A long time ago (‘and in a galaxy far far away’?), the American poet Emily Dickinson wrote:
His Cheek is his Biographer –
As long as he can blush
Perdition is Opprobrium –
Past that, he sins in peace –
Not sure just how she managed, but she did — in just three words — describe perfectly the essentially shriveled soul that has in recent years emerged as the defining feature of the Republican Party, an infirmity invariably pressed ever ‘forward’ by the GOP’s crackpot Tea Party fringe. The premise has at its heart a single goal: to mandate whatever is necessary to guarantee that the rich and the powerful have at their disposal the means to become ever more wealthy, ever more powerful, and that in order to make certain the devastation of everyone else is permanent and irreversible, they are prepared to let nothing stand in the way of their obscene goal. In poetic language, the words “Perdition is Opprobrium” (Spiritual Ruin is the consequence of Outrageously Shameful Conduct) perfectly define that which has become our national malaise.
Such a thesis is certainly not new nor fresh; more likely it’s about as old as is the human presence upon the earth. Still, one can only wonder at what price comes social progress? More than eighty years ago, newly-elected president Franklin Roosevelt inherited a devastated economy, one that had fallen into the dregs of a Great Depression that was brought forth mainly by greed, by the quest for wealth, by the craving for social prominence of a relatively minuscule segment of American society. Roosevelt grappled with massive unemployment, homelessness, poverty, starvation — all the things the American Founders dreamed of alleviating once and for all — and by his actions he brought the nation back from the brink of third world status. And in Roosevelt’s shadow the progress toward social equality and justice continued for another several decades, until . . . until from the ‘bowels’ of perdition and opprobrium the witless conservative ‘movement’ finally gained a foothold. Enter Ronald Reagan and the gradual evolution (read: descent) to the dismal poverty which today has come to define us as a nation . . . poverty implicitly extended and expanded by Republican efforts to defund and/or eliminate programs such as Head Start, Food Stamps, long term Unemployment insurance, disability, even Veteran’s benefits — along with each and every other program designed specifically to help people, to maintain social balance, even to educate the next generations.
Poverty is commonly defined as “the state or condition of having little or no money, goods, or means of support; condition of being poor. Synonyms: privation, neediness, destitution, indigence, pauperism, penury.” But in today’s America, that rather ‘penurious’ definition leaves out a sizeable increment of the poverty-stricken, i.e. those for whom wealth and power mean everything, where the suffering of others is not even worth noting. In fact, the intellectual poverty of the monied and powerful is every bit as disabling to the national well-being as are the mirror-imaged homeless, starving, moneyless, sickly and dying masses.
So, therein lies the reality. Poverty does NOT refer simply to those who have “little or no money, goods, or means of support.” There is, too, that potentially far more dangerous and destructive intellectual poverty that clearly infects the vast majority of the nation’s upper crust, its rich and powerful, together with . . . sadly . . . a major chunk of its governing politic.
Curiously, however, we are (quite obviously) a long way from being the first Americans to ever have seen or experienced such ungracious invective as one today regularly witnesses emanating from the mouths and pens of our elected officials. And as the following will magically demonstrate, I’m far from the first to prefer MY level of ‘defined’ poverty to THEIR level of ‘intellectual’ poverty, aka the poverty of slothful soul. Many thanks once again to Miss Emily Dickinson who penned this little masterpiece of insight and understanding more than 150 years ago. It took her only five lines and 39 words to sum up the entire of today’s intellectual poverty — the poverty of soul that quite literally has come to DEFINE a major national politic AND the poverty-stricken rich and powerful who are served by that very same politic. That. Poverty. Of. Soul.
Take all away from me, but leave me Ecstasy,
And I am richer then than all my Fellow Men –
Ill it becometh me to dwell so wealthily
When at my very Door are those possessing more,
In abject poverty –
One can only wonder just how a reclusive poet in the 1860′s managed to so eloquently describe the “abject poverty” implicit in and defining of such early 21st century luminaries as, say, the Koch Brothers, Dick Cheney, Chris Christie, John Boehner, Rush Limbaugh, Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Steve King, Darrell Issa, . . . well, you know, the list is absolutely endless!
Pardon me as I pause to bow in the general direction of the obvious and perceptive genius, the coolest of the cool; the one known to us as Miss. Emily. Dickinson!