Jay Roach’s Trumbo addresses the pathetic post-WW II days of Hollywood when fatuous tools like Ronald Reagan, Roy Rogers and Hedda Hopper jumped on the persecution bandwagon to further their own careers and destroy the lives of anyone who was whispered to be a Communist. The film ends triumphantly with the sage words of Dalton Trumbo: There was bad faith and good, honesty and dishonesty, courage and cowardice, selflessness and opportunism, wisdom and stupidity, good and bad on both sides.
If only there was a lesson to be learned, for the persecution to cease. And yet, the Reagans (Jeb Bush & Co.) and Hoppers (Megyn Kelly et al.) remain the same, firmly entrenched.
They spout their vitriol about any and everyone – Syrian refugees, Latin American immigrants, homosexuals – anyone from anywhere but within their xenophobic, misogynistic picturesque homes – and smile like they might be a friend when they themselves remain the villainy who should be expunged.
Max Frisch writes of imprisonment in his remarkable novel, I’m Not Stiller.
My cell – I have just measured it with my shoe which is a trifle less than twelve inches long – is small, like everything in this country, so clean one can hardly breathe for all the hygiene, and oppressive precisely because everything is just right. Frisch’s book focuses not so much on physical imprisonment as the meta:
How can anyone prove who they really are? I can’t. Do I know myself who I am? That is the terrifying discovery I have made while under arrest. I have no words for my reality.And the impossibility of understanding one another:
As soon as I feel that I am alone with a simple self-evident truth I lose sight of its self-evidence, blurring it with hasty similes that are supposed to help the other person understand me, but in reality only confuse what was originally a clear realization, and finally defending what I ruined with arguments that are sheer nonsense. This novel is akin to the loss of identity found in other great works, such as Vladimir Nabakov’s Invitation to a Beheading, Gunter Grass’ Tin Drum and the journeys of K throughout much of Franz Kafka’s work. Similarly the issue of identity is addressed much as it is in The Return of Martin Guerre and Luigi Pirandello’s The Late Mattia Pascal. Frisch is direct on this very issue throughout the narrative:
You can put anything into words, except your own life. It is this impossibility that condemns us to remain as our companions see us and mirror us, those who claim to know me, those who call themselves my friends, and never allow me to change simply so they can say” I know you.”
I never thought I would have a favorite poet, but I do. William Carlos Williams’ Stillness:
Heavy white rooves
sloping west and east
under the fast darkening sky:What have I to say to you
that you may whisper it to them
in the night?Round you
is a great smouldering distance
on all sides
that engulfs you
in utter loneliness.Lean above their beds tonight
snow covered rooves;
feel them stirring warmly within
and say — nothing.
I thought it was harmless fun. There were treasure chests to click, jungle to machete away, and lots of silver and sparkle to accrue. I knew that virtual world building was stupid, and that earning silver coins and sparkle just to get more machetes to cut down more jungle to find more buildings was as facile as facile could be. And yet I couldn’t stop. I needed to check on my island first thing every morning. My time in the bathroom was trebled. Everything else became secondary. The thing was that I had to get my vegetable bazaar built, and that took commitment, and a hell of a lot of finished stone. It made no sense, none of it. It had become a way of virtual life. And then I realized that the vegetable bazaar would never get finished, and that even then, there would be another building, more jungle to clear. I had had enough. I was sure…unless of course they offered me a dozen free machetes. Maybe then.
Suffering and pain are a constant in this life, as the Greek poet Aeschylus attested almost 2,500 years ago in his masterwork Prometheus Bound.
Oh, it is easy for the one who stands outside/The prison wall of pain to exhort and teach the one/Who suffers. All you have to say to me I always knew.
Wrong? I accept the word. I willed, willed to be wrong!/And helping humans I found to be troublesome for myself,/Yet I did not expect a punishment as this –/To be assigned an uninhabited desert peak,/Fastened in mid-air to this crag, and left to rot!
Listen, stop wailing for the pain I suffer now./Step on the ground; I’ll tell you what the future holds/For me: you shall know everything from first to last.
Do what I ask you, do it! Share the suffering/Of one whose turn is now. Grief is a wanderer/Who visits many, bringing always the same gift.