EP&M Online Satire

A Gallery of Ethopaths:

A Nearly Suppressed Section


Dr. Joseph S. Salemi

Department of Classics
Hunter College

Puritanism in America was originally religious in its motivation.  Moving with the times, it is now suitably post-religious.  That is, the compulsion to tell other people how to live has sunk its sick roots so deep into the American psyche that even our convinced atheists and secularists are just as morally persnickety as a synod of Church Elders.  It is also trans-religious: regardless of denomination, Americans think they ought to have a say in their fellow citizens' private behavior.
This tightassed moralism manifests itself in America's compulsive need to fling itself into pointless and wasteful anti-drug, anti-sex, anti-alcohol, anti-pornography, and anti-tobacco wars.  There is nothing more spectacularly inept in the history of this nation than the colossal expense of money and energy to fight the bad habits of other people.  It also makes us laughable in the eyes of more mature nations.

This particular section of A Gallery of Ethopaths was to have appeared in a hard-copy journal, but the editor set unacceptable conditions for its publication.  For that reason I withdrew the poem and offered it instead to Arthur Mortensen and his EP&M website.  Expansive Poetry and Music On-Line is uniquely distinguished in the poetry world for its absolute commitment to untrammeled discourse; and Arthur Mortensen has shown himself to be an editor of steely resolve in refusing to allow his contributors to be intimidated or browbeaten.  I am deeply grateful to him, and there are many more silent and silenced people out there who are grateful as well.

State-Sanctioned Prudery
        --from A Gallery of Ethopaths

Pornographers and whores provide
A service that won't be denied
To those with cash enough to pay--
Why not let such people play?
What is it that impels the state
To energize its moral hate
Against these simple private acts
That flow from plain hormonal facts?
Who cares if pornographic smut
Is bought or sold?  What if a glut
Of girlie mags sits on the stands?
You don't need to soil your hands
By touching them.  Just leave them there
For others who may like or care
To peruse their lurid pages.
A maxim from the best of sages
Declares that conscience is specific,
And sins, no matter how horrific,
Are chargeable to only those
Who executed or proposed
The guilty acts.  So why should you
Be irked by things that others do?
A man picks up and beds a harlot--
Why should that turn your face scarlet?
Somebody else snorts pure cocaine--
Why should his crime cause you pain?
Some men gamble, wench, or drink--
Why should you raise up a stink?
Why the hell are you concerned
When others will be judged and burned
In the punitive inferno?
You won't provide the wood and Sterno.
What sort of busybody twits
Work themselves into moral snits
When someone else is self-defiled?
Why the hell should they be riled?
If you're the type who gets upset
And starts to agitate and fret
When other people fall from grace
I'll tell you this straight to your face:
You're just an ethopathic ass,
And I hope your day will pass.

                    Joseph S. Salemi

"State Sanctioned Prudery" copyright © 2004 by Joseph S. Salemi
All rights reserved