2009 & Dark Joy

An image of Washington DC's skyline during a morning sunrise. The Washington Monument is prominent.

Image courtesy of Mark Thomas via Pixabay.

If 2009 wasn’t crazy enough, Tiger’s fall from grace has managed to produce the biggest sex scandal in professional sports. Certainly no other sex scandal involving a sports icon, or for that matter any celebrity, of the year is this big.  

“She should leave him and take him for all she can get,” said Jacquelyn Kerns of Columbia Heights, D.C. “I hope he gets what he deserves and more.” 

Will we be satisfied with an announcement of a divorce and custody settlement, or even a reconciliation? Not a chance. There is a parade of women Woods allegedly had relations with outside his marriage. This is the price of fame when you are a public figure. But what happens when harmless gossip turns toxic with wanton destruction of a particular target for political reasons? Have we become so cynical that it is considered normal to laugh at, or make fun of, someone’s misfortune, whether it be a nasty car accident, illness, death or divorce? Considering our response to the Katrina victims, or more recently the help given to victims of the banking and foreclosure crisis, directs evaluation of how our society, as a whole, ranks world-wide when it comes to “emotional intelligence.”  

There is a German word that comes to mind, a word for deriving pleasure from someone’s misfortune –“Schadenfreude,” with a literal translation of “Dark Joy”. What may be an alarming trend is the not-so-subtle, exploitative celebration of human suffering for political and monetary gain. 

In January, Barack Obama, was inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States of America and the first black president in America’s 233 year history! Now a lot of us, regardless of party affiliation, will remember that day and forever hold how special it was. The celebration across the country lasted for weeks, and for those of us who live in the Nation’s Capital, we had the best seats in the house. First, there was the excitement created by spontaneous Obama sightings across town, whether it was at your local gym or your favorite hot dog hangout, like “Ben’s Chili Bowl”. Then, the endless parties with friends and family that bridged new inspiration with pragmatism and hope for the voiceless, preceded the actual history-making inauguration and the unforgettable victory stroll that the President and First Lady, Michele Obama, took down Constitution Avenue.  

With insurance, joblessness and the foreclosure crisis, these attitudes fostered unprecedented resistance to the aid in form of U.S. government assistance. But the resistance bordered on a sick threshold of perversion. People were actually glad that other Americans were suffering and further, said they had it coming.  

It’s no wonder in all our generosity, and greatness as the leader of the free world that homelessness, joblessness, poverty and sickness occur at alarming rates. 

Another reaction occurred with the passing of Senator Ted Kennedy. Sen. Kennedy championed the cause of civil rights and empowerment for the common man, the disadvantaged, throughout his great career, with contributions great in number and deed. He will be placed along with his brothers, John and Bobby as immortals in greater American history. But here again, there were more than a few who crossed the line with statements of nothing but happiness for Kennedy’s end, wishing he had suffered more, in some sort of sick revenge. 

But before closing the door on 2009, there is the story of Michael Vick, the pro bowl NFL quarterback rightfully convicted of animal abuse and racketeering, released from prison and the general publics’ rabid reaction that followed the NFL’s announcement of permitting Vick to re-enter the league was huge. Here was a man, after serving a lengthy jail sentence, paid millions of dollars in fines, lost more millions in a cancelled NFL contract and endorsements, and was the target of deadly threats and protest across the country that demanded he not be allowed to professional football again. Obviously what he did was unconscionable, barbaric cruelty, but evidently his punishment was not enough for many and the call for his demise was quite real. 

Another passing on took place. It took a lot of us by complete surprise. I remember hearing it over the radio, midday, while listening to a favorite sports radio show-‘Michael Jackson is dead’. There were not too many details given at that time but later clarification was as bizarre as one could imagine. Drug overdose. Personal physician involved. Possibly murder. Maybe malpractice. But no doubt, one of the greatest musical icons on the rock was no more. Predictable but nevertheless strange reactions from members of the Jackson family were heard. Investigation by the police as to Michael’s personal physician involvement and subsequent arrest following the much celebrated funeral, (part one and part two), cemented the unreal. The allegations of child-molestations and the subsequent trial are widely believed contributory to Michael’s inevitable demise. Why, even if innocent, would anyone use such poor judgment involving children is the question that was asked over and over again. Jackson, as controversial as he was talented, “ brought it” to the mike like no one else ever has. His media –transforming video, “Thriller,” broke new ground, and set a standard for other greats to follow. When you think about his body of work in its totality, incomprehensible immediately comes to mind. Michael’s “Billy Jean” and his two other dozen of world class hits, or his patented moon walk — the level of perfection he sought ! He will be missed greatly! But some things about Michael we may never know.  

Without question, the economic recession and the hardship endured by many set much of the stage for daily preoccupation for Americans as well as the world. Repossessions, foreclosures, and people going hungry became more prevalent and affecting families, communities otherwise untouched. Hopefully, this response by our nation will be bunkered with balance, as well as concern. 

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