Being outraged is a privilege that comes with age.
Today I read online how Justin Beiber has a thing for wearing nail polish. For the briefest of nanoseconds I thought to myself “What the hell is it with these kids today?” and took a swig of Ensure so as to stave off a hip fracture should I fall down suddenly. I went on to read how a member of some pop-music endeavor called Girlicious was busted for cocaine possession (thirteen bags and intent to sell; that chick is making Paris Hilton look like a rank amateur) and will receive (gasp! horror!) counseling and probation. In other newsworthy situations, Amy Winehouse crashed some party that was supposed to be in her fathers honor and sang sober; a television polygamist married his 4th wife, R&B has-been Toni Braxton has filed for bankruptcy again, celebrities with nothing better to do are channeling Marylin Monroe in a bid to remain relevant via faux-nostalgia, Lou Dobbs continues to be cranky about perceived slights to his America by illegal aliens and there’s a political candidate who is running out there on the platform that she’s NOT a witch.
The cynic in me grouchily points out the slippery slope that we as a society are careening down. I angrily shake my fist at the downfall of Our Great Nation, making obscure and inaccurate comparisons to Rome and somehow find a way to drag those damn hippies/communists/anyone who’s ever voted Democrat into the mix. It’s their fault, even if them there subversive socialists in The Media straight refuse to expose this truth.
The realist in my head is far less prone to prognosticating the end of times as evidenced by the success of Justin Beiber. All it takes is a moment to recall the parallels from my own youth, back when we spent time outraging people with the nerve to live past thirty. Justin Beiber taking a liking to nail polish is a veritable rite of passage in teeny-bop culture (TigerBeat, anyone?); David Bowie was shaming Tammy Faye Baker with his makeup applications when I was still in grade school. The Cure’s Robert Smith looked like a pre-op transsexual who was able to make pre-teen girls swoon; some little kid who’s testicles have yet to descend and who likes to put on nail polish is hardly an apocalyptic harbinger. In the 70’s it was almost a pre-requisite to be carrying bags of cocaine in order to be taken seriously as a rock musician. One of Eric Clapton’s most popular (cover) songs is allegedly a warning about the pitfalls of coke and yet I always heard it as some sort of illicit endorsement. He’s clever, that Slowhand. Musicians getting sober, getting broke, finding Jesus at some point, it’s all the same game just with new players and staged histrionics calculated to make you think their behavior is both groundbreaking and scandalous. And witchcraft as a political stagecraft? That’s a move as old as our country itself.
America can tolerate many things, the least worth worrying about being a cranky old newsman who hates Mexicans. We will endure Boy Beiber’s descent into a life of hyper-sexualization followed by a bout of craziness that involves chasing photographers while smoking Marlboro Reds two at a time and his eventual evolution into a Scientologist worthy of redemption and sold out shows at Disneyland Europe. Politicians will continue to sacrifice honor and dignity to the altar of popularity and power. We’ve endured the shame of burning witches as a country once before, so to crucify idiots on Saturday Night Live is just a PC version of highlighting the hypocrisy of the Fearmongers of Fox News.
That notion is quite comforting, really. America The Great is not, then, truly threatened by gay people wanting to be married any more than she is threatened by a cross-dressing pop star nor coke addled celebutantes or skirt chasing commanders-in-chief. As an institution the United States is far more solid than we might be led to believe.
And, along those lines, I guess I’m not old, then, since I’m entertained as opposed to outraged.
I’ll save that emotion for a cause far more worthy. Something like those kids who’ve never heard of belts and insist of showing me their underwear when they slouch around the mall.