Is Our Moment Of Greatness Flickering? Is The Eternal Footman Snickering? Is Liquor Quicker Than Candy?

Ed Raymond

There are two poems I admire among many others because they get to the heart of a subject quickly, though by different routes. In Ogden Nash’s epic “Reflections On Ice-Breaking,” he sums up humanity quickly: “Candy is dandy but liquor is quicker.” That’s it. That’s all there is. But doesn’t that sum up our society in a one-ounce shot glass? Don’t most of us use booze to make us “looze”? We often say, “How about a drink?” instead of “How about a Hershey bar?”
   My favorite poem is T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock.” It is much longer, more complicated, and requires some experience in life to interpret, but at bottom is just as meaningful and cynical as Nash’s. J. Alfred roams his bipolar world with apprehension, bundles of inferiority, and depressive paranoia. He thinks of himself, “I should have been a pair of ragged claws scuttling across the floors of silent seas.” Is there a more depressing line in life? Comparing yourself to a lobster or hermit crab without a complex central nervous system? In another he says, “I grow old... I grow old... I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.” As we grow old we shrink. I’m about one inch shorter than I was at 20 and throwing blocks for running backs. Prufrock has shrunk so much he must roll up his old trousers. His confidence as a human has shrunk also. Prufrock also sums up his life in these revealing lines:
“But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter, I am no prophet—and here’s no great matter; I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker.
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat and snicker.
And in short, I was afraid.”  
   Remembering what happened to John the Baptist helps to understand what Prufrock is getting at.

An Occasion
For Inebriation
And Self-Analysis

   Political pundit George Will of Sunday talk show fame must have been boozing it up good, proving that liquor is quicker, when he came up with the idea that the game of football “was a devious manifestation of political progressivism.” George, complete in his persona dressed in bow tie and huge glasses, likes to use big words to show his Republican superiority in columns and debates. Translation of his unusual rant: Football is a communist-pinko, socialist game that teaches leftist share-the-wealth rules. He put it this way: “Football taught [sic—teaches] the progressive [means liberal!] virtue of subordinating the individual to the collectivity [socialistic] inevitably.” After all, Will wrote, Democratic president Woodrow Wilson was student manager of the Princeton University football team while attending that great football power! My advice: George should quit “ice-breaking” with 100-proof stuff. It proves out Nash: too much booze, you looze.

   And then we have Roman Catholic bishop Thomas Paprocki of Illinois putting himself into Eliot’s “scuttling ragged claws” category by insisting in a video sent to his sheep that if they vote for a Democratic pro-choice, same-sex marriage supporter, they will get their fleece burned in Hell. His rant: “A vote for a candidate who promotes actions or behaviors that are intrinsically evil and gravely sinful makes you morally complicit and places the eternal salvation of your own soul in serious jeopardy.” In other words, the “snickering eternal Footman” will check your coat (no need for coats in Hell) and Lucifer will send you immediately to the grill. There are quite a few other Catholic bishops trying to lead their sheep to the Inquisition stakes holding gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgenders waiting to be burned. So far many Catholics are telling the bishops to take a long walk in “silent seas.”

The Former Governor
Of New Hampshire Is Too
Close To The Lobster Beds

   When John Sununu suggested the other night that black Colin Powell endorsed black Barack Obama only because he is black, it proved conclusively that Mitt Romney’s main New England spokesman had been taking his very ragged claws on too many trips across the floors of silent seas. Evidently he has acquired only a rudimentary central nervous system while governing a state not even close to crab and lobster beds. I wonder why Sununu is backing Mitt Romney. Is it only because Mitt is white?
   A recent Associated Press poll indicates that racism is alive and kicking in the U.S., with 51 percent expressing anti-black attitudes. The Southern Tea Party/Ku Klux Klan crowd represents a significant portion of our population. Maybe Sununu has fallen under the New England Tea Parties who possess some of the same attitudes.
   It’s not the first time Sununu has spoken from the ocean floor. Last summer he wanted Obama to learn to be an American. I guess John thought that would be too difficult for a lazy (Yes, he called Obama lazy and disengaged!), lyin’ African born in Kenya without a birth certificate.

