The great American tragedy continues. As President George “(W)illy Loman” and his supporting cast stumble through what I can only assume will be a lame-duck second term – if not a series of cascading impeachments – I am reminded of our American character:

Zack Denfeld

Business is our culture. We are a nation of salesman, hucksters and actors. We have an undying optimism in an impossible dream. And when that dream fails, we fall hard. We are amazing improvisers; just don’t hand us a gun. Otherwise you get “Ready, Fire, Aim.”

I am more than ecstatic that the Bush & Dick Theatre Company will be booed off the stage soon enough, making way for a director more grounded in realism. Isn’t it interesting that they will be exiting stage right? Even conservatives are getting sick of the bizarre and stilted mix of war story, fantasy and untempered religious revival. Bush’s arrogance in appointing a total hack to the U.S. Supreme Court hasn’t helped him with his core audiences either.

Certainly the tension of our American drama has been kept high with a series of “mysterious” terror threats that then turn out to have no credibility. It is interesting that the highest moments of tension and fear grab the headlines while the technical crew of DeLay, Libby and Cheney et al. were getting caught for their backstage indiscretions. Building fear through seemingly implausible plot devices grows old, especially when lives are really being ravaged and unattended in the wake of natural disasters.

Bush and Company were never very good with subtlety. It seems they want to orchestrate the action movie to end all action movies, with an almost pathological obsession with staging action sequences for their armored actors to perform in. The continuing staged scenes orchestrated by the administration grow more pathetic by the day. “Mission Accomplished” and the toppling of Saddam’s statue were eloquently staged, if totally insincere, portrayals of a neoconservative fantasy world. But now that the scenes are starting to break down and the administration gets caught staging presumed impromptu teleconference interviews, one wonders if the administration shouldn’t move to slice-of-life stories that prominently feature real citizens and not stand-ins.

Perhaps they should make a documentary about land use management, global warming and environmental policy, as an impetus to protect and preserve wetlands that our coastal regions desperately need to absorb and slow storm water.

Part of the problem is that the Bush & Dick Theater Company doesn’t read reviews. It doesn’t hurt to pander to the audience when things are looking glum. George, take your pick:

A humble but heroicized retreat scene, because it’s the only option left for a military left hung out to dry?

A father-son conflict where you throw off the chains of your evangelical and neoconservative inner-circle and find your own voice?

Maybe a sob-filled scene where you realize your entire world is a lie, all of your friends are fakes and the only thing you can do is get on your knees, break the fourth wall and speak directly to the audience: “Citizens, I am lost, help me find my way!”

Probably not, but the audience would eat it up.

And I know that Bush is into traditional forms, but if incorporating a little media into the production (i.e. his staff bringing him video news compilations of the Katrina disaster) is what is needed to save this production from disaster, then so be it. With a media that essentially says what you want them to say anyway, what is the harm in leaving the stage and listening and watching a little? The media even let your Department of Education run propaganda to promote your EDUCATION policy. Now that is dramatic irony at its finest.

Bush & Co. are on their way out, and it will be our duty to usher them off the stage with a series of impeachments, scathing indictments and any other form of political rotten tomato that can be thrown their way. But we have to start thinking about next season’s lineup already.

America: It is time to reinvent yourself once again. There is no need to relegate yourself to playing bit parts, but a little humility wouldn’t hurt. As the elusive spotlight starts to move east towards China and south to Brazil, focus on perfecting the little things that will set you apart in the long run and improving the things that are your major weaknesses.

Might I suggest some classes on environmental sustainability, media democracy and international diplomacy? Finally, how about reclaiming a good old dose of pragmatism and can-do that you are known for when your optimistic overreaching fails?

 

Denfeld can be reached at zcd@umich.edu.

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