Tyger Tyger Burning Bright | Inquirer
The Artist Abroad

Tyger Tyger Burning Bright

/ 11:50 AM January 04, 2022

NEW YORK—What a roller coaster of a year 2021 was!

Definitely not the best but the worst of times. And the worst of the worst was the January 6th insurrection, the putrid smell of which is still very much in the air. In the Christian festive calendar, January 6th  is the Feast of the Three Kings. In the dystopian version, in this Tale of Two Americas, a year ago the nation and the whole world witnessed a mob gathered in Washington, DC, to interrupt the rebirth of democracy, not in a manger but in the august halls of Congress.


Although that day should have been a feast,  it turned out to be a slugfest, carried out in the name of a would-be king and tyrant, Donald the Orange, against the enthronement of his successor, Joseph R. Biden. And who might the third king be? In my telling, that would be the vox populi, the power behind the throne, a government by the people, of the people, and for the people. But on that day a segment of the vox populi turned violent, bearing “gifts” of mayhem, death, and disinformation, in their haste to deify an ignoramus who continues to be a blight on our moral landscape.

The House Committee investigating that insurrection has its work cut out for it but from all indications is compiling a clear and compelling portrait of the actors behind that unconscionable attack on democracy.

Going hand in hand with that insurrection was the continuing dehumanization of people of color: the increased assaults on Asian Americans, the killing of African Americans for no good reason at all—George Floyd, Daunte Wright, Ahmaud Arberry, among others—and the deaths of so many innocent civilians abroad, in the wars that this country has been involved in, whether directly or indirectly, from Afghanistan to Iraq to Yemen. Perhaps the silver lining in this is that the need for racial reckoning and justice has never been made clearer, or more urgent, and that the convictions of Derek Chauvin, ex-police officer Kim Potter, and the killers of Ahmaud Arberry, may herald the realization, as sporadic as it often is, that black lives do and should matter.

And yet, there is the sustained effort on the part of Republican-led state legislatures to make it harder for citizens to vote, particularly those living in disadvantaged communities. Making it harder to vote means making it harder for democracy to breathe, let alone flourish, and much easier for fascism’s malignant flower to fully bloom.

And for close to two years the whole world has been dealing with that dreaded Covid-19, with its seemingly infinitely mutable selves. This is a long drawn-out war, against an enemy that is everywhere, moving about in stealth, in broad daylight, unafraid, insistent and unrelenting, prowling through dense centers for prey to seize and devour, when that prey is weak enough and unprotected. Its deadly march through our ranks is aided and abetted by those who spread false claims and conspiracies about the perils of vaccination and government overreach, accompanied by stout declarations of defending freedom, so narrowly defined as to exclude any social and moral responsibility. Less freedom than license to kill.

Above all, 2021 rendered painfully clear how the existential crisis of climate change is here now, is the new normal, and we humans had better get our act together if we wish to preserve our home planet. As the environmental activists say, “There is no Planet B.”

Fascism, COVID-19, climate change—they are William Blake’s beast that stalks us, his  “Tyger Tyger, burning bright, /In the forests of the night; / What immortal hand or eye, / Could frame thy fearful symmetry?” And the visionary poet’s question challenging the notion of a merciful god resonates more strongly than ever: “Did he who made the Lamb make thee?”

I’m glad to see the tail lights of 2021 recede. May 2022 see the noxious fumes of the year past dissipate and, hoping against hope, our annual voyage around the Sun, now begun, be more of a jaunt than a trek.

Copyright L.H. Francia 2022

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