Thursday, January 20, 2005

Freedom blah blah liberty blah blah freedom again blah blah...

One of my favorite Daily Show segments is when they have children read transcripts of tele-pundits tele-punditting at each other. Bush’s second inaugural speech reminds me of that, in that none of it was in his own voice. Phrases like “multiply in destructive power,” “pretensions of tyrants,” etc do not roll trippingly off his tongue.

(Who are the idiots yelling “four more years”?)

Before I forget, I want to call attention to the coded anti-abortion language: “Even the unwanted have worth.”

He used the word “freedom” 893 times in 20 minutes, and “liberty” 562 times. These are essentially negative words, at least the way Bush used them, in contradistinction to tyranny and oppression. It’s hard to say what the features are of a place with freedom and liberty, except that they lack the secret police, punishment of dissidents etc of tyrannies. Even Norman Rockwell had a more sophisticated vision of freedom:

Did Bush use the word “democracy” even once? By his choice of words--and wouldn’t you like to see him forced to define them?--he set the bar pretty low; hell, he thinks Iraq and Afghanistan have freedom now.

I was definitely right in my last post about his use of “freedom” as a threat, a dagger aimed at the heart of any regime he doesn’t like, members of the “axis of evil” or the “outposts of oppression.” I mean, really: “one day this untamed fire of freedom will reach the darkest corners of our world.” It’s a top-down view of freedom, something that applies to nations or regions and only as an afterthought to individuals.

Other words that stand out, although less obviously, are words like “permanent,” “eternal” and “always,” applied to the values of America, which evidently have something to do with liberty and freedom. OK, it doesn’t sound sinister when I write it like that, but there’s something rigid and unexamined in his invocation of the permanence of his alleged values. Coming out of his mouth, the notions of freedom and liberty take on his own personal characteristics: stubbornness, lack of reflection. Read the speech, if you have the stomach for it, and see if you don’t see what I mean.

All that remains is to observe that Chimpy’s tie was ugly, and that there was a wide variety of amusing hats on view. Rehnquist’s little beret, or whatever that was, went so well with the Gilbert and Sullivan robes, and Rummy’s consiglieri hat.

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