I am in process of sifting through several boxes of old theatre files in order to feed the recycling bin with material that has sat in a closet since my retirement. I opened a file labeled Athol Fugard--South Africa's most acclaimed playwright and found myself looking at a review of his award winning play "Master Harold . . . and the Boys." Having just seen a revival of this play in AZ this past winter, I just felt I had to read it. It was written about the first production at Yale in 1982 by a young Frank Rich.
Hally, one of the three characters in the play, is a young white South African who has been mentored and raised by the two black men who work in his mother's tea room. A series of problems develops that cause the young Hally to attack and humiliate the black men horribly. Rich sees in this young privileged white man a boy who "is typical of anyone who attacks the defenseless to bolster his own self-esteem." Is this starting to ring a bell even forty years on?
This play centers on the creeping evil of "apartheid", but Mr. Rich talks also about how all hatred sneaks up, ignites, and then grows. He notes that Hally seems on track and admirable in the early parts of the play. He would appear to be someone you might vote for. However, as the play progresses, the young man becomes more cruel, spiteful, hateful and ready to assert his inborn power and superiority. In spite of this we find it hard to pull ourselves away from Hally. Rich then asks why do we stick to him even though we can feel and see he is sliding into an abyss. The answer appears to be because we see in Hally's behavior our own latent capacity for cruelty. Our own ingrained self-hate immobilizes us. We cannot admit our errors and turn to another solution. Trump and what he represents will never change. In order for us to change and break the old order, we must begin to finally see just who it is we really hurt when we give in to hatred.
Just a thought as we approach our current election. The past must always speak to the present.