Saturday, October 18, 2008
Theirs was the very essence of a glamorous roaring 20s marriage.
And roar it did. At 16, Maria Gurwik-Gorski fell in love with Tadeusz Łempicki, a dashing gadabout. They married in Russia. Escaped a revolution. Set up shop in Paris.
And reinvented themselves as glamor personified. She, as Tamara de Lempicka, noted painter. He, with a slight vowel movement to Tadeusz de Lempicka, noted rake.
To be fair, Tamara was also a rakess. And though they dazzled the social elite, Tadeusz left Tamara. The marriage was finished, but his portrait never was -- in more ways than we can probably imagine.
But they were not alone. America's glamor couple, the Fitzgeralds, were to fly high and crash hard. F. Scott and Zelda were separated by a sea of whisky. He died in the waves; she in flames.
You might ask, why we are reviewing the failed lives of the artistic. We aren't. I am more interested in another phenomenon that currently is sweeping the United States.
It does not seem possible, but as late as this spring, Republicans were in thrall with John McCain, and Democrats with Barak Obama. The Economist proclaimed that the system worked: that two new dynamic faces were vying with one another. Reform and change incensed the air.
Even Tony Blair got in on the act this summer. While visiting America, he declared: "I think you have two very good people standing to be your president, and I think you actually can take a lot of comfort from that."
I thought he might be making one of those understated British insults by subtly dissing Bob Barr and Ralph Nader.
And where are we now? My Republican friends are muttering about John McCain for turning into a socialist, and my Democrat friends are bemused why Barack Obama has turned corporate. They just want the election to be over.
Of course, this is nothing new. Americans love hating their politicians. But this year has a certain bite to it. We usually, at least, get a bit of a honeymoon with our leaders before we start asking for a divorce. Where is the part where F. Scott and Zelda swim nude in Central Park? Where is Tamara's zippy roadster?
I know there are still some idealists amongst us who really want to believe this election will make a difference. That it is possible to immanentize the eschaton, as Eric Voeglin would say.
I happen to be among the people who are not all that unhappy that Americans look on all their leaders with a skeptical eye. Fortunately, we are still free enough that whoever is president, or senator, or congressman has very little effect on my family's daily life. We can work, live, worship, and play without much regard to who pretends to be in charge of the levers.
Do I care who is elected? Of course, I do. But I care far more that my neighbors' needs are being met.
So, here is my point. For the next 17 days, we should pay attention to the election campaign. We should vote. We will have a new president, and a new congress.
But we should not then be surprised, that within a short period of time, we start channeling F. Scott Fitzgerald -- wondering how Zelda ever got into the White House.