[lit-ideas] sidebar: Vidal on Ken Starr / essay cartoon

  • From: Stephen Straker <straker@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 30 Jun 2004 09:05:41 -0700

If Fahrenheit 911 is a filmic editorial cartoon; here's an essay that is
an editorial cartoon, and it's funny as hell too. Enjoy: 

Stephen Straker 
Vancouver, B.C.   


"Birds & Bees & Clinton," The Nation (28 December 1998), pp. 5-6.  
by Gore Vidal
        [no longer on-line;  no URL available]

How time flies!  Seven fairly long years have now passed since I
explained the Birds and the Bees to Nation readers, thus putting the
finis to the cold war and, may I boast, more than one case of nervous
tic douloureux, which ticked no more ["A Few Words About Sex: The Birds
and the Bees," The Nation, 28 October 1991].  But since that long-ago
October day when I explained the mysteries of sex and scales fell from
readers' eyes, new hordes have grown up in darkness, among them Kenneth
Starr, as well as his numerous investigators and co-conspirators on the
House Judiciary Committee, as well as in Pittsburgh's Mellon Patch and
Marietta, Georgia, where the nation's Renaissance Man awaits rebirth as
commander of the armies of a sinless America, troops whose powder is
kept dry as, nervously, they closely shave hairy palms while their minds
slowly rattle into madness from abuse of self and others.   

It was not until Mr. Starr published his dirty book at public expense
that I realized how far off-track I have allowed these sad dummies to
get.  Simple truths about the birds and the bees have been so distorted
by partisanship that blowjobs and hand jobs are now confused with The
Real Thing, which can only be classic in-and-out as Anthony Burgess so
snappily put it in A Clockwork Orange.  I take full responsibility for
not providing a booster shot of Sex Ed.  So, as the old impeachment
train leaves the station, let me  demonstrate how the President did not
commit perjury when he said he did not have sexual intercourse with ...
surely not Abigail Thernstrom ... I seem to have mislaid my notes. 
Anyway, you know who I mean.   

First, let us quickly - or "briefly" as every question on CNN now begins
- review the bidding from our last symposium.  "Men and women are not
alike."  That was the first shocker I had for you in 1991.  "They have
different sexual roles to perform."  At this point Andrea Dworkin, with
a secret smile, began to load her bazooka.  "Despite the best efforts of
theologians and philosophers to disguise our condition, there is no
point to us, or to any species, except proliferation and survival.  This
is hardly glamorous, and so to give Meaning to Life, we have invented
some of the most bizarre religions that ... alas, we have nothing to
compare ourselves to.  We are biped mammals filled with red sea water
(reminder of our oceanic origin), and we exist to reproduce until we are
eventually done in by the planet's changing weather or a stray meteor." 
Thus, I wrapped up the Big Picture.  

Next: Lubricious Details.  "The male's function is to shoot semen as
often as possible into as many women (or attractive surrogates) as
possible, while the female's function is to be shot briefly" by Wolf
Blitzer ... no, no, by a male, any male, "in order to fertilize an egg,
which she will lay nine months later."  

Seven years ago, apropos same-sex versus other-sex, or homosexuality
versus heterosexuality, two really dumb American sports invented by the
spiritual heirs of Gen. Abner Doubleday, who gave us baseball, I wrote,
"In the prewar Southern town of Washington, DC, it was common for boys
to have sex with one another.  It was called 'messing around' and it was
no big deal."  I went into no more detail because I assumed most readers
would get the point.   

Recently, the sexologist George Plimpton, a James Moran Institute
professor emeritus, explained in The New Yorker how boys in his youth
would go through mating stages with girls, using, significantly,
baseball terminology like "getting to first base," which meant ... and
so on.  "Going all the way," however, was used instead of "home run" for
full intercourse, the old in-and-out or mature penis-vagina

Arguably, Southerners are somewhat different from other residents of
that shining city on a hill that has brought so much light and joy to
all the world in the past two centuries.  In balmy climes, human beings
mature early.  They also have a lot of chiggery outdoors to play
baseball and other games in.  

