• Daniel Ethan Finneran

On Ms. Ocasio-Cortez: Our Democratic Poet

The attempt to categorize New York’s young, ascendant congresswoman, Ms. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is one by which, so long as she’s demanded the attention of the public’s gaze and provoked its judgment, both critic and supporter have been similarly vexed.

The former, seldom unforthcoming with his scorn for so unusual a figure, or cleansed of the poison of his viperous bite, is quick to strike and dismiss her as an ignoramus, an idealist, a fool. She’s rather easy prey to those equipped with intellectual fangs, those who bite into every public debate. She’s but a caricature of the millennial generation, an unbecoming portrait of that ridiculed decade’s least flattering type. She’s querulous, mindless, and self-aggrandizing. She’s petulant, accusatory, and innocent of grace.

Her critic listens to the varied and half-baked thoughts to which, one day to the next, she gives incessant and “meme”-ready voice, and wonders if our government might not be better and more eloquently administered in eremitic silence. Still, he must acknowledge the rapid growth of her power, the height of her influence, and the astonishing extent of her popular reach. He must accept, for better or worse, that she is, as many commentators and legislators have jointly proclaimed, the veritable and beaming “face” of the Democrat Party.

The latter, the progressives by whom, with all the enthusiasm and sincerity they can muster, every heartfelt plaudit for this woman is eagerly bestowed, regard her as nothing less than the most enlightened stateswoman and sagacious politician ever to have lived. To her savvy, there is none superior, and to her potential, no equal. They view her as a prescient, passionate force with which a tired and hoary institution now has the misfortune to contend. Better still, they’re assured of her imminent success, and are eager to affix themselves to the grand flight of her journey.

Still, despite their deep loyalty to this recent graduate of Boston University, that famed city’s venerable school from which she took a degree not only in economics, but in international relations, they can’t help but concede she’s not quite unblemished by certain intellectual faults. These shortcomings, which time and again reveal themselves at inopportune times (or at any moment, really, when an unbiased interlocutor presses upon her a difficult point) infringe on what should be their endless celebration of her genius, and their giddy measurement of her limitless worth.

For one, her understanding of the fields to which her undergraduate studies were ostensibly devoted appears to be, if not wholly absent, painfully deficient. They must admit, she’s neither grounded very strongly in the economic theories in which she’s alleged to have been instructed, nor well acquainted with the turbulent realities of the wider world upon which, as a congresswoman, she suddenly has an impact.

Of the two parties listed above, only one will succeed in recruiting you to its ranks. I’ll not here disclose the side by which I’m more powerfully allured, with whose opinions I more strongly associate. My categorization of Ms. Ocasio-Cortez has swayed, to and fro, between two competing alternatives, shorn of the partisan bias beclouding the judgments of the foregoing groups: in my mind, she’s either one of two things: a poet, or a politician.

Nominally, of course, the second is the right and applicable designation for Ms. Ocasio-Cortez. That’s the grand occupation for which we, a society so munificent in our contribution of tax dollars, handsomely pay her. Truly, though, I think she’s much more a poet than anything else. Perhaps the nimbler public actors can stand astride both fields, playing, at once, a poetic and a political role. She seems completely to have abandoned her putative profession, and leapt into the world of sentiment and poesy.

There’s only one sphere to which, unwaveringly, our politicians should at any time be attentive, to which their residency should be permanently fixed. That, one should hope, is the sphere of reality.

After all, thanks to the genius of our Constitution, those in the House are elected to brief and transitory terms not to waste their time dabbling in tangled abstractions, exotic theories, and complex ideals, or to spend their hours creating unfeasible worlds in which we all might, in some distant and utopian future, conceivably live.

Their mandate is, rather, to effectuate meaningful and practical change, to address and alleviate the problems by which a demanding and fickle electorate is, at this precise moment, acutely vexed. Only by doing so can they hope to keep the lofty but tenuous position to which they were elevated, and to remain secure in that unstable seat beneath which, biennially, there’s always a lurking threat.

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez has taken a different approach.

Uninterested in the quotidian problems to which, perhaps, her more serious efforts and thoughtful deliberations ought to be applied, she lives fully in the world of imagination. She’s utterly a poet, and content in being such. Being so well-endowed with a creative capacity, and so happily liberated from the banalities of truth (those heavy fetters in which the rest of us are meekly clapped), she’s become rather contemptuous of the prevailing mental state in which the rest of us so colorlessly exist—that of common sense. She’s long since abandoned so boring and dreary a state, opting instead to live in the world of the fabulous, the exciting, the literary, and—as it so often presents itself—the inane.

