Guys All Right
Arnold Schwartznegger opened the can of worms, taking dead
aim at his opponents in the California legislature by calling
them Girlie Men. Wooo, tough talk from a Hollywood action
figure, and the political world’s most formidable Austrian-American
bodybuilder. His opponents no doubt, must be shaking in their
teddies. But hey, it’s the 21st century, entertainment
HAS conquered reality and Schwartznegger’s living proof.
He married a Kennedy, she stands by him whomever he gropes,
and at least most Americans don’t have to live in a
state where he’s governor or where they might get stuck
in an elevator with him. We do however, live in a country
in the midst of an election campaign which many of us are
beginning to see as increasingly surreal, on the level of
California’s last gubinatorial primary between the Terminator,
the ex-porn starlet and the midget guy from Fantasy Island.
But few people are laughing about the presidential campaign.
Rapper Sean Combs, a cultural hero to millions of black Americans,
is passing out free tee shirts in the inner cities that read
“Vote or Die.” And people are edgy. Vice President
Cheney, on the floor of the House of Representatives and in
answer to a question about his company, Halliburton, told
Minority Leader Tom Delay to “Go and f#*! yourself.”
Ouch. Touchy, huh?
Never before have Americans been so polarized so far in advance
of a national election, nor have we ever had two guys who
really are such extreme opposites running against one another.
And they’re not just opposites, they’re archetypal
opposites, John Kerry even looks like a presidential archetype,
with Lincoln’s face and Kennedy’s voice. George
Bush seems like some sort of archetype too, though it’s
kind of a toss-up between The Prodigal Son and the Spoiled
Fact is though, the election IS a personality contest, and
history shows we tend to vote for people we identify with,
not necessarily the ones we admire. Adlai Stevenson was brilliant,
everyone knew that. But people liked Ike, and he turned out
to be a great president. He got the job however, because first
and foremost, he was a leader, and people understood it.
So the election result, assuming it hasn’t been programmed
into swing state voting machines already, will probably turn
on questions buried deep in our collective subconscious: Who
can we trust? How do we see ourselves, or in whom do we see
ourselves? Who can protect us better? And - thank you Arnold
- Is one of these guys maybe some kind of Girlie Man? What
is that anyway?
Comparisons being odious, forget the cheerleader thing. It
was probably the only way to get free beer if you couldn’t
make the team. And everybody who knew the guy swears he never
once bought a round during his 15-year binge. Not that he
couldn’t afford to, but back then girls didn’t
buy their own drinks. Now we’re not saying the president’s
a Girlie Man, whatever that is. Given the time he devotes
to working out, he’s probably pretty tough for a Light
Heavyweight. But there are two guys running for the office,
their capacities are very different, and we owe it to ourselves
to weigh them carefully.
Set aside for now Bush’s war on the environment, his
war on privacy, civil and personal rights, or his war on the
constitutional separation of church and state. Every presidency
has its defining moment and George Bush’s ran 7 minutes
with the cameras rolling. If you haven’t seen them,
it’s worth the ticket price to Michael Moore’s
Farenheight 9-11. Yeah, the editing’s heavy handed,
but the pictures are the pictures, they don’t lie. And
it’s scary as hell. The President of the United States,
informed the nation is under attack, goes catatonic in front
of the television cameras paralyzed with confusion, holding
an upside down story book “The Pet Goat” until
he’s finally rescued and ushered out of a second grade
Then there’s Kerry, OK, like Bush, a son of privilege.
But he volunteered to go to war and thirty-some years later
the guys he led are proud to stand with him. In a split second
he turned his boat into heavy machine gun fire to rescue one
of his men. That, as they say in Miami and Los Angeles, takes
cojones. That’s a guy who understands responsibility
and who’s able to respond. And when he came back from
that war and had seen what he’d seen, he stood up to
say he thought we shouldn’t be there anymore. Flip-Flop?
Call it what you want. The guy THINKS. He reassesses the situation.
He takes the wheel and he turns the boat around.
Bush by contrast has fallen off two bicycles, an ATV, and
the couch, while trying to eat a pretzel. Doesn’t read,
and proud of it. No curiosity, no passion, and called his
dad to cover his tracks whenever the cops had to take him
home. In his first eight months in office he turned himself
into a national joke, trying to speak English without a teleprompter.
But then 9-11 happened and joking wasn’t appropriate
Truth being the first casualty of the war on terror, Bush’s
handling of it has been worse than bad, and people do get
resentful when they learn they’ve been manipulated.
And we have been manipulated by fear because we’re desperate
to feel protected. Enough’s enough though. Kerry and
Edwards say that hope is on the way, and help is on the way.
Yeah it does sound a bit like a Viagra ad, but honestly, are
we so confused we’ve misplaced the self-respect to just
vote for the best leader we can?