—from A Gallery of Ethopaths What generates the half-assed views That this dimwit nation spews? Why are persons mindless lemmings? From what source is this stuff stemming? Collapse of character’s the cause: A nation’s strength lies not in laws Or money, soldiers, guns, police— These things just maintain the peace. The iron in each person’s spine Keeps us stable and in line, And if that iron’s rusted out The country won’t survive a bout Of warfare, trouble, bad luck, pain… It can’t face up to stress or strain. An army of three score battalions, Or booted cops on panting stallions, Or gold bars stacked in Knox’s vaults Are useless against grave assaults If citizens are swishy wimps As boneless as a shoal of shrimps. And that’s what we’ve become today: Narcissistic dorks at play, Obsessed with “how we think and feel” And lacking any moral steel. You see this best in “victimhood”— A posture that’s now understood To grant one privileges and rights That trump all else. The smallest slights Become a kind of tragic pain That lawyers milk for easy gain. A language I call “Victimese” (As common now as cheddar cheese) Is spoken by a million boobs As mindless as dead TV tubes: I’ve been wronged, demeaned, oppressed! My urgent needs must be addressed! Our age resounds in cliché prating But of all whines, the one most grating Comes from the self-styled bleeding “victim” Who moans as if the world had picked him Out for especial exploitation, Torturing pain, and condemnation. You see these victims everyplace Posturing profile and full-face, Telling how they received a blast Of psychic trauma in their past From evil fathers or weak mothers, From overbearing elder brothers, From cruel, unfeeling, hard-boiled teachers, From straitlaced nuns or wicked preachers; How race or gender or sex preference Meant they got no share of deference; How they were made to feel ashamed; How they were mocked or teased or blamed; How they were never praised or flattered. As a result, their pride was shattered And this abuse has left deep traces Making them psychic basket cases Who cannot function up to standard. But they’ll consider themselves slandered If you concede your full assent Saying you know just what they meant. When next you meet these sorts of whiners Just hit them with these quick one-liners: “Yes, you’re a poor neurotic cripple Glued to some ethopathic nipple. Sorry you’re such a wiped-out loser: A nerd or whore or idle schmoozer.” If you say this, they’ll go berserk And shout that you’re a callous jerk Whose outer shell’s too rough and spiky To rub on someone’s wounded psyche. They’ll run to their support groups screaming And see their therapists that evening. Such nonsense is now commonplace— There’s no one left who has the grace To keep pathology well hidden. They open up to you, unbidden, And tell you how screwed up they are, Revealing every psychic scar, Every flaw and moral failing, Sicknesses from which they’re ailing, Or their traumatized persona Canyon-gashed like Arizona. This age abounds in infantilish Twits who think dysfunction’s stylish, And they assume the world can’t wait To hear about their parlous state. Joseph S. Salemi has published five books of poetry, and his poems, translations and scholarly articles have appeared in over one hundred publications world-wide. He is the editor of the literary magazine Trinacria. He teaches in the Department of Humanities at New York University and in the Department of Classical Languages at Hunter College.