These wretched ones, who never were alive…

Even in the face of the great evil that stalks the world today I think most people are quite content with the way things are.

They never get really upset about anything, they always pay their taxes, even when taxes go higher, they always do what they’re told to do, they never break the law, they put up with losing all of their rights, they’ve never read the US Constitution, they remove their shoes at the airport, they stop for sobriety checkpoints, they believe 19 Muslims did 9/11, they think Iran is a threat, they think Israel is our friend, they believe whatever the media and the government tells them, they continue to vote, expecting real change, they watch television sitcoms, they believe the television news, they take ever lower wages, they are happy with extended unemployment compensation, they don’t care about shipping US jobs overseas, they buy slave-labor Made in China products at Wal-Mart, they buy sweat-shop products made by people who earn a dollar a day, they work for the military making war supplies, they drink beer, they go to Lowes every Saturday, they mow their lawns, they go to church on Sunday, but they never take Jesus or the Bible too seriously, they go to work Monday through Friday, they rake the leaves, they clean their gutters, they watch reality shows, they watch football, they never rock the boat, etc . . . and they may as well be dead, because they’ve never really lived.

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” ~ Edmund Burke

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“I agree with Dante, that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in a period of moral crisis, maintain their neutrality” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

“He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

“So then because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.” ~ Jesus Christ

Like Dr. King, one of President Kennedy’s favorite quotations was based upon an interpretation of Dante’s Inferno. Robert Kennedy explained this, not long after his brothers death (November 1963), in 1964: “President Kennedy’s favorite quote was really from Dante, ‘The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in time of moral crisis preserve their neutrality.'” This quote, from Dante, is, however, not actually in Dante’s work, but is based upon something very similar.

In the Dante’s Inferno, Dante and his guide Virgil, on their way to Hell, pass by a group of dead souls outside the entrance to Hell. These people, when alive, remained neutral during a time of great moral decision. Virgil explains to Dante that these souls cannot enter either Heaven or Hell because they had chosen to do neither good nor evil; therefore they are worse even than the greatest sinners in Hell. These souls are repugnant both to God and Satan alike; having been left to mourn their fate as insignificant beings, neither hailed in life nor cursed in death. They endlessly travail . . . somewhere below Heaven, yet somewhere outside of Hell. The following scene, below, occurs in Dante’s third canto of the his Inferno:

Here sighs and lamentations and loud cries

were echoing across the starless air, 

so that, as soon as I [Dante] set out, I wept. 


Strange utterances, horrible pronouncements, 

accents of anger, words of suffering, 

and voice shrill and faints, and beating hands – 


All went to make a tumult that will whirl 

forever through that turbid, timeless air, 

like sand that eddies when a whirlwind swirls. 


And I – my head oppressed by horror – said: 

“Master [Virgil], what is it that I hear? Who are 

those people so defeated by their pain?” 


And he to me: “This miserable way 

is taken by the sorry souls of those 

who lived without disgrace and without praise. 


They now commingle with the coward angels, 

the company of those who were not rebels 

nor faithful to their God, but stood apart. 


The heavens, that their beauty not be lessened, 

have cast them out, nor will deep Hell receive them – 

even the wicked cannot glory in them.” 


And I: “What is it, master, that oppresses 

these souls, compelling them to wail so loud?” 


He answered: “I shall tell you in few words. 

Those who are here can place no hope in death, 

and their blind life is so abject that they 

are envious of every other fate. 


The world will let no fame of theirs endure; 

both justice and compassion must disdain them; 

let us not talk of them, but look and pass.” 


And I, looking more closely, saw a banner 

that, as it wheeled about, raced on – so quick 

that any respite seemed unsuited to it. 


Behind that banner trailed so long a file 

of people – I should never have believed 

that death could have unmade so many souls. 


After I had identified a few, 

I saw and recognized the shade of him 

who made, through cowardice, the great refusal. 


At once I understood with certainty: 

this company contained the cowardly, 

hateful to God and to His enemies. 


These wretched ones, who never were alive, 

went naked and were stung again, again 

by horseflies and by wasps that circled them. 


The insects streaked their faces with their blood, 

which, mingled with their tears, fell at their feet, 

where it was gathered up by sickening worms.

About ajmacdonaldjr

writer, author, blogger
This entry was posted in Activism, Government, history, Literary Theory, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Theology and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to These wretched ones, who never were alive…

  1. John Friend says:

    Excellent post, I completely agree with your sentiment. And excellent quotes. I may borrow a few of them!

    “These wretched ones, who never were alive…”

    Couldn’t agree more man. I’ve had numerous e-mail exchanges with friends about the subjects we’re familiar with, and absolutely nothing from them. Nothing of substance. Absolutely pathetic. There are very few willing to publicly take a stand and try to make some moves to right this ship. Actually, we need an entire new ship if you ask me. We’ll get there my man, I know we will. Keep up the good work!

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