Saturday, October 10, 2009

Rogue Elephants

"Someone on the Huffington Post has invaded your territory," my friend Hakuin told me while I was getting massaged last Sunday. Seeing my perplexed look, she explained that one of their bloggers had used the Thesaurus as the basis of a post about Sarah Palin's forthcoming memoir, "Going Rogue." After searching out the various meanings of "rogue," the writer (whoever it was--I couldn't actually find the piece) declared that if Palin had really understood what the word refers to, she would never have used it as her title.

I was intrigued, and decided to check the situation out on my own. After all, I have the most extraordinary Thesaurus on the planet, acquired about four decades ago when I first began living in London. The book is falling to bits, is without its cover, and its pages have become practically like lace; but I am in love with my Thesaurus-with its Introduction to the original edition, dated 1852, still intact. No other more current Thesaurus I have ever seen is a match for this one, which manages, all on its own, to unfurl whole worlds about almost anything that comes near, and to peel away layers of a situation until it gets you to the core of its truth. So, in case you don't believe me, just test-fly this drop-dead portrait offered up of the former governor of Alaska (who resigned from her job on July 4th) when I investigated "rogue":

"Deceiver, shammer, hypocrite, turncoat, two-timer, trouble-maker, confirmed pathological liar, mythomaniac, fibber, yarn-spinner, imposter, cuckoo in the nest, boaster, bluffer, pretender, charlatan, quack, fake, fraud, phoney, hoodwinker, quick-change artist."

Having read Levi Johnston's tell-all interview in Vanity Fair last month about the vicissitudes of living in the Palin household for almost a year during the campaign period, when he was publicly displayed as Bristol's boyfriend, none of the words above seem forced or contrived or inaccurate. The biggest shocker revealed by Levi in the Vanity Fair piece was that Sarah Palin doesn't even know how to use a gun. So much for the colorful mythology of aerial wolf-hunting--and the cherished image of her racing home from the governor's mansion to grill up mooseburgers for the kids. Not happening. According to Levi, Sarah almost never cooks. On returning from work, she would, often as not, lock herself in her bedroom and soak for an hour in the bathtub. She and Todd, he claimed, did not share the same bedroom. According to Levi, Palin relentlessly tried to persuade him and Bristol to give her their baby, so she could pass it off as one of her own.

But my trusty Thesaurus was not ready to leave it at that. There are still more relevant aspects of "rogue":

"Mischief-maker, little devil, disturber of the peace, bad egg, bully, bad influence, bad example." Remember those infernal campaign rallies when she would insist that Obama palled around with terrorists and would stir the crowds into yelling threats of "Kill him"? It was at that time Sarah Palin seriously began to make herself "public enemy number one"-- a "hell hag, she-devil, wild-cat, tigress." However, once in the animal sphere, I confess it was the term "rogue elephant" that got my attention. The elephant, as everyone knows, is a symbol for the Republican party. A rogue elephant separates from the herd and roams alone, becoming wild and vicious. It will send clouds of dust into the air to signify that it is feeling aggressive. Under Bush, the U.S. government became the rogue elephant of international law and politics. Recently I found this comment by Jack Tworkov, a Polish-American artist born in 1900, that "under Reagan, it's America that has become the greatest danger to the world, not even less than what Hitler was."

It seems as if the panel in Norway who awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama gave it to him because he has tried to reverse this image of America as a rogue elephant that has become the greatest danger to the world. Depending on what you think, this was a big, or merely a tiny but awkward spritz on those aggressive clouds of dust kicked up by past and present rogue elephants. Obama got the Nobel Peace award not so much for what he has done, according to Robert Fuller in the Huffington Post, but because of who he is: an exemplar of "dignitarian politics." Obama has brought dignity back to the political arena. "Dignitarian politics," Fuller writes, "means not condescending to Americans or citizens of other countries. It means not treating political opponents, whether at home or abroad, with indignity. Globally, Obama's politics of dignity makes Americans safer, in contrast to policies that, by humiliating others, leave us vulnerable to retaliation. .. President Obama understands that part of a strong defense is not giving offense in the first place. He realizes that in an interdependent world, muscular exceptionalism is a losing strategy."

But just as the rogues cheered and howled last week when America failed to win the Olympics for Chicago, only because they thought it was egg on Obama's face, they are now ridiculing his receiving this prestigious award as "no achievement at all." You could almost see Michael Steele's face go green with envy. "Revenge raids" on the President are becoming more and more tiresome, ridiculous, and all too predictable. Even David Brooks, usually one of the few sanguine conservatives out there in the elelphant pack, when asked for his response to the award, said he thought it was "a joke," and proposed that the best thing Obama could do would be to give it back. Maybe he thought kicking up some dust in the panel's faces would be a good way to go. Things have come to a sorry pass when even the honor of receiving the most prestigious international prize in the world is a pretext for launching ever more disrespectful and savage attacks. My friend Ciel put it well when she wrote me that "our country has gone mad: totally madly unhinged."

