The Death Throes of Democracy

Sail on, O Ship of State!
Sail on, O Union, strong and great!
Humanity with all its fears,
With all the hopes of future years,
Is hanging breathless on thy fate!

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

How in this anxious hour of discontent
Can anyone with open eyes and mind
Be anything but fully cognizant?
Yet roughly half the populace is blind
To evil of the most egregious kind,
That circumvents judicial oversight
And blurs the line dividing wrong from right.

How can democracy survive attacks
On fundamental principles upheld
By courts? Who are these egomaniacs
Whose shady dealings are unparalleled?
And why, when their extremist views are spelled
Out so a simpleton can understand,
Do millions march lock-step behind their band?

The Constitution and the Bill of Rights
Specifically prohibit actions now
Deemed mandatory. Thus the lights
Of liberty are dimmed. Yet those who bow
To autocrats are quick to disavow
Decrees that sanction artifice and fraud
And undermine our prominence abroad.

All those who seek to keep the Ship of State
Afloat see values tumbled overboard.
Left-leaning souls watch hope disintegrate
For peace, the olive branch replaced by sword
And shield, the severance of world accord.
Those on the right rate devastating debt
From reckless borrowing the greater threat.

The overarching answer's not explained
In terms that fit our country's paradigms.
We find a covert rationale ingrained
In politics as practiced in these times
Of bitter partisan debate. High crimes
Committed under propaganda's cloak
Hitch our descendants to oppression's yoke.

[First published in Encore, prize poem anthology of the National Federation of State Poetry Societies, Inc.]