Are You Gonna Cross That Line?

Today, I happened to think of a few related scenes involving the crossing of lines, which is a subject of some personal concern [1], and so I thought it would be worthwhile to show the results of my poetic pondering [2] and also give some explanation as to the connected narrative of those separate scenes and at least some (if not all) of the personal meaning and thematic unity behind those lines:


Son, are you gonna cross that line?
Why stand with the strikers and picketers
And suffer the hunger and chill
Of the cold winter air
Just to show solidarity
With your fellow workers
So that someone else may enjoy
A better future in years ahead
Earned by your suffering today?
Son, are you gonna cross that line?
Who cares about unity and brotherhood anyway?

Son, are you gonna cross that line?
So what if she is a little young?
A few months more and she will be of age,
And if you are discreet
And keep from exposing yourself
To the censure of the world
You may find that before anything
Is found out about you
And your private dealings
That there will be nothing
That you have to hide at all.
Why should you miss a chance
At love with a fine girl
Over some quibble about a few years?
For what is age but some numbers
Of no particular importance anyway?
So are you gonna cross that line?
Who cares about the honor of a lady anyway?

Son, are you gonna cross that line
That stretches around the clinic
Manned by self-righteous souls
Who do not understand the burden
Of an unwanted child anyway?
Why should you suffer some years in jail
And the destruction of your life
Or being bound to someone
For the rest of your days
Because of the carelessness of a moment?
Would it not be better to be free
From the burden of thought or memory
About a mistake that could be snuffed out
And never brought to mind
With the silence of the beating
Of a tell-tale heart whose existence
Would be evidence of your wrongdoing
To the whole world around?
So are you gonna cross that line?
Who cares about helpless children anyway?


There is a lot about this particular poem that is pretty straightforward and self-explanatory. For example, it ought not to be of any great surprise that this particular poem is a set of three short discussions about three different temptations that are nonetheless all connected with each other and connected with fairly strong personal concerns. Before discussing the specific nature of each of the stanzas of this poem, I thought it would be worthwhile to discuss the parallels between them. All of them appear in the form of an implied dialogue, such as one would expect with temptation from a cynical and selfish and diabolical adviser who purports to be wise and urges impatience and selfishness on the young man who is the narrator of this poem. Each of the temptations involves crossing a line, often a literal one, and each of the offenses involves a focus on the needs or wants of the self and a rejection of larger responsibilities and duties to other people. It should be of little surprise that crossing these lines leads to suffering and loss, for the short-term gains are far more than counterbalanced by the losses that are involved as the deeds get more and more serious.

What personal connection do these three forms of temptation have to me? Some of them might be far more obvious than others. The first temptation is, of course, the temptation to cross a picket line and become a scab, in order to gain some personal profit at the expense of harming the efforts of a union for a better deal in a collective bargaining situation. Why would I care about this particular situation? As a matter of fact, my father was a union bus driver for many years, and although he was not a particularly political person, he was certainly a blue-collar worker of decidedly populst sympathies [3]. In our day and age and place, unions often have a bad name because the most powerful unions are in the public sector, in which case their collective bargaining efforts directly increases the tax burden for taxpayers, because the success of blue collar labor unions made industry less attractive for companies, leading to the massive declines of the “rust belt” areas like Detriot and Pittsburgh (which indirectly affected my father, whose union was a part of the once-mighty AFL-CIO), and because union bosses often live corruptly and are quite well-off off of the dues of ordinary workers with much more modest living. Despite the fact that corruption is certainly not limited to unions, their behavior has allowed them to be discredited by those who have a motive in dividing workers against each other to help keep wages low, which increases profits and the amount of money that can be used to pay for executives. Naturally, these efforts at divide and conquer depend on reducing the trust and common action between workers, which can be done in a variety of ways–appealing to short-term selfish interest, encouraging ethnic and gender-based hostility, and in pitting together different states or cities or even countries against each other to compete for factories and jobs, seeing who can offer the lowest tax and labor expense.

The second form of temptation is one that is particularly obvious and needs little comment from me [4], and has been the source of a considerable amount of personal stress for me, and no doubt plenty of stress for young women and their parents as well. Given my own personal openness and honesty about my own dealings, I am not at all interested in any relationship that would require secrecy. The third form of temptation is one that tends to follow from the second. Engaging in secret relationships can often lead to unwanted pregnancies because of the failure of various methods of contraception (when they are used in the first place), and it is natural for people who wish to preserve secrecy to wish to rid themselves of unwanted and inconvenient life. Although I have not had any direct experience with pregnancy as the father, it has often been the subject of thought with regards to its larger implications for our respect of life and our honor to those who bear our image, as abortion is a particularly heinous form of child abuse [5]. I have seen friends and coworkers snuff out the life of little ones because it was inconvenient; I have seen others forced to marry those they fornicated with, or were even taken advantage of, and I have seen others full of frustrated longings for spouses and children that are unfulfilled. Our lives are full of immense futility, and relationships tend to be the center of the vanity and difficulty of our lives.

There is no doubt that this poem is pretty dark and serious, but these temptations are real ones that we must address in our lives. Many of us, if not all of us, have to wrestle with our willingness to work in cooperation with others for the benefit of larger groups of people or whether we will seek our own selfish interests alone. We have to wrestle with the strength of our longings and the enticement of temptations around us that constantly urge us to gratify our desires without concern for the proper time or situation, and that seek to get rid of the consequences of our behavior rather than behave honorably and decently and to respect others even when they are not showing respect for themselves [6]. How long does one have to wait and how much does one have to endure before one is found worthy and receives what one has longed for and prepared for for what seems like forever, even if our lives are but a brief vapor in an evil realm full of darkness, where the light is all too often mocked and insulted.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

[3] See, for example:

[4] See, for example:

[5] See, for example:

[6] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Christianity, Love & Marriage, Musings and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Are You Gonna Cross That Line?

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