The banality of evil

(Hannah Arendt has a quote about the banality of evil.  A piece under that title on NPR this week, by Dina Temple Raston and Robert Smith, described the final day of Mohammed Atta, before he hijacked one of the 9/11 planes – so ordinary, staying at a Comfort Inn, getting cash from a Wal Mart…)
The banality of evil
The banality of evil
Furrows the soul more than the flow
Of blood from monsters we don’t know.
It’s the neighbor who pays his bill
Washes his face, then takes his place
With those he is about to kill.
The things we share in common show
The banality of evil.

* credit to Luke Prater for this wonderful form


About Andrew Kreider

I'm a poet and musician,transplanted from London, England to beautiful northern Indiana. By day I am a stay-at-home dad with our three kids while my amazingly talented spouse conquers medical school one long shift at a time. At night, I'm a performer and trouble-maker. I love my life.

11 responses »

  1. Wow, I haven't read anything like this today, and I've read a lot of things. It really does make one think about our lives, how they are all more intertwined with both good and evil every day than we realize. Well done.

  2. I enjoyed your radio essay today–do you post those pieces somewhere? And you probably know this kindred quotation by E B White, but I pass it on in case you haven't seen it before: "As a writing man, or secretary, I have always felt charged with the safekeeping of all unexpected items of worldly or unworldly enchantment, as though I might be held personally responsible if even a small one were to be lost." It is from a lovely essay about something he witnesses at the circus. Title: The Ring of Time.Ken Smith

  3. Thanks, Ken. I want to check out that essay by E B White. I love the charge to tend to the unexpected items – small stones, indeed.And lori, thanks to you, too. Our lives are so often all intertwined, it seems.

  4. I've heard it said that there's no glamor to real evil, it's a petty, purposeless thing–you illustrate that well here, and with a minimum of fuss–which can't be praised enough.

  5. It's true – the most horrible monsters are dull as dishwater by day and bare their teeth over time chewing everything around them to nothingness. G.

  6. nice…that is a rather creepy neighbor…your style is def different and i like that…you carry truth in it though…there are monsters among us…

  7. The concept of this poem is chilling— and I simply cannot imagine those final seconds slamming into the towers, what these men might have been thinking. The banality of delusion, as well. xj

  8. This really makes you stop and reflect on our lives and what is going on around us amazing

  9. Rather terrifying and true. Monsters in human shapes.

  10. Incredibly emotional to think about these things…. I've wondered sometimes what went through their minds as they sat on those planes uttering their chants to allah… (I will never be able to capatilize that name, something improper about that proper noun to me.) And I wondered what the others of them, those that were tucked away in safe little places, felt as they watched the live news feeds of souls jumping to avoid the heat or when the towers collapsed. Was it joy they felt? Hatred is a sour part of us and I try to keep it away, but sometimes it is so pervasive that it must be coddled. I think extreme emotion is what poetrey is for, and yours is a beacon. I like the form too…..

  11. Ah, the Octain… nicely done Andrew. I think the form provides a solid platform for the content here. Great piece


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