Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Caged Bird Sings

Maya Angelou, at the Democratic convention last night, read as pure a piece of poetry as she ever spoke. Of course, it wasn't hers.

She read a quote from Fannie Lou Hamer, a Mississippi sharecropper's daughter who challenged the Democratic Party at its 1964 convention to break down the color barrier. The words came from a plain-spoken woman with a workaday prose that broke through clouds because it did without the verbal frumpery of Angelou's strained verse.

"What do I think of my country? What is that which elevates my shoulders and stirs my blood when I hear the words, the United States of America? Do I praise my country enough? Do I laud my fellow citizens enough? What is there about my country which makes me hang my head and avert my eyes when I hear the words the United States of America? What am I doing about it? Am I relating my disappointment to my leaders and to my fellow citizens, or am I like one, not involved, sitting high and looking low?"

Why does it seem that the two halves of that statement have diverged into the two political camps of the modern political scene?