Aug. 8, 2004

673 The Love a Life can show Below

by Emily Dickinson

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Poem: "The Love a Life Can Show" by Emily Dickinson © Little, Brown and Company.

The Love a Life Can Show

The Love a Life can show Below
Is but a filament, I know,
Of that diviner thing
That faints upon the face of Noon —
And smites the Tinder in the Sun —
And hinders Gabriel's Wing —

'Tis this — in Music — hints and sways —
And far abroad on Summer days —
Distils uncertain pain —
'Tis this enamors in the East —
And tints the Transit in the West
With harrowing Iodine —

'Tis this — invites — appalls — endows —
Flits - glimmers — proves — dissolves —
Returns — suggests — convicts — enchants —
Then — flings in Paradise —

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of the poet Sara Teasdale, born in St. Louis, Missouri (1884). She specialized in brief, rhyming, lyric poems, usually about love, in books such as Rivers to the Sea (1915) and Love Songs (1917). Her poetry was slowly going out of style throughout her lifetime. She wrote, "When I can look life in the eyes, / grown calm and very coldly wise, / life will have given me the truth, / and taken in exchange — my youth."

It's the birthday of journalist Randy Shilts, born in Davenport, Iowa (1951). He was one of the first mainstream journalists to cover the gay community and the early spread of AIDS. He started out writing for an alternative press in San Francisco in the 1970's. But he wanted to write for a larger audience, so in 1981, he took a job at the San Francisco Chronicle, where he became first openly gay journalist to write for a major daily newspaper.

At the time, only 330 cases of AIDS had been diagnosed nationwide. Shilts began to devote himself to covering the disease full-time. He was the first reporter to write front-page articles on the disease that eventually became known as AIDS. Shilts had trouble finding a publisher for the book he was writing, entitled, And the Band Played On. When the book finally came out in 1987, there were more than 46,000 AIDS cases in the United States alone and about 1.5 million Americans were already infected with the HIV virus.

Shilts found out that he too was HIV positive and spent the last years of his life writing a book called Conduct Unbecoming: Gays and Lesbians in the U.S. Military (1993). He died the year after it was published, at the age of 43.

It's the birthday of novelist Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, born in Washington, D.C. (1896). Rawlings spent much of her early life traveling around Wisconsin, Kentucky, and New York, working as a newspaper reporter. She didn't travel to Florida until she was thirty years old, and she fell in love with the country. She moved to Florida two years later, and began to write fiction about the people who lived there, in what she called "the Scrub." She started an orange grove and learned to cope with poison ivy, mosquitoes, roaming livestock, and drunken farm hands, and she learned how to build fences, slaughter hogs, and make moonshine. Rawlings had written two novels before she published The Yearling (1938). It's now considered a children's book, but at the time it became a bestseller among adults and it won the Pulitzer Prize for literature.

It was on this day in 1974 that Richard Milhous Nixon went on national television to announce that he was resigning the office of the president. He was the first American president in history forced to resign. During Nixon's second election, a group of men wearing rubber gloves were caught breaking into the Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate Office Building. Nixon wasn't the first President to tap phones or to use the FBI to spy on his political opponents, but Nixon was the first president to be investigated for such activities, and he tried to use his power to stop the investigation. The Washington Post as well as congressional investigators kept digging. At first, it appeared that no one could prove that Nixon knew about any of the misconduct, but then a former White House official named Alexander Butterfield mentioned that Nixon had secretly taped all of his White House conversations. The tapes were disastrous, since they showed that Nixon deliberately tried to cover up the Watergate scandal from the beginning.

Congress drafted articles of impeachment, and Senate republicans informed Nixon that if he were impeached, he would be convicted. So, on this day in 1974, Nixon went on television and announced his resignation. He said, "I have never been a quitter. To leave office before my term is completed is abhorrent to every instinct in my body. But as president I must put the interests of America first." More than thirty of the men who were closest to him went to jail for their roles in Watergate.

His policies as president had been surprisingly liberal. He began arms control agreements with the Soviet Union and eased relations with China. He established the Environmental Protection agency, expanded Social Security and state welfare programs, and he tried to create a national health insurance system. Historians believe that if Nixon had just been more confident in his ability to beat George McGovern in the election of 1972, the Watergate scandal would never have occurred.

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