Pity The Nation

Lawrence Ferlinghetti 1919-2021

Lawrence Ferlinghetti was 101 years old when he died last Monday. He was born in Yonkers but is considered a San Franciscan since he made that city his home for the last 7 decades of his life.

His father died of a heart attack before he was born and his mother was committed to a mental hospital shortly after. He founded a bookstore called City Lights in his chosen hometown in 1953 and it soon became a magnet, and publishing company, for the Beats. He was arrested for publishing Allen Ginsberg’s Howl when the mirror it held up to an obscene society was considered the obscenity.

van Gogh #2 by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

In addition to his work at City Lights, Ferlinghetti made the most of his century of life by pursuing his muse across a host of creative outlets. He was a poet, playwright, novelist, and painter. I would not be surprised to find out he picked up a musical instrument or two at some point in his journey.

In 2007, Ferlinghetti wrote this poem: Pity the Nation (after Khalil Gibrand)

Pity the nation whose people are sheep
   And whose shepherds mislead them
 Pity the nation whose leaders are liars
            Whose sages are silenced
  And whose bigots haunt the airwaves
 Pity the nation that raises not its voice
          Except  to praise conquerers
       And acclaim the bully as hero
          And aims to rule the world
              By force and by torture
          Pity the nation that knows
        No other language but its own
      And no other culture but its own
 Pity the nation whose breath is money
 And sleeps the sleep of the too well fed
      Pity the nation oh pity the people
        who allow their rights to  erode
   and their freedoms to be washed away
               My country, tears of thee
                   Sweet land of liberty!

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