Here’s hoping those who read this recognize and celebrate all there is for which to be thankful this weekend – and every day. Gratitude being among the most holy of our human attributes, it grants perspective in the most adverse situations and humbles those firmly established on the glide path. The trick is to exhibit thankfulness in both circumstances.
Regardless, I’ll see the quote from Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” in last Saturday’s fish wrap, and boost the ante with the same songwriter’s “Democracy,” going all-in by repeating H.L. Mencken’s definition of the term however much it’s been tossed about like cheap confetti mined from the sewers beneath Times Square: “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.”
Speaking of NYC and the recent resurgence of off-the-charts crime and all-around decadence, I predict any day now the Disney folk will remake Martin Scorsese’s 1976 “Taxi Driver,” replacing Bernard Hermann’s original score with songs by Elton John and Bernie Taupin, including a rewritten “Ticking” from the “Caribou” album. In this update, Travis Bickle, now played by Michael Cera, is a disgraced former governor who goes full PTSD over pimps refusing to wear masks while forcing Catholic school boys to parade around in MAGA caps.
The deployment of “democracy” as a campaign slogan ignores events of the past four years when the sick were warehoused in nursing facilities where they infected otherwise healthy individuals, the rest of us were told we could buy paint but not gardening supplies, and family owned restaurants as well as barber and beauty shop proprietors prosecuted for attempting to stave off penury, not to mention all the diktats issued antithetical to the definition of what the Greeks’ intended when coining the word. At the same time, our blue-blooded bureaucratic betters ignored their own rules because the vaunted term “democracy” rolling so trippingly from everybody’s tongue – when decoded properly – signifies a desired one-party rule by those for whom intolerance and hypocrisy are features rather than unfortunate offshoots of the COVID bug.
All this around the centenary of T.S. Eliot’s initial publication of “The Waste Land.” One hundred years ago, the American émigré fretted the spiritual undergirding of our civilization’s canoe had become waterlogged and rotted. Replacing God increasingly was political power and cultural depravity. “Eliot is not ‘disilluisoned’ … or despairing, though gloomy enough,” Russell Kirk wrote in his most perceptive (in my humble opinion) work, “Eliot and His Age.” One wonders whether present circumstances would succeed in driving the poet to the depths of denying God’s infinite grace.
Kirk nails our present dilemma when he writes of Eliot’s poem: “For just that is the Waste Land: the realm of beings who think themselves quick, but who exist only in a condition sub-human and sub-natural, prisoners in Plato’s cave.”
Kirk’s interpretation of “The Waste Land” holds even more true today, amplified to level 11 by those who increasingly think it clever to regurgitate the media’s shadows as a literal depiction of reality while ignoring the fact our country is first and foremost a constitutional republic.
Coincidentally, in his song “Democracy,” Leonard Cohen wrote and sang: “I’m sentimental, if you know what I mean/I love the country, but I can’t stand the scene/And I’m neither left nor right/I’m just staying home tonight/Getting lost in that hopeless little screen.”
What has blossomed in the past 100 years resembles the rampaging foliage of H.P. Lovecraft’s 1927 “Color out of Space,” a fitting metaphor for the toxic carpeting of the national consciousness, described in 1987 by the conveniently named Allan Bloom in his “The Closing of the American Mind” as intellectual sloth and liberal conformity.
The pollen is ignorant bumper-sticker platitudes and the fruit compliant pod people erroneously hornswoggled into believing themselves inherently superior.
Bruce Edward Walker ([email protected]) is a Morning Sun columnist.