Sunday, July 5, 2009


Just this week…

1. The people of Minnesota have certified the election of a comedian to the US Senate. A nice Jewish boy from New York City (Al Franken) replaces another nice Jewish boy from New York City (yes, Norm Coleman is Jewish and he’s from Brooklyn). No complaints on this. The citizens of Minnesota – a bedrock state of America’s Midwest – have an absolute right to elect anyone they want. Those who view Franken’s election as weird are wrong. The choice of Al Franken is truly in the American mainstream, not an exception. California elected two movie actors to high office, one as Governor, another as US Senator. The actor who became Governor later became President as well, our first divorced President.

Who can say? Maybe someday Al Franken will be America’s first Jewish President.

Our history is replete with elected officials – Governors, Congressmen, Senators - who “moved into” their states and then their official positions. In recent years alone, Hawaii’s Barack Obama became a Senator from Illinois; Hillary Clinton of Arkansas (and before that Illinois and before that Pennsylvania) was elected to the same New York Senate seat once occupied by Massachusetts’ Robert F. Kennedy; Bill Bradley of Missouri and New York became a US Senator… from New Jersey. Today, the Governor of America’s largest state, California, is an Austrian. Michigan’s Governor is from Canada.

I could go on and on… the term “carpetbagger” itself comes from the Reconstruction period following the Civil War some 140 years ago.

Also, this week…

2. The MILF “hottie” from the Far North, Sarah Palin, up and quit! That alone, while unusual, is not especially dysfunctional. What is, however, is her amazing ascension in national politics. And yet, Palin – like Franken – is also well within the American political and social mainstream. We have a long, long history of choosing highly questionable individuals with little or no governing background credentials for specifically difficult and important public positions of power. How far back do you want to go?

Remember Ulysses Grant? He was a washed-up (actually quite unwashed) ex-general; a notorious drunk; a man with no discernible qualifications to be anything once he left the military. Naturally, we elected him President – twice! And during his eight years the first wave of rapacious Wall Street businessmen stole everything they could get their hands and his signature on. The Grant administration was the most corrupt in our history until… Bush the Younger brought the oil companies and the modern thieves of finance from Wall Street into the White House, the Pentagon and the Treasury. In eight years we were looted to the tune of trillions. And it continues…

How did we ever elect the alcoholic, drug using, military service evading, intellectually disinterested Bush the Younger? He was the son of Bush the Elder. Is there anyone, anywhere who would make the argument that George W. Bush would have been Governor of Texas or President of the United States had his father been… anyone else?

How far back do you want to go? Remember John Q. Adams? He too was the son of former President. He too (like Bush the Younger) finished second in his Presidential election; and he too was inaugurated anyway becoming President after the 1824 election. Like I said, in the mainstream…

So, back to Sarah Palin… how did she ever get elected Governor, even in a state with fewer people than your average sized small city anywhere else in the United States? Name the Mayor of the second or third or fourth largest city in your state and ask yourself – Would I take that person and put them a heartbeat from the Presidency? Particularly when the President is an old man – older than any US President ever – who has already had cancer more than once? You don’t really have to answer that one.

And finally this week…

3. Michael Jackson died. The most likely cause of death appears to be an overdose of a drug used to place surgical patients in a chemical coma, a drug not even available by prescription, a drug available only to doctors, for use only in a hospital setting. Sound like the sort of drug you want to take “recreationally” at home? Well, “Ask a man who knows.” I speak from experience and the answer is a resounding – NO!

Culturally dysfunctional – Michael Jackson dying as he did? Not quite. Aren’t we used to show business personalities dying from the misuse of drugs, both illegal drugs and prescription ones too. After all, what’s the difference between a drug dealer and a doctor? Sometimes, only a license, that’s all.

What is dysfunctional about Michael Jackson needs no mention from me – does it? But isn’t the real dysfunction in our culture obvious from the reaction to his death? Of course, I don’t mean the reaction to the greatness of his music or the phenomenon he was as a performer. Both are unrivaled and unquestioned – however, realistically speaking, he will not be missed. No, he won’t. Why not? Because everything Michael Jackson did still exists – it’s all still here – on record, on iTunes and YouTube, DVD, on DVR, on film and tape. His artistry is not gone. In fact, his death sort of allows us to once more enjoy his work without embarrassment or explanation, without feelings of discomfort or images of young boys and middle-aged men. Fortunately for us, we will never be without Michael’s music or his performances.

The cultural dysfunctional here is the strange, near-psychotic reverence with which Jackson is suddenly being treated by the black community. In the last 50 years – the very years of his lifetime – there is no black American of note I can think of who did more to reject his racial identification than Michael Jackson. Yet he is mourned as if he were… someone special to and for his race. Why?

We are a dysfunctional people. This past week didn’t prove it. It simply illuminated it – again.

No comments: