Comedy Central

September 26, 2007

It was a relief this morning to see that the sexual harassment trial of a big deal athlete had finally taken the visit of Iranian President Unpronounceable off the front pages of the tabloids.

Even by the childish standards of contemporary American political debate, the display of orchestrated indignation over Unpronounceable’s orchestrated provocations — both intended strictly for domestic consumption on either side — was remarkably tedious and vacuous. It didn’t help that there’d been a direct lead-in of orchestrated indignation over MoveOn’s “Senator Betray-us” ad. To jump from one diversionary pseudo-controversy straight to another gets pretty tiring.

To provide a bit of historical perspective, Rick Perlstein remembers another time when America played host to Nikita Krushchev, the bellicose leader of what would in another three decades become The Nation Formerly Known As The Soviet Union:

Had America suddenly succumbed to a fever of weak-kneed appeasement? Had the general running the country—the man who had faced down Hitler!—proven himself what the John Birch Society claimed he was: a conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy?

No. Nikita Khrushchev simply visited a nation that had character. That was mature, well-adjusted. A nation confident we were great. We had our neuroses, to be sure—plenty of them.

But look now what we have lost. Now when a bad guy crosses our threshhold, America becomes a pants-piddling mess.

Iran‘s president speaks at a great American university. That university’s president, in the act of introducing his lecture, whines like a baby bereft of his pacifier that his guest is a big meany poopy-head. City Council members, too, and a rabbi, make like ten-year-olds, giving their press conference in front of a sign with his face struck through and the legend “Go To Hell.” Up in Albany, Democratic leader Sheldon Silver treat the students of this great university like ten years olds, threatening to defund Columbia University lest censors like himself prove unable to shut the poor children’s ears to difficult speech. (What, was he worried they’d be convinced, join the jihad?) Then a Republican presidential candidate chimes in — bye, bye, federalism! — saying Washington should starve the school of funds, too. American diplomats used to have the gumption to spar face to face with dreaded foreign leaders. Now they go on cable TV and whine about what a “travesty” it would have been to visit a site which properly should belong to the world. Hundreds of foreign nationals died in the World Trade Center on 9/11 (maybe even some of the Iranian!). Yet we have to systematically repress that—as if our national ego would crack like fine crystal if we were forced to acknowledge the mingling of American blood with that of mere foreigners.

But—they sputter—Ahmadinejad has has promised to wipe Israel off the map!

Well, Khrushchev had promised to wipe the U.S. off the map. (“We will bury you.”) And, unlike Mr. A, who has but some possible stores of fissile material, Mr. K very much had the means, motive, and opportunity to do it—thousands of nuclear-tipped rockets aimed at every city in the land.

How cowardly our conservative Republic of Fear has made us. How we tremble at the mere touch of a challenge.

Ah, but that’s moral clarity, isn’t it? Rather than take on your adversary as a worthy opponent and beat him in a contest of equals, you cover your ears and screech “Evil!” whenever he opens his mouth.

I shudder for the next president who has to come in and start mopping up this mess while most of the bed-wetting children who made it are still running around.  

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One Response to “Comedy Central”

  1. Caveat Says:

    The whole thing was a stagey parody. People pretending to stand up and be bold when they were actually falling down and being bullies. I think I’ll invite someone I don’t like over for dinner, then insult them in front of my friends. Sounds like a laff riot!

    I wish there were somewhere else we could all go for awhile.

    But there isn’t.


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