Yesterday was the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, when we remembered the innocents who lost their lives so tragically that day. Let us also realize that the best way to honor the loss of innocent life on one day is to remember the taking of innocent life on all days, and not just here but everywhere, and to work toward a future without terrorism, war, the terror of war and the “war on terror.” “I play not marches for accepted victors only, I play marches for conquer’d and slain persons,” says Walt Whitman in “Song of Myself.” My colleague Elliot Colla reminded me of this Walt Whitman poem, and it’s worth posting today:
I was asking for something specific and perfect for my city,
Whereupon, lo! upsprang the aboriginal name!
Now I see what there is in a name, a word, liquid, sane, unruly, musical, self-sufficient;
I see that the word of my city is that word up there,
Because I see that word nested in nests of water-bays, superb, with tall and wonderful spires,
Rich, hemm’d thick all around with sailships and steamships—an island sixteen miles long, solid-founded,
Numberless crowded streets—high growths of iron, slender, strong, light, splendidly uprising toward clear skies;
Tide swift and ample, well-loved by me, toward sundown,
The flowing sea-currents, the little islands, larger adjoining islands, the heights, the villas,
The countless masts, the white shore-steamers, the lighters, the ferry-boats, the black sea-steamers well-model’d;
The down-town streets, the jobbers’ houses of business—the houses of business of the ship-merchants, and money-brokers—the river-streets;
Immigrants arriving, fifteen or twenty thousand in a week;
The carts hauling goods—the manly race of drivers of horses—the brown-faced sailors;
The summer air, the bright sun shining, and the sailing clouds aloft;
The winter snows, the sleigh-bells—the broken ice in the river, passing along, up or down, with the flood tide or ebb-tide;
The mechanics of the city, the masters, well-form’d, beautiful-faced, looking you straight in the eyes;
Trottoirs throng’d—vehicles—Broadway—the women—the shops and shows,
The parades, processions, bugles playing, flags flying, drums beating;
A million people—manners free and superb—open voices—hospitality—the most courageous and friendly young men;
The free city! no slaves! no owners of slaves!
The beautiful city, the city of hurried and sparkling waters! the city of spires and masts!
The city nested in bays! my city!
The city of such women, I am mad to be with them! I will return after death to be with them!
The city of such young men, I swear I cannot live happy, without I often go talk, walk, eat, drink, sleep, with them!