a beauty pageant in the Garden of Gethsemane

If you follow the American media, you’ll know of the latest skirmish in the increasingly insane culture wars. At this year’s Miss USA pageant, California sent as its representative one Carrie Prejean, a woman whose disconcertingly Aryan features received surgical augmentation funded by the pageant organisers themselves (apparently, that’s how these things are run). Anyway, at the climax of the ceremony, Ms Prejean found herself confronted by, of all people, the blogger Perez Hilton (a fellow who spends his days drawing penises on pictures of celebrities) who asked for her take on gay marriage. She responded thus: ‘Well I think it’s great that Americans are able to choose one way or the other. We live in a land where you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage. You know what, in my country, in my family, I do believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman, no offense to anybody out there. But that’s how I was raised and I believe that it should be between a man and a woman.’ Discerning readers might note that the response makes no sense whatsoever (the reason there’s a campaign for gay marriage is precisely because Americans can’t choose one way or another). Despite that — or because of it — Ms Prejean was hailed by Christians across the nation, especially when Hilton revealed that the answer cost her the title. A martyr! A veritable Perpetua, persecuted by teh vengeful gays!

In subsequent days (I can’t believe I know this stuff), her stocks with the Jesus-rode-a-dinosaur crowd slipped somewhat when the inevitable topless photos emerged. It’s OK, apparently, for the pageant administration to pay for breast enhancements; it’s bad form, however, for the enhanced breasts to make themselves visible. So what to do? Why, you up the ante with religious craziness. Thus we now have Ms Prejean revealing to the Christian broadcaster James Dobson that the question about teh gays came not from Perez Hilton, as the naive viewer may have thought, but rather direct from Satan.

Dobson: Why did you give the answer you did with regard to the affirmation of marriage?

Prejean: . . . I felt as though Satan was trying to tempt me in asking me this question. And then God was in my head and in my heart saying, “Do not compromise this. You need to stand up for me and you need to share with all these people . . . you need to witness to them and you need to show that you’re not willing to compromise that for this title of Miss USA.”

And I knew right here that it wasn’t about winning. It was about being true to my convictions.

It is a disconcerting thought that, in the midst of the wealthiest society the world has ever known, a large percentage of the population sees life as a medieval passion play, in which demons and angels manifest themselves, not with fire and light, but in episodes of staggering banality (Perez Hilton! A beauty contest!). One thinks of Trotsky, writing in 1933:

Today, not only in peasant homes but also in city skyscrapers, there lives alongside of the twentieth century the tenth or the thirteenth. A hundred million people use electricity and still believe in the magic power of signs and exorcisms. The Pope of Rome broadcasts over the radio about the miraculous transformation of water into wine. Movie stars go to mediums. Aviators who pilot miraculous mechanisms created by man’s genius wear amulets on their sweaters. What inexhaustible reserves they possess of darkness, ignorance, and savagery! […] Everything that should have been eliminated from the national organism in the form of cultural excrement in the course of the normal development of society has now come gushing out from the throat; capitalist society is puking up the undigested barbarism.

Mind you, Trotsky was talking specifically about fascism but the general point still holds.

Jeff Sparrow

Jeff Sparrow is a Walkley Award-winning writer, broadcaster and former editor of Overland.

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

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  1. Great post. I am continually amazed at how America sounds off – indeed fights wars against – fundamentalism in the Middle East and Asia while indulging in so much fundamentalism itself.

  2. Whatever. This blog post is fully random Miss Universe is like sooooo right. Gay people are like, totally gross. And marriage should like, between two white people as well. If God like, meant us to marry other races, he wouldn’t have made them into like slaves and terrorists and poor and living in the desert and stuff. OMG Jeff, you totally missed her point. And so what about the topless photos. She is totally hot. Hot people should totally get naked all the time and take photos of themselves. So what. She should be president.

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