Schadenfreude is a word I’ve only known for a few years. I can’t remember when I first heard it or in what context but I sure see it a lot these days. Roughly speaking, it means deriving pleasure from another’s misfortune.
In this hyper-partisan political and media environment, I don’t think there’s a day that goes by when I don’t run across it. The divides between left and right, black and white, men and women, gay and straight, rich and poor, urban and rural, it’s everywhere you look. For every voice advocating unity, there’s another speaking out about our differences and ignoring our similarities.
I’ve supported the Me Too campaign and I’m all for those who commit crimes being punished but I can’t help but feel a little sad that the light that’s exposed so much disgusting behaviour had to have been necessary in the first place. I don’t feel schadenfreude when scumbags are caught and lose everything. I feel bad that it had to have come to this at all.
I don’t feel good if a racist cop is convicted of killing an innocent black kid. I feel for the deceased. And am solemnly thankful that justice was done.
When wars end (and I have no experience in this) if there is elation on the part of the combatants on the winning side, I doubt very much that they feel prideful about the suffering of their enemies. They probably feel relief that it’s simply over.
I sincerely can’t imagine any one I know loathing each and everyone of the characters in the Trump administration and at the top of the Republican party more than I do. And I follow it more closely than is good for my health. And it’s not hyberbole when I say I think they are all greedy, irredeemable and mostly treasonous bastards. If not by the strict letter of the law, then certainly in spirit.
And when they go down, I’ll be glued to the T.V. But I won’t feel joy at their misery even though that’s my natural instinct and I know I’ll have to fight it. But I will fight it.
What I will feel is relief. And sadness. Sadness for our neighbours who have been our best friends. Sadness for the tens of thousands of people who will die unnecessarily because they could no longer afford health care. Heartache about the restrictions on women’s reproductive autonomy in many places. Despair about the destruction of environmental protections and the dismantling of the scientific research community. Anger about the gutting of education funding and social security and corporate oversight.
It will take decades to fix ten months worth of slashing every societal protection that gave the lower and middle class a chance.
I won’t feel schadenfreude. There’s no pleasure in any of this. When it’s over, the collective misery left behind will be exponentially greater than that of anyone who might end up in prison.