To Allen Ginsberg
I have seen the best minds of my generation
Become obsessed with Viagra
Lust after the woman’s market niche
Imagine, she’s 70 plus and still looks 40
A Botox drip hidden in her lip?
Sex and image, skinny and rich
I want to howl at the out-of-date Allen
A shocker in his time
War continues, life’s still a bitch.
The American Mission began with the 17th Century Puritans who failed to build their Zion in the Wilderness in New England. Cotton Mather sermons extolled the residents of Massachusetts Bay Colony to live up to their God-given task to remake the world, so that Christ could return and usher in the Kingdom of the Millennium. Imagine Mather opening his email and receiving an offer to “say goodbye to cellulite,” his wife looking over his shoulder at “Body Shape, the Alternative to Cosmetic Surgery.” But instead of a middle-aged woman with flab everywhere, a young beauty in a bathing suit smiles provocatively.
Would Mather – if reborn – have dared to smile at the absurd notion of his once pressing vision? Perhaps he would try to explain to George W. Bush and the advertising community that they had not quite gotten the essence of His message.
Four centuries after the Puritans failed to extirpate the Devil from their midst, goofy missionaries continue to harangue the populace. Bush spreads freedom as if it would substitute for cream cheese to shmear on any Arab’s sesame bagel and lox. I wonder if a “higher power” has taken to political comedy script writing – for Her own amusement, of course.
But Bush, the missionary, has counterparts in the advertising world. “If you haven’t tried Viagra, you don’t know what you’re missing. Heh, heh!” Freedom, Viagra, a new SUV, a cruise in the Caribbean – all will provide the missing ingredient in your life – whether you live in Podunk or Baghdad.
In fact, advertising has become a form of missionary activity. Instead of pushing Jesus on the natives, advertisers push soap, hair spray, and drugs that take U.S. consumers up, down and sideways – and promise to cure their impotence and acne. The missionary factor in American life extends even to alternative life styles.
Allen Ginsberg, the spiritual descendent of Walt Whitman, “saw his mother screaming psalms at demons.” He appealed to the sensitive, the Hell’s Angels to chant the Indian mantras, eschew heterosexual Judeo-Christian demons that refused to respond to his mother and assume pacifism as the only viable world view. The naïve and openly homosexual “beat poet” who died in 1997 did not spend time sitting at his computer, gazing at websites that pushed Republican sado-masochism.
What would he have said to Jeff “Bucky” Gannon, a.k.a. James Guckard, who ran an aggressive gay prostitution service via the Web? He also got a White House press pass to lob softballs to Bush and his press chief. On his website “USMCPT” with the eagle and other Marine military symbolism, “Bucky” who is “masculine, muscular, military” and “very discreet: ‘won’t ask, won’t tell,’” shows himself as a well endowed, naked (except for his combat boots) hunk, with a shaved crotch, offering himself as “personal trainer, body guard, escort.”
He advertised himself as “aggressive, verbal dominant top” and cutely added, “I don’t leave marks, only impressions.” In case, you didn’t understand, at the bottom of the website, Gannon-Guckert makes sure you get the point: “Hot Male Escorts” .
The missionaries that espouse freedom from the White House maliciously placed Gannon-Guckert in the press pool and fed him stories, which he leaked as a supposed reporter for a Republican-owned web zine. Then, these cynical God-fearing manipulators chuckled as some of the “news” tripe they dangled got swallowed by the mass media. Well, in pursuit of American freedom, the White House manipulators might have rationalized, take advantage of any tactic that God makes available – including Kinky Bucky Gannon.
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, an expert in availing himself of money by any means to do God’s legislative work, has taught this lesson well. With ethics charges and felonies galore facing him, he insists that all his actions follow from God’s word.Bob Dole, another Republican stalwart who ran for President on his party’s ticket in 1996, has emerged as a new kind of missionary. He has taken up the cause of selling a drug company’s remedy for what Archie Bunker in the sitcom “All in the Family” once called “conubibal problems.”
Dole and other celebrities have become public sales pitchers for the product that pharmaceutical companies also push through daily email spam. The message that accompanies the “You need Viagra, Cialis and other erectile dysfunction remedies” message suggests that without these drugs a horrible situation could arise: “What if a tender moment turns into the right moment and you’re not ready?”
“You’re always ready,” Ginsberg would have said. He preached sexual freedom with peace, justice, tolerance, and openness, while the right wing Christian establishment branded Allen and his homoerotic pals as “kinky faggots.” Orthodox Jews shuddered because by birth and thus forever, Allen was a member of the Tribe – who did not believe that Palestinians should be removed from their land and have their arms broken by Israeli soldiers.
All the prissy denominations excluded Allen who celebrated his genitals, while establishment luminaries – who knew about the Gannon-Guckert escapades and his shaven crotch that he highlights on the website – decried the sight of a bare breast on a statue. In 2002, then Attorney General John Ashcroft ordered that subordinates place a burkha over an exposed stone mammary in the Department of Justice.
Moralists became enraged – at least 150 million suffered acute trauma – at the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show when they saw the real thing exposed by Janet Jackson. Yet, for a nice fee the pillars of the establishment stand up for erections – TV promos for Viagra – without of course mentioning “those parts” (Pfizer Drug Company paid Dole and the other luminaries very well for promoting their instant boner product).
Televised sporting events like NASCAR racing, NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball regularly feature hunks, like baseball slugger and super steroid imbiber Rafael Palmeiro, promoting the libidinous potion. “What if ‘a tender moment’ turns into the right moment, but you’re not ready?”
Bob Dole, admitted that “it’s a little embarrassing to talk about ED, but it’s so important to millions of men and their partners that I decided to talk about it publicly” (Reuters, February 19, 1999). Indeed, the Pfizer sales force must be drooling over the possibilities of promoting their product on TV in “Liberated Iraq” and Afghanistan as well.
Ironically, some of the very people who writhe in angst over a bare breast finally took official umbrage at the millions of daily ads that guarantee erections as if just discovering that these ads are about sex. What if the little ones are watching Viagra commercials and ask: “Mommy, does Daddy suffer from ED?”
Congressman Jim Moran doesn’t want our innocent young people finding out about such monstrously disgusting subjects – at least not until after 10 p.m. The Northern Virginia Democrat introduced a bill to ban advertisements for erectile-dysfunction drugs such as Viagra, Cialis and Levitra until the late-night hours. Presumably, the innocent are asleep after 10 p.m. “It bothers me, the saturation of these ads during viewing times when you’re normally sitting around with the kids. I don’t have any problem advertising these products after 10, the way we do with…hard liquor,” Moran said.
“When Bob Dole was doing the ads, it didn’t really bother me, but now there’s just too much sexual innuendo,” Moran told the Associated Press (Capitol Hill Blue August 17, 1999). I think of Dan Quayle who does not support Viagra because he tried it for a week and nothing happened. “It’s the worst suppository I’ve ever used.”
I would do with Bush’s freedom-spreading ideas in the Middle East what Quayle allegedly did with his Viagra.
SAUL LANDAU is the Director of Digital Media and International Outreach Programs for Cal Poly Pomona University’s College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences. He is a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies. His latest book is THE BUSINESS OF AMERICA: HOW CONSUMERS HAVE REPLACED CITIZENS AND HOW WE CAN REVERSE THE TREND.