Presidency of the absurd

By JAMES PARKER  |  August 1, 2007

The prophets of the absurd saw all of this coming. As the Bush era collapses into ignominy, we find ourselves somewhat in the position of the explorer in Kafka’s In thePenal Colony, watching in a kind of dissociated abhorrence as a Gonzalez-style flunky tightens the screws for one last ride on the torture machine: “Have you ever heard of our former Commandant? No? Well, it isn’t saying too much if I tell you that the organization of the whole penal colony is his work.”

And if Gonzalez, in all the blandness of his fanaticism, can be found in Kafka, then those two beasts Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld can be found in Ionesco — in his play Rhinoceros, where humans are changing one by one into brutal, hard-charging pachyderms. “Moral standards!” bellows one such man/rhino, as his hide thickens and the beginnings of a horn bulge out of his forehead, “I’m sick of moral standards! We need to go beyond moral standards!” Chop his fucking fingers off.

As for the rest of us, faced with this inconvenient problem, we seem to have learned well the lesson enacted by Père Ubu in Jarry’s sequel, Ubu Cocu: take your conscience out of its suitcase, consult it briefly and then flush it — like the Koran — down the toilet.

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