are rising, our warming atmosphere has greater moisture-holding capacity, resulting in more intense rain events. Security officials in many parts of the globe refer to climate change as a “threat multiplier,” increasing the likelihoods of mass starvation, uncontrollable migration, and armed conflict.    

It’s sensible to be scared of an oiligopalypse. What can we humans do to reduce our chances of drowning, burning, dying of hunger or thirst, or of wheezing our way into oblivion? Wringing our hands and/or counting just on improved technology won’t cut it. We’ll need to exhibit more of the human ingenuity that has gotten our species through previous crises, putting our minds, hearts, and material resources into adapting to the changing climate. A few suggestions:

—Get to know your geographical neighbors; set up mutual help networks. When there’s an extreme weather event, far-flung Facebook friends will be of minimal help. You’ll need to give and receive assistance first from those who live nearest you.   

—Simplify your lifestyle and tool set. Find less fuel-intensive ways to get around and to provide food, clothing, and shelter. Walk, bike, use public transportation, optimize your route for a greater proportion of your errands; grow a little of your own food; shop local farmers’ markets and second hand shops; downsize or share living space.  

—Use improved communication channels such as the internet and cell phones to get reliable information about lifestyle alternatives, to broaden your network of climate-savvy friends and acquaintances, and to lobby your elected officials at all levels for better climate stewardship.

—Plant trees that will by one future Hallowe’en have grown large enough so someone’s grandchildren can crouch behind them, then jump out with fake menace shouting “boo!” 

The oiligopalypse, a real menace, is coming. Let’s get ready.     

Elders, Natural Debt, Resilience…

Elders, Natural Debt, Resilience…  —by Jinny Batterson

Substantial numbers of my cohort of aging “leading edge boomers” have led charmed lives up to now. Medical advances have permitted us to live longer, with fewer health problems than our forebears’ generations. Technical advances and social policies have helped bring increased economic prosperity to those of us at upper income levels, especially those with inherited wealth and/or advanced formal educations. Yet lots of us are uneasy or depressed. What went wrong? 

As we came of age in the 1960’s, ecologists continued issuing warnings about the impacts of unbridled “growth” on the natural environments that underly all living beings, including humans. Partly due to youthful protests, governments in some economically advanced countries began passing laws to curb or criminalize the most visible environmental abuses. Cleanup funds were established. Our skies became clearer, our rivers no longer stank. Also partly due to youthful protests, American involvement in a costly war in Vietnam came to an official end. We were told there was a “peace dividend” and it was safe to start raising families. We gradually left the streets for the suburbs. 

Outsourcing and automation removed more and more routine, grimy or dangerous jobs to places most of us did not see. Occasional spot disasters like the Bhopal chemical release in India in 1984, the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown in what was then the USSR in 1986, Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana/Mississippi in 2005, or the Fukushima tsunami/power plant disaster in Japan in 2011 briefly caught our notice, but mostly we did not pay attention. Such difficulties would likely never touch us, safely ensconced in our cushy American suburban cocoons. 

Our cocoons are getting pretty toasty, abetted by record heat waves, wildfires, and tropical storms. The statistics are telling: In 2018, the U.S. suffered fourteen weather-related billion-plus dollar disasters. Bills for hurricanes Florence and Michael, already over $49 billion, are still coming in. Out west, a record-breaking wildfire season did more than $24 billion worth of damage. Here in North Carolina, I lived through my first 100 degree October day, after a record-setting dry, hot September generated a new weather label: “flash drought.”  

Fiscal conservatives have long warned of the dangers of burgeoning public debt—the U.S. national debt recently topped 22 trillion dollars, or about $56,000 for every American.  A friend and former colleague raises concerns about the hidden or belatedly recorded costs of “technical debt” (see http://techdebtpolicy.com) such as recovery from previous over-use of asbestos, whose fire-resistant properties made it desirable as an insulator before its human health impacts were fully understood. I’m most concerned about “natural debt,” a term gradually gaining currency for our drawing down of natural resources and our using our planet as a dumping ground, as in a set of posts by an India-based group, downtoearth.org.in. 

It’s not too hard to see why natural debt is a growing concern, one that has many of us elders wakeful on October nights when the air conditioning is still on. Links likely exist between natural debt and increasing instances of human protest and conflict across all parts of the political spectrum and all regions of the globe. 

People my age are closer to the ends of our lives than its beginnings. Our worst nightmares reflect the distress we’ve caused other humans and the natural world we depend on. If our imaginings goad us toward useful action rather than just handwringing, this is not necessarily a bad thing. By now, many of us have bounced back individually from financial, health, and/or family challenges. Beyond individual or family, though, we need to use the rest of our physical lives to help build more species-wide resilience. If we are to claim any prerogatives as an “intelligent species,” we’ll need to get both our individual and collective acts more thoroughly together. A compendium from our youth, The Last Whole Earth Catalog, said it on a back cover, showing a NASA photo of Earth taken from space: “We can’t put it together. It is together.” Together with or without humans, our choice. 

The PRC at 70

The PRC at 70  —by Jinny Batterson

She’s an impressive dowager,
A real rags to riches story–
Rising from the ashes of
A brutal civil war,
After a century of quasi-colonial
Oppression, she turned inward
And recreated herself.

A few convulsions temporarily
Sidelined her progress,
But now she stands proud–
The world’s greatest factory floor,
Flooding our shelves with goods
We couldn’t have imagined
A scant generation ago.

Of course she suffers from arthritis—
Twinges in her toes.
At her other extremity,
A bowl shaped desert
That refuses to be reeducated.

No pigeons or kites flock or weave
Above the scrubbed multitudes
As tanks again roll down Chang An
Avenue. Onlookers wave
Well-choreographed flags.

May she be wise and gracious
In old age. May her poets
Sleep securely in well-thatched
Cottages. Happy Birthday!
People’s Republic.