Last Friday afternoon, the Republican Party celebrated “America’s Youth” at MCI Center. A friend scored some extra tickets and three of my roommates and I infiltrated the GOP pep rally. It should have been called, “America’s Youth – Indoctrinate Them While They’re Young and alleable.” Evidently, the incoming administration thinks that America’s youth can be bought off with handfuls of glow sticks and live pop performances. They may be right.

The afternoon was a strange neo-fascist youth rally (I have a sneaking suspicion, given the slated lineup of performers and some of the suspicious looks we got from parents, that America no longer considers me, at 22, a youth). The myopic, faithful cult of Dubya – I have been to the other side, observed the species in its natural habitat – wore giant hot-looking furs and three piece suits on a Friday afternoon and bought batches of nachos (cheese food = no nutrition = all American) for children with pink, freshly-scrubbed cheeks.

The last time MCI Center was used for a political rally was back in November, just before the elections; Ralph Nader packed the place for a day of speeches about the filth of corporate dollars and his ideas for reforming the corrupt two-party political system. Bush’s rally last Friday afternoon was something else entirely, although educational in its own way – we learned about the new first lady’s passion for reading from the giant monitors that flanked the stage and heard performances from Destiny’s Child, 98 Degrees and Jessica Simpson.

Colin Powell, a few Olympians, even Dubya himself trotted out on stage to read quick, easily digestible sound bites from the TelePrompTers. I discovered that the cute little kid from Jerry aguire (has anyone else noticed that he has not grown at all in the last five years?) is a tiny political tool of the Republican Party.

My favorite part of the festivities, without a doubt, was when teen pop vixen Simpson appeared, bouncing around on stage in a shirt tied off to reveal a “compassionately conservative” appropriate strip of perfectly-tanned midriff, flanked by her wildly gyrating (was that, gasp, a pelvis thrust? John Ashcroft wouldn’t approve) vinyl-clad dancers.

In a moment which could only be described as scriptedly spontaneous, the exuberant Jessica urged her audience to sing along as she changed the words of her smash pop hit “Boy, I think that I’m in love with you” to “George, I think that I’m in love with you.” Seem weird, even a bit creepy? I thought it was a little sexually charged for a Republican celebration of America’s Youth – some blond vixen tossing her hair, pursing her lips, belting out a love song to a man old enough to be her father. But then I figured it out: Simpson, whose carefully guarded virginity is a one of our national treasures, is the safe Republican equivalent of Britney and Christina – imminently palatable, a little bland, kind of empty. Sex appeal minus the sex. Now that’s femininity that Dubya can celebrate.

The question is, would Friday have been any less condescending and nauseating if the whole fiasco was had been controlled by the Democrats in the spirit of celebrating Gore as president? Probably not. Both campaigns chronically neglected young people, stooping only periodically to make pandering appeals, using the same MTV marketing to mug at the camera and gloss over the issues. Bush, like Gore, was a crafted candidate, a pop president; created, packaged and sold. Like one-man boy bands, they’ve taught them to sing and dance, picked out their clothes and tried to keep them out of trouble. Their lyrics are bad and scripted. Their speeches are banal platitudes strung together, rolling off listeners’ backs like easy listening music.

Bush is even chicly attired, having single-handedly eclipsed adonna’s diligent attempts to make the cowboy hat into a trend; Bush’s major success thus far has been in turning the 10-gallon hat into an in-your-face partisan fashion statement.

I wanted to believe in Gore, to hear him speak about the environment, our culture’s over-consumption, issues I knew from reading his book he was passionate about, but he disappointed again and again. Saturday’s post-inauguration parade moved towards the White House at a crawl. But the motorcade sped up considerably when the procession passed the part of Pennsylvania Avenue most thickly crowded with cold, chanting demonstrators. A lot of those protestors were our age, also “America’s Youth.” The Secret Service agents had to run just to keep up with the stretch Caddie.

The message, I think, is a powerful one, far stronger than anything Bush had to say on the steps of the Capitol. This political posturing, this “compassionate conservatism” is willing to support America’s young people, but only the ones that agree with it, only the ones that can be indoctrinated, only the ones that can be bought. The rest of us are merely an inconvenience, scenery. The motorcade picked up speed in the rain. The decision made: avoid reality, do not look out the window, do not read the signs – lock the doors, turn up the Jessica Simpson and (thank God for oil subsidies! gas is cheap!) drive a little faster.

Hope Michelson is a senior in the College.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.