It’s almost time for Thanatos, the ancient Greek God of Death, to ascend the throne of America. This is, of course, a throne His Immortal Ass is already sitting on. But that doesn’t mean it’s not an occasion to throw the most expensive American Presidential Inauguration in history, ushering in the second term of one of the most universally loathed American Presidents the world has known, including a 4-day, 9-ball, 40 million smacker shindig, with a parade, concert, fireworks display and, at the Ritz-Carlton, white chocolate cowboy boots (just white?) to honor our horse-fearing Cowboy-in-Chief. The 40-mil bill for the bash is 5 mil more than Ebenezer Bush’s second offer of aid to tsunami victims, but just a drop in the bucket of human waste that is the American War on Iraq. Franklin D Roosevelt, another “War President” who came from privileged stock, at least had the sensibility (breeding?) to forego the showy parties when he was re-elected during WWII. No such restraint for Bush II, the Aw-Shucks White Chocolate Cowboy Prince of Thanatos.
Nobody talks much about Thanatos these days, except the occasional discontented Freudian. But His presence is keenly felt. Death is always with us, a constant companion to Life. But He is most powerful in wartime. According to the Greeks, Thanatos is the fatherless son of Nyx (Night), twin brother of Hypnos (Sleep), a wingéd young male God who, in Euripides’ Alcestis, coolly reminds Apollo, “I win greater honor when the victims are young.”
Of course, Thanatos is no more merciful to victims of tsunamis than He is to victims of war. Yet there is something about being killed deliberately by our fellow humans that twists the knife more sharply (at least to those of us left behind) than death at the tides of nature. And killing fellow humans is what Bush, our second-term “War President,” prides himself on. The Shrub is a Lynching Tree, a Burning Bush of Apocalyptic Mass Destruction, an obedient servant of Thanatos.
Thanatos will be inaugurated into His place at the very pinnacle of the American political pantheon, with pomp and ceremony, bands and some major balls, as the Rape of Iraq plays on. Many of the important guests, paying as much as $250,000 (not to mention under-the-table billions) per “inauguration ticket package,” will be leading Death profiteers, arms dealers and world-class polluters, sponsors of Dubya’s Christian Crusade and End-of-the-World Environmental Policies. Fine champagne will flow, but Inauguration Ballers are sure to be high on the narcotic of war, hooked on the endgame logic of death.
Cold Death, accompanied by His hot handmaiden Torture, shall reign supreme, as the Chickenhawk Pussy named Bush and the Dickless Dickhead named Dick are honored for their crimes, and their devastatingly inept cronies and lackeys are promoted for their doglike devotion, with deferential Presidential Consigliere Alberto Torquemada Gonzales ascending to the post of United States Attorney General. And we thought old Ayatollah Asscraft was bad! Gonzales became world-famous when it emerged that he wrote the Torture Memo essentially greenlighting all the “disgusting” BUSH POW PORN of Abu Ghraib, Guantànamo and other American torture chambers. Al appears to be the quiet type, exemplifying the Moral Values of the New American Hero: “Speak softly and carry a big stick you can shove up a detainee’s ass without calling it torture.”
At least, he’s come out for abortion rights, sort of. But nobody’s asking one question on everyone’s minds: Will Gonzales take Asscraft’s $8000 drapes off the venerable, half-topless Spirit of Justice?
But back to the party. I love a good party, but for George W. Bush to have a mammoth Mother of All U.S. Presidential Inaugural parties in his own pseudo-cowboy honor, with the Iraq War, the Asian tsunami aftermath and American poverty raging all around us, is, in a word, obscene. Unless you can get yourself a quick Dumb-Me-Down-to-Red-State-Levels lobotomy, it’s enough to make you sing the Blues all over again, and you know you’ve been singing that tune since November. SO, what’s a good Blue Values gal or guy who believes in Faith-Based Sex to do to counteract the immeasurably Thanatoxic effects of the Bush Party Blow-Out that’s about to explode like a mushroom cloud of anthrax-laced bullshit in our nation’s capital and throughout the virtual court of our 90% sycophantic media?
Why, fly the flag of Eros as high as you can! Yes, indeed Brothers & Sisters, Lovers & Sinners, it’s time to speak out against the Bad Bush and celebrate the Good Bush (you know what I’m saying). There are, essentially, three ways to do this: 1) PRAY, 2) PROTEST and 3) PARTY. But more on the Three P’s in a minute
Back to Eros, who (or which) is, as those discontented Freudians remind us, the opposite of Thanatos. Since Thanatos is Death, that means Eros is Life. Yay! It’s good to be on the side of Life. Then again, it’s not so simple. This isn’t one of those black-and-white Battles between Good and Evil that the Red Staters love to fight. Eros has an edge. The word is, after all, from the same root as “erotic,” so it has something to do with sex. But we’re not just talking about Valentine sex here, true love, or procreation, or just lust, porn, or recreational sex. We’re talking about the primordial sexual energy that is the essence of life. Yes, indeed.
