Saturday, October 18, 2008

seducing tadeusz

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.


Anonymous said...

I can't figure you out. You are happy about everything, except for government. Isn't government our best friend?


Babs said...

I think this blog should be titled "traveling around the mulberry bush" to get to a point!

Steve Cotton said...

Horst -- No.

Babs -- Or, perhaps, "too much journey, too little destination."

Michael Dickson said...

I always wanted to be a rake but never succeeded. By the time I learned how, I was too old.

I also now want to immanentize the eschaton, whatever that means.

Steve Cotton said...

Michael -- You fared better than I. I wanted to be a rake, and ended up a hoe.

And I suspect you are more than happy to immanentize the lawn mowing -- leaving the eschaton to its own darn business.

Alan said...

Steve, I am not quite as concerned about the election results regarding the personalities, but am certainly concerned what those personalities will do regarding appointments, security and economics, probably in that order. Appointments to the Supreme Court will control the next generation, at least of our country. The security of our country will certainly be subject to the whims and desires of the next prez. And of course, the ecomomy will matter tremendously to those who have an income far greater than mine. However, my world will be turning around what am I doing to make my world, my contacts, and my family know that I care for them and will do what I can to make their life joyful. That is what I loved about your blog comments. Are your neighbors needs being met. If not, what can I do, NOT what should the government do.

Steve Cotton said...

Al -- Always good to hear from you. I had coffee with John H this morning. We wrestled this and other topics to the ground. Of course, all the topics simply got up, dusted themselves off, and went their own way.