Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Personal Aside: Found! The Perfect Theatrical Venue for Obama-Rama!
The Music Man of 2008.
Ive just studied the full text of Sen. Barack Obamas Super Tuesday victory speech delivered here in Chicago on February 6. It is a variant of first-stage oracular pornography delivered without the benefit of plain brown wrapper. But it is relatively harmless oracular pornography, i.e. enticement of the senses to the state of passionate climax with no goal in view other than pure self-manipulated pleasure of the self (viz: we are the hope of the future!). No intellectual nutrition whatever but mass audience hysteria, albeit temporary, is supplied i.e. we dont have to settle for politics (huh?). First stage oracular pornography is seldom harmful if taken in limited dosages because conspiratorial enemies while alluded to are not identified. But the danger is it can easily degenerate into second stage, as typified by the Hitler oration of the Munich beer-hall putsch of 1922 (which I have read) where evils were pinned to specific groups and combinations of elites.
However though harmless when taken in small dosage, first-stage oracular pornography can, when amplified on the echo chambers of radio and TV, ignite such mindless passions as to be societally counterproductive. Example: Barack Obama striding, tieless, with athletic mien, jauntily waving a hand mike before a mass audience need only move a few inches from his current rhetoric to engulf second-stage. Whether or not he will is beyond our capacity to control (though we hope not his). But the closest theatrical approximation of what Obama does to impressionable audiences is dramatized in the musical stage play and later the popular film The Music Man (1962) which became one of the biggest hits of the year, propelled Robert Preston from B-actor to major A-list film star. It was Meredith Willsons strong character (he was co-author and composer of the film) that insisted that the role of Harold Hill be played by Preston, not Frank Sinatra (as Jack Warner requested) or Cary Grant as he later pressed for. Preston was the dynamic persona of the filmthe only person, it could be said, who could carry the part off. He was a con-man extraordinare but a loveable one. Think Obama.
The plot is very simple. Harold Hill is a charlatan who alights from a train in the small midwestern town of River City, Iowa (fictional title of Mason City, Iowa) to ply his trade which is hustling the town folk that there should be created a Boys Band. Hill is a music illiterate, cannot read notes or play an instrument, calling himself Professor, claiming he is a graduate of a big time musical college in Gary, Indiana and that he has been sent there by a big city group to take orders for uniforms and instruments so that River City like other small cities can have a boys band. Thanks to Hills oracular stage one dynamic beseeching pornography, the idea is taken up at once with favor by the city. One person is suspect, Marian the Librarian. While Harold Hill is the toast of the town as the money is being collected, Marian goes to work to investigate Hill. At the same time she is strangely entranced by Hill. He seeks to romance her; she turns him down. He mesmerizes the entire town with a stunning oratorical display of pyrotechnics promising Seventy Six Trombones.
She seeks to find if he is a fraud, all the while desperately hoping he is not. Sheplayed in the film by Shirley Jonesand Preston sing a charming duet Goodnight, My Someone a slower version of Seventy Six Trombones. The play concentrates on the loneliness of Marian the Librarian and the gabby-goofy nature of the townswomen who are intrigued by Preston Pick a Little, Talk a Little. When the towns fever slackens Preston picks it up with a thoroughly charming demagogic pitch on what will happen to the towns youth if the citizenry does not support his Boys Band (the boys will resort to, shooting pool!) with the winning song, Ya Got Trouble in River City! Trouble is spelled with T that rhymes with P and that stands for Pool!
The town is beset with fear of corruptive pool halls, captivated by Hill and starts raising money to give Hill. Hill is gratified but wait. He discovers that for the first time in his ego-filled life he has something to live for and someone to loveMarian the Librarian. He courts her, she courts back and know what? He has a satchel full of the towns money but misses the midnight train out of River City. His lecherous cons are aghast. He has betrayed them! He has, horrors!, used used the money correctly to buy instruments and uniforms for the kids as he falls into the arms of Marian the Librarian. We all exhale with relief for his turn to grace when whats that sound? Its the sudden appearancefrom whence no one knowsof a band that verifies his poromise of Seventy Six Trombones. In the New York stage setting I saw it a band stuns the audience by marching up from a trapdoor in an aisle as everyone in the audience cheers and Preston himself, twirling his walking stick, leads the band back down through the audience as Marian trots by his side. Everyone weeps for joy (I did) to the denouement of Seventy Six Trombones and the charlatan who made good.
