As 2005 hisses and sputters toward its merciful end, all it seems to have going for it is that it wasn’t as apocalyptically bad as 2004, simply by virtue of our electoral process, which, backward and self-destructive as it is, precluded George W. Bush from running for and gaining re-election yet again. But other than that, the 365 loathsome rotations of the Earth we’re about to bid adieu did little to build any reasonable case against the nihilism that should be crushing anyone remotely intelligent with a progressively less-forgiving grip.
As the Middle East continues to blow itself up with aid from our tax money and the blood of our troops, the brutality of a changing climate’s weather systems wipes out the places terrorism hasn’t gotten to yet. Meanwhile, all the Christian fundamentalists can do is bray about how Wal-Mart customers are being deprived of the phrase “Merry Christmas” as they glorify His name by purchasing $8,000 worth of useless crap with money they don’t have. If up until now you’ve been employing the time-honored distraction cocktail of Jack Daniel’s and Law & Order marathons, I’m sorry to yank you back into reality, which requires you to behold the stultifying, hopeless exemplification of the worst human civilization has to offer. The only comfort we have is that thanks to either holy war or technology, soon we’ll all be dead. Well, that and the Schadenfreude.
‘Schadenfreude’ is an untranslatable German word that basically means “malicious joy,” and belongs in the English-ized pantheon alongside such expressions as ‘Gestalt’ (figure), ‘Ersatz’ (fake), ‘Leitmotiv’ (word used by English majors who don’t know what they’re talking about, which is pretty fitting considering they’re English majors), and ‘Zeitgeist’ (cute redhead with a proclivity for jamborees in bars). It usually applies to either sadists (ex: Ann Coulter did not fight to hold back her Schadenfreude as Judith Miller performed oral sex on Karl Rove) or with the accompaniment of guilt in those troubled by the Gewissensbiß (bite of conscience, ex: I hated to admit the sense of Schadenfreude I got watching our President try to open a fake door in order to beat a hasty retreat from a Chinese press conference).
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking: God, Schuman, enough with the exegeses of German already! I speak Aramaic, but that doesn’t mean I’ll make you sit through The Passion of the Christ with the subtitles off. To which I reply: see above, bitch. Times are miserable, the kind of miserable only the vitriolic vernacular of Nietzsche could express. So make like Judith Miller and suck it while the German lesson continues.
Like most words in the German language, Schadenfreude is a compound of approximately 57 others, two of which are ‘Schade’ (misfortune, shame) and ‘Freude’ (joy, hapiness), and lucky for us, the plethora of Schaden afflicting the American right wing this year offer us just enough Freude to keep from offing ourselves out of fear of 2006. These blessed events include: a grown man named “Scooter” getting indicted, not to mention both Tom DeLay (twice!) and possibly Bill Frist; ex-Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski being in the gray-bar motel right this second instead of hanging tinsel on his $6,000 shower curtain; and last but certainly not least, our President’s approval rating boasting a number that begins, delightfully, with “3.” These are the tiny, evil joys that keep people like me from impaling myself on a fake icicle at Santaland. In the meantime, there is always hope that 2006 might bring some sort of turnaround in political or general conscience. Or, at very least, that one of the many Republicans on trial will spend a few months getting ass-raped, and the Schadenfreude can continue into 2007.