The Breast that Consumed America
by Dennis Rahkonen

February 6, 2004

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Having quickly concluded that the MTV-produced Super Bowl half-time show was a disgustingly depraved display of scant talent that brought American entertainment to a new low, I retreated into my kitchen to manufacture a ham sandwich.

As my nearly empty mustard squeeze bottle was fwooping out the last of its contents, my daughter yelped a particularly emphatic "Oh, my God!"


I completely missed Janet Jackson's now legendary breast baring.

And, since I hadn't videotaped the game, I couldn't go back later to see what all the hubbub had been about. (Something for which my wife extends not even an iota of pity my way.)

As tremendously in bad taste as the obvious publicity stunt had certainly been -- and as convinced as I am that all-corrupting, mammon-worshipping capitalism in its totally decadent imperialist stage is speeding us to oblivion -- I was bemused.

The Feds are investigating this!

And a whole mess of people are more upset over Janet's boob than they've ever been about George W. Bush's aggressive, illegal, perpetual bloodletting in Iraq.

Or the crazily huge federal deficit.

Or the anything-for-profit, corporate mentality the gave us both the sleazy sickness of Enronhalliburtonitis and the pervasive decadence through which the Super Bowl has been turned into an obscene marketing "opportunity" that negatively transforms everyone who greedily gets on board.

Yes, a few of the commercials were truly funny.

But they are commercials, after all, and they put the spurs to the super- consumptive materialism that's already got Americans gobbling up a disproportionate amount of the world's goods and services -- while millions around the planet pick for scraps in trash heaps to survive.

Or witheringly suffer from the pollution (both physical and spiritual) that invariably accompanies what we blithely impose on a resisting international community.

As stuff like this becomes more prevalent, however, conservatives rail about a purported "turning away from God" that's "ruining America."

A letter to the editor appeared in our local newspaper from one such individual, by happenstance just prior to the Super Bowl flap.

He castigated the "tolerance" that liberals supposedly promote, resulting in what he sees as an epidemic of drug use and alcoholism among youth, gang violence, irresponsible abortions, child molestation, gay perversion, etc.

Here was a fellow much more uptight about tolerance than intolerance, which is truly scary.

And, having had his political outlook shaped through rightwing demagoguery, he can't comprehend that it's the imperfect way through which many in our society must try to contend with profound economic and social injustice -- and the very workings of our system at its capitalistic core -- that warps practically every aspect of our culture.

It's very evident he wants to use God as a holy bludgeon to force us all into a conformity consistent with his biases.

That's why I would strongly appeal to the likes of MTV, Jackson, and Justin Timberlake (just to mention the recent culprits) to try to clean up their act.

There are enough crypto-fascistic impulses worryingly present in the USA Patriot Act.

We shouldn't hand the reactionaries more gratuitous affronts that they'll then turn around as a basis for censorship and repression against us all.

Freedom of expression is one thing, but prodding a mad bull with flamboyant excess is quite another.

(By no means do I wish to convey the impression that female freedom of choice and equal rights for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgendered Americans ought to be compromised to avoid "rocking the boat." Nor do I condemn such valid expressions of people's experience as voiced in Hip-Hop. I'm speaking only of in-your-face dissing of others' sensibilities just for the cheap-shot aspect of doing it...which is pretty much what the Jackson/Timberlake incident seems to have been.)

Once, while riding a municipal bus, two teenaged girls were being loudly vulgar within earshot of an elderly woman who was literally cringing over what she was forced to hear.

The girls were obviously asserting a youthful need to come across as "cool" via highly dubious means.

The older female, probably deeply religious, was painfully offended.

Conservatism, in its fundamental essence, is the irrational defense of unviable status quos artificially sustained by various elites through often massive injustice.

As such, it must always be staunchly resisted.

But let's do it with respect for the instinctive decency that often remains fully upright in hearts and minds of those who are otherwise sharply bent by rightwing sophistry.

The best way to ultimately win members of the conservative rank and file to the progressive cause is to kindly appreciate their value as "good people" having beliefs about basic human behavior that are not always or even mostly wrong.

Obviously there are obscenities much greater than an inappropriately exposed breast. War, racism, hunger in the midst of plenty, and the other emblematic ills of profits-before-people priorities are plainly far more sinful and in worse need of remedial action.

However, we will only defeat ourselves by trying to minimize excesses -- born of our system's innate rot -- that offend the ethics and common sense of even (or especially) everyday conservatives.

Let's take the "morality" issue away from the Right by being leaders for sensible, laudable conduct in society, on all levels, particularly those that apply directly to America's families.

Dennis Rahkonen, from Superior, WI, has been writing progressive commentary and verse since the '60s. He can be reached at dennisr@cp.duluth.mn.us

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