Archive for October 5th, 2020

“And the life of the ebony clock went out with that of the last of the gay. And the flames of the tripods expired. And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all.”

Edgar Allan Poe, The Masque of the Red Death

It seems that with this president*** there is always a quote, a tweet, a video clip or something else that displays the vast ocean of ignorance and hypocrisy that is contained in that otherwise empty melon of a head. The falsehood of his never-ending lies are always revealed and the actions he has criticized others for in the past are always shown to have been done many times by him and to a far greater degree.

It’s so blatant and out in the open that metaphor or symbolism is often moot.

But for all of that, there is a great example in literature that might symbolize the current situation. It’s The Masque of the Red Death, written in 1842 by Edgar Allen Poe. It’s either a horror story or a morality play, depending on what you see in it. But maybe most horror stories are, at their heart, morality plays.

The one we’re living through certainly falls into both categories.

Poe’s tale is the story of an evil medieval prince, Prospero, who reigns in an unnamed land that is the victim of a plague, the Red Death, that is decimating its peasant population. Instead of devoting himself to aiding his people, Prospero and a thousand other aristocrats isolate themselves in a beautiful castle. And to make sure they are indeed safe from the ravages of the plague, they weld the castle doors shut. 

Inside, it is a non-stop party. Wine, women and song as the peasants wail and die.

After several months, Prospero decides to give an elaborate masquerade ball that would take place in an elaborate suite of seven rooms in the castle. Each room was decorated in a different color– blue, purple, green, orange, white, violet, and black.

The black room was particularly eerie. Its walls were back and the only light came through red stained glass windows which cast the room in a scarlet pall. There was a large black clock in the black room. Most of the party-goers avoided the black room. It was just too foreboding and weird.

The masquerade went on full bore in the other more colorful rooms. You know the deal– loud music, limbo dancing and medieval jello-shots. That kind of stuff.

Then at midnight the black clock in the distant black room rang out loudly and the revelers stopped reveling for a moment. As the moment passed and they were set to get back to the good times, they noticed a new guest to the party, one nobody had seen before. His costume was that of a corpse, one that had died from the plague. He moves through the crowd and they part, trying to stay away from him.

Prospero sees him and is furious that someone would wear such a costume. He yells out an order that he be seized and unmasked but nobody dares to move toward the gruesome figure. The intruder moves through the rooms and at last comes to the black room. He enters and as the prince comes toward him, he whirls and Prospero falls to the ground dead. The crowd then descends on the figure only to find there is nothing there underneath the mask and costume.

The Red Death has come to the party, has made its way to the high and mighty. One by one, the party-goers fall to the ground dead by the plague until none are left and the candles go dark.

“And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all

Now, when I see the photos of the event held last Saturday for potential SCOTUS judge Amy Coney Barrett, images of the Red Death run through my mind. Especially the interior shots in a smaller space with groups of people all at close quarters and none taking any precautions at all. Hugging and kissing and getting up close to each other’s faces to speak intimately. You can see that they feel that they are above it all, that the virus can’t affect them.

That it’s only for the dirty and the irresponsible, the unwashed masses. In fact, several GOP members have expressed opinions in past months that those that contract the virus bring it on themselves with poor personal habits and decisions.

Well, maybe in this case, they were correct, as the milled about their Masque of the Red Hat.

Then we get to see our own Prince Prospero decide to put so many others in peril by deciding to satisfy the narcissism of his bloated ego by doing a joyride on Sunday afternoon. His Secret Service agents had no choice in the matter and were commanded to be in the vehicle with the president***. The vehicle is a very special one, if you didn’t know, with bulletproof glass and armor plating. It is also sealed to prevent chemical attacks which mean those Secret Service agents were placed in a very small space with limited airspace with the virus.

Just to satisfy his own neediness, which is always– and I mean always– the case.

Like I wrote here the other day, when a Secret Service agent stated: “He’s never cared about us.”

So, here we are. Our own evil Prince Prospero continues his masquerade. Some of us are still dancing to his tune and some of are just waiting for the black clock to toll.

It’s nearing midnight.

“There was much of the beautiful, much of the wanton, much of the bizarre, something of the terrible, and not a little of that which might have excited disgust.”

― Edgar Allan Poe, The Masque of the Red Death


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