An Open Letter to Victoria Jackson
Dear Ms. Jackson,
I know you’ll forgive me when I say that, because of my age (I’ll be 112 years young next October), I wasn’t watching Saturday Night Live much when you were on it. But I did see you in a few sketches back then, and I thought you were terrific: cute, sexy, and faux-dumb in the classic Judy Holiday/Goldie Hawn mold.
So I wasn’t all that surprised when you re-emerged recently as a spokesperson (or should I say, a “mis-spokesperson”!) for the Tea Party, or Tea Bagger, or Tea Cosy, or whatever they are, Movement. You would be the one to pull off this absolutely brilliant piece of political theater.
You’ve nailed it perfectly. Your character (whom you cannily call “Victoria Jackson”) displays exactly the right combination of confusion, desperation, and outright stupidity.
Take your recent interview by that genial idiot, Steve Doocy, on Fox News. There you were, not only insisting that Barack Obama “is a communist,” but doing so in the persona of someone who obviously wouldn’t know a real communist if he came up and seized her means of production. Doocy, whose job it is to present to advantage cretins and psychos, wasted no time in correcting you like a 10th grade civics teacher (“Well, he isn’t a communist”) and waited–in vain, thanks to your sharp sense of timing–for you to say, “Oh, sorry, Steve, you’re right. He’s a socialist.”
Obama isn’t a socialist, either, but it’s all one to “Victoria Jackson,” and you played the scene perfectly. Of course, you’d had time to rehearse the character, both at other gatherings of frothing right-wing nutbars and on your must-see You Tube performance, where “Victoria Jackson” plays guitar, expresses herself, and acts for all the world like a person recovering from general anesthesia with minimal brain damage and maximal “heart.”
Like all first-rate performers (actors, musicians, athletes, etc.) you do something very difficult and make it look easy. Of course, the qualities we see on display at these Tea Bag rallies are anything but subtle. Still, you have a shrewd sense of how to reveal them in all their multiplicity. They include (as if you didn’t know) —
* Passion – These people, uh, experience strong emotions. They shout. They wave their fists. They yell. And, okay, sometimes they spit on people. (Because who doesn’t?) They have feelings about stuff, and they don’t care who knows it.
* Anger – And not just feelings. These folks are mad. At whom? You name it. Obama. Reid-Pelosi-Emanuel-Michelle-Sean Penn-Lady Gaga-Avatar. Democrats. Liberals. The administration. The media. Immigrants. Hippies. “Health care.” “The public option.” Saul Freaking Alinsky, as if any of them have the slightest idea of who he was and whose interests he defended.
* Self-righteousness – This is what they’re taught by Rush and Hannity: If something bad happens to you, or even if you just don’t like something (Obama winning the election; Democrats passing laws; etc.), then your “liberty” has been hijacked, your “freedom” has been stolen, and you have been forced to submit to “tyranny.” The merits, the facts, the actual history of the past ten (let alone hundred) years–that’s not their responsibility, which is to scream and then feel ennobled by it. Ask them one question about an issue, and they retreat into “I’m not an expert” and anti-intellectualist sneering about “elites.”
There are other qualities, of course, including ignorance (they don’t know what communism or socialism are any more than “Victoria Jackson” does), gullibility (they actually think that Sarah Palin, a woman who literally cannot answer a question without lying, is “a truth teller”), and sheer obliviousness of reality.
And all this comes wrapped in the shiny, red-white-and-blue gift paper of “patriotism.” This is the best (i.e., the worst) part. These people whom you so astutely lampoon use patriotism as pornography. The idea that, by attending a rally and waving a sign and screaming things that make absolutely no sense (e.g., “Keep your government hands off my Medicare”), you can feel like you have something in common with “our Founding Fathers”…well. It gets them hot and bothered and stimulated and aroused. Some of them even dress up in “Revolutionary attire,” which is their equivalent of leather and studs.
But look at me, telling you this while you obviously have a deeper grasp of it all than I ever could. You, after all, in a master-stroke of character development, have said more than once, “Glenn Beck has taught me well,” knowing (as anyone with half a brain knows) that claiming Glenn Beck as your teacher is about as wise as claiming Dr. Mengele as your primary care physician. Please, as a favor to a fan: keep that in the act. It’s priceless.
Then again, in the end it’s not funny. Even when their grievances are legitimate–because who isn’t worried about the future?–all they’re doing to address them is shouting, spitting, and cheering patent demagogues like Palin and Beck (who, it need hardly be added, are sympathizing with them all the way to the bank).
It’s hard to know what will satisfy these people. Certainly not a Republican victory in November or in 2012. It was Republicans who lay the groundwork for this mess that’s causing them to suffer. The Bush tax cuts, the unfunded wars, the de-regulation of Wall Street–disasters all, and the GOP would do it all again in an instant if they could. Then they, and Fox News, and Limbaugh, and Hannity would, as befits members of “the party of personal responsibility,” blame the next collapse on Obama.
Maybe all they need is some job security, health care they can afford, college tuition that doesn’t provoke an aneurysm, decent treatment by the banks that hold their mortgages, and some unpanicked expectation of the future.
That may be coming, although maybe not soon enough. So be careful, Ms. Jackson. You know and I know you’re just goofing on them, and no one could possibly really be as silly, oblivious, and ignorant as the character you’re portraying. But those around you aren’t in any mood for jokes. Angry mobs never, ever do good things. In fact they usually end up doing terrible things.
So get in, do your shtick, and get out. But keep up the great work!