Searching for a fitting post for this surreal week, which will see Donald Trump’s inauguration, I stumbled upon an oft neglected Walt Whitman poem that seems to capture the carnivalesque spectacle we will behold over the next four years. Unlike Bakhtin’s carnivalesque however, this episode will most likely not prompt a challenge to the powers that be, but will rather help retrench and revanche longstanding power structures in American society.
Quite fittingly perhaps, Whitman released this poem, first entitled “Poem of the Proposition of Nakedness,” in 1856 for the second edition of Leaves of Grass, as his beloved nation was disintegrating before his eyes. This was the year that saw the election of James Buchanan, widely thought of as one of the worst presidents in the country’s history. It was also the year of Senator Charles Sumner’s infamous caning and of bloody clashes in Kansas between anti-slavery and pro-slavery forces over the future of the West.
I am by no stretch of the imagination knowledgable about American poetry, or poetry in general for that matter, and have always had a hard time understanding verse. From the little I know of Whitman however, this poem appears to deviate quite wildly from his usual sanguine sentiments about America and life in general, which is probably one of the reasons he shied away from it in later years. I will stop here from offering any further insights about the poem, for I think it speaks for itself much better than I could ever hope to:
Poem of the Proposition of Nakedness (in later versions entitled “Respondez”) (1)
Let every one answer! Let all who sleep be
waked! Let none evade—not you, any
more than others!
Let that which stood in front go behind! and let
that which was behind advance to the front
Let murderers, thieves, tyrants, bigots, unclean
persons, offer new propositions!
Let the old propositions be postponed!
Let faces and theories be turned inside out! Let
meanings be criminal as well as results!
(Say! can results be criminal, and meanings
Let there be no suggestion besides the suggestion
Let none be pointed toward his destination!
(Say! do you know your destination?)
Let trillions of men and women be mocked with
bodies and mocked with souls!
Let the love that waits in them, wait! Let it die,
or pass still-born to other spheres!
Let the sympathy that waits in every man, wait!
or let it also pass, a dwarf, to other spheres!
Let contradictions prevail! Let one thing con-
tradict another! and let one line of my poem
Let the people sprawl with yearning aimless
hands! Let their tongues be broken! Let their
eyes be discouraged! Let none descend into
their hearts with the fresh lusciousness of
Let the theory of America be management, caste,
comparison! (Say! what other theory would you?)
Let them that distrust birth and death lead the
rest! (Say! why shall they not lead you?)
Let the crust of hell be neared and trod on! Let
the days be darker than the nights! Let
slumber bring less slumber than waking-time
Let the world never appear to him or her for
whom it was all made!
Let the heart of the young man exile itself from the
heart of the old man! and let the heart of the
old man be exiled from that of the young man!
Let the sun and moon go! Let scenery take the
applause of the audience! Let there be
apathy under the stars!
Let freedom prove no man’s inalienable right!
Every one who can tyrannize, let him tyran-
nize to his satisfaction!
Let none but infidels be countenanced!
Let the eminence of meanness, treachery,
sarcasm, hate, greed, indecency, impotence,
lust, be taken for granted above all! Let
poems, judges, governments, households,
religions, philosophies, take such for granted
Let the worst men beget children out of the worst
Let priests still play at immortality!
Let death be inaugurated!
Let nothing remain upon the earth except
teachers, artists, moralists, lawyers, and
learned and polite persons!
Let him who is without my poems be assas-
Let the cow, the horse, the camel, the garden-bee
—Let the mud-fish, the lobster, the mussel,
eel, the sting-ray and the grunting pig-
fish—Let these, and the like of these, be
put on a perfect equality with man and
Let churches accommodate serpents, vermin, and
the corpses of those who have died of the
most filthy of diseases!
Let marriage slip down among fools, and be for
none but fools!
Let men among themselves talk obscenely of wo-
men! and let women among themselves talk
obscenely of men!
Let every man doubt every woman! and let every
woman trick every man!
Let us all, without missing one, be exposed in pub-
lic, naked, monthly, at the peril of our lives!
Let our bodies be freely handled and examined
by whoever chooses!
Let nothing but love-songs, pictures, statues, ele-
gant works, be permitted to exist upon the earth!
Let the earth desert God, nor let there ever hence-
forth be mentioned the name of God!
Let there be no God!
Let there be money, business, railroads, imports,
exports, custom, authority, precedents, pallor,
dyspepsia, smut, ignorance, unbelief!
Let judges and criminals be transposed! Let the
prison-keepers be put in prison! Let those
that were prisoners take the keys! (Say!
why might they not just as well be trans-
Let the slaves be masters! Let the masters
Let the reformers descend from the stands where
they are forever bawling! Let an idiot or
insane person appear on each of the stands!
Let the Asiatic, the African, the European, the
American and the Australian, go armed against
the murderous stealthiness of each other! Let
them sleep armed! Let none believe in good-
Let there be no living wisdom! Let such be
scorned and derided off from the earth!
Let a floating cloud in the sky—Let a wave of
the sea—Let one glimpse of your eye-sight
upon the landscape or grass—Let growing
mint, spinach, onions, tomatoes—Let these
be exhibited as shows at a great price for
Let all the men of These States stand aside for a
few smouchers! Let the few seize on what
they choose! Let the rest gawk, giggle
Let shadows be furnished with genitals! Let
substances be deprived of their genitals!
Let there be immense cities—but through any of
them, not a single poet, saviour, knower, lover!
Let the infidels of These States laugh all faith
away! If one man be found who has faith,
let the rest set upon him! Let them affright
faith! Let them destroy the power of breed-
Let the she-harlots and the he-harlots be prudent!
Let them dance on, while seeming lasts! (O
seeming! seeming! seeming!)
Let the preachers recite creeds! Let the preach-
ers of creeds never dare to go meditate upon
the hills, alone, by day or by night! (If one
ever once dare, he is lost!)
Let insanity have charge of sanity!
Let books take the place of trees, animals, rivers,
Let the portraits of heroes supersede heroes!
Let the manhood of man never take steps after
itself! Let it take steps after eunuchs, and
after consumptive and genteel persons!
Let the white person tread the black person under
his heel! (Say! which is trodden under
heel, after all?)
Let the reflections of the things of the world be
studied in mirrors! Let the things them-
selves continue unstudied!
Let a man seek pleasure everywhere except in
himself! Let a woman seek happiness
everywhere except in herself! (Say! what
real happiness have you had one single time
through your whole life?)
Let the limited years of life do nothing for the
limitless years of death! (Say! what do
you suppose death will do, then?)
And might I add: let the next four years not be as bad as we think they might.
 Copied from: http://www.whitmanarchive.org:8080/published/LG/1856/poems/30