diehards are trying very hard to “move on” about Dick
Cheney shooting his rich hunting buddy. But there are moralists
from left of the midline who are making the demand to back off
on Cheney’s mishap, albeit in a more oblique way.
has committed many worse crimes,” the grievance goes. “Why should
we focus on this?”
tell you why.
is the age of postmodern politics — the age of impression management.
This is the time when the narrative is used to trump reality.
No doubt perfidy has always characterized politics, but the good
old days of no-bullshit thuggery and patrician patronage has given
way to the construction of puerile caricatures. And many thought
that Bush was the mediocre narcissist who liked to dress up in
flight suits and caper across the decks of aircraft carriers.
incident exposes Cheney himself as just another costumed buffoon,
and not the Darth Vader figure he and his desperately insecure
admirers seemed to relish.
is the elephant in the political living room, of course.
is an administration who ran election campaigns that would make
a Louisiana police chief blush; and they did it by constructing
George W. Bush — a besotted pampered frat boy from a wealthy political
dynasty — as a cowboy.
Cheney has constructed himself as a hunter… consistent with his
supposedly intimidating predator image.
are hegemonic masculinities, but only in the most theatrical sense.
The cowboy and the hunter are idealized archetypes from a mythical
need merely note the symbolic exhibitionism of consumer masculinity
all around us to see why this has been so politically effective.
Gym-rat WWF musculatures that don’t exist in nature, SUVs the
size of small tanks jacked up on giant wheels, t-shirts that declare
“Insurance by Smith and Wesson,” and as we scale the class ladder
the more subtly stated accoutrements of masculine dominance, from
the “corrective” tailoring of the man’s suit to the Valexta briefcase.
Masculinity itself is more often than not a game of dress-up,
a pose, the ultimate life sentence of tough-guy theatricality
an era when even the American male working class is as commonly
found in an office cubicle as a factory, when we spend an average
of 7.5 hours a day in our homes with televisions on, drinking
in this cognitive data stream of fantasy gender-norms, when we
live in places called Fox Run with no foxes, Deer Park with no
deer, Sleepy Hollow that is in fact a bulldozed lot built over
with masonite boxes, its little wonder that even the old oppressive
masculinities — at least actually connected with where one lived
and what one did for a living — have given way to costume-consumer
masculinity. It is also little wonder that people can successfully
run for king of the country in this reverse-drag as one of the
Bush campaign mounted a billboard in Texas during the Bush-Kerry
contest. One one side of the billboard was a pair of cowboy boots.
On the other, a pair of shower shoes — also known as… flip-flops.
The designer of this billboard had tapped directly into the American
white male psyche, and these two sets of footgear were positively
wading in gendered (and racialized) subtexts. The archetypical
impressions defeated the comparative military records hands down.
and hunters, lest we forget, in the American mythology are white
Republican Party snatched the mantle of “party of white supremacy”
from the southern Democrats with Nixon’s Southern Strategy. But
it was also the mantle of white male supremacy. This has been
its core organizing principle ever since — even though it has
to code this principle to avoid throwing its constituents into
open polarization with the rest of society.
men with big hats and guns have seldom been a welcome sight to
Black men or women.
Cheney loves photo ops with guns, whether accepting a Dan’l Boone
muzzle-loader at an NRA Convention or having the cameras chase
him around while he shoots farm-raised animals on hunting preserves.
Cheney shot 70 confined, semi-domesticated pheasants in one day
at the Rolling Rock Club and Game Preserve in Pennsylvania, a
place for men who wear those power suits to demonstrate their
ability to kill and dress up like “woodsmen.”
fact that this is a country where a large number of men — many
who vote Republican — actually do have more than passing familiarity
with firearms, and actually know the basic safety measures that
are required to properly handle them, is now a problem for Dick
Cheney. Many of us learned firearms in the military, and since
the mid-eighties there have been very sharp penalties in the military
for “accidental discharges.” The military learned, slower than
most, that there are two simple rules that will prevent the accidental
discharge of a weapon and the collateral damage that can result.
Never place your finger on the trigger until you have aligned
the sights on a target.
Never point the weapon at anything until you have identified it
as something you intend to shoot.
pathological the macho death-cult of guns is in this country,
the people who have taken the trouble to learn anything about
firearms at all now know that Cheney is what my dad used to call
a pig-hunter and a fool that traipsed around after his “one beer”
lunch on the quail preserve with his finger on the trigger. He’s
no more a hunter than Bush is a cowboy.
just another stupid, pampered, autocratic narcissist like Bush
— bullshitting his way through high office — and leaving bodies
in his wake with as little concern for them as he does for 70
pheasants. In the age of postmodern politics, when the impression
is sovereign, the gendered spell is broken for a moment when the
why I relish every jibe and joke, and I hope people milk this
incident for all its worth. I oppose male power, and white power,
and the reign of narcissists. With every grant of legitimacy,
we grant power. Ridicule is a potent political weapon. It is a
form of resistance.