The Reason America Won’t Change (with thanks to W.H. Auden)

In Europe the rich man and the poor man were thought of as being two different kinds of men; the poor man might be an inferior kind but he was a man: but here the poor man was not, as such, a man, but a person in a state of poverty from which, if he were a real man, he would presently extricate himself. The newly arriving poor…were treated by their predecessors, it seems like freshman by upperclassmen, i.e, subject to a process of ‘hazing’ so as to toughen their character and stiffen their determination to rise to a position of immunity.–W.H. Auden, Preface to Anzia Yezierska’s Red Ribbon on a White Horse

The reason America won’t change
because 1%  of people own everything
is because our country is like high school
the poor are like freshmen
and they see the seniors
who get so many privileges
just because they worked hard for a little while
and waited and suffered
the unpleasantness of beginning
with the hope of someday achieving
the promise
for freshmen it’s graduating
and senior skip day and prom, etc
and for the poor it’s wealth
it’s having that 1%
it’s being a king
because ours is the only country
where anyone can be a king
–not everyone, that’s statistically impossible–
but anyone that wants and suffers
can make it to senior year.

Why would freshmen ever give up
the chance to be seniors?


5 responses to “The Reason America Won’t Change (with thanks to W.H. Auden)

  1. To my mind there can be no democracy, no freedom in any society where wealth and political power devolve upwards into the hands of the few. I find your Auden quotation and your poem thought-provoking.

    Marie Marshall

  2. Let us remain sophomores indefinitely, and be happy.

    Thanks, David

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