MONTEREY >> With the GOP Convention upcoming, and the DEMs, LIBs, CONs and INDs waiting, ears cocked, eyes peeled, there are two more initials to be reconciled no matter what party registered for or eschewed. BS. No, this doesn't stand for that colloquial term for mendacity. Nor do I mean the initials of a certain gray-haired candidate that had been competing for nomination. BS in this case, stands for: Beware Schadenfreude.
Schadenfreude is a German word, and like many German "bon mots" the conglomeration of disparate letters encompasses a complex of contradictory ideas. Schadenfreude refers to a feeling of satisfaction derived at the misfortune or hardship of someone else. It is a sort of private gloat fest arrived at, perhaps, having done nothing to achieve it and thus doesn't even require an act of conscience to level a guilt verdict upon the Schadenfreuder.
For some time now, many Americans have had to bear witness to the ongoing shenanigans of the Republication Party's obstructionism, elitism, and utilization of emotionally charged catch phrases to underwrite or (if generous) rationalize, that which is, at the very least, fiscally self-serving.
As a group this party, in particular, has stood in the way of everything from healthcare reform, mass murder management through gun reform, to the vetting of the next potential Supreme Court justice. Let's not even go back to the many war crimes of say, the Gore/Bush presidential campaign of 2000 and the massive missteps that resulted involving countries, continents, and counting coin for certain privileged individuals. Let us, instead, focus on the mess in our direct eye line. The result is, however that it's nearly impossible not to feel resentment at this group whose motto seems to be: "ALL MINE!"
Whatever the Republican message used to be when I was growing up, focused on fiscal conservancy regarding government spending, it has morphed into something else. The GOP has marched its mascot into Congress and the elephant in the room has blocked enacting bills set to improve the lives of those who happen not to be one of the 1% of squillionairs in this country. "ALL MINE" has become more than a motto. It's become an idea for some who are struggling themselves and aspire to being one of that number.
"ALL MINE!" harkens back to those "good old days" when "men were men, and women were glad of it!" White men, of course, of the "right" religion. Lots of folks actually miss that era. Still, we the watchers should beware our incipient schadenfreude. There, but for grace go the rest of us. So, lest the spectacle prove too irresistible not to watch, keep in mind that it is a Siren's song luring all us on the odyssey to potentially crash on jagged rocks.
The danger therein
The Trump debacle is likewise a free commercial for that party, attracting toxic free radicals in the form of untethered, unhappy, voters who feel they have nothing to lose. No doubt the entire enterprise will be entertaining and oh-so amusing in its bizarre and outrageous way. It may well play out as a yarn yet to be written by Tom Wolfe, the dapper white-suited author who penned the line, "A cult is a religion with no political power." Turning this wisdom on its ear, we can paraphrase thus: a political party is a cult with power. Therein lies the danger.
Power, super or otherwise, we know can be used for good or evil. Keeping in mind, most people, myself included, are not too clear on the real meaning of these terms. Good and evil are rather like exotic creatures that we may have heard of, read about, seen pictures of...like, say a platypus, and suspect that we would know it if we ever got to see it. Would we? Distinctive as it is, a platypus shares things in common with a duck (bill), otter (feet), and beaver (tail). For the purposes of this discussion let's say that good means: the needs of others, and evil equals personal gain at the expense of others. Speaking of things this way then, the argument becomes less a moral judgment and more an operational definition.
Working with people in the capacity as a therapist I can not disavow having personal needs, but I endeavor to recognize them, set them aside, and make all clinical choices on the basis of the need of the person applying for assistance. That is a part of being a clinician. It is likewise the job of a parent, thinking about it, but much more challenging given that the session is a lot longer than fifty minutes.
What then is the work of a political representative, with regard to this definition? Isn't it to put aside one's personal gain in favor of will serve the constituents?
Before the Olympics begins in Rio, and perhaps, having caught up with binge watching "House of Cards," "Orange Is The New Black," "Transgender" and opting instead for this GOP cirque de so sad and silly, let us all keep in mind what's at stake. Squint over the horizon at The United Kingdom exiting the EU. This is what can happen when people are afraid and defensive about one thing (immigration issues) and displacing it on another with disastrous results. These are all cautionary tales to learn from, not gloat over.
Beware Schadenfreude, fellow citizens, lest the schadenfruedian slipper be on the other foot.
M.E. Mishcon is a writer and psychotherapist.