By JOE BAGEANT
One mark of our soulless New American Century is the lack of respect for saintly madmen. By that I mean holy seers of the Blakean-Coleridge stripe that could be found on America's streets as recently as the hippy era. The kind of crazy adept and enlightened iconoclasts honored by Allen Ginsberg and the beats, holy foolishness in the tradition of Saint Simeon with the dead dog tied to his waist and throwing nuts at the congregation, or Tibetan lama myonpas and India's avadhutas. Perhaps such holy madmen are still out there among the homeless and the crack whores. Maybe there are legions of Zen alcoholics and the like, and maybe we have lost the ability to see them in this season of imperial hubris, consumer fatigue and existential numbness. But I don't think so. I know crazy wisdom and saintly madness in men's eyes when I see it, and I am not seeing it very often in America these days. It has been outlawed by the Republicans and soundly condemned as Devil's work by the Christian Right.
Now I ask you this: What do you call the opposite of someone who is out of his mind? A poet? A divine monster? We do not much acknowledge horror in this country, except the petty stage-managed kind for which we have developed such an appetite, such as Terri Schiavo's morbid gurgling, etc. Yet none of it comes close to the type of horror and grandeur that's lacking in our life, the kind from which we flee, such as our own graves or the sight of the things we do to sentient others so long as they are poor, voiceless, out of sight, or perhaps have four legs. And even then, the only way we can keep up the ghastly charade is by deeming the saints amid us as madmen, and anointing the truly depraved among us kings, avoiding at all costs our divine monsters.