Wednesday, November 15, 2000

Just think


Limbo not such a hot place to be

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        LIMBO — Greetings from the first circle of Hell.

        One week and a day after the election, America remains stuck in Limbo, still not knowing who won the race for president.

        No one's panicking. Limbo's not so bad. My friends are here. Along with everybody else. Even politicians.

        President-wannabe-elect George W. Bush has noticed: “We're all in Limbo.”

        An astute observation. Although — knowing W's bush-league grasp of geography — he can't pinpoint Limbo's whereabouts.

        Lowanne Jones can. She heads the University of Cincinnati's department of romance languages and literatures. One book she uses every year in class is Dante's Inferno.

        “Been teaching it,” she told me, “for what seems like 500 winter quarters.”

        So, she knows her Limbo. Agreeing to take me on a guided tour, she promised to point out all the landmarks. And hot spots.
       

Limbo-bound

        “Dante put Limbo in the first circle of Hell,” she said. “So, it's not nearly as hot as the rest of that inferno.

        “Limbo is not a place of punishment, but a place of rest and comfort.”

        To reach Limbo, pass through the Gate of Hell. Go right under the sign with the greeting: Abandon Every Hope You Who Enter Here.

        “From there you can see Limbo. It's in a stand of trees beyond the river Styx.”

        Leave the sunscreen at home. Dante called for overcast skies in Limbo. “It's always like dusk,” said Professor Jones.

        Dante's weather report for Greater Limbo is somewhat dated. It's 700 years old. For an up-to-the-minute forecast, I called Tim Hedrick, Channel 12's chief meteorologist.

        He likened Limbo's weather to “being on the infamous rain-ice-snow line for 10 days in a row.” Winds could blow in from the right or left. “Anything could happen. A long-range forecast is not prudent at this juncture.”

        Iffy weather of that ilk drives people indoors. Wonder what they do for fun in Limbo.

        “They think,” replied Professor Jones.

        “Dante put all of the great epic-writing poets in Limbo. Homer and Virgil are there.”
       

Brain power

        Thinking is Limbo's national pastime. This is the right place to ponder the election just past. Two bland, essentially unelectable candidates ran a historic race that proved every vote counts, regardless of when that last vote is finally counted.

        The time is also right for these thoughts. All is calm.

        “Recent snapshot polls show the notion of crisis has not set in,” said Eric Rademacher, co-director of UC's Ohio Poll. “History has shown Americans to be very patient about presidential politics. Many people are waiting to see what happens.”

        While we wait, Xavier University political scientist Gene Beaupre recommends “thinking about what we can do to maintain the interest this election has generated in the political process.”

        Raise the level of discussion. “Don't debate who's going to win or lose.”

        Discuss, instead, how our form of government, a representative democracy, won.

        “This election,” he said, “showed how we elect presidents and every other official with a system largely administered by average citizens. That is remarkable.

        “It's worth celebrating.”

        Everyone, then, should enjoy being in Limbo. If we must go to Hell, this is a nice place to visit.

       Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340.
       

       



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