Tuesday, October 14, 2003


Main Entry: scha·den·freu·de
Pronunciation: 'shä-d&n-"froi-d&
Function: noun
Usage: often capitalized
Etymology: German, from Schaden damage + Freude joy
Date: 1895
: enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others

While waiting in the grocery checkout line this evening, I had an opportunity to peruse the tabloids vainly placed there in hope that my impulsive inner child will get the better of me. Splashed across the two-inch block headlines was the fall of America’s favorite rabid right-winger, Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh, a man well known for his atavistic views towards the addicted, now a self admitted addict himself. Although I have experienced Schadenfreude in the past, this time it seemed particularly delicious. I am not sure if I was more delighted in Limbaugh's misfortune (which is what Schadenfreude means) or the fact that I can now use this hideous German word that seems to be so fashionable these days.

Watching a self-appointed moral paragon crash to earth with the rest of us mere mortals is an American spectator sport. A sizable portion of our literature is obsessed with it; i.e. "The Scarlet Letter" and "Elmer Gantry". Who didn't snigger (even secretly) at learning Bill ("The Book of Virtues") Bennett had dropped eight mill in Las Vegas? Wasn't there a cackle heard 'round the world when Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart both received their comeuppances? Hubris has only one end, you know, "pride goeth before the fall."

It was certainly hubris that brought Limbaugh to his current sorry state. Many of the statements he made in his bellicose pit bull style are going to haunt him. Al Franken has already resurrected a statement from 1995 that bears particular relevance for Rush; "Too many whites are getting away with drug use. The answer is to ... find the ones who are getting away with it, convict them, and send them up the river.” Ouch!

His insensitivity was legend. He once suggested staging a “Homeless Olympics” with events like “the 10-meter shopping-cart relay, the Dumpster dig and the hop, skip and trip.” I can't help wondering how well the 250-pound, loud-mouthed disc jockey might fare after the high-profile criminal investigation that is sure to follow up on the allegations that he obtained his "pain medication" through illegal means?

Still, I don't find myself to be particularly eager to jump on the Schadenfreude bandwagon (sounds like a ride at Oktoberfest). Maybe it’s the karma thing. Perhaps it is best that we all sigh good riddance to Rush and hope no one ever exposes our less than perfect moments.


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