This poem was written by W.H.Auden on the eve of World War II. It is called September 1, 1939. It has understandably been getting wide circulation. Even the New York Times quoted it. “Auden is a good person to read at times like this,” says Banks, and he tells me that at the end of his life Auden changed the line “We must love one another or die” to “We must love another and die.” Which is sadly the case. A correction that is impossible to quarrel with. A good catch. Russell gives me two other snippets from Auden:
Little boys obsessed by Bigness
Big pricks, Big money, Big bangs.
To regard statehood as anything more than a technical convenience of social organization—and few do not—is idolatry.
There is a lot of e-mailing in the New Age crowd, my New Agey sister tells me, about how this is a conflict between the dark forces of both societies, the capitalists (referred to in most of the e-mails as “the world management team”) and the Islamists, who are themselves both the puppets of larger, superhuman, cosmic dark forces that are orchestrating the destruction of the world. That there is definitely a dark side to our society there can be no doubt, but you don’t have to posit any mystical dark forces to explain why it exists. Ignorance accounts for most it. In Arizona, soon after the attack, some of the local boys gunned down a Sikh, an Indian from the Punjab, because he was wearing a turban and was the closest person they could find to an Arab. The governor of Louisiana made a declaration that he took a lot of flak and quickly apologized for: “we’re going to pull over everybody who is wearing a diaper on his head.” In Warrensburg, an hour south of where I live, a Getty station owned by a Pakistani (who are already being called “Pakis,” like the “Japs” of WWII) is pelted with eggs. The owner puts up dozens of American flags, and the egging stops.