Can we really blame Lady Gaga for being politically incoherent?
I love a good policy metaphor. This isn't one.
"Equality is the prime rib of America, but because I'm gay, I don't get to enjoy the greatest cut of meat my country has to offer." Lady Gaga continued:
... how much does the prime rib cost? Because I thought this was an "all you can eat" buffet. This equality stuff, I thought equality meant everyone. But apparently, for certain value meals, for certain civil rights, I have to pay extra, because I'm gay. I'm allowed to stand in a line next to other men and women, I'm allowed to get shot at and shoot a gun to protect myself and my nation, but when it's time to order my meal, when it's time to benefit from the freedoms of the Constitution that I protect and fight for, I have to pay extra. I shouldn't have to pay extra. I should have the ability, the opportunity, the right to enjoy the same rights -- the same piece of meat -- that my fellow soldiers, fellow straight soldiers, already have included in their Meal of Rights. It's prime rib, it's the same size, it's the same grade, the same cost, at wholesale cost, and it's in the Constitution.
I appreciate what Lady Gaga was trying to accomplish in this speech -- getting the two Republican senators from Maine to vote for cloture on a bill containing a repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" -- and I certainly agree with her policy goals.
Cicero, the great Roman orator, remarked, "For as lack of adornment is said to become some women, so this subtle oration, though without embellishment, gives delight." Ms. Gaga seems to have read Cicero and decided, "that sounds like the exact opposite of what I should do." Lady Gaga doesn't really do "lack of adornment." Even though her meat metaphor makes even less sense than her meat dress, which at least could be interpreted as some kind of commentary on the objectification of women or the commodification of personality, or some other phrase that would have gotten me an A- on an undergraduate sociology paper.
I'm not sure from Gaga's speech whether I'm supposed to fight for my constitutional rights, buy them (can I supersize my Eighth Amendment rights, so that instead of merely being protected from cruel or unusual punishment, I'd be protected from all forms of punishment, forever?), or ask the Supreme Court to take them back into the kitchen and broil them a little longer. Metaphorically, of course.
Still, I can't really blame Lady Gaga for translating her outrageous style into her political work. Perhaps the fault is not in our stars but in ourselves. Subtle oratory doesn't get much attention in American political culture. President Obama isn't even all that restrained, and he's still considered too professorial. But Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) literally speaks to a colleague like a dog ("The gentleman will sit! The gentleman is correct in sitting!"), and he instantly gets thousands of views on YouTube. Or look at Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), who ranted about how Republicans want sick people to "die quickly" and became a hero to some on the left. Or Newt Gingrich, who got all of us to pay attention to him, even though it's not the late '90s anymore, by talking about Obama's "Kenyan, anti-colonial" worldview. Even Lady Gaga's out-of-control meat metaphor has more substance behind it than some of that nonsense.
Besides, look what happened to Cicero. Subtlety didn't stop his enemies from murdering him and nailing his right hand and tongue to the Roman Senate's door. Then again, we still read his speeches. I'm pretty sure no one is going to remember the current period in American history as a golden age of the spoken word.
| September 21, 2010; 2:26 PM ET
Categories: Stromberg | Tags: Stephen Stromberg
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