Before I get into that, let me say, we need a working sense of what “rotten” means. A good friend who wishes to stay anonymous wrote this to me recently in an email: “The fiction that there are two sides to every story and that both sides deserve to be aired gets exhausting, doesn’t it? It only works (as democracy only works) when there is no major, organized force for evil at work. ‘I don’t agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it’ would not have done much good in Germany in the 1930’s. It is a dangerous game now, too.” And a highly romantic posture, now.
Let’s get into it by noting that the quoted mantra too often declaimed in pretense of balanced objectivity is pure sham, a fallacy foisted by and about media opinion-mongering that supposedly equates two opponents or viewpoints as somehow equal in merit, weight or validity. Most of the time, this is balderdash. “Equal Air Time,” or “Equal Page Space” for contentions blatantly unequal morally or rationally, offers a favoring service to the least meritorious of any two opposed positions or arguments. “Let us not to the marriage of true Virtue and Chicanery admit impediment!” Thus would argue those who support such false equality. Dishonest sophistries and persuasions of good sense may have equal billing only if the side of good sense is represented by someone skillfull enough to unmask the dishonesty of the ‘sophist.’
It does not “demonize” a debater to reveal the illegitimate means he employs. It simply exposes the evil he represents. The poet, John Milton, offers examples in his long work, “Paradise Lost.” Satan and his minions are aggrieved over magnified slights to their egoes and a sense of God’s injustice toward them. So self-absorbed have they become, and so alienated from the order of love, that they break the bonds of obedience and rebel against absolute power. Thus they are cast out of Heaven and fall traumatically down into Hell which did not exist till they arrived and made it their home. One does not need to believe in the sublime fiction to grasp the implications for humane order and psychological wholeness. Yet, even here, conservatives will differ from liberals in their perception and understanding of paradise and citizenship.
What, then, is rottenness? And what are the degrees of rottenness? Newton’s apple was so ripe it fell off the tree, gaining the attention of a prepared genius. Maybe, like Adam, Newton ate the apple, while he considered the physics of falling objects. Maybe it fell to ground and stayed, first having been bruised on impact. Rot did not happen all at once. It spread from the bruise over a few days depending on the temperature and exposure to solar heat. Rot consists of the encroaching spoilage and death of cells in the apple’s flesh until the whole apple turns unfit to eat except by worm and beetle.
Key to our understanding, then, is — within the apple’s population of healthy cells, a difference arises between healthy and unhealthy cells, next between living and dead cells, in a process of change ending with decay and dissolution into the soil. The apple can be seen as metaphoric of many things. Its change from life to death begins with separation from the tree, just as in Milton, Satan splits from the fount of life and turns with his followers into “the Dead Hands of the Past.” They have fallen from Presence and true mindfulness into self-fantasy frought with horrid deprivation and the grief of depravity in which can be no saving grace. All it would have taken would have been a reversal of attitude, a rejection of egotism for greater awareness, and they need never have left paradise.
Now, when we shift from apple to society, and the society is not a macintosh but a democracy? Both democracy and representation are fixed for us in The Constitution. Did democracy go rotten? Or was it society? Can we distinguish such things around us as healthy viability in people versus dead hands of a past? A past which never really existed outide of contemporary dreamlands? Can we not discern the rottenness of much representation? Representations so corrupted that they amount to fraud? I won’t tell you. I just ask! Because, in our hearts, we all know very astutely everything we need, and precisely the things this country needs. It is time to quit temporizing with shams, big and little. Sham leads only to shame. Are we healthy enough to shed the dead hands? Or are we about to decay into the landscape — of “business at its worst?”