Friday, January 1, 2010

#189 Biggest Shock of 2009--Graft in Congress

Call it corruption, fraud, and abuse of office; or call it more specifically bribery, barratry, and simony; and also call me naive. Until this year, The BlogMan was simply unaware of the ENORMITY (in all senses) of the problem. The sad facts point to a larcenous gang of grafters and grifters in Congress taking money and making money-tainted laws. Or taking the money for NOT making laws--so much of that went on this last year--all of which profoundly threatens our democratic system of government (DM #133).The righteous amongst them, no matter the party, just can't get anything of good consequence done. The GREED that abounds is astounding.

Nothing new, of course. Back in the 14C, the etching above represents how Dante Alighieri would have dealt with corrupt politicians if he could get hold of them in the afterlife. (Or if he could in real life--his Divina Commedia wouldn't have been written if corrupt Florentine officials hadn't driven the aspiring statesman into exile.) He would give 'em a good ol' tar-and-feathering. Well, tar. That's a lake of black pitch you see above, where Dante condemns the miscreants to eternal punishment beneath the surface. Dante's got a big hate on here. One of them tries to escape, but doesn't get far. He puts these Barrators (civil graft) in Hell's 8th and next-to-deepest circle, FRAUD, along with the Simoniacs (ecclesiastical graft), and the False Counselors--all church and state officials, with differing but symbolically appropriate punishments, who suborn their positions of authority for money or power or both.

When I taught selections from the Inferno in World Lit, I made sure the students realized that the poet's various after-life punishments are allegorically tied to the sinner's crimes in earthly life. And that really they were already being punished in the here and now, conscience-wise. What better metaphor for GRAFT than black tar or pitch? The color is appropriate: political corruption is a dark and secret crime, carried on undercover in the shadows behind the scenes. And its sticky. It smudges and smears willy-nilly all involved with a blackish stain that is not easily wiped clean. And once waded into, that lake of pitch sucks you in and down forever. There's no escape. Just ask the fossils in the La Brea tar pits. Or Br'er Rabbit.

So who in Congress bears that ineradicable, pitch-black stain of GRAFT ... of corruption and fraud? Whose votes for cash threaten our democratic system? Who should be tarred and feathered and run outta town? Alas, too many. (more)

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