Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

In a world gone mad, who is the true madman? 
Steve Bannon runs the asylum
Cabinet is one of those French words, like bureau, that refers not only to a physical space but to people who occupy a physical space. It used to confuse me when I was a child; I would read about the President's cabinet and picture a wooden cupboard.

In Robert Wiene's 1920 The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, the cabinet is a coffinlike box where a sleepwalker spends much of his time, when he isn't called upon by Dr. Caligari to answer questions from fairgoers and kill at the doctor's orders. In From Caligari to Hitler, theorist Siegfried Kracauer connected themes in the film to the rise of tyranny in the Third Reich, with the sleepwalking Cesare a stand-in for the German people, unable to resist their manipulative puppet-master.

Of course, the twist in the film is that all of the characters are shown to be residents of an asylum, with Dr. Caligari its director.

Which brings me to the Trump transition and the proposed cabinet appointments. Is Bannon Caligari? Is Trump the somnambulist? Or, as Kracauer suggested, are we all sleepwalking through our own destiny, content to be hypnotized and lulled into an acceptance of evil?

All I know is that we have Jefferson Beauregard Sessions from Alabama proposed as Attorney General. As befits a man named after two Confederate leaders, Jeff stands firm against even legal immigration and could not hate the Voting Rights Act more.

National Security Adviser will be Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, who does not distinguish terrorism from Islam and calls both "sick."  And Tea Party member Mike Pompeo, a supporter of Guantanamo and more, not less, domestic surveillance, will be CIA chief. The two Mikeys don't even require Senate confirmation, but any cabinet member looks likely to skate through, thanks to the so-called nuclear option.

"Darkness is good," says Dr. Caligari.

No comments:

Post a Comment