The Moment of Truth — June 5, 2004

The Counterfeit Touch

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George W. Bush met with the Pope the other day. Bush and the Pope have many things in common. They both hate homosexuals and love fetuses. Neither of them, however, has taken a position on homosexual fetuses. They both believe they are doing God’s will on Earth. Each in his own way looks like an ape. And both of them are wealthier and more powerful than anyone who hates homosexuals and believes he is doing God’s will on Earth should be.

Bush gave the Pope the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He certainly did this to suck up to Catholic voters. And well he should. Because even with all they have in common, the Pope still saw fit to chastise Bush on his bungled war on terrorism. You see, Bush believes that, deep down, the Pope, like all Catholics, would love to see another Catholic in the White House. Even if he’s John Kerry and doesn’t deserve to take communion because he doesn’t love fetuses or hate gay people enough, he’s still Catholic. And if that’s going to count with the Pope, imagine how much it will count among regular Catholic Americans, many of whom don’t have as much in common with Bush as the Pope does.

So he gave the Pope the Medal of Freedom. I think this sets a bad precedent. I would hate to see the Pope inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame just because the mayor of Cooperstown was up for re-election. Or into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame so Drew Carey could get into bed with a Catholic stripper. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great to try to appease Catholics by throwing presents at their King. I just don’t think it’s a good idea to give him awards he hasn’t earned. There are other things to give him. Like a new dress. Or a line of stem cells. Or some delicious kielbasa. Or the entire Sopranos series on DVD.

I’m not saying the Pope hasn’t done anything for freedom. Hey, he’s given the world some of its greatest theater, too, but that doesn’t mean he deserves a Tony.

It’s an election year ploy, and as such it cheapens the honor represented by the medal. That should come as no surprise, since Bush cheapens everything he touches. He has the opposite of the touch of Midas. Whatever he touches goes from being what it is and turns into a cheap tool for his self-promotion. Tax refunds, God, schools, elections, military service, freedom, war, love, our nation’s prestige, you name it. Whatever he touches turns into a counterfeit of itself. And a shoddy one at that.

What’s next? Is Bush going to court the Jewish vote by having Ariel Sharon chosen Playmate of the Year? Don’t you have to be born in the US to hold that title? How about the black vote? Isn’t it time to replace Allan Greenspan with Bill Cosby? And the Asian vote? Is there not one sculptor up to the challenge of adding the face of Jackie Chan onto Mt. Rushmore? And the Latino vote? Surely no one would object to changing our national symbol from the bald eagle to the Frito Bandito.

Speaking of honors, isn’t it time we honored our nation’s great lesbian tradition by naming a Ben and Jerry’s flavor “Melon Degeneraisins?” Or “Mintlissa Etheripple?”

Giving the Pope the Medal of Freedom is not merely Bush’s bid for Catholic support, however. It’s another step in the chipping away of connections between cause and effect that has been his administration’s hallmark. It’s part of his method of de-signifying our political language, making it meaningless. What is this, a medal? Here, Pope, take one, be honored. Whatever. Because the only way Bush can win the 2004 election is if a majority of voters doesn’t understand the real meanings of his actions, the significance of his policies, and their consequences.

Unfortunately, it just might go that way.

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!