Saturday, October 11, 2008

Faust, Pandora, John McCain and us

I watched last night as John McCain publicly confronted the hatred unleashed by his campaign. He seemedly like a solitary, tragic figure trying to hold back a flood.

And it was tragic — not just for him and his beleaguered, conflicted campaign but for us.

Isn’t this the stuff of the Greek legend of Pandora and the tragedy of Faust?

Pandora’s box, once opened, loosed upon the world the furies of evil. Sarah Palin doesn’t fit the role of Pandora in the legend, but certainly her elevation to vice presidential candidate has opened a box of anger, racism, hypocrisy, deceit, ignorance and lust for power at any cost.

In these times, it may help us to know that Pandora managed to close the box at last and save a single human quality — hope.

In the medieval version of the Faust legend made famous by Christopher Marlowe’s play, Faust forms his infamous compact with the devil and in so doing condemns himself. At one point, a good and evil angel battle for Faust’s soul. Each vies to win him over, but he is too far gone to save himself.

Cut to a Faustian McCain, pacing on stage, surrounded by angry, agitated, hateful supporters. Clutching the microphone, a magical wand of power if wisely used, McCain clenches his teeth and brings himself to describe his opponent, not as a terrorist or evil incarnate, but as a good and admirable man.

No longer is Barack Obama an objectified alien, the “that one” of the last debate.

But the furies in the crowd have none of it. They will not return to the box. They boo and hiss McCain’s attempts to contain their gall.

As detached viewers, we witness McCain, a seemingly decent, though deeply flawed, man, and wonder whether he can save his soul and those of his supporters, even if he and they lose this election — and especially if they win.

It makes for remarkable theater, but politics is not the stage the media have made it seem. It is not a performance to witness. It is not “other;” it is us.

It defines and informs who we are. It is our mirror, our window, our door and even our path.

With our own good and evil angels on our shoulders, we are linked to John McCain, and we must ask whether we can save ourselves.

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