So Long Marianne: An Elegy for my Country through Leonard Cohen Lyrics

“Your letters they all say that you’re beside me now. / Then why do I feel alone?

I’m standing on a ledge and your fine spider web / is fastening my ankle to a stone.”

–So Long Marianne, Songs of Leonard Cohen 1967

leonard-cohen

I have spent most of the last 48 hours in bed crying. Like many people in America, I have felt isolated and scared and alone.

I cried for people of color who face an imminent threat from emboldened racism.  I have mourned with my friends who have been battling cancer, who will no longer be insured if Obamacare gets repealed. I cried for my gay friends and for LGBTQ youth whose equality is uncertain. I cried for Latinos who are suddenly suspect and whose families may be in danger of forced divide. I have cried with young women fearful about family planning and a lack of options.

I have spent that last two days sobbing for one reason or another.

Then Leonard Cohen died today. Just two days after my country elected a racist, misogynist, megalomaniac.

Leonard Cohen was my soul. He was my solace. He was my wise man. He was my reason for living on so many, many dark nights. Leonard Cohen has helped me through moments of my life that I never thought I could get though. He has helped me these last few days as I’ve watched my country dissolve into a mess of racism, bigotry, and fear.

I have spent my life fighting for justice, for women’s rights, for LGBTQ equality.  In these past few days I have watched my friends crumble. I have sent letters and text messages apologizing and I have gotten letters and text messages hearing apologies. So many of us have held each other for so long.  And so many of us are faltering, falling, dying.

 

“I saw some people starving / There was murder, there was rape

Their villages were burning / They were trying to escape

I couldn’t meet their glances / I was staring at my shoes

It was acid, it was tragic / It was almost like the blues”

–Almost Like The Blues, Popular Problems 2014

 

In a strange and terrible parallel to my country, in a very real and utter desolation, an angel ascended; Leonard Cohen, the poet I had loved so much, the poet who had given me so many moments of peace, left this earth. He was too good for it. But I will miss him just the same.

2016 has been a complete and utter shit show. Many of us can count the ways: David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Glenn Frey, Harper Lee, Prince, Muhammed Ali, Ralph Stanley, Elie Wiesel, Gene Wilder, Janet Reno and, today, Leonard Cohen.

But, in addition to the incredible loss in the artistic community and sphere of wisdom, America seems to have lost its way.

 

“Your servant here, he has been told / to say it clear, to say it cold:

It’s over, it ain’t going any further

And now the wheels of heaven stop / you feel the devil’s riding crop

Get ready for the future.”

–The Future, The Future, 1992

 

The 2016 American presidential election was not about the candidates. The election was about the issues, morality, human rights, and justice. It was never about Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. The people who voted against Donald Trump, the majority of Americans, voted against misogyny, racism, elitism, and bigotry. A slim majority, but a majority nonetheless, voted for healthcare, human rights, and progress.  But sadly, it wasn’t enough. And now we are facing some very dark times.

“Everybody knows that the dice are loaded

Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed

Everybody knows the war is over

Everybody knows the good guys lost

Everybody knows the fight was fixed

The poor stay poor, the rich get rich

That’s how it goes / Everybody knows”

–Everybody Knows, I’m Your Man, 1988

 

I am crying for my nieces and for the children in my life.  I’m crying for the people who came before me who believed they would see change in their lifetime.

I am terrified for the young women and for the people of color in my life.  I’m terrified for people whom I deeply, deeply I love. I want to make them safe.  I want to take them in my arms and protect them.  I want to shield them from all of this.

And I want the promises that we were given. I want that promises that were made to us.  I want the promises that were whispered to us to be upheld. “In America, you can be anything you want.”

I hold America’s broken promises in front of the people I love the most and I want to hide and shout and scream and cry.

“And I wish there was a treaty we could sign

I do not care who takes this bloody hill

I’m angry and I’m tired all the time.”

–Treaty, You Want It Darker, 2016

 

As someone who has been fighting my whole life, I’m tired and I’m scared. I hardly know what I could possibly have left to offer. But I’m still going to fight. I’m still going to give what I have to offer. I’m still going to put everything I have on the line.

 

“Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

–Anthem, The Future, 1992

 

Thank you my sweet friend.  I will miss you for the rest of my life.  But I will never, ever, ever forget you. And I will continue to give whatever I have.