William Butler Yeats has been quoted with some regularity, first, the phrase, “the center cannot hold,” and, second, how “the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”
But few know what to do with the poem’s 2nd stanza, where a man with a lion’s body, a sphinx, a beast, “slouches toward Bethlehem to be born,” vivid imagery, of a monstrous second coming.
Indeed, the title of Yeats’ poem is the 2nd Coming. It’s a blasphemous reference, it’s not the 2nd coming of a savior, not the return of Jesus, but a “nightmare from a rocking cradle,” a quite unholy birth, presaging cruelty, pain, suffering and death.
Yeats wrote this poem in 1919 when he was immersed in hurtful memories of the slaughters, from the war to end wars, of the Irish nationalists who had been executed, and of the Russian revolution.
Years later, Yeats told a friend that history proved the poem foretold the beasts that slouched onto the world stage, the Nazis and Fascists that brought Europe to its knees.
Yeats, commenting on his poem and the gyres, the turns of history, prompted this statement, “My horror at the cruelty of government grows greater.”
Borrowing from Jimmy J, from Joyce, Americans today are living a nightmare from which they cannot awake.
We are observing the collapse of systems we presumed would sustain law and order.
It’s the falcon flying so high that the falconer has lost contact.
We have suffered a rupture in society that anticipates we shall have to transform ourselves and society to go forward.
Some are in denial. Despite pictures of the dead and dying, men especially puff up their chest and say, the equivalent of, “hold my beer,” to play virus roulette with their health.
Yeats identified the tipping point, the Spiritus Mundi, the World Soul, its vital spirit, that gave birth to the beast. In our time, the mindset is, it won’t get me, not me, this is just like what’s gone before and that was nothing, so they say, so they believe. Our national “spiritus” mimics the nonchalant decision-making that failed to take the Spanish flu seriously.
Our Beast roams America where we have a virus that, as I write this. has infected, 1,651,937 persons, and killed 97,847 Americans. That’s more than double the deaths when I wrote a column in this space last month.
Still, some think it’s a hoax.
Many Americans have been infected and died from this virus because we have a leader, speaking loosely, Donald Trump, who knew and concealed the danger of the virus when he was telling Americans it was like the common flu, and not to be concerned.
Among the only ways to combat this virus are social distancing, staying at home, wearing masks, taking care where one touches, cleaning hands repeatedly, testing for the virus, tracing, and ultimately, way down the line, resorting to vaccines when they are finally proven effective, a year from now.
Trump refuses to wear a mask and flaunts this failure as if he were a king who need not take such precautions.
Despite all the advantages of some protection against the virus, the White House has fallen prey, to a disregard for its own virus guidelines.
As the numbers of victims and deaths increase, Trump has insisted that the states re-open for business across the nation. The infectious disease prescription for distancing was to deny targets to the virus, and thus to close the pathogen’s wound. Trump has willed to open that still bleeding wound.
We squander the gains we made against the virus by those who stayed home.
Trump has insisted all Churches open – he’s missed so many services himself – surely that’s his concern.
While most religious services practice respect for the virus, and for science, the Just Us Department, headed by AG Barr, supported litigation by a Virginia church against a Governor’s order banning gatherings of more than 10 persons.
The federal court denied the request for an injunction.
The preamble to our Constitution provides for a union that will “promote the general welfare.”
Trump is, however, unconcerned about promoting the general welfare.
Trump’s not so hidden agenda is how he may get re-elected.
How does a self-described pro-lifer, Trump, prefer the illness and death of those men and women he pushes to work at the risk of illness and death?
It’s all about the bottom line – if business is open, no matter the risk, he has a chance at re-election. That’s his electoral game plan. Grin and bear it.
The delay in getting those workers who can’t telecommute the federal funds to subsist, authorized by congress, forces upon them a Hobson’s choice, either: (1) to work to be paid at the risk of losing their health or life, or (2) to stay home, where they lack the means to subsist.
The standard of a civilization is how we treat our own.
By that standard, we have work to do.
It’s really up to us, to use our common sense, to take care that workers don’t have to risk their lives.
As for Trump, that’s what November is for.