Quote of the Week: “Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness.” – Allen Ginsberg
Ginsberg was certainly not afraid to live by these words, leading the beat generation and counterculture, expressing his homosexuality openly, confronting the government on drug policies and on war issues, and creating poetry anew in his own image. However, as a political writer (and an avid watcher of the political horse-race, elections) I am somewhat intimidated by these words. I do not live, and also do not write, as if I were Ginsberg, or a follower of him (which I am not, much as I am inspired by some of his work). I write as a liberal, but one trying to converse politely with the Right; in case they happen to stop by. But most, or all, of my readership thus far seems to be on my side of the spectrum. I began my blog under the tagline “Fomenting a Political Conversation,” and that remains for the moment my mission – to get people talking if I can, not just with their individual echo chambers, but with people on the opposite sides of the aisle.
In that spirit, I often tone down my language. I edit out some of my anger at the injustices of the world, at what I think are not just wrong but stupid positions or arguments. I hide the madness, and stray from my inner moonlight in pursuit of what is likely a futile goal. And I expect the politicians on center stage to do the same.
As a liberal, I love the stances and proposals of both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. I have been a follower of both for years, and have been a past contributor to Clinton’s 2008 campaign, and to Sanders’ involvement in the Democratic Socialists of America. Still, when Sanders shouts like the angry old man on the porch (in effect, living Ginsberg’s advice in ways that I cannot), I cringe. I see Sanders as the great legislator (giving a voice to Congress that even as a Senator, Clinton never could); and Clinton as the great executive with deep personal experience and relationships with the leaders of the world. But I also see Clinton as reserved (like myself) in ways that Sanders is not. What would she promote as a candidate if she followed her own inner moonlight? She was a leftist in 2008, before Sanders was there to push her; so that does not just come from the current dynamic. Is Clinton “realistic” and Sanders “radical”? Is Clinton “political” and Sanders “real”? In part, I hope to answer these questions through this blog as I investigate these actors in greater detail. For now, I find myself torn – between the “moonlight and madness” of Sanders’s more “revolutionary” proposals (which energize my instinctive leftism), and the “moderation” of Clinton, and her “establishment” positions (which I internalize as reasonable compromises). And I am torn as a political writer, between writing my fury and delivering fiery oratory; and my desire to talk to the other side in a way that welcomes dialogue.
5 thoughts on “Moonlight and Madness, Or Moderation?”
I love political discussions but do not write about politics. My passion is writing poetry. I will like to follow your blog through the 2016 election process to keep up with the discusions.
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I love thoughtful, respectful (albeit passionate) political discussions and so rarely see them. I’m liberal, and have a good friend who’s a gun-totin’ Southern conservative. He and I agree to disagree, and he’s the ONLY one I’ll engage with in any way about politics on Facebook because I know always, always, he respects me first. MY POINT BEING…finding that balance between the courage of madness and the respect of moderation (which I think is what you’re going for?) is a tough one, and I, for one, look forward to your pursuit of it in this next year.
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Thanks, Belinda, and pranabaxom, for your comments. Belinda, you’re somewhat correct in judging the “courage of madness and the respect of moderation” in being the motivations (or at least rationalizations) behind these different positions. However, “moderation” in my politics (if not in my language) comes to more than that, being to a degree cognizant of the fact that we live in a large, diverse, and somewhat conservative country (and one used to using “socialist” as an insult damaging beyond repair, forcing those of us on the left to pretend – or like President Obama, even promote – hostility to the socialist goals of a democratic and egalitarian society). We simply can’t pass more radical legislation because of the limits that the Constitution imposes upon the capabilities of our legislators and executives (and now, of course, we can’t even pass moderate bills because of the repugnance the Republicans hold to doing the basic job of government).
It’s incredibly difficult not to shout truth at willful stupidity, but I’ve never learned anything by being yelled at. So as much as I applaud and admire your moonlit madness, I reluctantly concur that moderation is the better course.
It’d sure be nice if everyone agreed with that, sigh.
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Well, there are times to be moderate, and times when moderation keeps us from taking risks and committing to action. Both courses have their moments when they are “prudent.”