Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Updike's Leviathan—and ours

I am haunted by an image from one of Updike's poems—not the serious ones, but the "light verse" that he segregated from the others at the back of his Collected Poems:

                                                . . . . blue whales
          Grin fathoms down, and through their teeth are strained
         A million lives a minute; each entails,
         In death, a microscopic bit of pain.
                                                               (from Caligula's Dream)

I never thought about the krill that baleen whales, eat or what it might be like to be one of them; thanks to Updike that little gap in my understanding of Darwinian nature has just been filled.

All over the world hundreds of millions are being treated like krill. Here in America we are destroying the lives of only 20 million unemployed people and their families; the politicians of both parties are content to regard their pain as microscopic. It isn't.

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