Frank Bruni, “From Trump, No Respect for Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or the Rules”

Photo by Gage Skidmore (Wikimedia Commons)

“‘The only way we’re going to lose this election is if the election is rigged,’ Trump told supporters at a rally in Wisconsin last month. He has repeatedly made versions of that claim, at one point exhorting North Carolinians to monitor polling sites and ‘watch all the thieving and stealing and robbing’ by Democrats, who will work to lift Biden to victory by ‘doing very bad things.’

“And it’s a perfect example of Trump’s tendency to assign his own motives and methods to others. He worries that they’ll cheat because he has always cheated — on his taxes, on his wives, in his business dealings, in his philanthropy. He imagines them cheating because he actually is cheating.

[. . .]

“But Trump’s cheating is its own virus, infecting everyone around him. Trump’s cheating is its own ecosystem. Abandon all scruple, ye who enter here.”   — Frank Bruni, “From Trump, No Respect for Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or the Rules,” New York Times (September 19, 2020)

Contributed by Dan Christian

“Dante, Trump and the moral cowardice of the G.O.P.”

“One of John F. Kennedy’s favorite quotes was something he thought came from Dante: ‘The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in time of moral crisis preserve their neutrality.’

“As it turns out, the quote is apocryphal. But what Dante did write was far better, and it came vividly to mind last week as Republicans failed to take a stand after President Trump’s racist tweets and chants of ‘Send her back,’ directed at Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who immigrated here from Somalia, at a Trump rally in North Carolina.

“In Dante’s Inferno, the moral cowards are not granted admission to Hell; they are consigned to the vestibule, where they are doomed to follow a rushing banner that is blown about by the wind. When Dante asks his guide, Virgil, who they are, he explains:

‘This miserable way is taken by 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.’

“They are destined to be forgotten. ‘The world will let no fame of theirs endure,’ Virgil explains. ‘Let us not talk of them, but look and pass.’ Dante describes the vast horde who chase after the elusive banner that ‘raced on so quick that any respite seemed unsuited to it.’ Behind the banner, he writes, ‘trailed so long a file/ of people—I should never have believed/ that death could have unmade so many souls.’

“And to those ranks we can now add all the politicians, pundits and camp followers who refused to take a stand when they were confronted with this stark moral choice posed by Mr. Trump’s racist attacks on four minority freshmen Democratic women.” [. . .]    –Charles Sykes, America, the Jesuit Review, July 21, 2019.

Contributed by Martin Kavka, Florida State University

On JFK’s use of the misattributed quote, see here. For other examples, see the tag “Hottest Places.”

The 9 Rings of Donald Trump’s Administrative Hell

“In Inferno, the first part of Dante Alighieri’s epic poem Divine Comedy, the titular character is guided through the nine circles of hell. The darker your crimes, the lower the levels of hell you descend to until you meet up with Satan himself, trapped at the center of it all.

“At the top are crimes such as heresy and failure to believe; at the bottom, closer to the devil himself, are the rings of treachery and violence. Reflecting on a campaign season during which Donald Trump literally called Hillary Clinton the devil and threatened to put her in chains, you have to wonder whether he wasn’t subconsciously projecting, given the hellish landscape he has turned his early administration into. However, it’s not the nether regions that should concern most Americans but those condemned to the outer rings for lesser crimes.

“Trump may not actually be the vision of Satan portrayed in Inferno, even if he staffs his new administration like the rings of hell. Inferno describes Satan as a ghastly creature trapped by his own vanity with three faces: one red, one yellow and one black. The fact that Trump is now in a position that he has lusted after for years but is equally overwhelmed and unprepared for is strangely apropos.

“While Trump does not have leather wings, he is banishing those who dared not believe in him to limbo, and surrounding himself with white nationalists, terror sympathizers and warmongers. Anyone thinking that perhaps Trump’s own erratic tendencies would be balanced out by some sort of smart team of rivals should take note of the entryway to hell: “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.” […]    –Jason Johnson, The Root, November 26, 2016

Dante’s Nine Circles of Hell and the Internet Inferno

“I’ve seen several references to various social media apps and the Seven Deadly Sins, but as I consider the darkness that seems to breed in social media circles — from teen bullying on Snapchat and Instagram, to Twitter trolls threatening female reporters in India with rape and abuse, to child pornography on the Dark Web and the children who suffer miserably, literally living in hell for predators’ public pleasure — Dante’s Inferno comes to mind, and how this ancient story from 1300 might actually describe our reality right now, as we enter the Information Age of our human development.

[. . .]

“Unfortunately our technology is held hostage by the worst of us. Until we can turn the technology around and use it against those who commit such evil, we can’t get out of the woods. However, Dante and Virgil do make it out of Hell. Interestingly the poets cross through the barren wasteland and to the river of forgetfulness, emerging from Hell on Easter morning.

“I find it interesting that they must forget the darkness in order to leave Hell and make their way to Heaven, where true connection, love and solidarity await. What must we forget in order to fulfill the promise of the Internet and the idea of a globally connected world?

“Our hate? Our jealousy? Our anger? Our fear? Our ignorance? Our greed? Our lust? Our mistrust?

“I imagine so. In the meantime, our experiences online seem to be on one hand accelerating and enabling those who wish to sow the seeds of discontent and on the other hand bringing us together, enabling the collection and sharing of information and knowledge, and making us aware of those places and people in our community who are in need. If we can rid ourselves of our lower natures and focus on the fact that when we’re online, we’re actively creating a world together, perhaps someday we will hold Beatrice in our embrace, and finally find human connection at the deepest, most satisfying level.”    –Nicole Sallak Anderson, “Dante’s Nine Circles of Hell and the Internet Inferno,” Medium, October 25, 2017

Flake News

“Quick, who wrote Inferno? (A) Dante. (B) Dan Brown. (C) All of the above. The right answer is of course (C), and thanks to Brown — I like to picture him introducing himself at cocktail parties as “Dante Brown” — there is recent precedent for borrowing a classic’s title in hopes that its posterity might rub off. (It worked for Brown. His Dante-influenced thriller spent more than a year on the hardcover and paperback fiction lists.) Even so, the Republican senator Jeff Flake of Arizona has raised eyebrows by calling his new anti-Trump manifesto ‘Conscience of a Conservative’ …”    –Gregory Cowles, The New York Times, August 11, 2017