Thursday, September 11, 2008

American Vampires

For the past few days, I’ve been ponder-ing three subjects: the advent of Repub-lican Vice Presiden-tial nominee Sarah Palin; today being the seventh anniversary of the World Trade Center attack; and the clever new HBO series True Blood, based on the wonderful Dead Until Dark, the first book in the Southern Vampire Series by Charlaine Harris. They all seemed connected, but I couldn’t quite figure out how. Then yesterday, within a few hours of each other, while searching for other images I found the picture of Dubya that illustrates this post (apparently it’s available on T-shirts), and a friend sent me an article about the status of the 2008 campaign by Camille Paglia entitled “Fresh Blood for the Vampire” (available on Salon), and it suddenly came together.

Vampires are currently as popular as Beanie Babies were in the 90s, in fact, there’s a flourishing vampire subculture. We’re not just talking about youthful, cartoon Goth, we’re talking about mostly normal looking adults with an active vampire obsession. It seems that not since the magnificent vampire books by Anne Rice took the nation by the throat 20 years ago has America had such a love affair with the sexy, captivating, undead (or, as the advocates of vampire rights in True Blood call them, “life-challenged Americans” who just want to “come out of the coffin” and be part of mainstream society). There are numerous other offerings in vampire fiction, including a children’s series; several major non-fiction tomes on vampire history; vampire discos, social clubs and dating services; vampire dentistry for those who elect to go through life with genuine fangs; and of course, a nest of vampire Web sites.

Why is this phenomenon happening here and now? I think it’s because (at least in part) George Bush has been draining the lifeblood out of this country for the past eight years, and the horror that began with the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington DC in 2001 and continued with the double wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, has left us ravaged, bereaved, and in desperate need of both comfort and distraction. Real monsters – like Bush, McCain and Vampira Palin – are too difficult to cope with for a lot of people, especially when they’ve lost loved ones or homes or jobs, or are just astutely aware that many of the essential tenets of our democracy have been eroded into dust. Add to that a large dose of inflation/ recession, killer weather, impossible gas, fuel and food prices, the wholesale aging of a once-vibrant generation, multiple instances of toxic vegetables, and the mind-numbing mediocrity of reality television and, well, it’s enough to make anyone want to engage in an exotic fantasy.

Paglia, who is enthusiastic in her support for Obama, says in “Fresh Blood For the Vampire” (she sees the aged, unvanquished McCain as the vampire): “In terms of redefining the persona for female authority and leadership, Palin has made the biggest step forward in feminism since Madonna channeled the dominatrix persona of high-glam Marlene Dietrich and rammed pro-sex, pro-beauty feminism down the throats of the prissy, victim-mongering, philistine feminist establishment.” I love the outspoken, contrary, fresh-thinking Camille Paglia, but I think her appreciation of Palin and her conviction that America could survive Palin’s ascension to power should it come to that, is dangerously misplaced.

Palin reminds me of a couple of demonic “p.r. gals” I worked for briefly, full of cozy smiles for clients and press, but shockingly hateful, wildly demanding and completely clueless with their staff. In a Palin story that has just surfaced, a waitress in Alaska reports that she served lunch to the Governor and some of her cronies the day after Obama unofficially clinched the nomination and heard her exclaim: “So, Sambo beat the bitch!” That, and everything else about her, gives me…pause.

Today, as we once again cast our eyes on Lower Manhattan and remember that day not so long ago when nearly 3,000 people were incinerated and we as a nation descended into a quagmire of heartbroken fear, it’s important that we remember that we cannot resurrect the dead, nor should we try. And we dare not once again put our future in the hands of those who would drain the life out of our nation with their ignorance, arrogance, greed, conceit and religiosity. There isn’t enough garlic to go around.

No comments: