L'etat, c'est moi
Featured Rightgrrl October 1998
Published in the October 18, 1998 issue of Our Sunday Visitor (1-800-348-2440)
Who says the philosopher-king is a relic of the past?
Why, just a few weeks ago the Leader of the Free World most generously engaged in hours of ruminations with his fellow citizens, a lengthy exchange one would be hard pressed not to call philosophical.
Unless one termed it a snow job, of course.
But we won't do that, at least not for now. We'll give the Leader of the Free World the benefit of the doubt. He is, after all the Leader of the Free World.
For no matter what the specific subject matter in the symposium that day- dresses, cigars, or telephones- the Leader of the Free world was never bound by the constraints of mere forms. No, his mind rose consistently above the mundane objects of this world so tediously brought to the table by his examiners, insisting, as is his wont, that we lift our eyes beyond the visible and plain to the realm of ideas, meaning and essence.
It was all there - almost any philosophical category one could imagine. The Leader of the Free World discussed matters of epistemology - what is truth? He displayed his expertise in matters of analytical and linguistic philosophy, obviously a research area close to his heart, as he shared with us his musings on the meaning of the words like "sex" and "alone."
Finally, in a courageous step, the Leader of the Free World challenged us all to follow him into deeper philosophical terrain than most would ever dare as he distilled the pursuit of wisdom into a single statement dense with existential and ontological implications:
"It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is. "
Marcus Aurelius, eat your heart out, babe.
It strikes me that we are deep in the midst of some spectacular premillenial cultural and social meltdown, the likes of which haven't been seen since the Fall of the Roman Empire, and we're all too stunned by the force of the pervasive, seductive superego of mass media and too enervated by our own prosperity to notice, much less care.
And when they write the history books, the Clinton years will certainly stand as the symbol of the whole entire stew of confusion, corruption of the intellect and betrayal of the promises and hope of Western Culture, that hope being that political, social and economic freedom could bring out the best in human nature and give each person the opportunity to learn, understand and strive to live in the image of the Creator.
But instead, what we get is this:
A culture that has used that freedom, not to raise its eyes to the heights, but rather to burrow its nose in the exploitation of humanity's basest instincts. A society that profits from the degradation of the human spirit and won't find its way out because it's addicted to the pleasurable shock of the each step downward. A people fully aware of what all of this is doing to us, but who feel powerless to change, silenced by the fear of being labeled "intolerant."
It's always been this way, we're assured if we even try. It's just now we're more open about all that dreck, and isn't that better than repression after all?
Western culture has always been supported an policy of mass-murder against the helpless preborn, defending it as a right and a profitable business.
We have always warehoused children, the sick, and the elderly in institutions and paid others to watch them rather than caring for them within the family.
We've always clucked at the prospect of "children having children" and then turned and handed out condoms to children having sex.
Children have always had access to explicit, vile and brutal pornography merely through the click of a mouse.
Top-grossing movies that teens flock to have always featured crucial sight gags in which the ingenue uses semen as hair gel (Something About Mary, in case you're wondering)
So what, you ask, of our philosopher-king? Why do I identify his well-bitten lip, his wagging finger and his linguistic contortions as the incarnation of the meltdown?
It's quite simple. When we watch Bill Clinton, we watch a liar and a brutish, astoundingly manipulative human being, and we know it. We allow him to create an alternate reality by his words, in all of their emotive power and evasion of substance.
And it works. At this writing, two-thirds of us claim that President Clinton is doing a "good job" and that if the self-proclaimed champion of women's rights wants to use a starry-eyed intern like a hooker at a truck stop, that's his business.
Just as we say we think abortion is a bad thing, yet do nothing substantive to stop it. Just as we continue to buy movie tickets, or never dare ask our kids what they're watching or listening to at the same time as we decry the degradation of our public lives.
We stand in the same relation to Clinton as we do to the culture: Both beguile us with appearance. Both ask us to redefine sin and defy common sense. Both seek to confuse meanings and use the aspirations of others for the sake of their own personal gain, whether that be maintaining a position or economic profit. Both convince us with their power - Clinton's spin and the culture's pervasiveness- that it is useless and perhaps even bad form for us to resist.
L'etat, c'est moi said another king once, one rarely accused of being philosophical. As I survey Clinton's America which seems, every year that we slouch towards the millenium, to resemble what singer Iris DeMent terms the "wasteland of the free," I can't help but think - how true. How very true.
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This article copyright © 1998 by Amy Welborn, and may not be reproduced in any form without the express written consent of its author. All rights reserved.