Roger Marolt: Read the fine print before giving the devil his due
What does making a deal with the devil look like? Every clause might not make a hell of a lot of difference; a lot of boiler plate, if you will. Then again, it might be worth reading the fine print.
There is Johnny down in Georgia to consider. Remember? The devil jumped up on a hickory stump while Johnny was presumably minding his own business and playing his fiddle, perhaps practicing or maybe just enjoying his own sound. Whatever. What we know is that the devil bet a fiddle of gold, probably worth about half a million dollars, against Johnny’s soul in an historic fiddle battle.
What is sometimes lost is that Johnny didn’t pursue this deal. It came to him. In the end, he was convinced that he could win and be done with the devil. That’s not really making a deal. It’s accepting a challenge with a wager. Johnny had confidence in his musical prowess and calculated the odds. He was in control of his destiny. There was some downside risk, for sure, but win or lose he would never have much more to do with the devil, much less have to kiss his spiked tail. He could still be his own man, albeit in a miserable new home called Hell.
Then there is Shoeless Joe (not his real name) from Hannibal, Missouri. His real name was Joe Boyd and the devil came to him with a deal to satisfy this disgruntled baseball fan’s hatred of the New York Yankees. The devil allowed him a taste of fame, to become the home run hitter for the Washington Senators who could finally beat the Yankees. The trial period for this exercise was set to expire before the last out of the World Series between the two teams with Joe at the plate. To make the arrangement permanent and allowing Joe to hit the winning home run, Joe would have to agree to give up the love of his life, his wife Meg, forever. Spoiler alert: Joe nixes the deal at the last second, ends up hitting the World Series winning home run anyway, and gets his wife back.
The takeaway here is that Joe negotiated a reasonable deal with the devil, including a bona fide escape clause. Very smart. During the due diligence period, Joe did his homework, discovered the deal was too one-sided, and pulled out. He figured out what every sensible person already knows: The devil does not give up much in his bargains. What he had to offer was worthless in the end. The devil never comes up short. Those who accept his terms end up suffering massively.
So, finally, there are the newspaper columnists’ deals with the devil. These are always in writing so they are hard to get out of. There was an example in the Sunday Denver Post last weekend. The writer made a bargain with the devil to give her vote to Donald Trump in exchange for the fuzzy idea of a better health care plan Trump has never delivered, the elimination of taxpayer supported abortions, lower taxes and fewer federal regulations. Fine.
The costly part of the devil’s deal here is what comes in the package with Trump, which the columnist fully acknowledges and accepts. She calls him a “boorish, uniformed celebrity real estate tycoon” and a “serial philanderer.” She acknowledges, “the Tweets, the nepotism, the juvenile insults, and the blithe disregard for the facts.” She doesn’t mention the constant bullying, lying, reluctance to denounce racist groups, xenophobic stereotyping, promotion of conspiracy theories, revulsion with the free press, pandering to Vladimir Putin and kissing up to Kim Jong-un, and the litany of crude and demeaning things he has said about women. Whether she was up against a word count, negligently glossed over these things, or is simply as brain-numb as the rest of us to recall or be shocked, matters not. It’s all there in the addendum of the devil’s deal.
The columnist recalls a moment last year on public television when she remarked that, “Voting for President Trump would be like eating out of a dumpster.” These words indicate she fully understands the implications of the pact she is now making. The devil made a big ask. What the columnist doesn’t see in the fine print is that nobody gets nourished eating garbage. If you dine with the flies, you eventually get very, very sick. The devil always gets more than he gives. It’s the art of his deals.
Roger Marolt makes sure all his deals are thoroughly reviewed and signed off on by his editor. Email at email@example.com.
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