Monday, November 06, 2006

Bonfire of Inanities

On this the day before the most important midterm election in more than a decade, it seems that the only one not snubbing the president is Barney, his Scottish Terrier. But this, the season of our discontent, unlike any before it, must make room for an unprecedented demand for public apologia, evisceration, and inanity. Indeed, it seems that the only time we have any interest in substance, in this country, is when we're abusing it.

Just when we thought we'd heard enough about Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, and his alleged cover-up of Florida Rep. Mark Foley's instant messages to a 16 year old congressional page, along comes Brokeback Mountain, evangelical-style, and "disgraced" Colorado minister, Ted Haggard, who denies using methadrine while confessing, to his scandal-starved congregation, that his sensuality got the better of him, and is forced to resign. "We're living this in real time," said Rob Brendle, associate pastor of Haggard's New Life Church, as indeed the Salem Bay trials were in real time, too. (NYT) Consider, too, how one ecclesiastical hypocrite has been forced to his knees for a public spanking, and mea culpa, when, by conservative estimates, hundreds of his Catholic brothers will go unnoticed, and unpunished.
Nobody can say Rep.Mark Foley doesn't lead a charmed life, Jack Abramoff would bribe a boat of Arab hijackers to be that lucky.

Haggard succeeded better than anyone else to take Foley, and Hastert out of the spotlight, but what does this say about this campaign from hell, literally?
While the pundits rant incessantly about how this year might register as a 6.5 on the Richter scale of negative campaigning, there is more that is inane than negative both in the campaign ads, and in the personal attacks on candidates.. If we learned anything from Foley's fall from grace, it is that a cyberspace instant fantasy world between a teenage page and a member of Congress titillates John Q. Public, and sells more newspapers than a real life threat from Kim Jong in North Korea. But, this is nothing new.

What modern technology, the Internet, the digital camera, and the big screen T.V. can take credit for is having the nascent art of the confessional to new levels. If it were possible for Joan of Arc to be interviewed by CNN's Wolf Blitzer, she might not have burned at the stake, after all, but joined the cast of Donald Trump's reality show instead. Yes, we have taken the notion of theater of the absurd to new heights. Consider, for a moment, the apology made by a previous presidential candidate, John Kerry, for an inane joke in light of the fact that the sitting president sees no reason to apologize for the loss of more than 2,800 American service men and women's lives. While Kerry may have denounced what he terms a "campaign of fear and smear" against him, (NYT) if truth be told, there'd be nobody home in the White House, for the past 6 years, without "fear and smear."

In an attempt to force the Senator to his knees, Republicans ran a Web ad, that rivals the Swift Boat debacle, demanding an apology from Kerry, while showing U.S. soldiers in Iraq holding a banner that reads "Halp Us Jon Carry—We R Stuck Hear in Irak." Don't the words "mea culpa" mean anything to anybody anymore? Aren't we glad we now have a one size fits all crucifix.

Moreover, the "Halp Us Jon Carry" ad pales in comparison with the Tennessee advertising blitz in which congressional candidate, Harold Ford, is being fed the bait by a contender for Playmate of the Month. Forget about being racist, I think the ad is an insult to Hugh Hefner and the Playboy Club, and I'm waiting for Mr. Hefner to stand up, and demand an apology from Ford's Republican challenger, Robert Corker.

While we agree with Margaret Carlson that the Tennessee congressional race may be the "basest" campaign of all, let's not forget the inanity of the Senate race in Richmond, Virginia, and Senator George Allen's accusations against his Democratic counterpart, Jim Webb, that he demeans women in his fiction. What's more, one must ask what Allen's positions are on Roe v. Wade, and whether he thinks overturning that constitutional amendment would constitute demeaning women. But, then, that would be something that happens in "real time," and nobody cares about real time, anymore.

You may recall, too, that Jim Webb is a decorated Vietnam veteran who later served as Ronald Reagan's Secretary of the Navy.. Clearly, this is why Senator Allen has tried so vigorously to use the oldest trick in the book, scandal, to deflect attention away from the fact that, by a ratio of nearly 2 to 1, those in Congress who most favored sending troops to Iraq, and "staying the course," are those who were missing in action in previous wars.

Dating back to the days when we tried folks for being witches at Salem Bay to the Commie witch hunts of Joe McCarthy, we Americans have a long, and distinguished history of indulging in practices which must seem to the rest of the world to be inane and, arguably, criminally inane. Even if we didn't invent irrelevancy, we sure as hell mastered it.

Make no mistake, while no one can dispute that, with this election, we've reached a new, and vastly improved, threshold of inanity, there are some pretty potent issues out there, none of which may be said to have taken steroids, and these are the issues to focus on in this election year, as well as in 2008. There is more hunger, more homelessness, more bloodshed, and yet a greater possibility for more violence, including a nuclear holocaust, today than ever before, and there is only one known antidote which is to vote, and to vote early, before voting itself becomes an act of civil disobedience.

We live in an age when even the truth must be fitted for a bullet proof vest, or senior members of our government are likely to take puck shots at it. It's time to show those wunderkinden of spin, the Roves and the Snows, that the media is not the massage; go to the polls tomorrow, and cast your vote for regime change in Washington, while it's still there for the casting.