Dick Cheney, a Raskolnikov for our times by mattsteinglass
May 11, 2009, 9:16 pm
Filed under: Crime, Human Rights and Torture

Why can’t Dick Cheney leave well enough alone? If he would just maintain a decorous silence, he’d probably have dropped off the radar, or at least be protected by the shroud of respectability that settles over former Presidents and VPs. But he can’t seem to stop scratching that itch, drawing the attention of vengeful justice inexorably towards himself.

Perhaps, like Raskolnikov, he is tormented by guilt over the crimes which, in a fit of shallow self-interested rationalization, he had decided that History granted him, an Exceptional Man, the moral license — nay, the duty to commit? Perhaps some part of him wants to be punished?…

      “And I know now, Sonia, that whoever is strong in mind and spirit will have power over [men]. Anyone who is greatly daring is right in their eyes. He who despises most things will be a law-giver among them and he who dares most of all will be most in the right! So it has been till now and so it will always be. A man must be blind not to see it!”

      Though Raskolnikov looked at Sonia as he said this, he no longer cared whether she understood or not. The fever had complete hold of him; he was in a sort of gloomy ecstasy (he certainly had been too long without talking to anyone). Sonia felt that this gloomy creed had become his faith and code.

     “I divined then, Sonia,” he went on eagerly, “that power is only vouchsafed to the man who dares to stoop and pick it up. There is only one thing, one thing needful: one has only to dare! Then for the first time in my life an idea took shape in my mind which no one had ever thought of before me, no one! I saw clear as daylight how strange it is that not a single person living in this mad world has had the daring to go straight for it all and send it flying to the devil! I … I wanted to have the daring … and I killed her. I only wanted to have the daring, Sonia! That was the whole cause of it!”

     “Oh hush, hush,” cried Sonia clasping her hands. “You turned away from God and God has smitten you, has given you over to the devil!”

And Raskolnikov knows. “I know myself that it was the devil leading me,” he says.

     “Well, what am I to do now?” he asked, suddenly raising his head and looking at her with a face hideously distorted by despair.

     “What are you to do?” she cried, jumping up, and her eyes that had been full of tears suddenly began to shine. “Stand up!” (She seized him by the shoulder, he got up, looking at her almost bewildered.) “Go at once, this very minute, stand at the cross-roads, bow down, first kiss the earth which you have defiled and then bow down to all the world and say to all men aloud, ‘I am a murderer!’ Then God will send you life again.”

I’m not really sure this kind of thing works for criminals in real life, as opposed to Dostoevsky novels. But it’d be a start.

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[…] from the Brothers Karamazov, explaining the ironclad utilitarian case for re-crucifying Jesus? I noted earlier Raskolnikov’s disturbed rationalization of murder, driven by a confused combination of need, […]

Pingback by Dostoevsky and Cheney, again « ACCUMULATING PERIPHERALS

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