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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Surprise Parties

Gracie Allen runs for president: Down with common sense.
Gracie Allen, well-known better half (literally) of the married comedy team of Burns and Allen, ran for president of the US once. She was (probably) the first woman to run for such a higher office, but I had a public education so may be mistaken.

Gracie Allen ran on the Surprise Party ticket. She called her party the Surprise Party because her mother was a Democrat, her father was a Republican, and she was a surprise. Her party's mascot was a kangaroo named Laura because the year she ran for president was a leap year, and because her campaign slogan was "It's in the bag."

Here's the thing about Gracie Allen: She was an incredibly smart woman who made a great deal of money playing dumb. Imagine if she had won? During interminably long State of the Union speeches, one Congressperson or another--or even a brave member of the Supreme Court--could've called out, "Say Goodnight, Gracie!" and she would've cut off mid-sentence, bade goodnight, and ended her speech. If any one of her press conferences got boring, an enterprising journalist (Helen Thomas, say) could shout out a question about Gracie's family.

Many comedians mined their family over the years, but President Gracie Allen would've easily segued from cattle futures to an uncle who once told the future of his cattle for three cents a prediction.

Gracie's Surprise Party held a convention in Omaha. She was also invited to speak at the Women's National Press Club by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. She appeared on numerous radio programs speaking her "dotty" mind, and of course this was all a Colbert truthiness stunt but it was also a real attempt to draw attention to women's very viable political future.

Gracie was a showperson, but she was also quite brilliant. Hell, twenty years before she "ran" for president, women weren't even allowed a vote in the US.

Currently--and this is nearly a century after women getting the vote--the rights of women are under attack again. Same-sex marriage has made some strides, and transsexual rights is gearing up in a way that makes me proud, and women's rights... is suffering 1970s-level hits. Phyllis Schlafly is back, Ann Coulter is echoing her, and most of FOX News is providing back-up. And you have this Men's Rights movement full of straight white-male privilege demanding to know why no one is thinking of how badly the victimized poor white males are being treated.

Specious fact: nearly 30 US states have laws mandating that men who rape women, and beget a child upon that raped woman, have visitation rights should that raped woman choose to give birth. Of course since most states have very byzantine laws about abortion, that raped woman is forced to give birth, and then forced--out of human decency towards her child--to have a civil relationship with the man who forced himself upon her.

"In the bag," indeed.

And just this week, a young man from privilege went on a random surprise-party shoot-out targeting women who rejected him for sex. He was 22. At 22, I'd had limited sexual contact with both men and women, and it never occurred to me to go on a shooting spree. [Insert obvious joke here: I often, at 22, went on a shooting spree, but the only casualties were my supply of lotion.]

I read Elliot Rodger's manifesto, and I watched his videos. His vlogs. And it's true: the man suffered from a very toxic and very damning trait in US culture: straight white male privilege. Yup, I realize he was biracial, and I realize his father was a second-unit director, and not a primary director, of a blockbuster. I realize his BMer was hardly a pussy-wagon in Santa Barbara. I realize he was nerdy in a place that keeps nerds in back rooms.

Here George Burns shows his love for Gracie Allen
But the man--and he was a man--was culturally a white male, and he was by self-definition straight, and he was a complete creep. Yet he has his defenders.

And he has his enablers, who gave him tacit permission to act as he did.

So, to the point: This guy would not've voted for Gracie Allen. And I do not trust anyone who would've given the Surprise Party a pass, and instead staged their own convention.  Down with common sense, because we don't need to be so common.

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