"From now on," offers scallywag Virgil, "it'll be all about the toxic chemistry between feral, nihilist rogues and the delicious but disliked dignitarians. I suggest you spackle over your despair and just enjoy the manic mayhem. Remember that when God is giddy, she separates the light from the dark, and then does two loads of laundry." While I go do laundry, please read this postscript from

The GOP's New Foreign Policy: Undermine American Diplomacy
Eric Kleefeld | October 2, 2009, 2:04PM

"An interesting pattern has been emerging in the Republican Party's handling of foreign policy: Individual GOP officials are now making a regular point of not only formulating an alternative foreign policy, to be presented to the American people and debated in Congress -- they're acting on it too, and undermining the official White House policies at multiple turns:

• Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) is visiting Honduras in order to support the recent military coup against a leftist president, which has been opposed by the Obama administration and all the surrounding countries in the region. (Late Update: DeMint's office says he is not taking sides during his visit to the current Honduran leadership, denying the New York Times reports that this was his intention.)

• Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) will be going to the upcoming climate change conference in Copenhagen, bringing a "Truth Squad" to tell foreign officials there that the American government will not take any action: "Now, I want to make sure that those attending the Copenhagen conference know what is really happening in the United States Senate."

• House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) traveled to Israel, where he spoke out against President Obama's opposition to expanded settlements. He also defended Israel on the eviction of two Arab families from a house in east Jerusalem, which had been criticized by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

• Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) boasted in June that he told Chinese officials not to trust America's budget numbers. "One of the messages I had -- because we need to build trust and confidence in our number one creditor," said Kirk, "is that the budget numbers that the US government had put forward should not be believed." Since then, he has declared his candidacy for U.S. Senate."


Anonymous said...

Oh, Hypocrisy, thy name is Suzi. Did you fail to notice that President Obama chastised ABC’s George Snuffalupagus for reverting to “Merriam” for a definition of “tax”? Now, in your insatiable wallowing in the wet and warm surfeit of elitism and negativity that defines this blog, you pick and choose synonyms for “Rogue.” No doubt your sycophants love you for it.

“Don’t show me any choices that are appropriate to the content of that woman’s book,” speaks Virgil’s official caviller. No. You want only the ones that you can use to demonstrate that Sarah Palin is just an ignorant and simplistic plebian like so many of the masses in this country. (How do they manage to walk upright; can you believe they are allowed to vote?).

However, the fair minded would clearly prefer some of the more positive choices for the contextual flavor of choice of the title “Rogue”: mischievous but likeable; unpredictable; strongly independent; adventurer; provocateur; firebrand.

One could do the same unkind thing to you. It would take no higher purpose than to ridicule you, ingratiating oneself to like minded friends and satisfying a base desire to hurt other people who don’t think the “right way.”

Might one not become “intrigued” by your self description as a “critic”? And subject you to the same kind of mean spirited listing of nasty definitions of your chosen word:
faultfinder; quibbler; reviler; slanderer; nit-picker; disparager; belittler; maligner; muckraker; carper; cynic.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall …

Jane Lillian Vance said...

The Suzi Gablik I read and know and love is not a hypocrite, and my name is Jane Lillian Vance, not Anonymous. The Suzi I read and know and love is not elitist. She has spent decades untying subtle knots that link elitism to art, violence to language, fear to faith, and vicissitude to friendship. My two children know that my fire and power and hope as an artist and as a human being are all more refined and generous than they ever could have been without my reading, observing, and loving Suzi. So whoever you are (in the comment preceding mine), with your effete wit, and your proud love of broad allusions, go study Walt Disney's caricature of Jafar, in Aladdin: his mannerist elongations, his wearied simpering, his fastidious nastiness. You may find a useful mirror yourself.
Jane Lillian Vance

Anonymous said...

Uh, oh. Your acolyte doesn’t like it when a blogger unfairly attacks you from a distance. Poor Jane may one day stop ignoring the FACT that it is “the Suzi I read and know and love” that has written these mean spirited words about Sarah Palin. It looks like you may have risked disappointing at least one of your true believers - if she ever manages to remove the beam from her own eye.

While my expectations are not sanguine, if Jane ever does exercise independent thought on this issue, perhaps she will demand a higher level of veracity than a teenage boy who impregnated his girlfriend and then sold her out for a few dollars from an elitist’s feeble magazine such as Vanity Fair. Perhaps she will hold out for incontrovertible evidence - like her own two eyes reading your hypocritical assault piece.

I guess your "education of Jane Lillian Vance" has covered the "dishing it out" modules. Do you plan to move her on in the curriculum to the "taking it" parts?

Anonymous said...

“Anonymous” has done little but attack the messenger, and anyone that might sympathize with her, rather than address the issue, which is: who is Sarah Palin and what is her relationship to this country? What's your take on her, Mr. Anonymous? Can you answer or will you now attack me too for merely posing the question? This is a great opportunity to hear your true thoughts -- about Sarah Palin.