Point of View: Only the Second Circle

Of course, one can be forgiven for not even picking up the phone when the pollsters call

   “I’ve only gotten to the second circle of Hell,” I said to my daughter Johnna in an e-mail the other day, “but I like it.”

    My father, who used to teach humanities, said Dante had to be taught, though I’ve found an edition that has plenty of explanatory notes. Somebody ought to try a modern version of “The Inferno.” It would probably sell like hotcakes.

    The fence-sitters, by the way, weren’t even allowed into Hell, being neither sinners nor virtuous.

    “Heaven, to keep its beauty, cast them out / but even Hell itself would not receive them / for fear the damned might glory over them. . . . The world will not record their having been there; Heaven’s mercy and its justice turn from them / Let’s not discuss them; look and pass them by.”

    So much for those who said, when my late Franco-American stepbrother during a cross-country trip asked for their opinions, “Well, the polls say. . . .”

    He did not care what the polls said, he said. He wasn’t interested in phlegmatic hemming and hawing. What was it they thought, he wanted to know — so he could refute them!

    Of course, one can be forgiven for not even picking up the phone when the pollsters call. One such did the other night, five or six times between the hours of 6 and 10 p.m., which usually is after my bedtime (even when the Steelers are playing these days, alas), and when that last call came Mary picked up the receiver and gave Key Research, or whoever it was, a piece of her mind, her opinion being that they had been goddamned annoying.

    Knowing now the bitter lamentations that await should I not take stands has had a salutary effect: I’ll stick to my last and bear it out even to the edge of doom, as does Mary, who wrote a number of e-mails to the president in recent weeks, urging him to hold off on the bombing of Syria. Cynically, I said there was no need since the N.S.A. already knew the gist of her thinking, but, to her credit, she persisted.

    As we all must.