When I was a boy, Fairfax County, Virginia, where I lived, was Li'l
Abner country.  No glamorous houses.  No CIA lords hidden away in
Georgian mansions on the Potomac Heights.  There was just a Baptist
church.  A Methodist church.  And a lot of Sunday.  Also, a whole
hierarchy of do's and don'ts when it came to boy-girl sex.  What is now
harshly called groping was the universal sentimental approach (put down
that bazooka, Andrea).  All players understood touching.  Even without a
thong.  Endless kissing.  First, second, third bases to be got to.  Then
a boy shootist was allowed, more soon than late, to shoot.  Otherwise he
might die, of dreaded blueballs.  Girls tended to be understanding. 
Even so, all-the-way intercourse was not on offer unless he was
"serious."  Now add to these age-old rituals of mating cold war
Pentagon-CIA terminology, the concept of "plausible deniability," and
one starts to understand the truth of the President's denial under oath
that he had sexual relations with Miss Monica.  From the Testimony: "The
President maintained that there can be no sexual relationship without
sexual intercourse, regardless of what other sexual activities may
transpire.  He stated that 'most ordinary Americans' would embrace this
distinction."  Certainly most lads and lassies in Arkansas or the
Fairfax County of sixty years ago would agree.  

It is true that in the age of Freud, now drawing to a close, it used to
be argued by those who preached the good news in his name that
everything was sexual.  Two men shaking hands.  The embrace between
baseball players on the diamond.  Two women friends weeping in each
other's arms, and so on.  One can argue that, yes, there is a sexual
element to everything if one wants to go digging but even the most avid
Freudian detective would have to admit that what might be construed as
sexuality by other means falls literally short of plain old in-and-out,
which is the name of the game that takes precedence even over General
Doubleday's contribution to the boredom of nations.   

In reference to Miss Monica's first sworn denial of sexual relations
with the President, which Clinton had originally confirmed, he later
said, "I believe at the time she filled out this affidavit, if she
believed that the definition of sexual relationship was two people
having intercourse, then this is accurate."  To support Clinton's
reading of the matter, one has only to overhear Miss Monica and her
false friend/fiend Linda Tripp bemoaning the fact that the President
will not perform the absolute, complete, all-the-way act of becoming as
one with her in mature heterosexual land forever glimmering somewhere
over the rainbow.  Without sexual intercourse there can be no sexual
relationship.  If this sounds like quibbling, it is.  But that is the
way we have been speaking in lawyerland for quite some time.  The honor
system at West Point regarded quibbling as worse than lying.  So the
officer corps became adept at quibbling, even in the ruins of the city
of Ben Tre which "we destroyed in order to save it."  

A nation not of men but of laws, intoned John Adams as he, among other
lawyers, launched what has easily become the most demented society ever
consciously devised by intelligent men.  We are now enslaved by laws. 
We are governed by lawyers.  We create little but litigate much.  Our
monuments are the ever-expanding prisons, where millions languish for
having committed victimless crimes or for simply not playing the game of
plausible deniability (a k a lying) with a sufficiently good legal
team.  What began as a sort of Restoration comedy, The Impeachment of
the President, on a frivolous, irrelevant matter, is suddenly turning
very black indeed, and all our political arrangements are at risk as
superstitious Christian fundamentalists and their corporate manipulators
seem intent on overthrowing two presidential elections in a Senate
trial.  This is no longer comedy.  This is usurpation.  

With that warning, I invite the Senate to contemplate Vice President
Aaron Burr's farewell to the body over which he himself had so ably
presided: "This house is a sanctuary, a citadel of law, of order, and of
liberty; and it is here in this exalted refuge; here, if anywhere, will
resistance be made to the storm of political frenzy and the silent arts
of corruption; and if the Constitution be destined ever to perish by the
sacrilegious hands of the demagogue or the usurper, which God avert, its
expiring agonies will be witnessed on this floor."  Do no harm to this
state, Conscript Fathers.

To change your Lit-Ideas settings (subscribe/unsub, vacation on/off,
digest on/off), visit www.andreas.com/faq-lit-ideas.html

Other related posts:

  • » [lit-ideas] sidebar: Vidal on Ken Starr / essay cartoon