The Greeks say it best. According to the Theogeny, the Genealogy of the Gods, written in 800 BCE by Hesiod of Boeoita, Eros was one of the four great original Creators of the Universe, all of whom emerged from Chaos. The other three were Gaia, Goddess of the Earth, Uranus, God of the Sky; and Tartarus, God of the Underworld. The fourth Great Creator was Eros, God of Life, Love and Sex. Eros blew the Breath of Life into all beings, even the Gods Themselves. This was what I call The Original Blow-Job. And this is why, at least mythologically speaking, Eros gets the clout to counter Thanatos.
In later Greek mythology, the Great Creator Eros trades some of His primal power for something akin to our idea of rock stardom, morphing into a classical rather naughty teenage heartthrob with glorious feathered wings, the original sex symbol. The arrows from his potent quiver never kill you (at least not directly), but only excite your desire. Still, like many stars, Eros is a trickster. Some people call him a Motherfucker. And he is. Because, in addition to billions of other lovers, Eros does occasionally fuck his mother (or at least, they engage in a lot of what we call foreplay), his mother being Aphrodite (Venus to the Romans), the supreme Goddess of Love.
Eros’ father is uncertain, in keeping with his swinging character. It could have been Zeus, Ares, Hermes or any one of Mama Aphrodite’s many lovers. It doesn’t matter. Like a bonobo chimpanzee, Eros is a mama’s boy in love with love and lust. Classical myth has him fall in love with a human girl named Psyche, who eventually becomes the Goddess of the Soul. Their love story is a timeless tale of passion, jealousy, faith and betrayal, suffering and redemption. In the happy ending, the child of their union is named Pleasure. Not quite a savior, but definitely a blessing.
Eros became Amor in Rome, and later, Cupid. Nowadays, Cupid is usually portrayed as a cuddly little angel, or a troop of cuddly little angels, cute as a Hallmark card and almost utterly drained of the potent sexuality of the primordial Eros or the erotic appeal of the teenage Eros. But in resisting the reign of Thanatos being inaugurated into our White House, we need all the Powers of Eros we can get–primordial, erotic and cuddly! No cynical retorts, now; that’s succumbing to Thanatosis! So, back to the 3 P’s
Brothers and Sisters, Lovers and Sinners: Prayer is not the exclusive domain of the Christian Right. It is not even the domain of religion. We all pray. Even atheists pray. It’s no great virtue to pray. The best of us pray, the worst of us pray. It’s human nature, maybe even pre-human (personally, I think bonobos pray). We all, at times, sit in contemplative silence, or sing out with a few fellow humans, surrendering our consciousness to forces we do not understand. We may pray from a place where we are deeply grateful, or passionately hoping-even asking–for something for ourselves or for others, or submitting to the forces of nature, or marveling at the miracles of life, or stopping and really thinking about what the hell we’re doing (or not doing) on Earth, or just singing those Blue Values Blues. We don’t have to pray in a House of Worship. We don’t have to pray in a particular direction or with our hands folded together. We can pray when we meditate. And, by God and Goddess, we can pray when we masturbate (or copulate, for that matter). We can pray as we paddle our little boats down the river. We can pray as we look up at the stars. We can pray as we watch TV (though some call this “vegging out”). We can certainly pray as we make love (oh God, oh God, oh baby, oh God!). We can pray as we mow the lawn. We can pray as we sit in endless bumper-to-bumper traffic (and a Pocket Rocket in the glove compartment can only help in this case).
But back to the Inauguration. You can bet your last rosary (or anal) bead that they’re going to be doing a LOT of praying there. And most of them will NOT have the Big Tent definition of “prayer” that I have. Not at all. They will be praying to the One and Only “Christian God,” with a little “Judeo-” thrown in as a prefix to appease certain Semitic Neo-Cons. They will be praying to Jesus the Bloody Christ as revealed in the Gospel according to Mel Gibson. Don’t get me wrong; though I was born and raised Jewish, and I’m now basically an agnostic/tantric/pagan/ethical-hedonist, I love Jesus (and Jesus Loves My Ass!). But the ketchup-streaked masochist who virtually exhorts his followers to follow his example and die painfully for each other portrayed in Mel’s snuff movie is not the Jesus I love. The only deity in classical mythology that comes close to Mel’s level of morbidity is Thanatos. Even Ares takes a break from the wars to romp in the sack with Aphrodite once in a while. Thanatos, like Mel’s Christ, like Bush’s legacy, is all about the DEATH.
