Great article in today’s Times mentions one of my literary idols, Rudyard Kipling: “Kipling is not much in fashion these days, other than for his children’s books. For a politically correct age, he speaks too bluntly of the world’s — and empire’s — cruel ironies. But his vivid evocation of war’s horror, man’s hypocrisy, illusion’s price and power’s passing make him important in this pivotal American moment.
As it happens — life’s ironies — I was reading Kipling after watching the vice-presidential debate, or more precisely Sarah Palin, the winking “Main-Streeter” from Wasilla. And the words of hers that rang in my ears were:
“One thing that Americans do at this time, also, though, is let’s commit ourselves just everyday American people, Joe Six Pack, hockey moms across the nation, I think we need to band together and say ‘Never Again.’ Never will we be exploited and taken advantage of again by those managing our money and loaning us these dollars.”
I’m sorry, Governor Palin, words matter. Life has its solemn lessons. “Never Again” is a hallowed phrase. It’s applicable not to the loss of a mortgage, but to the Holocaust and genocide.
According verbal equivalency to a $60,000 loan and six million murdered Jews, or 800,000 slaughtered Rwandans, is grotesque. Perhaps Palin didn’t mean it, but that’s no less serious. The world’s gravity escapes her.
Not Kipling, who wrote in “Epitaphs of the War” (1914-1918):
If any question why we died,
Tell them, because our fathers lied.
I wonder, after the lying and the dead of the Bush Administration, in the midst of the wars, in the face of 760,000 lost jobs, is Palin’s offer of a “little bit of reality from Wasilla Main Street” enough?
“The Gods of the Copybook Headings” ends:
As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man —
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began:
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;
And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!
Palin, Mainstreeter that she is, loves to drop her g’s, so she’d no doubt call the poet Kiplin’. She might have asked, with that wink, toHere’s the article.