July 19, 2011


Cut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security? Let’s think about this.

Medicare helps to heal people who are old and sick. Medicaid helps to heal people who are poor and sick. And for most people, without Social Security, they would have to work until the day they die.

These are not things that I want to cut. But some people do.

Who are these people who want to cut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security? I know some of them. For two years, I sat with them in a room – the Floor of the House – for several hours a day.

I got to know some of them quite well. I can summarize their views in six short words: “Let the Devil Take the Hindmost.”

“Let the Devil Take the Hindmost” refers to a situation where the Devil is chasing us. Some of us – the young, the fit, the healthy -- are able to run away from the Devil. And those others – the old, the children, the sick and, frankly, the scared – they can’t run as fast. They’re the hindmost. They’re the ones that the Devil catches, and destroys.

So what should the ones who run faster do? Should they grab hold of the hindmost, lift them up, and help them to run to safety? Or should they just let the Devil take the hindmost, while they escape?

You know what Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity would do in that situation. And Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin. They would let the Devil take the hindmost.

But you wouldn’t. And I wouldn’t.

The phrase “Let the Devil Take the Hindmost” is a venerable phrase; it just celebrated its 400th birthday. It comes from a 1610 play called “Love Lies a-Bleeding.” (All you Elton John fans now know where the song “Love Lies Bleeding” comes from.) Shakespeare didn’t write the play, but it was performed by Shakespeare’s theatre troop, The King’s Men.

In Act V of “Love Lies a-Bleeding,” the people rise in rebellion against a bad government. The character Thrasiline questions whether the people can remain united, however. Thrasiline says that even when a mere “toy” clicks at the people’s heels, “they run all away, and cry, ‘the devil take the hindmost.’”

Dion responds to Thrasiline this way: “Then the same devil take the foremost too, and souse him for his breakfast! If they all prove cowards, my curses fly amongst them, and be speeding!”

(“Sousing” is cooking a cut of meat until it is well done, pulling the meat off the bones, and then mashing it.)

And that’s the point – the 400-year-old point. If the Devil is chasing us, there is no reason to think that he’ll ever be satisfied just taking the hindmost. The Devil will take the foremost, too. Mash them up, and eat them for breakfast.

The Devil in America today is poverty, unemployment, malnutrition, bigotry, selfishness, ignorance, disease and death. When the Right Wing says that we have to cut Social Security, cut Medicare, cut Medicaid, cut unemployment insurance, cut education, cut food stamps, what they’re really saying is “let the Devil take the hindmost.”

I think that we’d all be a lot better off if we stopped running, we all turned on the Devil, and we fought back together. At least we would have a chance.

I’d rather fight, not run away.

What about you?


Alan Grayson