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To the man in Wisconsin who shot his TV when he saw Bristol Palin on Dancing With The Stars, I have one word to say: respect. I imagine that he, like me, usually only watches adaptations of works by 19th-century novelists, adaptations that involve crinolines and bonnets, but definitely not sequins, and was disappointed that there were sequins, but no bonnets.
I imagine that he, like me, also found it a little bit depressing that you can’t switch on the telly now without seeing a politician, or a politician’s child, wiggling their hips in moves that are clearly meant to emulate sexual intercourse, even if they’ve never had it, or even if they are members of a religion that says you mustn’t have it unless you’re married, which you aren’t. I imagine that he thinks that if you liked dancing you would be dancing, instead of slumped on a sofa eating a family pack of Doritos and watching people dancing, just as if you liked football, you would be kicking a ball and not a telly.
I imagine that he was just feeling a bit fed up. He may, for example, have been watching the programme about Bristol’s mother, who is also a hockey mom and a mama grizzly, which is a special kind of mother from which key parts of the brain have been surgically removed, and he may have watched her climbing mountains and leaping across crevasses and catching bears and fishing for salmon, and he may have thought that the woman who, two years ago, ran to be Vice-President of the world’s only superpower, and who is now planning to run as President, was beginning to look a bit like Vladimir Putin.
I don’t think he would have thought that she looked physically very like Vladimir Putin, who used to be a president and is hoping to be one again, because although you can put lipstick on a pig, and you can put an awful lot of lipstick on a presidential candidate, even when they’re watching bears or fishing, you can’t really put it on a Russian Prime Minister, or, if you did, he would look a bit less masculine than the photos of him sitting on horses or fishing, sometimes without even a top on, would suggest he wants to. But he might have thought that the fact that she liked doing the same kind of things as a man who seemed to be really rather nasty wasn’t a brilliant sign, and nor was the fact that she liked doing them in front of TV crews.
He might, in fact, have thought that when politicians, or ex-politicians, or aspiring politicians, start doing things in front of TV crews that you would usually only do when their weren’t any TV crews, it was usually a sign that they might be a bit confused about what was their life and what was pretending to be their life, about what, in other words, was truth and what was lies, and that they might, in fact, think that there was no difference. He might think that where this applied to a very silly former member of the British Parliament who was hanging around in a jungle with a bunch of other people who were called “celebrities”, but most of which nobody had ever heard of, to make a programme that it was too painful to watch, that it didn’t really matter because, although the man didn’t seem to have anything that you might call common sense, or knowledge of human nature, or of himself, he was unlikely to hold any kind of public office again and might need to earn some kind of living by taking part in televised freak shows, which certainly wouldn’t do any good to anyone, but might not do any harm. But he might think that when this applied to politicians who wanted to make the laws, and policies, that would shape millions of people’s lives, and even, in some cases, determine the length of them, it might matter quite a lot.
He might also think that politicians who thought a lot about how they appeared on TV, so that in some cases they had hair transplants and plastic surgery, and also bought up most of the TV stations, and in other cases wore stacked-up heels, and made people stand on boxes, so that they wouldn’t look small, even though they were, didn’t tend to be the people who did the most to make other people’s lives better.
He might think that he was very lucky to live in a country which, although it seemed to have an awful lot of very, very, very stupid people living in it, people who thought that the best way to run a country was not to run it, but to be like grizzly bears who look after baby grizzly bears, but don’t, apparently, give a monkey’s about anyone else, and where quite a lot of these people were running for political office, and one of them even wants to be president, by some amazing quirk of fate, or luck, or perhaps by an act of God, but not the God of the people who want grizzly government, has a President who is thoughtful and intelligent and brave.
It has a President who, when he was asked to feign emotions, because he lives in a country which prefers emotion to thought, refused to, and when he was asked to act a part, because he lives in a country which likes acting, refused to, and who prefers to sit in a study and write books than strike poses on mountains. It is this President who has managed to do something that presidents for a century have tried, and failed, to achieve, which is to pass a bill to make sure that people, even mentally ill people who fire guns at their TVs, can get treatment from doctors or in hospitals, even if they’re not rich.
It is this President, who is very far from perfect, because no politician anywhere is perfect, but who is trying to make things better for poor people, though most people, including quite a lot of the poor people, don’t seem to want to let him, who will, in two years’ time, probably be running against the woman who prefers grizzly bears to people. If he doesn’t, or if he does and doesn’t win, we might think it would be a good idea if someone fired a gun at us, too.