One of my favorite concise summations of what’s wrong with this country came from film director Philip Kaufman, in a 1990 article in Time Magazine. Kaufman’s film Henry and June had been slapped with an X rating for excessive eroticism, despite the fact that said eroticism was a fundamental part of the story, about the writers Henry Miller and Anais Nin, and Miller’s wife, June. Ironically, of course, Miller’s books had also been censored by the officious false morality of Puritanical America. But Kaufman understood that something larger, and more insidious, was at play:
“You can cut off a breast,” says Kaufman, “but you can’t caress it. The violent majority is dictating to a tender minority.”
We impeached a president for lying about sex, and his linguistic “parsing” remains a cultural reference point, even as Senator Larry Craig’s “wide stance” becomes one. We cannot impeach a president for lying us into a war. Chris Matthews and his ilk continue to joke about President Clinton’s private life, but Bush in a codpiece gave them the vapors. We glorify violence, and are embarrassed by sexuality. Compared to global warming and climate change, famine and genocide, war and terrorism, this may seem a trivial issue, but it really cuts to the heart of what’s wrong with this nation. In the past week, the Senate approved as our nation’s chief law enforcement officer a man who has no apparent problem with the idea of torture, while Congress also approved spending $141,000,000 on abstinence-only education programs that have been proven failures. But even more to the point: why? Why is it worth spending any money to teach teenagers that the information they are receiving from their own bodies is wrong?
This is the Twenty-First Century, not the Twelfth, yet we’re still at war with our own bodies! We’re at war with our selves! Is there any doubt in anyone’s mind that such psychological repression plays a significant role in perverting our passions into the very expressions that are destroying the world? Money and power are sublimations. They are not human, they are not emotions, and they are not rational ideas. They are inane, and our obsession with them is literally insane. Our obsession with them is literally killing us, possibly driving us to extinction!
So, this is not a call for a group grope, it is a mere early Saturday morning ramble about the absurdity of our sociopolitical train wreck. To talk about love and compassion is borderline laughable. The ethos of the Flower Child generation is considered a drug-induced delusion. It’s considered embarrassing to even talk about. As Congress continues to capitulate to the most reckless and dangerous administration in American history, we run around screaming, beating our breasts, and clawing each other’s eyes out over whose flawed candidate is more flawed. We are, each one of us, infected by our cultural disease. I am, even as I consciously deplore it. We’re all sick of the real war, and we’re all sick of the meta wars. And yet they both go on. There’s not much we can do about any of them except to try and do better about all of them, by trying to do better about ourselves. Each one of us.
The problems we face are overwhelming. Ninety-nine percent of us are working towards the same general ends. We need to try to include everyone, respect everyone, and try to carry along with us those who cannot carry themselves.
It’s simplistic. It’s ridiculous. It’s not worth wasting time talking about. It’s also just plain wrong.
The violent majority is dictating to a tender minority.
Make love, not war.