I’m afraid I’m going to have to ever so gently differ with my friend TS O’Rama on this one. It’s already been talked about so much that one more comment will hardly amount to beating it to death, but better that than committing the same against a fellow human, which is what happened to Wlady Pleszczynski, editor of the American Spectator for pointing out the following:
She mocked Dick Cheney's tricky health. She depicted Mrs. Cheney as a male strip club tipper. She described the three architects of the Iraq war as butchers and brutes. This is what passes for humor while we still have soldiers dying in Iraq?… It simply is amazing how complacently accepting the princely Bush first couple is of all the cheapness and rot in our culture.
Now, I would hope that no one who stops by here with any regularity would think I’m a prude. I’ve written somewhat extensively about women’s breasts and… other things…at length, and would do it again given the least excuse. (I still derive endless amusement from the Google searches on “Animal Sex” and the comments some try to leave in the box. The latest: Where are the nasty pictures?!!!!) But there’s probably a line I can’t cross, a certain liberal excess (is that a redundancy, TS?) that might cause a female reader to say, “He’s not who I thought he was.” (And don’t go digging around in the archives.) We’re all bound to deliver disappointment to those who think they know us, but that’s the kind I can do without. Now if a group of us Christian types were gathered together in one place, it is not unthinkable that we might share a mirthful moment over an allusion to some moderate indecency. We could laugh because the morality exemplified by the joke would stand in stark contrast to the morality we know we are bound to, the code of ethics by which we would in fact treat, and honor, one another. Still, there is a line we would not cross. Especially with women in the room. Their presence is an absolute necessity to decorum, because a grave inhibitor of the temptation to the most vile coarseness. But, would you tell that same joke – one, say, whose humor profits by promoting a notion of female promiscuity – before an audience of Planned Parenthood delegates, or an auditorium filled with high school students?
What can be uttered in private is often not the better part of our public discourse. The platform is important. As the clichés go, context is everything; perception is reality; and frankness will not always win favor. The appearance of propriety, while a suitable subject for gentle mockery, ought to be more than a pose, but it won’t be if the line is crossed. This was Laura Bush’s problem – the platform and the line. She apparently rehearsed the speech several times, but she couldn’t see the line.
And just who did you think she was? Mrs. Evangelical, hardcore, right wing, pro-life, devoted Christian wife, doting mother, and gracious First Lady? That she was one of us? She doesn’t think Roe v. Wade should be overturned. I don’t know what George thinks about that, but he doesn’t harp on it much. Being a compassionate conservative, he merely makes exceptions for rape and incest. In his mercy, he would have “no child left behind.” In hers, she would make sure that all can read. But, as I’ve asked before, has she ever tried reading to a dead baby? He and his wife are the best that conservativism can give us at the moment, the most that our fellow citizens will tolerate.
It used to be that the modesty of women shamed men into a respectful reticence, but one of the more peculiar “rights” that women have fought for and achieved in their struggle towards equality is that which permits them to give public vent to their lustful imaginings. It must be in the constitution or something, because everyone can do it now, even our children. Hence the humor to be found in a joke about our First Lady and her rather prominent friends patronizing the trendy lewdness of a male strip revue. Someone should make a movie about it: Matronly Babes in BoyToyland.
Oh, comes the objection, but that’s what makes it so funny, that she never would visit such a place! In private, maybe. But before an audience that included not only bigwigs from the Mean Stream Media, but also Al Franken, Arianna Huffington, Jane Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Elizabeth Shue, and Richard Gere (yes, they were there), it has more than the appearance of bad taste, but of outright pandering to those who hold you most in contempt. Forgotten was that other audience composed of people like…me, and, hopefully, some of you, who envision a world in which the Chippendales cannot exist because no woman will patronize them. But because such a world, like sainthood, seems to most of us more a dream than a possibility, the taking of offense - and the pursuit of saintly qualities, let alone mere virtuous modesty - is seen as humorless and obsessive.
But that wasn’t even the first thing that came to my mind, which has this unfortunate tendency to want to connect things. The first thing I thought about was the war that this woman’s husband has so courageously (some would say stupidly) led us into, and so valiantly (some would say stubbornly) defended to the American public, and especially the reports of the many men returning from that war (and now, we hear, some women) missing arms and legs. Some of them even come back dead. Perhaps I shouldn’t make such a connection, but I couldn’t help it. It leapt immediately to the fore that, while Ms. Bush was delivering one-liners in homage to the body worship that motivates a trip to Chippendale’s, some young man in hospital was being fitted for a mechanical prosthesis, or some young woman with a plastic imitation for an arm.
While most commentators saw the ‘milking the horse’ joke as “harmless,” my intractably dirty mind saw implications fundamental in their filthiness – rank with the sublimated, obsessive allure that homosexuality and bestiality hold for our president, the champion of the federal marriage amendment, and with the rollicking humor to be gotten from them.
Lust is legit now. Like the media moguls Ms. Bush was addressing, who serve it up daily without conscience in our homes and schools, in the stores we patronize, it’s Mainstream and it’s everywhere. It’s not a sin anymore. There’s not even any shame in it. The only transgressions that still carry a stigma are rape and pedophilia. That a woman occupying the most socially prestigious post in the American female universe could utter such remarks in public only confirms the diagnosis. Those of us who were not enthused see at the core of our objection a defense of the honor of womankind. But the women don’t care anymore. They’re the frontline salesforce for Lust, Inc., equal opportunity degrader.
Laura Bush is now her husband’s zany sidekick. She’s conservative but cool. Though the two of them have at least implied in their public statements that they would like to see an American society more decently ordered, I think now that some of us can’t be blamed for doubting their sincerity. On the other hand, in her vacuous inapprehension of the larger landscape against which her cuddly irreverance must be pictured, in her inability to make those connections between one thing and another, it may be that she is not so much insincere as merely stupid.
As Laura conjured the “harmless” image of her husband masturbating a farm animal, another curious thought came to me: I wondered if any of it had been picked up by, say, Al-Jazeera and broadcast to the masses. I wondered if any of those Iraqi women I saw Mizz Bush shaking hands with on a TV newscast got a glimpse of it. Can’t you just see them yukking it up? “Wish we could talk about our men that way.” Giggle-giggle. Remember Abu-Ghraib, and, in its wake, the assurances offered from on high that it was all just an aberration? Of course it was.