poetry Young Americans for Freedom
Young Americans for Freedom
By Lee Rossi
There we were, four or five seminarians, in the back
of the auditorium, almost spilling over the lip
of the mezzanine, waiting for the man of the moment
to appear. He was a Jew, and we his sworn enemies—
politics make strange bedfellows, that’s what I was
told—and before we’d lose our country to godless
Communists, we’d makes allies of the Devil
and his spawn. That sounded okay to me, although
I’d never met an atheist, much less a Communist.
The Devil, however, was familiar, a constant companion,
always urging me to take another path, constantly
pointing out how narrow the high wire I trod, how deep
the drop. I stared at the hats, the nets, the bald spots
below me. The music crescendoed and there he was,
the Senator from Arizona, polished, patrician, silver-
haired, tribune of the gainfully retired, refugees
from the Snow Belt, its frostbite and cinders.
We are surrounded by enemies, he told us,
not just in Asia and Europe, but in our own country,
people who would take our homes and businesses,
take away our beliefs, troublemakers
who wanted to sit next to us at lunch counters,
who would force us to accept them as equals.
Freedom is a gift we have to protect from those
jealous of our freedoms. I’d learned enough
about the Virtue of Selfishness to know that taxes
are bad, that government saps your moral strength,
Delilah clipping Samson’s hair. We’d been taught to look
in the mirror and see Satan. We had so many names for evil:
beatniks and homosexuals, secularism and civil rights,
the UN, the Federal Reserve—so many lions,
so few Daniels. Water cannons and police dogs
weren’t enough, not riot police nor even Bull Connor
spitting into a bull horn—when would we realize
that all our weapons would never save us,
not until we declared war on America?
Lee Rossi’s latest collection of poetry is Darwin’s Garden.