DEATH OF GOD AND DOLLARS
Near the human race are layers
of nonsense, Thornton Wilder said.
Worst of all are the naysayers
reminding us that God is dead
and that we, too, will pass away,
like God, and the prosperity
for which we never had to pay,
bequeathed to our posterity.
“Why bother, then?” they ask, but I
think such opinions should be dis-
regarded, since before we die,
we can convert it from a miss
into a hit by loving well,
and, fortified by loving, chase
away all nonsense, and dispel
dismay death causes to displace
our love of being still alive,
for we can with affection and
the will to love each other drive
away naysayers, and withstand
the pressure put on us by thoughts
of our mortality and God’s,
and dollars––all these death reports
premature, despite the odds.
Inspired by a statement by the Stage Manager in Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town,” cited by Frank Rich (“Some Things Don’t Change in Grover’s Corner,” NYT, March 8, 2009):
The true American faith endures in “Our Town.” The key word in its title is the collective “our,” just as “united” is the resonant note hit by the new president when saying the full name of the country. The notion that Americans must all rise and fall together is the ideal we still yearn to reclaim, and that a majority voted for in November. But how we get there from this economic graveyard is a challenge rapidly rivaling the one that faced Wilder’s audience in that dark late winter of 1938….
In his recent letter to shareholders, a chastened Warren Buffett likened our financial institutions’ recklessness to venereal disease. Even the innocent were infected because “it’s not just whom you sleep with” but also “whom they” — unnamed huge financial institutions — “are sleeping with,” he wrote. Indeed, our government is in the morally untenable position of rewarding the most promiscuous carrier of them all, A.I.G., with as much as $180 billion in taxpayers’ cash transfusions (so far) precisely because it can’t be disentangled from all the careless (and unidentified) trading partners sharing its infection. Buffett’s sermon coincided with the public soul searching of another national sage, Elie Wiesel, who joined a Portfolio magazine panel discussion on Bernie Madoff. Some $37 million of Wiesel’s charitable foundation and personal wealth vanished in Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. “We gave him everything,” Wiesel told the audience. “We thought he was God.” How did reality become so warped that Wiesel, let alone thousands of lesser mortals, could mistake Madoff for God? It was this crook’s ability to pass for a deity that allowed his fraud to escape scrutiny not just from his victims but from the S.E.C. and the “money managers” who pimped his wares. This aura of godliness also shielded the “legal” Madoffs at firms like Citibank and Goldman Sachs. They spread V.D. with esoteric derivatives, then hedged their wild gambles with A.I.G. “insurance” (credit-default swaps) that proved to be the most porous prophylactics in the history of finance.
© 2009 Gershon Hepner 3/8/09