Archive | June 12, 2009

The worst are full of passionate intensity

THE SECOND COMING

    Turning and turning in the widening gyre 
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer; 
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; 
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, 
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere 
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned; 
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst 
    Are full of passionate intensity.

    Surely some revelation is at hand; 
    Surely the Second Coming is at hand. 
    The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out 
    When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi 
    Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand; 
    A shape with lion body and the head of a man, 
    A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun, 
    Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it 
    Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds. 
    The darkness drops again but now I know 
    That twenty centuries of stony sleep 
    Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle, 
    And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, 
    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

~ William Butler Yeats, 1919

 

Yeats wrote “The Second Coming” in the aftermath of the first World War (and the Russian Revolution), but it’s hard not to think of the events of the past two weeks — the murder of Dr. Tiller, the shooting at the Holocaust Memorial Museum — when one reads his words.  Violence, specifically hate violence, meant not just to injure or murder one person but to frighten — or to be more precise, to terrorize — a whole group of people into submission, has dominated the news.

The phrase “domestic terrorism” is now on peoples’ lips in a way it hasn’t since the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.  Which is to say: we’re talking about American citizens, terrorizing Americans.  And there’s no debate over who is pulling the trigger: people in the extreme right-wing.   (The Department of Homeland Security’s April report on Rightwing Extremism was pulled in May following hue and cry over it by conservatives. People for the American Way is now calling for its re-release, in light of recent events.)

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