Monday, May 08, 2006

Happy Talk

We saw "South Pacific" at the beach yesterday, Bush. A beautiful, temperate, sunny afternoon, with crowds of locals gathered at an improvised amphitheater for the occasion, some stretched out on blankets, some perched on the folding chairs they'd had the foresight to bring with them--a true community celebration. The actors/singers did a wonderful job, especially when you consider that they had to compete with traffic noise from the adjacent highway, including the odd ambulance and police siren, as well as with an amplification system that was jerry-rigged outdoors for the day, and susceptible to the vagaries of the ocean breeze. But all in all it was a terrific performance, greeted, at the end, by a rousing standing ovation.

I guess I'm getting to be a sentimental old cuss in my dotage, Bush: I found myself choking up to "Some Enchanted Evening," if you can imagine--and at the spectacle of the show's ill-fated and happy-ending love affairs. With its themes of American patriotism, racial prejudice and war, it got me thinking again about our current situation. That was a war, though, Bush. World War II. We had been attacked--yes, as on 9/11, but with a difference: it was an identifiable national military power that hit us at Pearl Harbor, and the "enemy" presented a traditional target for our retaliation. There was no question who they were or where they could be found. There was no question about their military strength or their intention. On the other front, it was Germany, remember, that declared war on the United States?

Was this, as some have said, the "last just war?" It's a philosophical question that remains open for debate. But I did have pause to wonder how you and your Rumsfeld would have handled it for us, had you been in the shoes of Roosevelt and Churchill--two leaders of indisputable stature. And I did recall your preppy flight-suit landing on that aircraft carrier, and the "happy talk" you continue to feed us, seemingly in the the belief that if you repeat the cliches often enough they will morph into great speeches and creditable truth. And on a purely personal note, I did have pause to wonder at the fact--and to be grateful--that I myself had the good fortune to born too late for that earlier war, and too soon for subsequent ones. I have never been in a position to be called upon to put my life on the line, as did those thousands of brave souls who died in the South Pacific--not to mention those tens of thousands more who died in North Africa and Europe.

If "South Pacific" looks a little quaint under the microscope of today's cynical world, that fact does not detract from the emotional power of great songs like "Happy Talk," "Dites-Moi," "You Have to be Taught" and, yes, "Some Enchanted Evening." We shudder a bit when we hear then common epithets like "the Japs" and recall the paternalism of "civilized" America toward supposedly naive, if not primitive islanders. But in the tradition of the American musical "South Pacific" still stands tall, and it was a joy to sit there among friends and neighbors in the sunshine and listen to those memorable songs. A big Thank You to those who brought them to us.


dennis said...

You're supposed to choke up, Peter. It's a musical. Surefire songwriting techniques to fool the brain into a charming place. I get misty over Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. Try it sometime with an ipod and earphones while watching the moon. Irresistable.

Everybody: Here is the link to Steven Colbert's gig at the White House correspondence dinner. That took real balls. Bush Bashing right in Bush's face. Historical moment. Voltaire would have relished it. This might be worthy of dropping in the main text of the book, as another chronicle of the time. Check it out:

We went to see the Dega's, whom I love, but the small James Ensor show at the Getty was amazing. I always loved Ensor too, but even more now that I saw firsthand, his work, hacking away at capitalism, royalty, and the church. Great pictorial satire. A brother in the winds of change.

Speaking of misty. Evenings here are foggy. We'll have that dinner evening when the weather clears so we can see out there.

David said...

I didn't know they showed movies at the beach here. Cool! I'm looking forward to Beach Blanket Bingo.