So yes, I plan to pray during Inauguration week. Amen and Awomen. If I have to name a God to whom I’ll be praying–which does feel kind of silly, but everybody’s pushing their patron Gods these days, so here’s mine–Eros.
II want to reassure my fellow agnostics: this is not quite as loopy as it sounds. Then again, maybe it’s even loopier. What I mean is, Eros is not just some funny Valentine or mythological divinity. Eros is a planet! More specifically, it is a “planetoid” or large asteroid, 25.3 by 9.1 by 8.8 miles in size, spinning on its own axis. Coy astronomers say it’s shaped like a banana. I say it’s shaped like the male member in its happy state. The Planetoid 433 Eros was discovered in 1898 by astronomer Carl Gustav Witt, who, while playing with his telescope, must have had sex on the brain, so he named this new heavenly body Eros. Recently explored by NASA’s NEAR spacecraft, Eros is especially intriguing to astronomers because, despite its large elliptical orbit around the Sun, it comes closer to the Earth than any other body of comparable size, except the Moon. Eros is also one of the most elongated planetoids in our solar system (there’s that delicious banana shape!), the better to penetrate our hearts. And here’s the relevant clincher: the closest it comes to Earth each year is right around Inauguration time (January 20-22).
So it’s a good time to pray to Eros. Or is it for Eros? Either way, we’re talking about peace, love and understanding here, so get down on your knees! Whether you’re watching the Inauguration on TV with a barf bag handy, or completely avoiding it out in some mountainside teepee, whether you’re seriously helping the tsunami victims or unhappily helping to tear up Iraq, give it a whirl. Offer up an Eros Prayer. Pray for (or is it to?) Eros, Life, Love, Peace, Understanding, Compassion, Passion, Sex. If you find it difficult to relax and focus, try using a vibrator.
Okay, okay, it doesn’t always have to be about sex. There’s a neat little movement to make Inauguration Day “Not One Damn Dime” day, asking us to “boycott all forms of consumer spending” for 24 hours.. This seems like a good way to focus your own personal opposition toward the American corporations that support this administration. Much as fasting from food fosters a prayerful heightened awareness of your body as your temple, fasting from spending can affirm your existence as more than just another consumer. It also gives you more time for sex (the free kind)!
Just Do It. Especially if you can get your ass over to Pennsylvania Avenue and 4th Street in DC by 9 am on Inauguration Day. Bring all your “Sorry, World!” signs, and get your sexy protesting self on the boob tube. Or make a different kind of statement, like, get married to your same-sex lover on Inauguration Day (it’ll be legal again soon enough; show a little faith)! Teach or attend a sex education class. Wear your “Bush Sucks” T-shirt to work. Show our international community that this King of the White Chocolate Cowboy Boots does NOT have the “will of the people at (his) back,” at least not all the people, and certainly not the cool people, the Eros people.
One intriguing idea is the “Turn Your Back on Bush” protest. These folks plan to legally infiltrate several different public inaugural gatherings and, upon a given signal, turn their backs to the proceedings. Being the incorrigible pervert that I am, I’m hoping that some protestors will turn Turning Your Back on Bush into Mooning Bush, especially if they have nice buns. If I could make it to that protest, I’d wear my “Jesus Loves My Ass” panties, over tights, of course (it’s January!). Turn End Times into rear-end times.
Then there’s the DAWN DIE-IN, “in memory of the dead at the hands of Bush and his Administration.” Dying is sexy, if you’re not really dead, but just making a point: BUSH KILLS. One of the die-ers really should act out Mel’s Passion. Bush might not crucify Jesus (though that first iconic tortured Abu Ghraib detainee, with his arms outstretched, looked pretty Christlike), but he’d certainly keep him imprisoned indefinitely without any rights. And the torture? Well, let’s just say it would make an interesting sequel for those who enjoyed the first Gibsonian Passion.
The theme may be Thanatos, but the Spirit of Eros infuses any good protest–the drama, the costumes, the excitement of marching together, laying your body on the line, seducing hearts, minds and TV cameras, and the potent possibility of going home with that sexy fellow protestor later on…
Just remember the man whose birthday we celebrate around this time, one of the greatest protesters since Jesus, an American Man of Eros if ever there was one: Martin Luther King.
