[This year is the 20th anniversary of Cape Cod Light by Michael Hattersley. The other parts of this series are here.]
I learned politics from Michael in the ’90’s. The Berlin wall fell about a month before we moved to Boston, and Michael and I watched the renaissance of liberal politics under Bill Clinton on TV together; I was in grad school when it all came crashing down during the Florida recount.
Michael’s trip around the world and addiction to politics made him very well versed in world affairs and the ins and outs of domestic politics. He was a font of political wisdom and minutiae, collected across his the sources of his daily political fix—the New York Times on paper, CNN on cable, The MacNeil Lehrer News Hour on PBS. He watched the 1992 and 1996 elections like a sports fan watching a playoff run. He rooted for a contested convention just for the sheer drama of it all.
A true baby boomer, Michael’s politics were very mainstream-1990’s liberal, befitting the gay son of a WWII and Korean War veteran. He saw America as a benevolent empire, deeply flawed but constantly improving, spreading the promise of prosperity and democracy around the world through just the right balance of soft and hard power. His support of Bill Clinton never wavered, and he was elated by Obama’s rise and election.
Michael’s politics are on full display in the twenty-first poem in Cape Cod Light, Pink Floyd Played Berlin. The iconic images of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Eastern Bloc are the people on the top of the wall cheering, the pieces coming off as they ripped it apart. Michael’s title refers to an event from eight months later, when Roger Waters performed The Wall at a huge benefit concert attended by 350,000 people where the wall once stood.
Pink Floyd Played Berlin
When they ripped down the wall and danced on it
First we wept, then we were taken aback
By a certainty crumbling or, more deeply,
A fear for America with the pressure off.
No one asked us to take charge.
Elders don’t. It happened by accident.
History needs to be made as well as read.
That’s what was frozen by the cold war.
We didn’t seek it. Neither did Rome.
The world just kept throwing itself into our arms.
What estate could resist those images on television?
Look how you pay for making rock and roll.
The next poem is here.