Thursday, August 13, 2009

Dr. Camille Paglia Knows That Sgt. Jimmy Crowley Will Have Another Beer at the White House Before Obama's Public Option Gets Articulated

Salon is a pretentious word for a beer and wine guzzle and gum flap. Its roots are in the Italian neoclassical age ( late 16th century) when everyone who was anyone was agog over Horace, Cicero, Virgil and Catalus.

Groups of people who could read met in a big open room and read Latin poetry and discussed the beauties of the tropes and truths of the sentences. The French went apey over the salone gatherings of the Italians and aped the tradition from the 17th Century on and then the children and grandchildren of Yankee Puritans and immigrant swell-wannabees played Salon. They still do.

I attend a Salon every morning up at Kean Gas where worthies gather to exercise their gums over events and ideas large and small. This gathering includes teachers, lawyers, ComEd workers, Peoples Gas clerks, Cops, Firefighters, Nurses and Ward precinct captains. Invariably my faults and peccadillo's are tossed back upon my positions to poison the well of dispute -nonetheless, my helot's thoughts get free voice. Last Friday, I had the pleasure to 'salon' with Beachwood Reporter and NBC Chicago web-meister Steve Rhodes - a rock-ribbed liberal of the old school and young man with a lode of intellectual and literary gold to mine. I was bested in dispute and at Eight Ball no end by Rhodes and other 'bright young things' - and that is as it should be. It was the best of salons.

Salon ( Clique my Post Title) is also a slick magazine that features agreed upon smart-set contributors and sanctioned opinion-slingers. Ever-weepy and whiny Joan Walsh, an endlessly dull harpy and MSNBC head-shaker, holds this tent's center-post. However, the absolute best writer and only original thinker at this salone ( in deference to the Professor's Italian Heritage) is Camille Paglia.

I know of Dr. Pagila due to my trade as a has-been English teacher. Camille Paglia always extends the context - the breadth and depth of her reading never posts limits on her mind's ability to articulate without cant or bigotry.Dr. Pagila is openly gay yet not given to strident agenda netting. She is a former Catholic who respects the beauty, mystery and majesty of the Faith. She is a feminist who never allows simple-minded association to grab for the broad brush and repaint the house.

This week Dr. Paglia went right to the root of the Obama White House's failure to articulate why Health Care Reform must be accepted by every American without a careful examination of the guts of the agenda. Paglia writes that Obama Care's root problem could be witnessed a few weeks ago in the Gates/Crowley nonsense and distraction. Pagila states,

As a libertarian and refugee from the authoritarian Roman Catholic church of my youth, I simply do not understand the drift of my party toward a soulless collectivism. This is in fact what Sarah Palin hit on in her shocking image of a "death panel" under Obamacare that would make irrevocable decisions about the disabled and elderly. When I first saw that phrase, headlined on the Drudge Report, I burst out laughing. It seemed so over the top! But on reflection, I realized that Palin's shrewdly timed metaphor spoke directly to the electorate's unease with the prospect of shadowy, unelected government figures controlling our lives. A death panel not only has the power of life and death but is itself a symptom of a Kafkaesque brave new world where authority has become remote, arbitrary and spectral. And as in the Spanish Inquisition, dissidence is heresy, persecuted and punished.

Surely, the basic rule in comprehensive legislation should be: First, do no harm. The present proposals are full of noble aims, but the biggest danger always comes from unforeseen and unintended consequences. Example: the American incursion into Iraq, which destabilized the region by neutralizing Iran's rival and thus enormously enhancing Iran's power and nuclear ambitions.

What was needed for reform was an in-depth analysis, buttressed by documentary evidence, of waste, fraud and profiteering in the healthcare, pharmaceutical and insurance industries. Instead what we've gotten is a series of facile, vulgar innuendos about how doctors conduct their practice, as if their primary motive is money. Quite frankly, the president gives little sense of direct knowledge of medical protocols; it's as if his views are a tissue of hearsay and scattershot worst-case scenarios.

Of course, it didn't help matters that, just when he needed maximum momentum on healthcare, Obama made the terrible gaffe of declaring that, even without his knowing the full facts, Cambridge, Mass., police had acted "stupidly" in arresting a friend of his, Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. Obama's automatic identification with the pampered Harvard elite (wildly unpopular with most sensible people), as well as his insulting condescension toward an officer doing his often dangerous duty, did serious and perhaps irreparable damage to the president's standing. The strained, prissy beer summit in the White House garden afterward didn't help. Is that the Obama notion of hospitality? Another staff breakdown.

Both Gates and Obama mistakenly assumed that the original incident at Gates' house was about race, when it was about class. It was the wealthy, lordly Gates who committed the first offense by instantly and evidently hysterically defaming the character of the officer who arrived at his door to investigate the report of a break-in. There was no excuse for Gates' loud and cheap charges of racism, which he should have immediately apologized for the next day, instead of threatening lawsuits and self-aggrandizing television exposés. On the other hand, given that Cambridge is virtually a company town, perhaps police headquarters should have dispatched a moderator to the tumultuous scene before a small, disabled Harvard professor was clapped in handcuffs and marched off to jail. But why should an Ivy League panjandrum be treated any differently from the rest of us hoi polloi?

Class rarely receives honest attention in the American media, as demonstrated by the reporting on a June incident at a swimming pool in the Philadelphia suburbs. When the director of the Valley Swim Club in Montgomery County cancelled its agreement with several urban day camps to use its private pool, the controversy was portrayed entirely in racial terms. There were uninvestigated allegations of remarks about "black kids" made by white mothers who ordered their children out of the pool, and the racial theme was intensified by the director's inept description of the "complexion" of the pool having been changed -- which may simply have been a whopper of a Freudian slip.

A salon is a big open room. Camille Paglia seems to be the only Salonista willing to welcome the helots who drink coffee with me at Kean.

God Bless, Dr. Paglia.


Max Weismann said...

You call it salon, I call it saloon.

pathickey said...

Indeed Max, so long as we don't "call in" after hours - the Cops are humorless on that score, it has been my sad experience.

As the Sage saw says 'Nothing good happens after ten o'clock.'

Christtine Flowers said...

Pat, this was a wise and wonderful post. Camille Paqlia is a Philly treasure, one of the best, and while I lament her 'flight' from her (and our)baptismal church (we need thinkers such as she) I agree wholeheartedly that she is a woman of respect, intelligence, and wit. As an Italian (and Irish) gal myself, it is so heartening to see an Italian woman as 'in gamba' as she on the scene. When your fallback position is Nancy Pelosi, well, you get my drift. God bless, Pat my boy. Keep up the fabulous work!