Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Bush the Ironist + Sharon Olds Speaks Out + Rod on 50 Cent

A few weeks back the thought came to me, why hasn't some snarky Republican made the argument that despite all appearances to the contrary, our incurious and incompetent figurehead-in-chief is actually the greatest ironist who ever set foot in the White House?*
Mission Accomplished
But what if someone did make the argument that the inanities we've witnessed involving the Resident-in-Chief from BEFORE day one, starting let's say with his ridculous performance in the debates in the 2000, to Bush v. Gore, to his announced aim to bring respectability "back" to the White House and the "working across the aisles," to his prancing aboard the aircraft carrier in that sock-stuffed flightsuit to declare "Mission Accomplished," to his OK Corral-ish vow to get Osama bin Laden "dead or alive," or his urging the Sunni revolutionists and the Zarqawi crowd Iraq to "come and get 'em," or his frenzied flight back to Washington from his ranch to sign a bill to overrided spousal rights and help "save" the brain-dead Terri Schiavo, just a few weeks ago, his declaration that "Brownie" had done "a heck of a job," like his numerous actions over the last five years, from sitting for seven minutes frozen before a classroom full of schoolchildren after he learned that the World Trade Center had been attacked by airplanes, or his Potemkin rallies before the 2004 election and Social Security "town meetings," or his failure to return, on his own initiative, whether by instinct or some other internal guide, to Washington as soon as he learned of Hurricane Katrina's severe impact, were not testimony to a dim and lacking mind and defunct personality, but of a person possessed of a capacity for irony in several of its older senses (I don't mean Socratic irony, though maybe they could try that as well) so profound that it might startle the majority of his critics to realize it?

By which I mean, a talent--a genius, in his case--for behavior (dramatic irony) and utterances (verbal irony) signifying the exact opposite of what they connotatively convey, as "simulated ignorance" (eironia)? There is almost too much in his record to recommend Bush as a debased--the most debased--example of the eiron, the traditional dissembler (liar) in Ancient Greek drama, though in his case, one would have to drop the integral elements of wit and humor; when Bush had Condoleezza Rice testify before the 9/11 Commission, with a straight face, no less, that the August Presidential Daily Briefing headlined "Osama bin Laden Determined to Strike in United States" was "historical," the joke was lost on the families of those who were killed, as well as on the committee, the Congress (at least half of it), and millions of Americans and others around the globe.

His performance in the 2000 and 2004 debates, including that moment in the first Kerry debate where he seemed to be responding poorly to transmitted answers from a hidden earpiece? Irony!

His his inability to name even one failing during his dreadful first term, his constant avowals of the inevitablity of readily weaponizable WMDs in Iraq, his repeated assertions of Saddam-Al Qaeda links, his claims about the positive economic effects of his tax cutting plans, tort "reform," the bankruptcy bill, and Medicare drug law? Irony!

His selection of a the head of his VP search committee to be his VP, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Karl Rove, Douglas Feith, Gale Norton, Margaret Spellings, Ed Gillespie, Ken Mehlman, Michael Powell, Ken Tomlinson, James Gurley, Joe Allbaugh, Michael Brown, Jeffjames Gannonguckert, etc.? Irony!

The fact that the US has lost a net number of jobs over the last five years, the US poverty level has increased overall by more than 20%, the country has faced consecutive years of record annual budget deficits, and environmental degradation is increasing to such an extent that some scientists are now arguing we may not be able to reverse the negative effects? Irony!

The over 1,900 US and coalition soldiers who've died and the more than 20,000 who've been maimed or injured in Iraq, the many thousands (100,000+) Iraqi citizens who've died, the ongoing turmoil that has resulted in a religiously and ethnically divided, weak Islamicist dominated government, closely linked to Iran, taking power in Baghdad? IRONY!!!

The blood-red W Bush defenders could argue that in fact, it's all ironic, all one vast joke that should be understood as such, and we should be thanking W Bush, really, though there's three more years to go (no one act plays with this one, unfortunately); it's all been a big joke, a long, horrific grand mal seizure of levity--comedy and tragedy being intimately linked, in the classical sense, so there have to be some tough bits, no, many very, very, very tough bits, thrown in, the post-Hurricane Katrina horrorshow being only the most recent example.

But then none of W Bush's supporters would make such an argument because they realize how insanely inane it would sound. No one is that stupid....

* I am not sure who'd be in the running against him, since an ironic personality has not been one of the common traits of those seeking the White House (and being an outright liar or dissembler, like Richard Nixon, is something else altogether). So who would his competition be? Warren Harding? Ronald Reagan? Millard Filmore? His ineffectual father?

Poet Sharon Olds breaks Laura W. "Kanye-Hatin'" Bush a new one off in her letter, published in the current issue of The Nation, announcing that she won't be participating in the First Lady's Book National Book Festival in Washington, which is set to take place on September 24, the national day of protests against W Bush's Iraq War. Olds's fearlessness is well known; she has written some of the most emotionally and sexually candid and raw poetry published over the last 30 years--this is a woman who titled one of her collections The Wellspring, partially in reference to the...wellspring of human sperm in the testicles! As befits a National Book Critics' Circle Award winner, though, Olds doesn't rant, but in a movingly cogent, poetic fashion, breaks it down for Mrs. "Disgusting." Olds details her active role‡ and interests in and abiding appreciation for creating and sustaining a community of readers and writers, which leads her to explain why she cannot "break bread" with the First Lady, who is the public face of an administration that has

"unleashed this war and that wills its continuation, even to the extent of permitting 'extraordinary rendition': flying people to other countries where they will be tortured for us."

Please read the letter, and if you can, send Sharon Olds a note of appreeciation. I say Bravo to you, Sharon Olds, and, once again, THANK YOU!
‡I must add that I was one of those "young poets" whom she and others sent out to teach at New York City public schools, which was a life-defining experience for me.)

50 Cent
I'd missed 50 Cent's literary debut (or was there an earlier volume?), but Rod 2.0 is there in "What Up S.L.U.T. to apprise of us of some of the more salacious tidbits among the bullet-riddled rapper's youthful experiences in homoerotic appreciation. It seems 50 Cent wasn't loathe to remark on noteworthy male packages, so to speak, and even earned the name of "Fucking Slut" from his well-hung hardcore drill sergeant in youth boot camp! And Rod 2.0 says there's more to come! (Does 50 talk about when he first started plucking his eyebrows? Does he give us the name of his first boo? Does he reveal that the first bullet--really a shank wound!--was the result of a lover's quarrel?) Somebody's gotta be on it, so thanks, Rod!

In a prior entry, he reads Terri McMillan's interview in the current Essence, and concludes that the former Mrs. Jonathan Plummer "is not a survivor; she's creating a huge public dialogue to mine material for yet another book, the same formula used to write a bestseller and movie about her boy toy. There's a fine-line between anger and hostility. Terry McMillan crossed it long ago." What more could anyone add? And when's that book, More Sugar than a Canefield (or its Caribbean edition, Why Yu Fe Galang So, Bwatty?) going to hit the stands?

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