The Steiney Road To Operadom | Karren LaLonde Alenier | Scene4 Magazine | December 2016 |
Karren LaLonde Alenier

So Much Racket, So Much Out Of Kilter

Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that 'twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all this here talking about? [From “Ain’t I a Woman?”, a speech delivered by Sojourner Truth, 1851, Women’s Convention, Akron, Ohio]

Gertrude Stein sat by the stove talking and listening and getting up to open the door and go up to various people talking and listening. [From Chapter 2 “My Arrival in Paris,” The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1933: Harcourt, Brace and Company, Inc. First Edition, p. 15)]

The Steiny Road Poet—with Gertrude Stein’s salon method of Talking and Listening in mind as well as the stunning defeat of the experienced public servant Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election by a white man remarkably unqualified to hold the office as Leader of the Free World—offers a discussion about Truth.


As an aftermath of Donald Trump’s election, Steiny asks should we be talking about Truth, a verifiable fact, as opposed to lies, misinformation, fiction, forgeries?

After listening to so much political screed, Steiny is thinking Dear G-d, please let’s not cross this mined field drawn and quartered by the recent ugliness of accusation and blame not to mention that the facts of Truth can wound and kill as well as make things right and just.

As a matter of worry for what the future brings for the United States and the Free World, should we be talking about the Truths outlined in the US Declaration of Independence?

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. [From the preamble to the United States Declaration of Independence presented to Great Britain, July 4, 1776]

Here, Steiny presses her hand to her roiling stomach and then to her throat to choke on the Truth that US founding documents were all about men’s rights. Sure, women achieved the right to vote in 1919 and Roe v. Wade heard by the US Supreme Court in 1973 abolished the anti-abortions law of 46 states and gave women control of their reproduction rights. However, Steiny heard Trump say he opposes abortion and his supporters expect to overturn Roe v. Wade after the Republican Congress installs conservative Supreme Court judges. And, of course, suffrage does nothing to promote equality of women in the job market. The Equal Rights Amendment has been quashed a number of times and with the support of conservative women who said women need certain protections.

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man—when I could get it—and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman? from “Ain’t I a Woman?” [From a speech delivered by Sojourner Truth, 1851, Women’s Convention, Akron, Ohio]


The Truth Steiny wants to talk about briefly, but with urgency, is an African American woman born into slavery in Swartekill, Ulster County, New York, as Isabella Baumfree (1797-1883). In 1826, she escaped with her infant daughter and in 1828, she won a court case against a white man to free her son. In 1843, she changed her name to Sojourner Truth, saying God called her to leave the city for the countryside to testify about her hope for improving the lives of all women.

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what's this they call it? [member of audience whispers, "intellect"] That's it, honey. What's that got to do with women's rights or negroes' rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?

Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them. [From “Ain’t I a Woman?”, a speech delivered by Sojourner Truth, 1851, Women’s Convention, Akron, Ohio]


So what message does Steiny want to convey?

Is it about speaking Truth to Power—telling the white male establishment things they don’t want to hear and rallying a supporting community to this cause?

Is the message about coming to terms with white men who have no jobs and little education and to whom no one, except Trump, listened. Is this history repeating itself as it happened in the lead up to World War II when Hitler rose to power on the backs of men of similar circumstance?

Should women, Blacks, Muslims, people of color, the LGBT community, and the disabled abandon the United States and take their Truths to another country?

Should older people join the Millennials protesting the Trump win despite the fact that many Millennials cast their ballots (or not) in protest to Clinton for third party candidates that could never win? The Truth here is like the aftermath of Brexit, where protesting Brits voted to leave the European Union but now are in despair about the economic fallout.

As Sojourner Truth described, America is upside down in its current state of affairs and certainly Steiny is not advocating a Civil War to deal with such issues presented by the fact that our voting system allows for a candidate to get the majority popular vote but lose because of the system known as the electoral college, where Congressional electors make the final decision. Does this mean working to dismantle the process enacted by US founding fathers? Does this mean working to unseat the 2016 president elect before he even gets a chance to govern?

Some deep thinking needs to be applied to these questions.

Steiny will toss a few Gertrude Stein quotes on the bonfire built here:

 “A real failure does not need an excuse. It is an end in itself.”

“Everybody thinks that this civilization has lasted a very long time but it really does take a very few grandfathers’ granddaughters to take us back to the dark ages.”

“Men and girls, men and girls: Artificial swine and pearls.”

“Human beings are interested in two things. They are interested in the reality and interested in telling about it.”

“America is my country and Paris is my hometown.”

“Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.”

“Is it worse to be scared than to be bored, that is the question.”

However, Steiny is giving the final words to Sojourner Truth. These are final words from “Ain’t I a Woman?”.

Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain't got nothing more to say.


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Scene4 Magazine — Karren Alenier

Karren LaLonde Alenier's most recent book is
The Steiny Road to Operadom: The Making of American Operas. She is a Senior Writer for Scene4.
Read her Blog.
For her other commentary and articles,
check the Archives.

©2016 Karren LaLonde Alenier
©2016 Publication Scene4 Magazine


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