Cinderella Meets Tokyo Rose in GOP Fairy Tale

1 11 2008

Thinking about power of story this pre-election weekend: Will John McCain’s Pygmalion become John McCain’s Waterloo, too? (Cultural referents the NCLB schools still teach or not, my unschoolers know them! Do yours?)

Taken from a JJ-penned comment a few weeks back, before the Joe-the-Plumber sequel came out, here’s one way to tell this story. Feel free to offer plot points of your own, or just play stump the author. It beats sweating these last few days, wondering what thousands of lawyers are out doing to mess up the election results! 🙂

. . .There are two modest, hard-working Christian candidates with families in this election, who grew up among diversity learning to get along with differentness, one white and one black, both male, well-educated by their own merit and then choosing to work hard with that education to serve working people throughout America, help them to get good jobs and education for their families. They have one home apiece and intend to shape society so that every working-class family could do as well. They are on one ticket together. That can’t be the classist ticket!

Then there is a white man of enormous privilege and family connections, an American favorite son who like English princes was groomed within his own class to lead and sent off to war as an officer, returning to hero status and a series of castle-intrigue dalliances resulting in marriage to a beautiful but child-like blonde heiress with dependency problems who wants to love all the little children, casting herself as a saintly and self-sacrificing Mother Teresa except with jewelry and designer clothes and bodyguards and private jets and too many homes to keep track of, a bottomless fortune and various public titles (bestowed by family status, not her own hard work and merit) supporting her ethereal Diana-ness.

We may be white like they are, but few of us can relate to their wealth, gambling, junketing, womanizing, broken families, $300,000 convention outfits, drinking and drugs.

So the American admiralty candidate (did you ever notice the word admiral has “admir-e” right in it? Sounds classist to me.) with the heiress wife and all the status and connections a president could possibly want or need, decides to start a class war. (And why not, war is his thing! It’s how he sees the world, who he is, not just what he does.)

So he makes a war strategy. He needs not just a Cinderella but a sort of Cinderella puppet president to prop up as popular with the working class, crossed with a Tokyo Rose to spew demoralizing propaganda. He picks the most polarizing, divisive commoner his courtiers and knights and generals can unearth — after searching the kingdom so far and wide that they can see Russia! — before their glass slipper fits one woman who grew up believing she’s destined for greatness by god, born a princess but kidnapped by Alaskan wolves if not set forth in a rush basket in a reverse Moses story, a princess-in-the-rough perfect for this politically arranged marriage, um, concubine-soulmate role.

Maybe we need to coin the phrase “reverse classism” then, because that’s how exactly how Palin was packaged and sold, and of course why she was chosen in the first place.



3 responses

1 11 2008

Kentucky girl Molly Green on Princess Palin’s “Real America” — it’s not the fairy tale she’s been banking godly white middle-class votes with.

I’ll admit that as a Kentuckian at Yale, I have embraced, defended, exaggerated and exploited my roots to construct an appealing persona. I admit this not because I am proud of it, but to show that I understand how enticing and effective it is to portray yourself in a “down home” way. We want to be likeable — and this usually involves being non-threatening.

. . .I can play this game. But it’s not nearly as pretty when you play it right. My state is beautiful and it is troubled. Some of our quintessential country girls in cut-off denim are 15, scared and pregnant. Some of our hard workin’ men are making and selling meth. Some of our small town doctors are writing prescriptions for huge amounts of painkillers. Nearly a million of us function at low literacy levels. We’re Americans.

The conception of “real” America that McCain and Palin are putting forth is baffling, not only because it labels entire cities, states, and cross sections of the US as un-American. Even operating within the stereotype, their rhetoric is inherently exclusionary.

I picture the McCain/Palin Real America as an imaginary, iconic small town in an imaginary, iconic state. In Real America (a white, Christian town) families are done just right, with one man and one woman. There are no single mothers or single fathers. Women always want babies, and they’re always ready to take care of them. Men are the breadwinners, and they all do hard, physical labor. These men belong on the covers of romance novels — sweaty, hairy — chested and tan, tight jeans, wrench in hand.

