Back when Bill Clinton was leaving his mark on history by leaving his mark on Monica Lewinsky’s dress, one of the most aggravating aspects of the entire shabby episode was having our nation patronized by the European media. As usual, the snidest commentary came to us courtesy of the French.
They were like 80 million cats lapping up cream. Our alleged lack of sophistication is like food and drink to them. They couldn’t stop snickering over our bourgeois value system. After all, their premier had a mistress. What real man didn’t? It’s to be expected. Only people as backward as Americans would make a fuss over something so natural. All the while, the French ignored the fact that Clinton had committed perjury, which many of us took far more seriously than whether he had cheated on Hillary. Feeling as we did about his wife, that struck many of us as perfectly reasonable.
But, much as I hate doing it, I’m afraid I have to admit that, for once, the French weren't entirely off base. While I regarded Clinton as a national albatross for a variety of reasons, quite aside from his having sex with a young intern, I happen to think that where sex is concerned, Americans are, by and large, childish and embarrassing.
For instance, consider that for millions of us, the computer age with its magnificent superhighway of information translates into a multi-billion dollar pornography industry. I mean, let’s face facts -- when people object so strenuously to the portions of the Patriot Act that permit the feds to eavesdrop on our computers, what do you think it is that makes them so darn nervous? That the world will discover that they've been checking up on the annual rainfall in Outer Mongolia or finding out Millard Fillmore’s middle name?
Sometimes, I swear, people are so daffy when it comes to things even slightly sexual that I almost feel like donning a beret, lighting up a stinky cigarette, and snorting through my nose.
I’ll mention just a few things, and you decide whether or not we’re a nation of goofballs. First, there’s the fact that Paris Hilton, a woman of rather ordinary looks and no discernible talent, became famous simply because a video of her having sex with some guy became public property.
Next, there’s the annual swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated. Every week, SI is jam-packed with extremely well-written and well-photographed articles dealing with the world of athletics. Then, once a year, they devote a cover and a few pages to photos of pretty girls modeling bikinis, and you get the idea the end of the world is nigh.
Now keep in mind that Playboy has been displaying even prettier girls in and out of bikinis for about 50 years. Still, every year, as predictably as the swallows returning to Capistrano, you can count on pundits endlessly kicking the topic around in newspapers and on talk shows.
What’s more, if I could collect twenty-five bucks for every Sunday sermon in which some minister pondered whether this marked the end of western civilization, I could run out and buy a new car.
At least the women in Sports Illustrated are gorgeous and voluptuous. They are, after all, hired specifically for their good looks. But a few years ago, we were all witness to something that should have served as a wake-up call. A woman’s soccer team had just won a big match. One of the stars, Brandi Chastain, celebrated the victory by pulling off her blouse and running around the field. If you recall, she wasn’t naked. She was wearing a sports bra, which in the world of lingerie is comparable to your grandmother’s bloomers. What’s more, Ms. Chastain, a fine soccer player and probably a nice person, is as flat as an ironing board. But the way that America carried on, you’d have thought that the woman had pulled a Lady Godiva and gone riding nude, at high noon, through the center of town.
Why, you ask, is this so important? Because it behooves us all not to supply the French with artillery with which they can mock us. Which, when you get right down to it, is the only sort of artillery the French ever actually use.