America survives its choosing day

By Eric Green
November 15, 2022

With the mid-terms behind us but the next presidential election already threatening to be a reprise of the last election’s  alarming attack on democracy, be heartened by Walt Whitman’s observations on another contentious election in 1884:

If I should need to name, O Western World, your powerfulest scene and show,

Twould not be you, Niagara—nor you, ye limitless prairies—nor your huge rifts of canyons, Colorado,

Nor you, Yosemite—nor Yellowstone, with all its spasmic geyser-loops ascending to the skies, appearing and disappearing,

Nor Oregons white cones—nor Hurons belt of mighty lakes—nor Mississippis stream:

—This seething hemispheres humanity, as now, Id namethe still small voice vibrating—Americas choosing day,

(The heart of it not in the chosen—the act itself the main, the quadriennial choosing,)

The stretch of North and South arousd—sea-board and inland—Texas to Maine—the Prairie States—Vermont, Virginia, California,

The final ballot-shower from East to West—the paradox and conflict,

The countless snow-flakes falling—(a swordless conflict,

Yet more than all Romes wars of old, or modern Napoleons:) the peaceful choice of all,

Or good or ill humanity—welcoming the darker odds, the dross:

—Foams and ferments the wine? it serves to purify—while the heart pants, life glows:

These stormy gusts and winds waft precious ships,

Swelld Washingtons, Jeffersons, Lincolns sails.

Walt Whitman