Marquez: How GOP Can Regain Its Soul


I am currently teaching One Hundred Years of Solitude in my Magical Realism course and am struck by how magical realism might be the only genre that could do justice to our current politics. I’ll be exploring this idea in the weeks to come. I’m struck by similarities between the great liberal hero Colonel Aureliano Buendia and the Republican Party. Aureliano begins by fighting for higher principles, but the incessant wars ultimately become about nothing more than power and ego. As one of his closest friends tells him, “You’re rotting alive.”

Fortunately for Republicans dismayed about how the GOP has been Trumpified, Aureliano finds his way back to his ideals. It just takes courage and a great deal of effort. As he learns, it is “easier to start a war than to end one.”

Before Aureliano wakes up, however, we see him losing his inner compass:

Lost in the solitude of his immense power, he began to lose direction…He was weary of the uncertainty, of the vicious circle of that eternal war that always found him in the same place, but always older, wearier, even more in the position of not knowing why, or how, or even when.

At one point he has a conservative mayor executed, even though the man was formerly a friend and the best mayor his hometown of Macondo has ever had. The mayor tries to remind him “of their common aim to humanize the war” and to triumph over “the corruption of the militarists and the ambitions of the politicians in both parties” but to no avail as Aureliano uses the “tyrant’s plea” (as Milton calls it in Paradise Lost) to justify his action:

“Remember, old friend,” he told him. “I’m not shooting you. It’s the revolution that shooting you.”
General Moncada did not even get up from the cot when he saw him come in.
“Go to hell, friend,” he answered.

The scene is repeated later only at this point Aureliano has rediscovered his principles. When he enters the man’s prison cell, he has a different message:

“Let’s get out of here before the mosquitoes in here execute you.” Colonel Gerineldo Marquez could not repress the disdain that was inspired in him by that attitude.
“No, Aureliano,” he replied. I’d rather be dead than see you changed into a bloody tyrant”
“You won’t see me,” Colonel Aureliano Buendia said. “Put on your shoes and help me get this shitty war over with.”

The process that occurs next is a version of what I would like to see occur with the GOP:

It took him almost a year of fierce and bloody effort to force the government to propose conditions of peace favorable to the rebels and another year to convince his own partisans of the convenience of accepting them. He went to inconceivable extremes of cruelty to put down the rebellion of his own officers, who resisted and called for victory, and he finally relied on enemy forces to make them submit.

Imagine Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell bucking their extremist wing and proposing measures to protect Dreamers. Imagine them moving the party back to the center.

Garcia Marquez assures us that it is worth it:

He was never a greater soldier than at that time. The certainty that he was finally fighting for his own liberation and not for abstract ideals, for slogans that politicians could twist left and right according to the circumstances, filled him with an ardent enthusiasm.

Do the current GOP leaders have such greatness with them?

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  • Literature is as vital to our lives as food and shelter. Stories and poems help us work through the challenges we face, from everyday irritations to loneliness, heartache, and death. Literature is meant to mix it up with life. This website explores how it does so.

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