by Sharon M. Kennedy
Many readers are familiar with Kafka’s novella, “The Metamorphosis.” It was my least favorite work by that author because I was too young to grasp its meaning. I thought it was disgusting. For those readers who’ve never heard of it, here’s a brief synopsis: A salesman awakens one morning and realizes he’s metamorphosed into a cockroach. He suffers various trials and is ultimately rejected by his family. Eventually he dies of starvation. That, in a nutshell, is the gist of the story without all the psychological, social and familial implications associated with it. Those implications have been debated since the novella was published in 1915 and will continue to be discussed in the classrooms of 2023 and beyond.
Kafka’s salesman, Gregor Samsa, was just an ordinary man. He wasn’t spectacular in any way. At first he was confused, dismayed and embarrassed by his transformation from a human being to a bug. He was angry, but given time he became accustomed to his new appearance. Although Kafka’s work was the idea for this post, it’s not his story that intrigued me as much as how quickly we accepted the metamorphosis of a political party. Human nature is a fascinating study in contradictions. We’re capable of holding opposing dichotomies as true. On one hand, we cling to traditional values and on the other, we embrace the absurd.
In 2016, the GOP quickly adjusted to its new state of being. I’m not implying all extreme right-wingers became cockroaches overnight. That would be ridiculous and false. What I am saying is a man – much like salesman Samsa – morphed into something abnormal but instead of being rejected, he was embraced. We might be disgusted by a lump of larva, but when it becomes a butterfly, we admire it. The same is not true of fly larvae, i.e. maggots, but that’s another story.
Much like the growth stages of an insect, the transformation of the GOP was gradual. The first stage might have repulsed us like larva does due to its sliminess, but given enough time the end result far exceeded anything we’d ever known. If fearless political contenders had crushed the MAGA movement in its early stage, would it have morphed into a group of dissentients that included elected representatives? Has the movement encouraged politicians and militant groups to unravel our capitalist republic?
According to U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville, “Maybe it’s time to dismantle democracy and try something new.” This remark sounds ominous, but it was barely noticed by commentators as they focused on his views regarding White Nationalists in our military. That position created a fifteen-minute tempest while his “dismantling democracy” statement was basically ignored.
It takes time for insects to reach their full potential. So, too, it takes time for the transformation of government to slip from one form to another. It’s a process most of us don’t have time to investigate. We’re busy trying to make ends meet, keeping the kids off drugs, recovering from natural disasters and countless other things. Who has time to delve into the inner workings of our republic when we’re struggling to maintain peace in our home and keep the family together? Almost nobody, and therein lies the rub.
Our leaders know we can’t be bothered checking up on them. If they do return our calls, we’re fobbed off as a nuisance. The metamorphosis is complete. The cockroaches are rapidly multiplying and posing serious threats to our republic. So where do we go from here?