A poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850 - 1919)
To sin by silence, when we should protest, Makes cowards out of men
I have been fascinated with the BBC America show Orphan Black since I first was introduced to it in 2015. It’s a stunning sci-fi thriller that puts the focus squarely on genetics, capitalism, injustice and especially the plight of women who don’t have control over their own lives, or even their bodies.
Each season, the episode titles are drawn from a relevant work or body of work by prescient thinkers such as Charles Darwin, Donna Haraway, and Dwight D. Eisenhower. As co-host of the podcast SestraCast, an Orphan Black watch/rewatch show, I like drawing attention to these episode titles and how they fit into the themes of the show. I always learn a lot.
We are about to embark on the fifth and final season. The episode titles are drawn from this 1914 poem, Protest, by Ella Wheeler Wilcox. As my co-host Kathy Campbell and I are getting ready to dive into the final episodes of our show, I decided to prep for the episode titles and so I read this poem on the eve of the general election in the U.S.
It is simultaneously uplifting and depressing that the themes of this poem, written over 100 years ago, are still so relevant. Uplifting, because it reminds us that the world does not change overnight. Depressing, because it reminds us that the world does not change overnight. Uplifting, because things do change. And that’s what I’m holding onto.
Call no chain strong, which holds one rusted link. Call no land free, that holds one fettered slave.
Read the poem.