There’s a Special Place in Dante’s Inferno for Wafflers and Neutral Souls

From MLK and JFK to Gavin Newsom, Dante’s Misquoters Still Get to the Heart of the Poet's Disdain for Moral Cowardice

Dante’s Divine Comedy, an epic poem recounting the Florentine’s journey through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise, remains the go-to guide to the afterlife, the world’s most famous travelogue for the great beyond. But Dante matters more than that. Dante’s encounters with the dead offer enduring lessons for the living, including one that speaks with vital urgency to us today.

Consider California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s press conference on June 5, 2020, as a Dantean case study. The governor insisted that “we”—institutions and the community at large—must change to combat systemic anti-Black racism. Urging …