February 7, 2002

The DazeRant

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What do glowsticks, screaming adolescent girls, and Astroturf make you think of? The casualties of September 11th? Me too! Once again, I am swollen with pride for our country. As our favorite Irish frontman skipped down the Super Bowl half-time stage, I thought “what an appropriate homage to those we have lost.”

After the red, white, and blue accessory craze, the magazine advertisements for Twin Tower memorabilia plates, and now U2’s epitaphed set backdrop, I have to ask with heart-felt sincerity: Why can’t we as a country unite with class?

Did our Founding Fathers forsake tact along with monarchy, leaving all good grace for their top-hatted counterparts? Point taken, the Super Bowl is not tea time. Earl Grey could never substitute Miller, nor Baby Spice Britney Spears. And I would never wish it so. I, myself take the Super Bowl as an opportunity to relish down-home, American, apple pie, finger lickin’ goodness. Bring on the chest paint, the magic marker signs, the big production commercials, but do not marry this mentality with national calamity. Would you wear a bikini to a funeral? A tutu to a presidential inauguration? Then why a flag on your Breathe-Rite? The meaning is lost in the nostrils.

I am only making light of the half-time display as an expression of my deep distress. Last fall I made a solo pilgrimage to ground zero to pay my respects. I was greeted by a phenomenon I found more upsetting than the twisted metal or the nightmarish sounds of the cranes: American tourists, equipped with cameras, families, and flag paraphernalia. One might point out that this was an exemplary situation in which to apply the pot-kettle-black adage (and thank you to my clever friends). But something separated me from them. And that something was decency. These visitors were not only snapping travel pics left and right, but were positioning their children in the foreground of memorials and missing persons signs–and even shouting “Cheese!” before snapping these tasteful mementos. These travelers would have shown more reverence at Graceland. So when I see Super Bowl half-time as a garish extension of this behavior, it gives me pause.

Paul McCartney attempted to bring a bit of British subtlety to our big American powwow with a little riff on freedom. A proper little nod to our still recent national tragedy. But we’re American, the ones who brought you Las Vegas dinner theater. And doggonnit we’re gonna have us a smorgasbord, an extravaganza! We want Bono in his goggles and a leather US flag, frolicking and howling his Best Of in front of a somber list of people lost, and we want an awe-inspiring grand finale where the screen falls from impressive heights, even if it is reminiscent of something, something terrible…

When entertainment and funding meet, Americans cannot say no. Take the Star Wars prequels. We are like the children in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory–glutinous and falling victim to our own sugary vices. Here we can say that the half-time directors drowned in a pre-teen sea of their own creation.

I am sad that I can only love this country for minutes at a time. I am horrified that this display will be interpreted internationally as representative of America. And tonight, in what should have been Super Bowl afterglow spent wondering which decade suited Britney best or if Paul is the Walrus, I am instead ruminating on whether his American citizenship has left open an English green card for me.

Archived article by Sarah Fuss