The Morning After In America
On November 14, 2011, 3:20 AM by Savannah Cox
How the “world’s greatest country” has become the world’s biggest laughing stock.
Simultaneously the comedian and the punch line, the United States today is a joke, though perhaps the funniest thing about it is that we don’t actually mean to be. The easiest way to appreciate the humor is by looking at the rather slapstick slew of 2012 Republican primary candidates: there’s Michele Bachmann, who actually believes that if gay people were given rights everyone else would lose theirs while Herman Cain, the presidential hopeful du jour, is now known primarily for his Sim City-inspired tax plan and for his alleged sexual harassment of women.
Always lurking in the distance is Susan Boyle lookalike Newt Gingrich, whose highly intolerant statements are alarmingly similar to the late Osama Bin Laden. Then there’s Rick Santorum, whose talents include owning nice suits and utilizing his First Amendment rights to display his own ignorance to a national audience. And of course, one cannot forget the tanned and innocuous Mitt Romney; or actually, one can. Most neglect to mention Ron Paul or Jon Huntsman, mainly because there’s nothing particularly funny about knowledgeable individuals who base their beliefs on actual principles.
News for the Nescient
Much like a senile uncle at a family reunion, the 2012 Republican primary race has provided the much-needed comedic relief in an otherwise overwhelmingly depressing juncture. The facts are crippling and the foreseeable future is rather bleak: no one wants to talk about rising unemployment and poverty rates, an abysmal and ineffective prison system, mindless resource consumption, or the score of other problems that over the next few decades will prove to be crippling, if not fatal, in the global society.
It is not surprising then that as Greece teeters at the precipice of a national economic default with global aftershocks that American news sources have instead focused primarily on a potential paternity suit for pop sensation Justin Bieber, the failed marriage of Kim Kardashian whose lifespan was less than that of a brine shrimp, and the alleged sexual history of Republican candidate Herman Cain. None of these things matter, yet Americans consume them as real “news.”
With a 53% disapproval rating and a constant shuffling of the Republican primary deck, there is no doubt that many Americans today are disenchanted with both the Republican primary picks and the Obama Administration. However when a nation treats pop culture junk as worthy of attention of say, the dissolution of the European Union, we should not be surprised that our current and aspiring political leaders are about as profound and inspiring as a partially desiccated puddle of mud. No, these candidates don’t simply appear; they are physical manifestations of our current ideals and future practices. What, then, does this motley crew say about the priorities of the United States?
Video Killed the Radio Star (And the Serious Politician)
2011 marks the 30-year anniversary of the Reagan Administration as well as the birth of MTV. At the time, both were welcomed as rather prophetic symbols of innovation and growth: in his 1980 campaign Ronald Reagan vowed to restore “the great, confident roar of American progress and growth and optimism” and MTV aimed to be a serious network for avant-garde artists.
However, the result is something of which we are all painfully aware: economic and cultural impoverishment and malaise. Median household incomes have dipped, as have the standards for “news” and meaningful exchange of information. American politics and entertainment have engaged in a rather parasitic relationship for the past 30 years and as a result both have suffered tremendously.
While many are quite familiar with Ronald Reagan’s famous “Tear Down this Wall” speech, many neglect to credit (or condemn) the Gipper for physically convening the American presidency with Hollywood, a pairing that has resulted in the ubiquitous Inside Edition-esque hullabaloo in today’s political sphere. A former Screen Actors Guild President and actor in over 50 films, before he was elected into office, Reagan was a household name. While likeability has always been a key component of one’s electoral viability, Reagan was unique in that he infiltrated the consciousness of his future constituents from a different vantage point: he was an actor, and he knew exactly how to highlight his rosy cheeks and ideals to millions through the screen while simultaneously concealing their many flaws.
Many lionized his character and still do to this day, as evidenced with the glowing panegyric in the September Republican debate at the Reagan Library. Along with his Hollywood Hills pedigree, Ronald Reagan was the closest person many today consider to be American “royalty.” In 1966, his charisma and recently found conservative views (he was once an ardent admirer of Franklin Roosevelt and his New Deal) won him the California gubernatorial election and a mere 14 years later (and after a series of successful television debates) Reagan won the 1980 Presidential election. Thus, a former actor assumed the presidency and his legacy has remained in the Oval Office ever since.
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