Barack Obama is truly the Music Man of 2008 and with his spectacular height and charm uniquely fitted to play Professor Harold Hill. The Robert Preston con that caused Shirley Jones to swoon can be duplicated by the Obama con that is currently causing not just young people but older ones whites as well as blacks to swoon (literally in some cases). Here is how I parse his masterpiece of soft porno oratory after Super Tuesdayjust a few of the salient lines because it is late at night on Monday and I must go to bed. The words in quotes are Obamas, those in italics are mine.
The polls are just closing in California. And the votes are still being counted in cities and towns across America. But there is one thingyou know I love you back. But there is one thing on this February night that we do not need the final results to know. Our time has come. Our time has come. Our movement is real. And change is coming to America!
Our time has come? Our time has come?. Our movement is real? And change is coming to America? What change? Who are we? Whats our movement exactly that we do not need the final results to know? There will be a boys band in River City!
Only a few hundred miles from here, almost one year ago to the day we stood on the steps of the Old State Capitol to reaffirm a truth that was spoken there so many generations ago, that a house divided cannot stand; that we are more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are and always will be the United States of America!
But Lincolns phrase was not just rhetorical, it was specifica nation cannot exist half slave and half free. How does this apply to now? You havent told us. Also who said the U. S. was just a collection of red states and blue states? Of course we have always been the United States of America since 1787! That statement pregnant with the allusion it is an important finding is self-evident doggerel. A platitudinous cliché hardly worth bringing up.
What began as a whisper in Springfield, soon carried across the cornfields of Iowa where farmers and factory workers, students and seniors stood up in numbers we have never seen before. They stood up to say that maybe this year we dont have to settle for politics where scoring points is more important than solving problems. Maybe this year we can finally start doing something about health care we cant afford. Maybe this year we can do something about mortgages we cant pay. Maybe this year, this time can be different!
What this litany of non-specifics means is more of the liberal same-old, same-old, as old as William Jennings Bryan, the nearest historic analogy to Barack Obama, who rocketed across the country on a train thundering bromides with no specifics. What this means is he is going to do it with IOUs he cannot hope to redeem unless he engages in the historic bitter unromantic legislative fights to pass legislation which every other great president has had to do. Its shameless hucksterism worthy of Professor Harold Hill.
And if Im your nominee, my opponent will not be able to say that I voted for the war in Iraq because I didnt! Or that I gave George Bush the benefit of the doubt on Iran because I havent. Or that I support the Bush/Cheney doctrine of not talking to leaders we dont like because I profoundly disagree with that approach!
Promising to bring world peace where none exists now by negotiating with Irans president Ahmadinejad, promising to pay for untold domestic entitlements to come by pulling out overnight from the Iraq War notwithstanding what dangers come to the country by retreat.
All this is from a relatively blank slate. John Kennedy promised specifics in military policy and spoke of idealism: Ask not . At least he said he was an idealist without illusions. What we have here I fear is an illusionist without ideals because the specifics are, when he is forced to quantify them, the same socialist boilerplate that has prompted the far leftward fringe of the Democratic party of George McGovern. I.e. a Harold Hill. Hill couldnt read music but hed create the boys band. This from a young man with a tiny resume and slender paper trail to will by a snap of his fingers lead us to overcome the conumdrums of that old, boring politics!
Enough parsing of the Obama text for now. More anon. Just think of him as Professor Harold Hill as mixed generations of Americans find themselves in the grip of what has come to be a creepy messiah-ism. He is the George McGovern of our age, running pell-mell down the tracks. It is a paen of Obama ego: this campaign is about how wonderful this campaign is!
For now just pray the 71-year-old ex-war hero with arrested cancer who cannot comb his hair or race up a stairway can hold up. Pray too for a Marian the Librarian to unmask the charlatan and force him to come to terms with the truth.