Donald Trump spent much of his 2020 campaign launch in Orlando attacking Hillary Clinton, but Hillary had launched her own missile at Trump the night before
Hillary Clinton was the surprise star at the 30th anniversary gala of the Irish Repertory Theater, in New York, where her reading of a Yeats poem describing anarchy loose in the world and how the center cannot hold was clearly directed at President Donald Trump.
Clinton walked on stage at the beginning of the evening to massive applause. Her husband, Bill, was the special honoree, but Hillary’s appearance was the showstopper.
The choice of poem was telling to say the least. “The Second Coming” by W.B. Yeats has become the modern-day siren song for describing the darkness at the heart of the Trump administration.
A 2016 analysis by research company Factiva showed that lines from the poem were quoted more often in the first seven months of 2016 than in any of the preceding 30 years.
The election of Donald Trump as President of the United States of America led to commentators repeatedly invoking its lines:
"Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.”
The poem was written in the aftermath of the First World War and the beginning of the War of Independence, in Ireland. It is about the chaos that had settled upon the world.
Clinton took great care to point out the modern connection, linked clearly to Trump.
We are all used to politicians mouthing Yeats and Seamus Heaney, but this was different. Clinton read it with emotion and feeling rare for her in public and that gripped the audience. This was a different Hillary to the bland speaker on the presidential stage.
Here, in a strange way, was her long-expected rebuttal to the values and malign vision of President Trump the favors to the rich, the demonizing of immigrants, the contempt for the law. She asked the rhetorical question, querying whether the poem was biblical or political and answered her own question by stating it was clearly the latter.
“Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned.”
And then the key line:
“The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”
When she came to the final two lines her voice hardened.
“And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”
She received thunderous applause.
If Hillary was the highlight there were many other superb acts. Her husband’s ranged over his favorite topic of the peace process and the fact it is in peril over Brexit. He cautioned the Irish to be patient with the English based on their centuries-old experience and waiting their malign policies out. The English were on the wrong path with their identity politics, pitting one side against the other, the Irish above all knew that he said.
The Irish Repertory Theater was the brainchild 30 years ago of a young immigrant, Ciaran O’Reilly, and actress and director Charlotte Moore. They have done the impossible, surviving even thriving in the cutthroat Broadway atmosphere. The fact that they are two of the most respected and liked figures in the community has certainly helped them survive and thrive.
Rightfully, there were about a thousand people along to pay tribute. O’Reilly himself delivered an amazing interpretation of Easter 1916 by Yeats, Judy Collins sang Amazing Grace, Alec Baldwin recited Seamus Heaney, Nathan Gunn sang IfEver I Should Leave You, while Riverdance composer Bill Whelan reprised the legendary opening scene from the show.
The Fields of Athenry, Sunday Bloody Sunday, the hunger strike song The Time Has Come to Part my Love, Danny Boy, Finian's Rainbow all were belted out in an atmosphere of celebration and remembrance. A great night was had by all, the ultimate cliché but true on this special occasion.
And Hillary stole the show.