August 6, 2008: The Election of 2008 is taking place, as do all presidential elections, on two great National Stages: the stage of America’s Place in World History and the stage of Current American Culture. The tectonic shift I wrote about on day one of this blog is unfolding on the stage of America’s Place in World History. The flag pin flap and the New Yorker cover hysteria are acts written for the stage of Current American Culture. To appreciate the difference imagine yourself sipping wine at a table in an outdoor cafe somewhere on the Left bank of Paris. If a Parisian would condescend so far as to engage you (because you look so typically American) in a discussion about American politics he would be more likely to discuss the tectonic shift than he would the reasons for Obama’s decision to wear a flag pin. Which is unfortunate because in the unlikely event that it was me sitting quietly sipping a pinot noir I would be far more knowledgeable and passionate about Current American Culture than World History. Which is not to say that I am ignorant about that stage. I’m just saying that on the Culture stage there is not just the Presidential Election of 2008 but simultaneously there is the American Circus, written to distract, amuse and entertain. Under the canvas roof of the Circus are: movies, television, sports, music, literature, food, local politics and the people involved in these productions. The individual actors are as important as the content of the act. Often there occurs the curious phenomena when the actor is the act content. This is both the highest and lowest form of distracting, amusing entertainment. Why would anyone be interested in the literal daily comings and goings of any one, mere individual? And yet, there is a huge amount of space and time on the Current American Culture stage devoted to just that kind of act. People Magazine. Entertainment Tonight. National Enquirer. Gawker. They make big money by feeding the American appetite for information about the bathroom rituals of actors. Celebrities.
For example, Paris Hilton. She has a place on the great stage for a number of reasons. A wealthy, young (28) and attractive woman with a wonderful name. A voyeuristic sex video made in her youth youth. A television show that ran for two or three seasons. A brand phrase (“That’s hot.”). A televised incarceration for driving under the influence and a televised release three weeks later. American Culture wondered if she would survive the harsh realities of a life without chauffeurs, French poodles and weekends in Dubai. It was stunned to learn on Larry King Live that she picked up a streetwise toughness: “Don’t serve the time; let the time serve you,” Hilton said. “I have a new outlook on life. (I had) time to get to know myself. ” Well I, for one, was impressed. Now it so happens that many people don’t like her. I am not one of those people. I think she is smart and very amusing. But it got to be, after her release last summer, that she was in the news and in Late Night monologues, every day. To make matters worse two other female comets streaked brilliantly through the sky at the same time. Yes, I’m referring to Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan. Drunken antics. Drunken driving. Flashing. It was too much. Then in 2008 they suddenly disappeared. Britney’s medication kicked in. Lindsay went and “gone gay”. And Paris? We’ll always have Paris, but where did she go? She said she was going to save the children in Darfur or Ethiopia or Bangladesh. I did not know where she was or what she was doing and with whom.
John McCain and Barack Obama changed all of that. In a desperate attempt to bring Barack Obama down from the lofty heights of Mount Olympus where he conversed daily with the gods, John McCain last week characterized Obama in a video ad as a Current American Culture actor, a puff tabloid celebrity, specifically showing images of Barack Obama and, much to my horror, Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. The ad asked us to reflect on this mantric insight: “He’s the biggest celebrity in the world. But is he ready to lead?” Barack Obama actually took the time to respond. “Racist, sexist, inappropriate, not funny.” Or was that the New Yorker cover response? Well anyway, I should say it was both to my horror and to my relief because I knew what was going to happen next. Paris and/or Britney was going to stop whatever humanitarian work she was doing and return to the stage. And who knows for how long? As all of America knows by now, it was Paris who sauntered seductively and saucily to front and center stage. She put out (no pun) a video ad where she appears reclining on a sun lounger beside a swimming pool, dressed in a leopard-print bathing suit. “Hey America, I’m Paris Hilton and I’m a celebrity too… Only I’m not from the olden days and I’m not promising change like that other guy. I’m just hot… But then that wrinkly white-haired guy used me in his campaign ad, which I guess means I’m running for president. So thanks for the endorsement white-haired dude, and I want America to know I’m, like, totally ready to lead…We can do limited offshore drilling with strict environmental oversight while creating tax incentives to get Detroit making hybrid and electric cars… Energy crisis solved, I’ll see you at the debates, bitches!”
OMG. ROFLMAO. Brilliant. Funny. Delivered flawlessly. Welcome back, Paris. But you were meant for greater things. Remember the children. And Britney: relax honey and take your meds.
And while I’m on the topic of pop culture and politics. It is becoming increasingly apparent that John Edwards (remember him?), of all people, is smack in the middle of a sordid, wife dying of cancer, love-child, sex for hire (no, scratch that last one) scandal. Since I live in the same state as he does (he lives about ten miles from where I live… high on Chapel Hill’s largest mountain) I’ll quote from Ann Coulter who has this love-hate thing going on with him: “Last year, the National Enquirer broke the story about New-Age divorcee Rielle Hunter, formerly Lisa Druck, telling friends she was having an affair with Edwards and that she was pregnant with his “love child…. Who knew that “my father was a mill worker” could be such a great pickup line? In his defense, Edwards had to do something to kill time between giving $50,000 speeches on poverty. “