Parsing Harf-Psaki Syndrome

by Anniel   3/5/15

Is Harf-Psaki a disease or a syndrome? A disease is something abnormal infecting an organism, such as a germ or a virus, with usually just one kind of symptom. A syndrome is a condition with several related symptoms, often inherited. I come down on the side of Harf-Psaki being a long-lasting and ingrained syndrome, so we’ll proceed on that theory.

W. H. Auden (1907-1973) was one of the greatest poets and literary critics of the 20th Century. He passed through many of the last century’s crises as a young man who was variously an atheist, a socialist, a Marxist, and finally wound up as a recommitted Christian. He very clearly understood where the world was headed when all boundaries are removed in a nation and society at large. As my grandson succinctly puts it, “When there are no restraints on behavior, anarchy always follows.”

Auden’s poem O What Is That Sound is said by critics to be ambiguous and can have multiple meanings. After reading many commentaries, I decided at the moment that I like my nuanced reading best, so let’s parse it together.

Only the last, or 9th Stanza, is in the third person. The first eight stanzas are each 4 lines long and have 2 speakers. The first two lines are always a question, generally thought to be posed by a woman, so let’s pretend the questions are from a liberal woman suffering from Harf-Psaki Syndrome.

The last two lines in each stanza are presumed to be answered by a man. So let’s say the man in question is Josh Earnest, braying the song of Barack Obama to his loyal minions. Here we go:

O What Is That Sound

Stanza 1

O what is the sound which so thrills the ear
Down in the valley drumming, drumming?
Only the scarlet soldiers, dear,
The soldiers coming.

Do you hear just the beginnings of a twinge of alarm from our Harf-Psaki sufferer? But listen to the reassurance of Mr. Earnest, it’s “only the soldiers” and they’re no problem, far away, nothing to worry about, they might be seeking a job, a job.

Stanza 2

O what is that light I see flashing so clear
Over the distance brightly, brightly?
Only the sun on their weapons, dear,
As they step lightly.

Even Harf-Psaki people can see weapons, but apparently don’t believe they can be used for any lasting harm to themselves. Mr. Earnest must tell this woman what the weapons are, but while the soldiers are getting nearer, they are still stepping “lightly,” nothing to see here, see here.

Stanza 3

O what are they doing with all that gear
What are they doing this morning, this morning?
Only the usual maneuvers, dear,
Or perhaps a warning.

What do they want with all that junk? And isn’t it early for them to be out around here? Mr. Earnest must reassure her that everything is as “usual,”
But, hmmm, now that you mention it, it does seem a little early, early.

Stanza 4

O why have they left the road down there,
Why are they suddenly wheeling, wheeling?
Perhaps a change in the orders, dear,
Why are you kneeling?

Look! They’ve changed direction, they’ve wheeled onto the road coming our way. Why would they do that? We’ve all tried to be their friends and explained things to make them attractive. Earnestly he soothes, it’s just orders. Get up off your knees, you’re in no danger, danger.

Stanza 5

O haven’t they stopped for the doctor’s care
Haven’t they reined their horses, their horses?
Why, they are none of them wounded, dear,
None of these forces.

Maybe the doctor will give the immigrants free medical care, and that’s why they’ve turned. Mr. Earnest reminds her we have wide open borders, so the Americans in Waiting can’t possibly be wounded. They’re all okay, okay.

Stanza 6

O is it the parson they want with white hair;
Is it the parson, is it, is it?
No, they are passing his gateway, dear,
Without a visit.

It’s got to be the parson they want, that dangerous unpatriotic Christian. They’re surely coming for him, and his wife and daughters, too. They’ve all conspired stupidly against our plans. Mr. Earnest, beginning to fumble, can’t understand why they’ve left the parson alone, alone.

Stanza 7

O it must be the farmer who lives so near,
It must be the farmer, so cunning, so cunning?
They have passed the farm already, dear,
And now they are running.

Oh, please let it be that farmer, we know how rich he is, and how he’s been overcharging and not equally sharing. It’s not fair. He lives so close and we have nowhere else to go. Earnest, prepares to leave.

Stanza 8

O where are you going? Stay with me here!
Were the vows you swore me deceiving, deceiving?
No, I promised to love you, dear,
But I must be leaving.

You’ve been lying to me all along! You swore we were safe!
Sorry, kid, but now you’re on your own, I need to think of my own needs first. Bye bye!

Stanza 9, 3rd Person

O it’s broken the lock and splintered the door,
O it’s the gate where they’re turning, turning,
Their feet are heavy on the floor
And their eyes are burning.

Submit now to us and Sharia law. It’s good that you’re already kneeling.

Oh, those of you with Harf-Psaki Syndrome, (who have already submitted) do you really think you’re safe and will pay no price for your stupidity?

Lest we end this story feeling down, let’s turn to the final stanza of another Auden poem he wrote when Nazi Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, marking the beginning of World War II. This was just less than a year from the time Neville Chamberlain brokered the Munich Agreement (September 30, 1938) with Hitler and others, assuring “Peace in Our Time.”

September 1, 1939

Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

The lesson of history from Mr. Auden is that you and I, enmeshed as we are in the “same negation and despair,” must stand with the Just and never surrender our “affirming flame.”


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3 Responses to Parsing Harf-Psaki Syndrome

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    Lack of realism is a key element of liberalism, which might be considered a shorter name of the syndrome. And there’s no realism they like less than the occasional necessity for official violence. Liberals only accept this when the targets are those who oppose them politically.

  2. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    Is Harf-Psaki a disease or a syndrome

    It is a state of mind in which one believes one is terribly intelligent and those who disagree with one are terribly stupid; and their opinions don’t matter anyway.

    It is a state of being where one’s arrogance is vastly exceeded by one’s stupidity. I don’t know which of the two is more thoroughly afflicted, Harf or Psaki. But if I had to choose, I would say Harf.

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