Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Laura Bush and the Need For Two New Words

We need to coin two terms, words that are powerful enough to fully capture what happened in Laura Bush's press conference Monday about the tragic deaths in Burma as a result of the cyclone.

I've seen it written that the British definition of irony is "sardonic speech or writing intended to convey the opposite of the literal meaning of an utterance" while the American definition is "the property of being like iron."

There's irony and then there's irony...and then there's THIS

"L. BUSH: ...although they were aware of the threat, Burma's state-run media failed to issue a timely warning to citizens in the storm's path. The response to the cyclone is just the most recent example of the junta's failure to meet its people's basic needs. The regime has dismantled systems of agriculture, education and health care. This once wealthy nation now has the lowest per capita GDP in Southeast Asia. Despite the havoc created by this weekend's cyclone, as far as we can tell, Burma's military leaders plan to move forward with the constitutional referendum many scheduled for this Saturday, May 10. They've orchestrated this vote to give false legitimacy to their continued rule...

QUESTION: Why do you think that the government didn't allow the state-run media to publish those warnings?

L. BUSH: I don't know. I have no idea.

QUESTION: Do you think they have blood on their hands for that lack of warning?

L. BUSH: I just think it's very, very important that we know already that they are very inept, that they have not been able to govern in a way that let's their country for one thing build an economy. This is a country that's rich in natural resources. Their natural resources are being depleted as they sell them off. As far as we can tell from the outside, for the financial benefit of the regime itself and not the good of the people. We know that...
Yes, a representative of the Bush administration casting aspersions upon a government for not helping their people in a time of great crisis. You've got irony mixed with tragedy rolled in a staggering degree of obliviousness. We need a term ample enough to describe that. I propose "Antoinetting." Others?

And then there was the end of the press conference in which the First Lady deftly turns the conversation away from the tragic deaths of innocent people and the possible moves towards freeing a population from a tyrannical regime and onto the topic she really wanted to be talking about, a concern of much greater significance, her daughter's upcoming wedding:
"QUESTION: Is there any way for the Burmese leaders to salvage the referendum process or should they start from scratch?

L. BUSH: I'm not going to give them any advice. But it would be very, very odd, I think if they were to hold the referendum this Saturday.

QUESTION: All the best of luck.

L. BUSH: Thank you very much.
Wow, just wow. Any reporter who would have been the first to raise the topic in that context should have been drummed out of the press corps, but for the First Lady herself to steer the discussion that way in such a gratuitous fashion is nothing short of stunning. We need a word that captures the sheer self-centeredness, the utter inability to place things in perspective, the twisted sense of priority. It is quite understandable when it from three year olds, they simply have not yet developed psychologically in a way that allows them to have a sense of the world around them apart from their own wants and emotions. But this sense of privilege from a grown woman is awe-inspiring. We need a word that captures the self-aggrandizing act of raising one's own interests which are trivialities in comparison above the truly momentous happenings around oneself. We need something to capture the heights of "it's all about me-ism." "Flightsuiting," perhaps? Help me out here.

So, suggestions for either of these terms?