Filed Under:

Eric Cantor And A Defeat Of Biblical Proportions

Play associated audio

After his unexpected defeat in the Republican primary, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor opened a press conference by saying, "In the Jewish faith, you know, I grew up, went to Hebrew school, read a lot in the Old Testament, and you learn a lot about individual setbacks."

This is not mere piety, and the King James Version of the Bible, made up of the Old Testament and the New, is a terrific book. The heroes of these stories do not lead the race wire to wire. Those who are elevated are tested and taught by disaster.

To the reader of Genesis the pattern is inescapable. Joseph, Jacob's favorite son, who knew the secret of interpreting dreams 2 millennia before Sigmund Freud, is sold into slavery and ends up in Egypt. His brothers bloody the boy's coat of many colors and bring it home to break their old father's heart — Jacob, who had wrestled an angel to a standstill and was rewarded with a new and blessed name (Israel) and penalized with a wound (an injured leg).

Joseph becomes his Egyptian master's favorite, but then is falsely accused of sexual harassment and goes to prison, where he makes his reputation as an interpreter of dreams. When he translates the dreams that trouble Pharaoh and gives the monarch wise counsel, he becomes viceroy of all the land.

This story is epic poetry of the highest order — written with strict economy and bold directness. Here's what Jacob says when he learns of his son's ascendancy: "It is enough; Joseph my son is yet alive; I will go and see him before I die." The eloquence is in the simplicity.

Cantor, the man who was a step away from high glory, may well take some pensive consolation from the story of Joseph — or from "Election Day, November 1884," Walt Whitman's Bible-quoting poem in which the "the still, small voice" of the divine rests in "America's choosing day." The determination of that "peaceful choice" is more powerful "than all Rome's wars of old."

David Lehman's New and Selected Poems came out in November 2013 from Scribner.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

When Caravaggio Plays Quevedo In Tennis, The Court Becomes A Sonnet

"It's a little space, well-measured and precise, in which you have to keep the ball bouncing," says Álvaro Enrigue. His book, Sudden Death, pits the Italian painter against the Spanish poet.
WAMU 88.5

Does "Made in DC" Matter?

D.C.'s first bean-to-bar chocolate maker, Undone Chocolate, got its start in local food incubator space Union Kitchen, part of a wave of interest in locally made products which includes a push for a "Made in DC" logo.

WAMU 88.5

Does "Made in DC" Matter?

D.C.'s first bean-to-bar chocolate maker, Undone Chocolate, got its start in local food incubator space Union Kitchen, part of a wave of interest in locally made products which includes a push for a "Made in DC" logo.

NPR

Password Security Is So Bad, President Obama Weighs In

In unveiling a sweeping plan to fund and revamp cybersecurity, the president asks citizens to consider using extra layers of security besides the password.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.