Hartley: Done with Donne’s dumb diminishing deaths | AspenTimes.com

Hartley: Done with Donne’s dumb diminishing deaths

Once upon a time, there was a poet named John Donne who, back around the turn of the 17th century, wrote a poem commonly referred to as “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” If that phrase sounds familiar, it may be because it’s also the name of a song by Metallica that can be found on its “Ride the Lightning” album. I’m sure you’ve all heard it many times.

What you may not be familiar with, however, is the actual poem (real name: “Meditation XVII”), which, like almost all poetry, doesn’t get read very often these days. That’s too bad, because it’s a very moving poem, and I’ll bet you know a couple of lines from it already, even if you don’t know you do.

The poem starts with the words “No man is an island.” You’ve heard that before, right? Shortly after that come the well-known lines that best encapsulate the poem’s theme: “Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.” These are the lines that have proven problematic over the past four centuries.

For you see, before Donne wrote the poem, it was perfectly acceptable not to care at all when someone you didn’t know died. But once Donne penned his holier-than-thou, bleeding-heart nonsense, everyone had to start pretending to be upset over strangers kicking the bucket, lest they be perceived as callous and uncaring. This has always bothered me because it’s just not true.

Would Donne (or anyone, for that matter) be diminished by Hitler’s death? I think not, and I think that anyone who would claim to be is a lying, sanctimonious dweeb. The same goes for Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Stalin and pretty much every mass murderer or serial killer who ever lived (and, thankfully, died). Their deaths diminished no one, I assure you.

The reason I bring this up is because right now we find ourselves faced with a situation that, while not quite as clear-cut as Hitler’s, challenges the notion that a man’s death diminishes others. Fred Phelps, the founder of the Westboro Baptist Church, died early Thursday, and if you believe his death will diminish you, then you’re a douchebag.

You’ve heard of the Westboro Baptist Church, right? That’s the group that pickets high-profile funerals with signs reading “God Hates Fags” and “Thank God for Crippled Soldiers.” In short, they’re basically the worst people in the world — short of mass murderers and serial killers — and at the risk of sounding callous and uncaring, I would call the death of their former leader a net positive for just about everyone.

The best part about Phelps’ doom, though, is that members of the New York-based Satanic Temple have promised to hold what they call a “Pink Mass” in order to, in their words, turn him “gay forever.” They already held a Pink Mass for Phelps’ mother, who died back in July, and while there’s no proof that her eternal soul was rendered homosexual, just the thought that it might have been must have rankled the hell out of her bigoted, anti-gay son.

So now Phelps faces the same fate, meaning that if the Satanic Temple is somehow successful, he’ll spend eternity as a “fag,” and according to his own teachings, he will be hated by God. Seems fitting, doesn’t it? I can think of no more appropriate fate for such an awful person.

I have no idea what Satanists do during a Pink Mass to turn someone gay, and I’d be very interested to know what makes them think it’s even possible. That being said, I wish them all the luck in the world, and if I somehow could ask one small favor of Phelps’ soul, it would be to come back briefly after he dies to let us know if he is now, in fact, queer. I think we’d all get a kick out of that.

Of course, I have no doubt that some people will consider Phelps’ death sad simply because it means somebody has died, and the death of any man is supposed to diminish all of us. To these people I say: Good for you. You must sleep very well at night knowing how earnest and thoughtful you are.

But let’s be honest: Even Donne wouldn’t consider himself diminished by the death of a narrow-minded monster like Phelps. Don’t feel like you need to pretend to be diminished to prove just how open-minded you are.

Todd Hartley hates rags (and just about everything else having to do with cleaning). To read more or leave a comment, please visit http://zerobudget.net.


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