Monday, June 10, 2013

The Politics of Wrestling

When we first came back to America from 3 years in Panama, I sat in my grandfather's living room and watched wrestling with him. I was introduced to the spectacle and the emotionalism of men battling men in the squared circle, which is what they called the wrestling ring. I saw Flying Fred Curry take down Ivan the Terrible Koloff and Ray "The Blonde Bomber" Stevens take down Ed "The Iron Sheikh" Farhat. World politics fought on TV every Saturday night. As international politics changed, so did the names of the wrestlers, but it was always Americans taking on the world -- and sometimes losing because of dirty tricks.

I was caught up in the spectacle and the cheered loudly for my heroes. I fell in and out of the wrestling scene as puberty and dating and marriage took first place in my life, but on long lonely nights when my husband was overseas or working nights, I found wrestling again. The names had changed, but there were always villains to boo and heroes to root for.

The Hulk was one of my favorites and, despite his flash, Randy "The Macho Man" Savage took my fancy. The Freebirds, a tag team wrestling trio, spawned love and hate, and the grudge matches always got attention. The name keep changing, but the tactics are the same. There are villains and heroes large as life on the screen, but it's all a fake. It's entertainment. Of course, I don't say that out loud where the World Wrestling Federation is popular among the people. I'd be booed and hissed at, possibly beaten about the head and ears, and maybe ridden out of town on a rail. I would hope the people would think me an elitist bitch and maybe pelt me with rotten fruit and vegetables as they urged me to get back into my car and drive as fast as possible for the state line.

I know it's all a fake. I know that the canvas the battle on isn't going to damage anyone. Necks will not be broken and heads will not be cracked. Wrestlers that perfected the back breaker don't break anyone's back. It's all an act. I've seen some of these mortal enemies having a drink after the match. They're friends. They'd have to be to hold up their part of the deals struck behind the scenes. But don't tell the rubes. They believe in all of that.

And so do we to a certain extent. We want to believe it's all true, that those men in the ring are fighting for truth, justice, and the American way -- just like Superman. Wrestling is the modern myth, the new age fairy tale, and it's not much different from politics.

I remember the screaming rage that sounded around the country when it was revealed that John McCain, Obama's political opposite, had had dinner at the White House with the President. How is that possible? They're enemies? They fought each other on TV and radio and in political rallies all across the country. They threw down and drew lines in the sand and dared each other to cross them.

Even more bitterly fought was the war that has been battled in streets all around the country since Obama first tossed his political hat in the ring. People believed in Obama's "Yes, we can!" speeches and they believe in them still, in spite of what has happened in the 5 years since he took office. People still believe that Obama is on their side and working against his political enemies in a no holds barred fight to the death and they support him all the way.

It's all a sham. It's entertainment for the masses while the real deals are brokered behind the scenes as each side takes their cues from the deals being struck. Today it's the Far Right Republicans taking the fall and tomorrow, or even later today, it will be Obama's political tag team taking their licks as news about how our freedoms and rights are being undermined as wire tapping and the IRS investigate groups in secret. It's all wrestling good enough for the WWF title belts.

It's no longer about what is good for the country or the people who elected these people. It's about power and prestige and money, lots of money. Where else could you see evil like Ivan "the Terrible" Koloff" or The Iron Sheikh attack Flying Fred Curry or The Hulk from behind and get away with it? We accept that evil exists in the wrestling ring and it will win sometimes, usually by playing dirty, but we know in our hearts the good guys will eventually beat the evil back and walk away victorious.

Not so in the Congressional and Oval Office wrestling ring. In that ring, Wall Street can drive the Dow Jones up to the sky and then pull out the pins and watch it fall while they rake in the billions, and then walk away with the money after having trashed the ring. They may lose their jobs, but they will still be wealthy and the little people who took them at their word will still be broke and their houses gone. The IRS will make sure of it as they sell it all off to pay the taxes.

What Obama and the rest of the politicians want you to think is that it's about health care and fiscal cliffs and national debt. It's not. All of that is part of the show. It's about keeping the people fighting each other while they make their back room deals and keep the audience high on righteous rage and fear that. It's about keeping all eyes on the men in the ring when the outcome is a foregone conclusion.

And few people will believe it.

I can already feel the rotten fruit and vegetables being readied as I run the gauntlet for the line.

Don't be fooled. It's all entertainment. And we are the ones paying for the tickets while the wrestlers take their bows and the villains this week snarl and bare their teeth in their fiercest villainous sneers. You may hate them today, but they will turn up in a few months or next year as the good guys. Villains come and go, but Congress and the Oval Office are here to stay.

How long before the American people wise up and realize it's all bitter rivalries in the wrestling ring and champagne after the match between these friends?

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