Tuesday, August 26, 2008

OF LEOTARDS AND PETARDS

Over on Salon, Rebecca Traister reports on still-defiant and mostly female Hillary supporters haunting the Dems’ Convention in Denver (“Angry PUMAs on the prowl in Denver”, http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2008/08/26/pumas/).

A couple of things occur to me.

The very name this bunch has given itself – Party Unity My Ass – says a mouthful (so to speak) about the Reckoning that the Dems now face after many decades of the Party’s endless-summery partay with the Identities, especially the particular revolution of the feminists of the Second Wave (hereinafter: “2WF”). The PUMAs are now claiming that there will be no ‘Party unity’ unless it’s on their terms – and those terms were, in a word, Hillary. And still are. The assumption that would have been and was made by almost any Citizen decades ago in the early ‘70s – that whatever an Identity sought, whatever ‘the feminists’ sought, was still subordinated to the common weal of American society – was not at all accurate. Nor was the assumption – Ted Kennedy’s misty if enthusiastic blubberings notwithstanding – that the Democratic Party would provide adult supervision to ensure the common weal of Our whole society.

The 2WF revolution was indeed a ‘revolution’, with all the implications therein contained that it would be in its very essence antithetical to a democratic politics and to the very reality of a common weal, of a common citizenry that formed American society and constituted The People. ‘Women’ were no longer envisioned as a subset (or even interest group) of that larger group called ‘Americans’; instead ‘women’ who happened to live in this country were to be seen as members of a world-and-History-wide oppressed group who were finally revolting against their storied oppression, and the ‘women’ of America just happened to have the good or bad luck to be born here, an accident of fate. They could no more consider themselves as citizens of ‘America’ than French resisters could consider themselves subject to the Vichy government and its Nazi masters.

Nor can it be forgotten that the Bolshevik vision was not only inimical to the governing arrangement constituted by the Tsarist dynasty, but in effect and intent to the Russian people itself, that lump that would never ‘get it’ and had to be goaded and stampeded like the herd of unenlightened oxen that it was. When building or even creating a New Order, ‘Terror’ was a more reliable tool and cement than ‘good will’ or ‘patriotism’, a point the irony of which should not be lost upon Us here and now.

And We wonder how We have reached Our present parlous point in a still-kicking History?

Traister’s particular plaint is that this small bunch of PUMAs is making ‘women’ look like “hysterics and harridans” and – marvelously put – “angry, broom-riding succubi”. But of course, the party (and perhaps the Party, by this point) was only going to continue as long as the 2WFs got their way, and the PUMA movement is clear evidence of it. The economy going into the crapper, a losing war on two fronts and a 3rd and even 4th (Iran and now Russia) in the wings – and perhaps nuclear exchanges tossed in, and the reliability of entire national ‘elites’ – money managers and bankers and economists, media pundits and reporters, military bosses, as well as the pols and roadies of both the Executive and the Legislative Branches – profoundly discredited in fact if not in appearance.

But no matter: it’s been about the 2WF revolution all along, and the mere accidents of History are and were of no more interest to the ‘foremothers’ than they are and were to their bastard, unintended spawn of a nephew, Rove. Welcome to all-in-the-family … for real. No Hillary – no nothing, and they will take their marbles and go home (although, if this country turns turtle, just what ‘home’ do they foresee? Glasses of chardonnay – even plastic ones – are not to be found in the rapidly metastasizing Third World, and not even Hahvahd can put all of them up for the duration). But if this is a tantrum – and who can deny it? – it’s not utterly spurious: the 2WF thought they had a deal; they thought We ‘got it’; they thought We were in the bag - either individually or through Our elected - you should pardon the expression - representatives.

But the marvelousness doesn’t stop there. Traister is very exercised by the publicity that the relatively few PUMAs are getting. “But this is how media fantasy gets made: a miniature tableau of political discord, played out in front of well-placed television cameras and a television host who finds fetishistic, hyperbolic meaning in everything …” By falling-for such “made for TV demonstrations” a gullible media are making ‘women’ look bad out there in Denver. The hot ironies!

Because of course, for decades now the mothers of the revolution have been masterful in leading the ‘advocacy’ media around by its ever-shortening hairs. How many Americans are not as familiar as Soviet citizens with the now-classic, socialist-realism tropes – a canny blend of Goebbels and ‘Pravda’ – of ‘reporting’ on issues of the Identities? With how many ‘outrages’ and ‘crises’ have We been bethump’t in this way: a small group of well-honed activists or ‘victims’, script memorized, placed in a symbolic location, cameras so focused on them that they fill the screen even if there are only a few of them, asked softball ‘questions’ by willing ‘reporters’ or – more often – simply asked what they ‘feel’ by ‘sensitive’ ‘reporters’.

No wonder fiction and reality are now so mixed that We can’t distinguish easily between them any more. If somebody tried to sell you a house this way, they’d be guilty of half-a-dozen violations; but how much ‘progress’ have We been sold on the basis of manipulation, hyperbole, and – I’m going to say – dishonesty?

And of course, History being alive and canny, as well as still-kicking, the Greed Masters of Finance, Real Estate, and Insurance and their Puppet Masters in Banking, have made hay while everybody else was being over-dosed on the shrewdly-staged plaints of the Identities, and then the Bushist Imperium felt confident enough to roll out its Death Star, which awesome weapon has to date proven far more lethal in the recoil than in the projectile. But like 2WF, imperial war will – We are assured – automatically work better if We just use it more. We received the same assurances about Vietnam.

Our situation is approaching the positively Baroque: echoes and fragments and fragments of echoes of previous melodies and themes now rush back and forth, roiling in a maelstrom of repetition and in their collisions with each other, simultaneously deforming and morphing into new mutations. Who now can see through the swirl? Who can chart a course not out to open sea that We might continue the journey and the mission, but just for the next short distance ahead, to avoid the rocks and reefs and other vessels now encircling Us close aboard?

And the most fateful and disconcerting of thoughts: the PUMAs are convinced that their theme is the main theme of Our history, and will seek to hold Our attention – through good publicity and bad – while the rocky consequences of a jilted History (let’s not even toy with ‘a jilted Beyond’) draw ever closer. And in regard to History and even the Beyond, what Baroque irony would it be, were this nation finally driven to Admiral Yamamoto's foreboding about the United States after the attack on Pearl Harbor was completed: "I fear that all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant, and fill it with a terrible resolve"?

No amount of beer and popcorn or chardonnay and finger-foods should be allowed to interfere with Our attention during these Conventions. Sackcloth, ashes, and a sober, serious, gimlet eye – those are the true tools of patriotism this election season.

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