Our Mundane Comedy

Those more secularly minded out here often miss the wisdom of the ages staring back at us from the farce of our shenanigans. Dante’s Divine Comedy offers the best example of the current crisis. Granted, Dante had better material, but he might at least have been somewhat entertained by our political burlesque. With Beatrice beyond his grasp, he needed a good laugh. 

Recently, in New York City, the district attorney brought a former and possibly future president up on charges for doing what is legal and common practice. Alvin Bragg altered the law after the fact to suit his aims. This sort of ex post facto maliciousness would be more humorous if not for the work of a different grand jury in Washington, D.C., currently constructing a similar labyrinthian case against the former president that Julie Kelly describes well. This abuse, however, is made up of several of the rings of Hell—anger, violence, fraud, and treachery, interlocked. Even the Borgias couldn’t think that up.

Meanwhile, humor of a lower and simpler sort can be had from day to day by guessing what dirty tricks the Democratic Party might be up to as they project some new evil from their own mental dysfunctioning on the always surprised Republicans. For instance, as the nation (i.e., we, the people) falls many trillions of dollars further into debt, we are loaning money to the oligarchs of Ukraine and backing up the investors of the failed Silicon Valley Bank, which was run like a piggy bank for the rich and connected. But then, Charlie Brown never caught on to Lucy either.

Over 800 political protesters have been sentenced, or await sentencing, or rot in the purgatory of jail, for entering the halls of Congress without the usual admissions ticket, though we can see them on video welcomed through opened doors and egged on by the exhortations of . . . agents of some sort. Hundreds more still live in limbo awaiting their dispositions, even while law enforcement ignores a crime rate in Washington, D.C., worthy of a Third World hell hole—much less considering the left-wing riots at the White House in 2020 that resulted in the near-burning of the nearby St. John’s Church.

Not funny at all is a tale so weird and sad that Virgil himself might have pointed it out in the Inferno from which it sprang. In Nashville, a woman pretending to be a man murdered three children and three adults for reasons she described in detail before committing the act. But there are those in our midst who believe she was the victim. Her insanity is not forgivable by mere mortal law, but the monsters who fostered and abetted her behavior will never be held to account. Once again, the law is yet again proven to be an ass.

Dante completed his Commedia (Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso) around 1321. It was finally published in 1472. The three beasts of Hell represent three types of sin: the self-indulgent, the violent, and the malicious. These three types also provide the main divisions of the Inferno and the predicate for its individual stories. The upper Hell of the first few circles is for the four sins of indulgence: lust, gluttony, avarice, and anger; the seventh circle is for the sins of violence against one’s neighbor, against oneself, and against God, art, and nature; and circles eight and nine are for the sins of fraud and treachery. Notice the priorities here. Fraud and treachery are among the worst. Democrats beware.

The mountain that is Purgatory, on an island in the Southern Hemisphere and on the far side of the world, was created by the displacement of rock that resulted when Satan’s fall created Hell. Following his explorations of human depravity, the poet Virgil guides the intrepid Dante in this climb with the assistance of one Marco Lombardo along to offer insight into such conundrums as free will in the context of an omnipotent God. The mountain has seven “terraces,” corresponding to the seven deadly sins or “seven roots of sinfulness:” pride, envy, wrath, sloth, avarice, gluttony, and lust. The stubborn and repentant serve to round out these sins to the usual nine at the very beginning of the climb. But Purgatorio does not have the really juicy parts that Inferno has. This is us.

For example, in their wrath, we observe Democrats flee virtue as a result of their own evil customs and habits,” with all the intellectual blindness that anger provides. The hate is theirs. But love is a theme throughout the Divine Comedy, and is particularly important for the framing of sin on the mountain of Purgatory. 

We are told that the love that comes from God is pure, but it can become sinful as it flows through humanity. Humans can sin by using love towards improper or malicious ends: wrath, envy, pride, or using it to proper ends but with love that is either not strong enough through sloth, or love that is too strong, lust, gluttony, greed. As was later noted in Shakespearean terms, The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.” And this all sounds too familiar.

In Paradiso, Dante warns us of the dangers and angst of knowing too much. Beatrice becomes his guide in an exercise of intellect concerning the links between purgatory and paradise—between salvation and damnation—all encompassed by “the great sea of being.” Well and good, of course, and I hope to see you there, but in the meantime, all the mortal fun is still back in purgatory.

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About Vincent McCaffrey

Vincent McCaffrey is a novelist and bookseller. Visit his website at www.vincentmccaffrey.com.

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