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Stop Making Me Look So Hot!

Photo cred: Newsweek. obviously

It doesn’t matter if I’m a democrat or a republican. I kind of feel badly for her. After all, there are any number of unflattering pictures of me floating through the world. But if I see one I don’t like, I can untag it, or hide it, or ask the taker to delete it. Call me vain, but I’d rather not have a picture of myself with my mouth full, or of my post-baby rear end climing up a mountain, or of me–at all, ever, under any circumstances–that was taken at an Easter sunrise service. I have been known to diet, or have my hair done, or buy new clothes, all because of an unflattering picture.

 So, if i get my picture taken about 100 times a year (I’m guessing) and about 70 of those pictures are pretty unflattering, you can imagine how many pictures are out there of public figures, and how many of THOSE pictures they’d rather not be circulating in the world. And they can’t hit “untag,” or “hide,” or say, “hey, crazy poparazzi man, how about a do-over?” So yeah, I kind of feel bad for MB–aka “Crazy Eyes–” that this is her new public face.
HOWEVER–it’s not like they caught her with her mouth full, or snuck up while she was bending over at an unflattering angle (my dad’s favorite way to take a picture, thanks). This is kind of a “what do you mean, this is just my face,” face. “The Queen of Rage” might be a little hyperbolic, but let’s just be honest… that’s what she’s selling. And these days, rage sells. Crazy gets votes.
 
I shudder to think of the carnage that will be found along the campaign trail, come hindsight 2012. It is going to get ugly out there, on both sides–or maybe now, on 3 sides. I am stressed just thinking about it. About a year from now, it is going to be painful to turn on the tv or radio; tense surfing on facebook; anxious and maybe tenuous preaching ground… Just, slow down the clock please. I’m not ready.
 
The uglier it gets, the madder we all get, and the more rage sells. The more crazy gets votes. The more we let our leaders appeal to our baser selves in order to coerce a vote. The uglier it gets, the more effective ugliness seems to be. Hostility moves in where discourse used to live. Name calling on the house floor gets to seeming acceptable and even encouraged. Poor people go hungry and women can’t receive basic care and children get left behind; foreign aid moves slowly and wars drag on for decades and basic freedoms are denied people who love each other–all in the interest of “keeping the pundits happy.”
 
I’ve got news. The pundits aren’t happy. In either camp. Everywhere you look, people are furious and looking for someone to blame. And rather than calling on our leaders to envision a more just and life-giving society, we charge them with articulating our fury. We want our leaders to be as angry and het-up (if you need an Appalachian Lexicon, i’m working on it) as we are. We really elect people based on how well they can throw down.
 
 In other words, calling her “Crazy Eyes” or “Queen of Rage” might just be a free campaign moment. Rage sells. Crazy gets votes. My concern is that crazy, rage, anger, anxiety, fear… all of these things can be easily mistaken for strength, vision, valor and patriotism. And America has lost its tools for distinguishing the former from the latter.
 
There are bad pictures out there, of every single one of us. Images of ourselves that lead us to diet, exercise, buy a new wardrobe, dye our hair to cover the gray… Let this image on the cover of Newsweek be a reality check for an angry America.  This is what our fear looks like at a jillion megapixels, and it is not pretty.
 
So, I feel badly for Cogresswoman Bachman. Because what we see on this glossy cover is a moment of our shared ugliness, coming through in one person’s unfortunate picture.
HOWEVER: if you don’t want a crazy picture of yourself out in the world, don’t be crazy. You don’t hear Bill Gates complaining when somebody makes him look rich, or Stephen Hawking mad that he was made to appear smart. Or Beyonce saying, “hey guys, let’s redo this shoot. I look too damn hot!” Some things, just are. And no amount of photo-shopping is going to uplift or diminish their essence.
 
Who is the face of America right now? I would like to say it is a face filled with grace and kindness, with strength and wisdom, a determination to reinvent in a dark and uncertain time. I’d like to say there is a joy and sense of unity at our core that cannot be paled in even the harshest light. It is my great hope that, someday soon, we will find that face in our midst and proudly plaster it on the cover of every major media outlet in the world. But for now…well, what we see is what we get. It might not be flattering, but it is a mirror to our collective souls. If we don’t like what we see, may it lead us to a higher place.  It’s going to take more than a dye-job and a new pair of jeans, but it is within our power to take a better picture next time.
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