THIS is where we fight fire with fire. Sometimes fireworks. Yes indeed, Brothers & Sisters, Party Animals and Blue Angels: This is where we show ourselves and others that we don’t have to spend 40 million devalued dollaros to be the Party Masters of the World. This is where we reach out to one another to commune, comfort, collaborate and conspire, share knowledge and desire, information and aphrodisiacs, honoring Eros and our erotic resistance to the bullies and ninnies who give the Thumbs-Up (a kind of new Sieg Heil?) to Death, War, Torture, Born Again Censorship, Abstinence-Only Miseducation, Fleecing the Poor to Soften the Beds of the Rich, Creationism, Repression, Oppression, Regression, and did I mention Death?
This is where you hold your own Counter-Inaugural Party that celebrates all your favorite Blue Values that the President’s Party is against (for examples of Blue Values worth celebrating, please see my column “Blue Values”). Charge admission and donate the profits to Tsunami Relief, or Iraqi War Victims, or the ACLU, or Sex Education, or the Bonobos. If you don’t feel like throwing a Counter-Inaugural Party, get a friend to do it, or you may want to come to mine
Yes, indeed. Come one, come all or just come. Every year at this time, when the Planetoid 433 EROS is closest to Earth, I celebrate a holiday called EROS DAY. Introduced to me five years ago by pioneering erotic filmmaker Lasse Braun, I knew it was my kind of holiday, a celebration of love and lust with this intriguing astrophysical aspect. Every year, around January 22, the Planetoid Eros is at its closest distance to Earth. Does this mean that this is the time when some kind of astral sexual energy is closest to us? Perhaps.
Of course, our complex, neurotic human lives are ruled by far more than the stars and planetoids. It’s not so simple to just point to a day on the calendar, and say that this is the day when we’ll all be at our hottest. But if you believe that the positions of the Sun, Moon and other heavenly bodies have some influence over the tides and emotions of the Earth, if you believe in the power of Equinoxes and Solstices, then you might believe in the power of Eros, strongest when it is closest to us, on EROS DAY.
It certainly makes at least as much, if not a little more, sense to expect the erotic on EROS DAY than to, say, expect excitement or “resolution” on New Year’s Eve, or romance on Valentine’s Day, a date which commemorates the death of a Christian saint who believed celibacy was a virtue. Halloween is kind of sexy because you get to dress up, but it’s really for kids these days. Mardi Gras is hot, but it’s never caught on outside New Orleans, and Carnavale is so Brazil.
What truly adult holiday celebrates sex as the essence of life, in the fullest, most unabashed, unapologetic, orgiastic sense, AND boasts an astrophysical component? EROS DAY! So, I make a point of celebrating it every year, usually with a bunch of fellow Ethical Hedonist types, always with plenty of whatever we find erotic (bacchanalian works too) — an art opening, a bar, music, dance, fetish, perhaps a Commedia Erotica performance of the Passion of Eros & Psyche, perhaps a speech and a striptease. Some of my EROS DAY celebrations have been more political than others. Actually, the more Thanatos sinks His cold claws into America, the more hotly political EROS DAY becomes.
EROS DAY 2005, coming in the wake of the Thanatoxic Bush Inauguration, will be a Counter-Inaugural Ball (in every fine sense of that word), a tribal revival crossed with an orgy crossed with a private peace rally, a Celebration of Love, Lust & the Blue Values we hold dear. As my EROS DAY ’05 co-host, internationally renowned digital artist Laurence Gartel (whose work is in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of American History and the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris), emailed me, “I never get really political, but now I just can’t stop myself.”
Don’t stop yourself. Not now. Now is the time to release your political art, prayers, protests and resistance parties, while we’ve still got a few precious freedoms left. As the Bushies hoist Thanatos to the top of their pyramid, think of how you can topple that baby down. Think of how you can honor Eros in your life. Then take it to the streets (always with nonviolence, darling), or to the bedroom, or to the EROS DAY Counter-Inaugurals, or take it to your webcam. And don’t let the Thanatoxic Brigade take it away from you.
Dr. SUSAN BLOCK is a sex educator, cultural commentator, host of The Dr. SUSAN BLOCK Show and author of The 10 Commandments of Pleasure. Her essay on John Ashcroft’s “breast fetish” is included in CounterPunch’s Serpents in the Garden: Liaisons with Sex and Culture. Visit her website at http://www.drsusanblock.com. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
© January 10, 2005, Dr. SUSAN BLOCK.