A demagogic lawyer stands athwart this man. He neglects his family, being driven by a low ambition. He is no patriot, & greatness hates connivers. He swears on a Bible to execute the office of district attorney. But he is an atheist. The US Constitution requires no oaths, apparently because God does not enforce them. So long as speeches are required, but not deeds, he sounds good. But he has never killed a man, nor been threatened with death. He merely deals with speeches about the lives & deaths of others.
Scientific terror reveals human fragility. Panicked, people cannot obey their politicians anymore, the only people neither mad nor stupid. Unscientific fear of death returns; tolerance is powerless. Martial law becomes necessary to keep the peace: The city is at war. War requires knowledge, however, & the love of death one sees in battle. One must know one’s enemy & know in that way oneself…
This horror must be – but cannot be – destroyed. He surrenders to the law & then humiliates its various officers. He kills people in broad daylight & confesses to murder. But we are tolerant & presume him innocent; his adversaries begin to fight back only when they start breaking the laws, too. The regime he threatens to bring down always underestimates him. It does not understand that science goes beyond justice. Law has neither majesty nor strength anymore. He argues lawlessness successfully on the ground & after the procedures of law. He is beyond good & evil. He mocks the regime by bringing middle class luxuries into jail, which shows his great self-pity.
Men must resemble this monster in order to fight him. The lawyer punches him when he is defenseless & otherwise threatens him & shows contempt. Other officers behave similarly. Some are lucky enough to survive… They act in anger & therefore show they do not know war. They are in a sense fundamentally decent: They refuse to think what purpose murder serves & what dark designs evil man may conceive. We should be reassured: Such enforcers of the laws we need not fear, for they are such lambs as we.
Epic poetry raises the question of what it takes to destroy a city & therefore how to save it. It shows what no one else dares see: The lives of men as they are, what their faults & their weaknesses are. Thus we study how men are brought to a bad end & the price paid for misunderstanding men. The poet teaches justice to men, though he is as shameless as the evil he depicts, because he defends the people & their laws.