THE BLOG
08/27/2010 03:06 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Hell Is Other People -- or the Other Party: A Dip Into Hell With the Help of Dante and Satre

Jean Paul Sartre's most famous quote, "Hell is other people," was acted out by his story, No Exit, about three people, put, for eternity, in the same room with each other, which becomes hellish torture.

There are many versions of Sarte"s story on youtube. This is a sampling from one of them.

It was hellish when Bush and Cheney were elected -- for Democrats and those on the left. It's hell for right wingers and tea partiers and a lot of progressives, with Obama as president.

Now, we on the left face more hell, or hells, as the possibility of a right wing takeover of the House and maybe the senate seems more and more likely. A bronzed Luciferic John Boehner looms large in our near future.

Painting by Michelino

I was browsing one of a number of versions of Dante's Divine Comedy I've collected over the years. Dante created a trilogy describing visits to hell, heaven and Purgatory; Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso.

Each part is broken into different levels, where different souls go. For example, Hell is, according to Wikipedia, broken into three parts--

...the three main divisions of Dante's Hell:

Upper Hell (the first 5 Circles) for the self-indulgent sins; Circles 6 and 7 for the violent sins; and Circles 8 and 9 for the malicious sins

Dante's Purgatorio is where people who indulged in the seven "deadly" sins, or what Dante called the "roots of sinfulness." These sins are what politicians and their partners in crime lobbyists tend to engage in -- wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony.

Level 9 of Dante's Inferno, etched by Gustave Dore

At the deepest, lowest level of Dante's hell, level nine, Satan sits, frozen in ice, to the waist, crying tears from the six eyes of his three faces. His wings generate cold winds that maintain his frozen situation.

Satan is at the lowest level because he betrayed God. Satan is ignorant, impotent and full of hate.

Sound familiar?

Slightly higher up in Dante's hell, supposedly in not such awful circumstances, are people who betrayed their lords and benefactors.

I have to wonder where we'd put today's politicians. Surely, most of them deserve at least deserve Purgatory, for their self-indulgent sins -- the ones that lobbyists tend to buy them with. But then, these politicians have also betrayed us, their constituents. Dante didn't have a place in hell for that category, but he did have one for people who betrayed guests. Times have certainly changed though, or at least we thought they did. Now, would the Lords be considered banksters and heads of corporations?

Then dear reader, there's you and me. It seems that we are facing a descent into hell again, as John Boehner, already tanned from his fiery visits to hellfire, prepares to ascend the infernal throne where, certainly, the leadership of the House of Representatives rests.

Why are we, on the left, facing another visit to hell? It hasn't been that long that we departed from hell, in 2006, when the house was first won.

Then again, hell, perhaps not Dante's but other science fiction and fantasy versions, has always had a way of deceiving its denizens, of fooling them into grasping at false hope.

Perhaps we've never left hell.

Or perhaps we climbed into Purgatory and thought we'd reached heaven -- things do tend to be relative.

But now, we face political monsters worse than we imagined -- yes, worse than Cheney, worse than Bush, worse than Santorum.

Dante and his guide escape from the depths of hell by going even deeper, through the center of the earth until gravity reverses itself, coming out in another hemisphere, under a starry skied night.

Perhaps we on the left must truly face the depths of hell before we face the reality that politics and elections are truly, pathologically broken, that even justice is broken.

We live in a world that is guided by corporate and consumerist values and systems which cannot satisfy us. These fail to satisfy liberals and they will fail to satisfy members of the teaparty.

When those on the left and the right all hit bottom and realize that the problem, the roots of hell grow out of a broken political and election model that keeps a pathological system in place, perhaps then, we will, together break free of the system, dig ourselves out of the pit we find ourselves, our nation and in fantasies about Democracy and justice stuck within.

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