Friday, July 04, 2003

Comic book morality
Joe Conason's Journal is running two great little items. I’ll give you the first one here in its totality and get to the second one later on.
"Bring 'em on"? I'm so glad that President Bush has "restored dignity" to the White House, and I have no doubt the families of servicemen and women in Iraq must feel the same way today.
No wonder some Republicans think Arnold Schwarzenegger should be running the state of California. The real question is why we don't elect an actual cartoon character to office instead of all these cheap imitations. The Hulk's movie may be mediocre, but he obviously possesses the cool temperament, precise diction and witty style of a great commander in chief.

In a roundabout way Conason’s comment explains something that has bothered me about various Bushes named George. I have always hated listening to their voices. They both a tone that is at once whiney and patronizing and makes me want to shove pencils into my ears to make the bad noise stop. When I need to know what they have said, I usually wait till I can read it in print. Reading George the Elder at my leisure had the added entertainment value of playing find-the-verb. Both Georges have a tendency to use baby talk and childish clichés whenever they wander off script. This, obviously, is what George the Younger did on Wednesday.

Little George likes to use phrases that conjure a world of comic book morality. I say this as someone who dearly loves comic books and thinks that, along with jazz, blues, Hollywood, and rock & roll, they are one of the most authentic contributions of America to world art. But I am able to understand that they are not a good grounding for moral behavior in the real world. Real grown-ups don’t reduce complex problems to phases like: “dead or alive,” “evildoers,” or “bring ‘em on.”

He might resort to this sort of vocabulary because comic books are an honest reflection of the level of his moral development. But how does that fit with his pervasive secrecy and duplicity? Comic book heroes are forthright, honest, and open. Comic book heroes do not lie and trick people into wars. Comic book heroes do not pass the buck to previous administrations or imaginary Saddam loyalists. Comic book heroes do not reinvent their past, plunder the common wealth for cronies, or pander to extremists.

George Bush talks comic book morality, but he doesn’t practice comic book morality.

Postscript: Okay, okay, comic book heroes do lie and reinvent their past, but only when it’s necessary to protect their secret identities and loved ones. Only a cad would suggest endangering Ma Kent in the name of philosophical consistency.

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