Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Real Obscenity

Here's the burning question for the day, Bush: is America not ready for the penis? I was lounging around in bed this morning, with half an eye on the Today Show (strictly research, Bush, for cultural purposes. Not much of a source for the news, I think you'll agree!) and there was Katie Couric on assignment in Florence, Italy, and posed in front of Michaelangelo's "David." A great statue, certainly. One for the ages, as they say. But the network kept their cameras at a coy distance from the artwork, presumably to protect Americans (they need it, Bush, as you keep reminding us!) from the dangerous aspect of the male sexual organ. In a daring close-up, moments later, the camera stuck to the head and torso while we listened to Katie's voice-over.

Now maybe it's sheer prurience on my part, Bush, but I would have been happy to have seen shots that revealed the full power of the David. To paraphrase a famous plea: show me the penis. Because to my mind a good deal of David's power is invested in that particular part of his anatomy. The piece is all about youthful male virility. Traditionally it's about focus and tension as the Biblical hero prepares for his slingshot attack on the enemy, Goliath. But in my view it's also about potency, and languid sexuality. Take a look at the pose, with the hips thrust slightly forward, slightly angled, to emphasize the strength and dangerous beauty of raw, naked masculinity. I've written about this before but I don't mind saying it again: at the other end of the masculine scale there's the same artist's "Moses", which embodies the power of the older man, his maturity, his deep engagement in reflection, his introspective gaze, his seated pose, the drapery that in some way reinforces his inherent dignity. No need for this one to show off his body: the strength is in his spirit.

What I'm saying, Bush, is that Katie and her network, in their timidity, effectively emasculated a great work of art, and at the same time spoke volumes about our shame-based attitudes towards real masculinity--not the vapid macho substitute that we worship in its place. We mistake military swagger for true power; and we don't get the distinction between the erotic and the obscene.

No, the real obscenity, Bush--to change the subject--is that budget proposal you released yesterday. Talk about military swagger! A cool 6.9 percent increase for defense--and that's not even counting the endlessly escalating costs of your Iraq adventure! And another 1.3 percent raise for homeland security! But then a 0.1 percent increase only for the Energy Department, which I suppose would have to be responsible for seeing to all that research into renewable sources that you touted just last week.

On the other hand, more cuts (3.8 percent) for education. More cuts (2.8 percent) for Health and Human Services. That includes cuts in Medicaid. Includes cuts in support for housing for the elderly, and food aid for the poorest of the poor. A 9.4 percent cut in transportation--which presumably would help us toward a saner use of energy resources. All to pay for your scheme to make permanent your tax cuts for the wealthiest of the wealthy. Oh, and while we all breathed a sigh of relief when you spared us mention, in your State of the Union address, of that stubbornly repeated plan to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, I note that you managed to sneak it into your budget nonetheless.

Shame on you, Bush, after all those fine words, for producing this monstrosity which makes a mockery of your calls for compassion and for bipartisan efforts toward energy independence and other common goals. From everything I read and hear about it, this is a fuck-you budget, if ever I saw one. We should have known better, those of us who saw a glimmer of hope that you might finally want to redeem yourself and your administration at least in some small ways in your last years.


PK said...

Great post Peter!! You only missed one tiny little thing he didn't mention. That pesky new H bomb they have grand plans of. Have a great day.

David (no, not that one) said...

Peter, we're off to Italy in a couple of months (I've never been), so I'm looking forward to seeing all those things we are protected from seeing here. I also seem to remember that there's a great fresco somewhere extolling the virtues of Good Government (Piero? Not sure). I'll bet our current administration doesn't want us to see that one either.