When Rape Becomes
A Gift From God

   I don’t know whether these two representatives of the Republican Party chug-a-lug drinks or scuttle across sea bottoms a lot. They seem to be under the influence of one or the other. Steve Sack of the Star Tribune is one of my favorite cartoonists. He separates the crap from the buckwheat quickly. In one of his latest, he has an elephant/Republican on the phone working the “GOP Rape Crisis Hotline.” His response to a question: “Was it a ‘legitimate’ rape or a ‘gift-from-God’ rape?”
   In the middle of the Dark Ages when popes and priests married and had litters, people believed that female orgasms were necessary for conception. The “egg” had to be brought down by a sexual fluid to where it could be fertilized. Menstruation was only used to purge the eggs from the body. Medieval lore said that if menstruation was late, it was permissible to masturbate to relieve complications caused by the accumulation of eggs. Got that? Inquiring minds wanted to know. Therefore, if sex was not enjoyed by the female and no orgasm resulted, conception could not take place.
   This is the “science” behind Republican representative Todd Akin’s remark about “legitimate” or “illegitimate” rape. He believes that if a rape victim becomes pregnant from the rape, then the victim enjoyed the rape, demonstrated by the orgasm, thus allowing the egg to descend to lusty pastures. Such an action would label the rape victim as a slut, a harlot, or even a prostitute. Akin’s father evidently did not give a well-informed “birds and bees” lecture to Todd, or the misinformed Todd missed the lecture in his biology class. As a member of the House Committee on Science, Akin evidently believed in the Bible instead of in Masters and Johnson scientific sex research. Akin is at least 700 years behind the times. Well, it took the Vatican 400 years to discover Galileo was right about the earth circling the sun, so I suppose it could take Protestants more than 700 years to understand the mysteries of “legitimate” or “illegitimate” sex.

The “God Permits
Rape” Guy

   There was also a mixture of theology, religion, and Biblical tales in the pronouncements of Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock when he said a rape-induced pregnancy may be something that “God intended to happen.” Some evangelicals believe that God must have a gigantic Rolodex in the sky where he keeps track of each individual on earth. The “Swiss Martin Luther” John Calvin preached that his 16th-century God was a complete hands-on type, taking care of all those little day-to-day events when prayers were heard.
   So, according to Murdock, when a woman was raped, God intended that and approved.  Such beliefs are called the Doctrine of Providence. Believers assert that life begins at conception and that the woman has no right to take that life. In other words, that life within her is not hers. Whether conceived in an act of rape, an act of connubial love, incest, or rage, a woman who aborts her fetus is a murderer and must be punished.
   Medical researchers have indicated that about 20 percent of pregnancies end up as miscarriages. Do evangelicals scour hospital reports to see if the mother should be charged with murder upon the death of a fetus? Do they consider that some miscarriages are caused by “medical malfunctions”? If every fetus is examined by God (“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you”), isn’t that fetus born “perfect?” Why are babies born with four legs and two heads? With organs outside the body? With no brain?
   Evangelical ministers and professors of religion say that if the Doctrine of Providence is amended or changed, “It is a slippery slope to atheism. It calls into question whether there really is a God who controls all things.” Religion professor Peter Thuesen of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis in his book “Predestination: The American Career of a Contentious Doctrine” states that evangelicals emphasize God’s all-caring sovereignty. Thuesen says in Mourdock’s case that “politicians are terrible theologians.” I could add that some theologians make terrible theologians.

Whatever Happened
To Free Will?

  This is something for Roman Catholic bishops to think about. France, the home of St. Joan of Arc and the healing waters of Lourdes and Saint Bernadette, is about to approve a bill in its parliament that will have its national insurance plan fully pay for all abortions, and for all contraceptives used by minors. Another interesting note: Catholic Ireland now has an abortion clinic in downtown Belfast.
   I found this rather unusual statement about free will in a website called Catholic Online: “Man has free will, a gift from God, and the freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one’s own responsibility. By free will one shapes his own life. Human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; it attains perfection when directed toward God, our ‘beatitude.’... Man’s will is simply the faculty of choice, and thus the correct use of freedom.”

A Win For Culture Lovers

   I believe there is a race between education and disaster, and we are only at the halfway point. Culture and education won one the other day when the New York Supreme Court decided that lap dances are taxable because they don’t promote culture. But it was close on a 4-3 vote! The slim majority said that lap dancing does not promote culture like ballet “or other artistic endeavors do.” The three dissenters couldn’t make up their minds whether state law adequately made the distinction between “low-brow” and “high-brow” dances, therefore creating “significant constitutional problems.”
   The case was brought by Nite Moves of Albany, New York, which argued that fees for admission to a strip club and fees for lap dancing should be exempt from sales taxes.
I would think the judges would have had an easier time making a decision if they could have observed the Adagio, the en arrière, and the ballon of the lap dance. I’m sure that these ballet moves and many others are used during it. They all refer to bouncing, sliding, leaping, lifting one leg or the other, and the glissade. Now that’s really sexy.
   J. Alfred reaches a point in his life when he thinks, “Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach? I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach. I have heard the mermaids singing each to each. I do not think they will sing to me.”
  Is there a more depressing line in all literature? Signs indicate that “culture” is slowly losing the race.