We talked about Hell a few days ago during Sunday School and for some reason during that discussion, the upcoming veto session of the Missouri Legislature came to mind. We decided to ask a special correspondent with expertise on the subject to offer a perspective on the issues the lawmakers will consider when they begin their session next month.
We have summoned the spirit of a 13th-14th century poet who died about 170 years before Columbus discovered something in the water between Portugal and China–the North and South American continents. Our poet spoke Italian in his own time. But in the 692 years since his death he appears to have determined that eternity needed something more than harp playing and singing hosannas. So he started studying modern English and in what passes for a situation comedy in the afterlife, watching the machinations of Missouri politicians.
La Comedia di Missouri Assemblea Generale
by Dante Alighieri, il Sammo Poeta
Inviato speciale del Missourinet
In the middle of the journey of our life I came to myself within a dark wood where the straight way was lost. It was Maundy Thursday in the year 1300 by the calendar we used then as I described in the poem you call “The Divine Comedy” my inability to find salvation and my fears that I might fall into a deep and dark place. And indeed, I found myself there, led by a fellow poet who revealed to me the nine depths of Hell and the behaviors that casts mankind into that place.
Pray listen, O Reader, to the story of those souls of the Assemblea Generale who for reasons of cowardice or gain might seem to have lost the straight way in the deep dark wood of your politics and face the chance they shall fall into that deep and dark place that brings not honor to their service to mankind.
They shall consider whether a large tax bill written without poetry or apparently even the thought of literary exactitude should be enacted despite the obvious significant flaws that a more perceptive writer has explained to them. It is because influential entities of your time, financed by one with much wealth who wishes not to pay tribute to the government for any of it, seek immediate gain at the expense of the less powerful. There, pride, avarice, and envy are the tongues men know and heed as they demand the flawed works of their colleagues be set in place tho unfairness and harm might be settled upon the less fortunate and the elderly. They weep not as a stone within them grows.
Others would speak of their own lack of courage as they consider enacting that which is clearly in violation of the sacred Constutiton to which they have sworn an oath of fealty and of which they often construe in manners befitting their purpose. But it is fear, not courage, that defines their mortal existence including one who admits the issue is “completely unconstitutional” but who pledges to support it nonetheless because “it is not worth the fight for me to vote against it.”
Or another who fears that as a “rural-area Democrat,” he shall be punished for failing to “vote for any gun bill” regardless of the violence that his vote shall perform to the oath of fealty he has taken to the same sacred charter he had promised to uphold.
Oh blind, Oh ignorant, self-seeking cupidity. Consider your origin. You were not formed to live like brutes but to follow virtue and knowledge.
As I wrote in my original poem that you know as “Dante’s Inferno,” the voyage across the River Styx comes only after the oarsman is told, “So it is wanted there where the power lies.” And where, in your Assemblea Generale does the power lie today? It appears not to lie within your chambers and within your intellect. And to where does that power wish to transport you?
To the nine rings of Hell, the outer ring of which is that place of Limbo, the place of virtuous pagans, the least painful of the circles? Or to the second circle that is reserved for those overcome by lust, for letting your appetites overrule their reason, where they are blown back and forth by the winds of great storms and of large donors? Perhaps it is the third circle where the gluttonous cannot see or heed their neighbors or the fourth circle where the avaricious and the miserly who alternately hoard and who squander resources among the favord also see not beyond their own appetites.
Perhaps the fifth circle where those who cause misery by their anger directed at others are left in a “black sulkiness which can find no joy in God or man or the universe.”
The sixth circle, reserved for heretics, might seem the place for those who pledge fealty to a sacred document but fear to stand by their pledge and are willing to “let the courts work it out.”
And the seventh? Ah, here, we see three sub-rings, one for those who commit violence against people and property. A second is for profligates who are mauled by fierce dogs because they have destroyed lives by destroying the means by which life is sustained, perhaps with a large increase in taxes on the potions and poultices the ill must have. And the final ring within the seventh circle shall be the residing place of, among others, userers whose eyes see only their own purses and who do not see beyond them.
The eighth circle likewise has rings within it, ten in all, wherein shall be found those who populate the hallways of the Assemblea Generale, for they are the panderers and seducers, the flatterers, those who commit simony (who pay to receive sacraments and often hide their payments by passing them through committees or non-profit groups that need not announce their presence and their wealth to the broader race of people), the false prophets who warm of great wealth or great disaster if their wishes are not favorably granted. Surely the members of the Assemblia should give heed their possible fates in the ninth ring, for this is the place for the corrupt politicians who are immersed in a lake of boiling pitch. Hypocrites are in the sixth ring, thieves in the seventh, fraudulent advisors and evil counselors populate the eighth. The ninth circle is for the sowers of discord whose bodies are divided by demons as they have demonized and divided others.
And the tenth ring within the eighth circle shall be saved for the falsifiers, the counterfeiters, imposters, and perjurers who give false and evil advice.
My journey took me to the ninth and the final circle which is set aside for those who live in treachery and who are traitors to their kindred, to their cities and countries.
I have shown through my poem the fate that could await those who place courage behind personal interest, who bow to those who see only their own pocketbooks, who seek only division and anger, who persecute the powerless, and who are blown about by the winds of the influential while endangering the welfare of the broader mass that relies on them for wisdom.
O human race,born to fly upward, wherefore at a little wind dost thou so fail?
Heaven wheels above you, displaying to you her eternal glories, and still your eyes are on the ground.