It’s clear to me, in light of this fact, that she’s much more a poet than a politician. Indeed, her poetic nature—dependent on fancy, and disdainful of truth—manifests itself time and again.

One need only be reminded of how ostensibly distraught she was upon visiting the southern border, that arid clime along which, from one town to the next, an assortment of detention camps is irregularly scattered. Upon her arrival, a group of photographers captured her reaction to the scene before which she was carefully placed. On cue, with a furrowed brow and an indignant expression, and ensanguined eyes dripping with briny tears, she looked as though she were quite genuinely moved by the wretched scenes to which she was suddenly exposed.

As it turns out, her emotions were more affected than real. A few especially keen observers of these photographs (and, yes, relentless critics of the congresswoman) realized that the spot upon which her gaze was fixed, by whose unconcealed barbarism, she was so deeply dismayed, was nothing more than an empty lot. Rather than cages containing immigrant children (a technique inherited by the damned Trump from his sainted predecessor, Obama), she looked upon an ample space in which no such alien was detained.

It all was intended to satisfy that chief and overriding preoccupation: herself.

Confident in her own waxing poetic prowess, and assured of a friendly, if not sycophantic media’s eagerness to believe whatever she might say next, she recently spent an evening describing to us her experience in the Capitol Building when, on the sixth of January, it was so savagely attacked. The only trouble was, she wasn’t physically in the Capitol Building when, after having been subjected to a siege to which its guards could offer only valiant, but not quite adequate resistance, its walls were briefly overcome. She was, doubtless, sheltered and afraid somewhere in the Federal City, but not the building through which the rioters had gained so violent an entrance.

Rather, she was located along the periphery of the expansive complex, an area to which Congressmen and their staffs often repair when in need of the solitude of their offices, and the tranquil comfort of their desks. This, naturally, was a fact withheld from our knowledge, of which Ms. Ocasio-Cortez hoped to make good poetic use.

There, barricaded in her place of work, she heard an anxious knock at the door and, thereafter, the disconcertingly assertive question by which, as it listened to her recounting this chapter, her captivated audience was unanimously struck: “Where is she?”, the voice both inquired and demanded, rendering our vulnerable congresswoman both cataleptic and traumatized.

By her telling of the story, one was led to believe that the identity of this man, by whom so imperious a question was issued, was none other than a vicioius rioter. So convinced was she of this fact, that, in the tempered moderation and famous equanimity of her own opinion, she thought that she was (literally) going to die. As it turns out, to the good fortune of not only herself, but all those inhabiting the space in which she dwelt, no such person had entered the building. It was, rather, a selfless Capitol Hill police officer, a brave and stalwart man of the badge by whom, come what may, her life was to be protected and her wellbeing ensured.

Never mind that she expressed little gratitude for this noble law enforcement officer’s efforts (her immediate response to his arrival was that he was but another predatory white male, a patriarchal brute to whom she ought not commit her misguided trust—we’re all familiar with the type), she nurtured the idea that she was, in fact, in acute and serious danger. Indeed, she felt her life prematurely to have reached its end. She lamented the loss of so promising and fertile a life, one having only recently attained to its third decade. The light of her future was suddenly darkened, and she fell into a state of terrible despair.

Thankfully, by all evidence, and to the contrary of her shocking and elaborate story, she was in no real danger whatsoever. Not only was she unscathed by the events of the day, she was comfortably distant from the action for which it’ll always be remembered. She may have felt herself greatly to have been imperiled, but feelings are, and must ever be, secondary to reality, especially in so fraught a case.

Yet this became a fact, as it became more widely known, for which she and her team had little tolerance. It encouraged its many ardent and motivated followers to scan the social media platforms on which such inconvenient facts (regarding her actual experience at that time) might be widely shared, and, after hours of sleuthing, to report to the “higher-ups” of Facebook and Twitter those incorrigible promulgators of truth. The plan was quickly to silence, if not permanently to banish those by whom her entrancing fable was so mortally wounded.

The preservation of a poetic narrative, after all, mustn’t be endangered. Nor shall we suffer our national poet, and erstwhile politician, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez to be impugned. Perhaps, at long last, it’s time to dissociate ourselves from our tiresome politicians, those monotonous speakers and trite thinkers by whom, frankly, we’ve not only been wearied, but ill-served. Why not, in this new decade, indulge a poet’s imagination, and endue her with the fantastic power she deserves? I can think of no candidate worthier of such an estimable role.

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Success, ‘tis said, yet more success begets– On the prosperous rains ever more profits. So reads the adage of the Gospel’s Jew: The iron law, the Effect of Matthew. “To him who has much, more will be