“we are patriots, we are Braveheart...We need to ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November.”--Ted Nugent, 2012. ( Former star rocker and current sage of Waco, Texas)
As has been pointed out by pundits of reasonable mind, America is a culture obsessed by celebrity. You don't really even have to be a current popular celebrity in this nation, because there are so many people of my age around that millions of us remember ex-celebrities who survive on their decades-old success through "oldies" tours and restorations of past movies and DVD compilations of old television shows.
The aged celebrity is not a footnote in American culture. Two over-the-hill film actors have served as governor of California, one ( a certain R. Reagan) as a two-term President. The other, blood-and-guns-blazing action star Arnold Schwarzenegger, likely would have run for president had be not be inconveniently born in Austria and therefore Constitutionally ineligible to run for the highest office. A third celebrity, Bob Hope, went all the world roughly around Christmas time for decades entertaining the US soldier, sailor and Marine abroad. A conscript stationed in a hellhole like Thule in Greenland or a base in the former South Vietnam could at least count on a supply of bad jokes and alluring female pulchritude coming from the USO's biggest draw.
During the 1960's I would argue Bob Hope made some of the worst comedy films and television specials that have ever been committed in front of a paying audience. What once was funny was now a groaning bore. My parents tried to watch the older Hope of this time in memory of his salad days as a radio and film comic from the last generation. Even they threw in the towel, as did millions of others, when it was clear the well was dry. Yet Hope's popularity remained rather undiminished in many areas for what the did for "the boys overseas", all the while making millions by selling film of his USO Tour for television specials.
Folks on the left have also gone on the celebrity-activist circuit with results less than stellar. A classic example of this was Jane Fonda going to Hanoi in 1971 and parking her fetching rear end on a the seat of a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun, smiling away like she was watching kids at play rather than soldiers using Russian or Chinese made equipment to shoot down her countrymen.
Protesting the Vietnam War and calling for peace ---a good thing.
Doing it with heavy artillery as a backdrop?---well, I'd say counter-productive. But at least Ms. Fonda apologized for that one and has more than paid her debt for a misstep in a otherwise brave mission to end the most stupid and destructive event in American history.
As Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank pointed out in a recent editorial. "We are, after all, the land of Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Snooki." If you wanted to add people who actually had talent or had not squandered what talent they had so far, you could include Brad Pitt, Algelina Jolie, Leonardo DeCaprio, country singer Blake Shelton, satirists like Tina Fey and her co-star from "30 Rock" aged leading man Alec Baldwin (keep your eye especially on that guy going political when the right handlers rope him in and enough brown spots cover his hands. )
Throw in pop diva female singer actor Jennifer Lopez or anybody in the cast of "Madmen" or the next winner of "America's Got Talent."
These are the celebrities of today and perhaps there is a future governor or President in that mix. I rather hope not. Social policy should not be a game for dilettantes, a sort-of reward for the best man or woman entertainer who can play off their past casting or chart song success and pretend that is indeed who they are. "Apres Reagan, le deluge" it seems.
I would argue that the aged celebrity is the most likely figure to wish to recapture his or her fame in a cause that at once draws attention to an issue and also revitalizes their career. Celebrities like Elizabeth Taylor and Charlton Heston brought their shopworn success to specific causes like AIDS research (a very good thing) or in Mr. Heston's case, the phantom threat of loss of personal firearms rights that he championed in the last decade or so of his life (a very divisive and dubious bit of grandstanding in my view.) How much each of these worthies were engaged in a cause they felt they could help and how much they wished to find an audience is a serious question and one that shouldn't be shrouded in ones personal political views on the subject.
And this brings us to Ted Nugent, a past-it rocker from my youth who is known mainly for songs like "Cat Scratch Fever" and other pearls of pop testosterone poetry. Mr. Nugent is an avid sportsman, in the Teddy Roosevelt, Ernest Hemingway and Elmer Fudd mode. He is also a flaming eccentric who shoots,bags and guts dead animals for fun. He is outspoken on the subject of protecting the Second Amendment to the Constitution in the broadest possible terms and feels this right is under threat by the current Presidential Administration. (Which has steadfastly said almost nothing about new gun laws, holding fast to the Democratic Party playbook that states that Al Gore lost his bid for the Presidency in 2000 in part because he floated the idea of a national handgun registration law. This angered enough rural Democrats in West Virginia and New Hampshire to swing from Gore to Bush. )
But, as any psychologist worth his salt knows, you don't have to have a threat to produce a groundswell of hysteria in a given crowd. The "Madman of Motor City" seems to have picked up the mantle of defending gun rights via the National Rifle Association from the "cold and dead hand" of Mr. Heston. Again, is he supporting a cause or cashing in on past glories to stretch his time in the spotlight?
One thing for sure he was not--unlike the late Mr. Heston and millions of other American males who find shooting things exciting---is a veteran.
He got a deferment from the Vietnam War in a way I find rather novel and creative. “(Nugent claims) that 30 days before his Draft Board Physical, he stopped all forms of personal hygiene. The last 10 days he ingested nothing but junk food and Pepsi, and a week before his physical, he stopped using the bathroom altogether, virtually living inside his pants... (OK, you get the idea) Nugent went on to say "… if I would have gone over there, I’d have been killed, or I’d have killed, or I’d kill all the hippies in the foxholes … I would have killed everybody,’ he told the Detroit Free Press in an interview published July 15, 1990.”
So he does sound a little disturbed, right? But he has matured since his halcyon days as a rocker? Or not. The Secret Service is going to interview him today to find out what he meant by these recent remarks (below):
"Nugent, who is also a columnist at the Washington Times and whose endorsement was welcomed by presidential candidate Mitt Romney, told the NRA in his speech that "If Barack Obama becomes the president in November, again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year."
But what is there to say about the USA and the gun and rifle crowd? Were that "Teddy" could just blow off steam and make rude remarks about Obama's policies or Nancy Pelosi's hair or whatever and leave it at that.
But But The Aged Celebrity in this case appears to have jumped the rails. What will become of Ted? LZ Granderson at CNN has some thoughts.
http://www.cnn.com/2012/04/18/opinion/granderson-nugent/index.html "Allowing people to threaten the life of a president, particularly during time of war, is not protecting free speech as much as it is dangerously close to treason as it is defined in Article III of the Constitution. We have an agreed-upon system to replace elected officials we don't like. It's called democracy. If people don't like the president, they can say that. They can vote against them. They can run. They can leave. But they shouldn't be allowed to go on the Internet or radio and threaten his or her life. I felt that way about George W. Bush, I feel that way about President Obama, and I will feel that way if Mitt Romney gets elected.
"That's because this conversation isn't about them or the parties they represent. It's about maintaining some level of respect for the office. How can we begin to talk seriously about "restoring America"-- whatever that means -- when we openly threaten the life of our chief ambassador?
"U.S. Presidents Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, and Kennedy were all assassinated. Six U.S. presidents survived assassination attempts.
I"'m not surprised to hear such comments from Nugent. But I am surprised that in a country with 106 million handguns, 105 million rifles, 83 million shotguns and four assassinated presidents, we don't take such talk more seriously."
These are indeed disturbing remarks the man has made , no matter who is in office. And all the more reason to heap skepticism on performers with little formal education going into a political realm, much less into high office, when they might not be prepared to mind their own actions or what flies from their mouths.