Having a January birthday isn’t always a lot of fun. Over the years I’ve accepted that January isn’t an ideal time to celebrate anything. The weather is cold and unpredictable and people are recovering both physically and financially from the busy holiday season. Factor in that I’ve already passed many of the age-related milestones that young people look forward to, such as getting a driver’s license, becoming a legal adult, and the many perks associated with turning 21, and a January birthday becomes just another day, albeit a day with cake, for an adult slowly making his way over the hill.
Which brings me back to the inauguration. Like millions of Americans, I’m not thrilled about our choice of president. The inauguration has virtually ruined my birthday weekend because the people who care about me also care about the future of our country. To paraphrase a friend, it’s like learning the exact time and date of your death, then being expected to eat cake and be merry.
For a while, it seemed the shadow cast by the inauguration would eclipse my birthday. I was grumpy, but there was nothing I could do to change it. So, after a few days of moping I decided to look at the bright side, and the bright side came in the form of schadenfreude. Schadenfreude is a German word meaning “to delight in the misfortune of others.” When someone slips on a banana peel and you laugh, that’s schadenfreude.
Usually I’m not one to laugh or joke at another’s expense, but this time it feels appropriate to do so. You see, the misfortune I’m delighting in is the misfortune of our president-elect. Even those who support him have to admit that he hasn’t conducted himself very well since he entered the political arena. He has made divisive, slanderous statements, mocked and belittled those he perceived as threats, and shown himself to be a thin-skinned bully who can dish it out but can’t take it. He has lied, sexually assaulted women, vilified nearly every kind of person that isn’t like him, and now he’s facing the consequences of his actions.
It began weeks ago, after he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton but managed to get enough votes in the electoral college to claim victory by technicality. Planning for the inaugural festivities began and organizers ran into an unexpected hiccup – nobody wanted to perform for the president-elect. It turns out that A-list talent doesn’t want to be associated with this particular brand of politics.
Then Meryl Streep, accepting a lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globes, used her speech on live TV to denounce him for his bigotry and for mocking a disabled reporter. She spoke of “outsiders” and “foreigners,” and how “disrespect invites disrespect” and “violence incites violence.” He responded by tweeting that she was over-rated. Yeah, right...
The closer we get to inauguration day, the more misfortune he has. A dossier was released that allegedly revealed problematic relations with Russia. I didn’t read the dossier, but apparently he thinks a traditional porcelain or tile shower is beneath him and thus prefers gold, but I suppose every diva gets to make demands.
Maybe you think that all this talk of schadenfreude is petty, that I should really grow up this birthday and leave the jokes to real comedians. Perhaps you’re right. Or, you could look at schadenfreude from a different angle. Yes, I’m delighting in his misfortune because he brought it on himself, which means he’s getting what he deserves. The misfortune he is experiencing shows that there is still justice in the world, that hatred and bigotry are not the new normal. And that’s the best birthday gift I could hope for.