Real Americans have pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, but they didn’t go to Harvard and get uppity. They’ve pulled themselves up — just not too far.

In Real America there is no rape, incest, domestic violence, school violence, threat to the “mothers health.” Joe Sixpack never has a few too many.

I want to visit Real America. Things seem pretty nice there.

By emphasizing their support for this fictionalized America and posing as the friend of the working man, rich Republicans are making themselves feel good, and wooing those voters who prefer Real America to reality. But it’s very easy to pay campaign homage to Joe the Plumber. It’s a lot more difficult to confront real problems in “real” America.

Most of these distasteful issues are not even blips on the Republican ticket’s radar – as evidenced most recently by McCain’s awkward stumbling when asked about birth control.

So if you want to talk about Real America, then let’s get real. Illiteracy is real. Addiction is real. Unsafe coal mines that still get away with murder are real. Racial bigotry is real.

And you [John McCain] can’t say “No ma’am, he’s not an Arab, he’s a good family man,” as if those two descriptions were in opposition. We have serious problems that aren’t glamorous or pleasant. If you’re gonna support the working class, you’re gonna have to get a little dirty.

If you want to play this game Sarah Palin, alright, let’s play. But do it right. I’m sure Miss Kentucky can out-real you.

3 11 2008

[Shuddering] Another tin-eared bit of telling language from McCain, reported in my local newspaper today:

“They may not know it, but the Mac is Back. And we’re going to win this election.”

Look out, old Mac is Back.
From the (old) Bobby Darin song Mack the Knife, right, which many folks vaguely assume must be about Jack the Ripper (what a maverick!?) leaving objectified women in his rage-filled, slash-and-burn wake?

Close. How about capitalists as beggars, thieves and prostitutes at a time of war and economic distress?

Weimar Germany, the period between the World Wars when Germany struggled to establish a working democracy in the face of economic malaise and the bitterness of military defeat. . .a world of beggars, thieves, and prostitutes in which there is no honor; every character would sell out any other if an advantage is to be gained. Relationships are fluid, changeable; betrayals abound as new alliances are formed amongst the array of seedy, colorful characters. [Like the lipsticked pitbull and Jor the Plumber?]
Jonathan Peachum is the king of beggars, here an entrepreneur. Brecht portrays the beggars, thieves, and prostitutes as capitalists, running businesses for a profit. . .
Macheath (“Mack the Knife”) heads up the thieves division. His men tremble before him, he’s got the police well greased, and women compete for his sexual attentions. He has impregnated his lover, Lucy, he marries Peachum’s daughter Polly, and he still has a passionate connection with hooker Jenny.
For this cynical scenario, Weill wrote a score that has become part of Western culture’s consciousness: jazzy, syncopated, dissonant, and full of inventive melody, it captures the essence of the mocking, ironic tone of the book.

Oh the shark has pretty teeth, dear
And he shows them pearly white
Just a jack knife has MacHeath, dear
And he keeps it out of sight

When the shark bites with his teeth, dear
Scarlet billows start to spread
Fancy gloves though wears MacHeath, dear
So there’s not a trace of red

On the sidewalk, Sunday morning
Lies a body oozing life
Someone’s sneaking round the corner
Is the someone Mack the knife?

From a tug boat by the river
A cement bag’s dropping down
The cement’s just for the weight, dear
Bet you Mack is back in town

Louie Miller disappeared, dear
After drawing out his cash
And MacHeath spends like a sailor
Did our boy do something rash?

Sukey Tawdry, Jenny Diver
Polly Peachum, Lucy Brown
Oh the line forms on the right, dear
Now that Mack is back in town.


3 11 2008

Btw the composers of Mack the Knife literally had to flee Nazi Germany, and their work including this very popular song was banned by government for political reasons! How about that, John? Is that what you say is back? — is that supposed to be an appeal or a warning??

“1933 – Weill and Brecht both flee Germany; the Nazi government bans further performances of Threepenny.

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