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The Remorse of Orestes by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1862

"La vengeance est un met que l'on doit manger froid" Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord (1754–1838)

"Revenge is a dish best left off the menu"

Setting out to settle any score seems to reliably produce some variant of the opposite of the imagined outcome. Revenge is not, as Talleyrand-Périgord insisted, a dish best served cold, but a dish best left off the menu. One might easily imagine settling some score, as the saying goes, 'once and for all', but such action produces reverberations guaranteeing that those scales will very likely be thrown even more permanently out of balance. Should the reaction be anything close to equal and opposite, a tragic cascade will likely ensue. Dogs chasing their own tails easily then becomes the new normal, for grudge lust never finds satisfaction from any GrudgeWork, however dedicated. Getting even amounts to a distraction, always under the influence of our worse angels. The reparations exacted upon the Weimar Republic following WWI produced Hitler and WWII, even though the French and British firmly believed that their demands were just. Germany had, after all, aggressively thrust itself upon France for no reason other than its deeply held grudge over having missed building its own empire. Why not simply swipe another's empire and thereby better balance the score? We now too well know why, but we never seem to learn.

GrudgeWork properly describes our current administration's approach to governing.
Hearing our President (shudder) speak, I'd think that our country, the wealthiest in the history of the world so far, had been serially taken advantage of since our founding, the whipping boy of nations deserving of revenge and hefty reparations. The Chinese, who've thoughtfully manufactured much of our mammon over the last generation, buy less of our stuff than we buy of their's, so something suddenly smells awfully fishy. We could tax ourselves to discourage us from buying so much mammon, safely shooting ourselves in our own foot and thereby, somehow, getting even, or so the GrudgeWork logic works. And those damned Canadians, who had the temerity to export their damned aluminum into the US just because our industries desperately demanded it, should likewise be punished for not buying all our surplus cheese. The remedy? Ready, aim, and fire at our left foot this time, since it's seems to have become the one we tend to always lead with. Like the old Antonio Prohías Mad magazine cartoon Spy vs. Spy, every issue sudden seems to contain two opposing sides aching to get even. We exclusively battle ourselves, our better angels, Us vs. Us, wherever GrudgeWork dominates the policy debate.

We could make love instead of war, but war seems to have proven so much more profitable and thereby hands-down more popular, at least among the populists, dedicated GrudgeWorkers all. Before any fall a curious battle rages, one which in future times will certainly seem simply outrageously stupid. We once sacrificed our boys to prevent imaginary dominoes from falling in Southeast Asia, but being a product of our own paranoid imagination, those imaginary dominoes fell anyway, opening the way for a much-belated reconciliation, absent a few odd million innocent dead. But we simply had to get even, which set us up for a generation of continued crooked unbalancing. We seem to desperately need to endlessly disappoint ourselves by failing to get even.

Interesting how since our Grudgemaster took office, every little everything's suddenly a grievous offense and how each freshly imagined offense produces precisely the same defense, that being a slightly escalated offense. If we delt in spit wads, our floor would be littered at least waist deep by now, but we exclusively deal in more consequential material. We seem to spark ever more anger than any potential resolution. GrudgeWork's an authentic game without end, as close to a perpetual demotion machine humans have ever invented. It seems to this humbled observer that all GrudgeWork stems from some unfortunate metaphor, one fully capable of fully disqualifying itself should the misconception come to light. Our much derided national deficit might more properly be characterized as a national asset, an addition to our collective wealth rather than some subtraction from it. Switching metaphors always first seems mere sophistry, an easily swatted away slight-of-hand illusion. What if the defeated Weimar Republic had been welcomed as an unexpected ally, and worked with to rebuild together rather than economically continuing the ongoing destruction? What if we actually decided to turn our swords into plowshares?

Lincoln's wise decision to welcome the confederate states back into the union was firmly rejected by a begrudged confederate population. They referred to the peacemakers as carpetbaggers and rejected equality as a grave offense against their dignity, resulting in a century and counting of GrudgeWork degrading themselves no less than any other. The South ultimately won the Civil War, though their victory seems Pyrrhic even to them today, since it fueled ever more rounds of righteously obscene GrudgeWork, demeaning everyone. Let the record show that our worser angels came to dominate for a time, that our Twitter feeds raged with endless recrimination. Let the record show—please, God!—that we finally, belatedly, came to some semblance of our senses and started befriending each other again, tolerating difference not as definitive, but as informative, fueling ever deeper appreciation. We might eventually become enlightened again, the light of the world we once aspired to become instead of a smoldering shadow seeking payback.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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