Semper Fi Michele
Copyright © by Len Holman, 1/29/11
After the President’s State of the Union address, the Republican establishment allowed Representative Paul Ryan to give what is euphemistically called a “response.” This was followed by a Tea Party “response,” and would have been followed by “responses” from the NRA, Sarah Palin’s maid, and Rush Limbaugh but for the demands of TV time, and possibly Sean Hannity—if he didn’t have another gig at a Jay Leno look-alike contest. These were not responses so much as a free swing at Obama, and it was basically more of the same—from both sides.
Our President is very fond of telling Americans that if they just let the government invest every dime we have, we’ll have really fast trains in 50 years, or good, green jobs before the youngest member of your family collects Social Security. The President has style, but it’s not OUR style, and he seems to believe that telling us that we’re on our way to a distant galaxy and everything there is heaven, but it’s so far away, several generations will die on the voyage, though—in the long run—the race will survive, is going to make us smile. We don’t go for that. Don’t tell Americans they can have dessert after they eat the squash, the broccoli, and that weird-looking fish before they can have a slice of the cheesecake. We, at least, need a cookie first, THEN maybe we’ll at least TRY the broccoli. So it’s understandable that some people of the more Conservative persuasion would capitalize on this Presidential tone deafness and promise that cheese cake right away: everything will be fine if we just do a few simple things like eliminate the Department of Education, the Commerce Department, and take away every Blackberry in the White House. Oh, and repeal Obamacare, but leave the Congress’ health plan alone. It’s not realistic—or even politically doable—but the voters like the sound of SOMETHING being promised. That’s the way we roll. And judging from what the GOP mainstream and the Tea Party responses were, they get it and no amount of “Take this castor oil. It’s really awful right now but next week you’ll be better” is going to help Obama and the Dems. All that was certainly to be expected. Rand Paul and others want to lop off 400 billion from our budget, which is OK with me, since I have a cozy culvert and a very nice cardboard box picked out already, and will be perfectly happy—if it doesn’t rain or snow or if I only eat from dumpsters no more than twice a week. If that much is chopped all at once, our representatives will have even MORE incentive to do ANYTHING to be re-elected, since they will get regular paychecks and—and as the more radical Conservatives keep insisting—the “best health care in the world,” while the people on unemployment, or who would get Medicare or Social Security struggle to find dimes in the dirt. As I said, no big surprises there. The Tea Party promised cheesecake and by God, that’s what they want to deliver. But the most interesting of the so-called responses was from Michele (“I’m so cute I don’t have to make sense”) Bachmann.
The Marine Corps must be pleased to know that the Republican congresswoman from Minnesota’s 6th congressional district is on its side. Michele Bachmann, in her Tea Party “response” to the President’s State of the Union address featured Rosenthal’s iconic photo of the raising of the American flag on Mount Suribachi by Marines on Iwo Jima (actually, one of those men was a Navy corpsman, but Michele was on a roll). She had a chart that showed how our clueless President jerked up the national debt to save the economy and vowed to do her part to turn us into a Third World country. She said we should make things again, but didn’t say what the things were—since we’re already making more poor folk than ever, isn’t that enough? She said we were at a “history making turn,” with an earnestness that tore at my heart strings. But that photo really made me come out of my doze. She mentioned how Americans fought to “beat back a totalitarian aggressor.” She said we were an “indispensible nation.” Should the current Japanese government be concerned? And what did the battle for Iwo have to do with the budget? I thought it might be some hidden code I had to decipher, like in a Dan Brown novel, or some clever parody of politics, similar in intent to Lady Gaga’s parody-personality of our self-obsessed celebrity culture. So I struggled with it. I knew that the Marine Commandant was dead set against the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, since there are no gay Marines, and this is an affront to Marine culture, and that Tea Partiers felt the same. But still, I couldn’t get what she was trying to say, what the photo had to do with the Tea Party message, and suddenly I flashed back to Sarah Palin’s remark (or was it Tina Fey?)—with wonder in her voice—about seeing Russia from her back yard, or the Wasilla store where they sell moose-scent for hunters, or wherever.
I realized then, that Bachmann wasn’t going anywhere with the whole Marine thing. It was a prop, an idea-ghost, a trigger to encourage her listeners to think of “Glory” and “Patriotism” and especially America’s traditional, if mythical, “Golden Past.” Ok, I got that, but why the Marines? Why that particular photo? What about the Navy or Army or Coast Guard or Air Force? Why not the Ku Klux Klan? They certainly had some glory days. Or maybe a montage of the Union soldiers laying waste to Georgia. THAT was something! But Michele chose the Mt. Suribachi picture and then, as that image faded, she went on to—again, earnestly—decry our present and fantasize our past, or what she believed to be our past. I wonder if the Marines minded being used as a symbol of the Tea Party’s efforts to turn parts of America (the non-gated communities’ part) into the slums of Mumbai. The Marines I know, and have known, have honor and pride, and wouldn’t want to be a part of some sleazy political theater. For all the Marines are, they are faithful to their ethos and mission. Not opportunistic, attention-seeking mini-Warhols desperate for a little attention. For Marines, Semper Fi has a real, deep, and significant meaning. Michele should realize there are some lines even the cute ones shouldn’t cross. It’s not a campaign slogan formed in a two-day session with a focus group, Michele, it’s a part of the spirit and fiber of this nation and a statement of Marine pride, courage, and sacrifice.
The next time Michele Bachmann wants to establish a political beachhead and be at the turning point of history, leave the Marines out of it. Right now, they’re busy adding to an already-illustrious history of their own.
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