Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Faust hoch!

Dr. Faustus dragged to Hell by demons in a production of Marlowe's play at the Oak Park Festival Theater, June 1981; photo by Chris Harris (who designed the set).
Shorter David Brooks, "The Republican Fausts", New York Times, January 31 2017:
Congressional Republicans need to back out of their Faustian bargain with the Mephistophelean Donald Trump before they lose their souls!
Alas, it's not that easy to back out of a Faustian bargain. You give up your soul when you sign, pal. Unless the Virgin Mary intercedes, but frankly that's a revisionist version of the story, and it lacks credibility.

Also, Fuckface von Clownstick is no smooth-talking, seductive Mephistopheles, but a psychopathic jerk who couldn't fool anybody unless they'd sold their souls already. You all sold your souls 36 and some years ago to Lee Atwater, when he showed you how to win racist and misogynist and jingoist votes to build an electoral majority for screwing the working class, and you renewed the deal with Karl Rove.

Now's the part where you're in Hell (Priebus and Ryan and the rest of you screaming in terror, though as Jonathan Chait, via Lemieux, says, Ryan isn't "spineless", he's evil), and unfortunately you've managed to work it so that we're there with you, you murderous assholes.

"Now we're quoting Goethe, so Faust hoch! (Raise your fist!)" Cup by Boldomatic.
Speaking of which, at the beginning of act 5 of the second part of Goethe's Faust, the hero does something eerily Trumpian.

The bargain in Goethe's version is a bet: Faust claims that whatever pleasures and powers Mephistopheles might supply him with he can never feel enough satisfaction to want to linger in a given moment, and the deal is that if he ever gets to that point the demon can claim his soul.

So, many years later, a powerful old plutocrat, he's annoyed by a cottage and chapel that spoil the views from his property, and asks Mephistopheles to do something about it, apparently thinking of an eminent domain solution, but the demon fixes it by murdering the sweet old couple who live in the cottage. This is where Faust finally begins to realize that he's done something wrong, to acquire a sense of needing to atone, and before you know it he's making these big infrastructure plans to better people's lives, and finds himself in an entirely new psychological situation: his unslakable restlessness and dissatisfaction are eased, he's suffused with a sense of peace, and he asks for this moment to not go away ("Verweile doch, du bist so schön"). But these are the magic words that bring on the dénouement of the drama, which is why the Virgin manages to rescue him: because the moment he decided to linger in was a redemptive one.

There's an important word missing from today's column: "Democrat". Brooks urges Republicans to show courage and detach themselves from the Trumposity, but he doesn't say anything about the thing they need to do to combat it and make things better, which is to cooperate with the genuine opposition. It's kind of amazing, too, given how many column inches he devoted over the past eight years to demanding that Democrats should cooperate with Republicans.

If Republicans want to atone for the harm they've done to our country over the past decades, culminating in Trump, they will have to give up on the endless, frantic struggle to defeat the people, and dedicate themselves to good works: they'll have to decide to do something for the American people, our health and retirement security, our job opportunities and national infrastructure, our founding promise of equality. They'll have to collaborate in something like a Democratic agenda. And they'll die as a party, no doubt, it will kill them. But it will be worth it for everybody, including David F. Brooks.

Nelson Mandela raising his fist, from the short-lived EggbertsWeltsicht.

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