Man Without Qualities

Sunday, December 15, 2002

Hair Of The Dog!?

As John Kerry's hair is remorselessly dragged through the mud by the far right-wing media, a nation raises its curling irons and asks as one: What will Hillary do? When Mitt Romney accused Shannon O'Brien of "unbecoming" behavior in the heat of a campaign debate, she and Senator Clinton unisoned back "SEXISM!" But if Mr. Romney had gone for Ms. O'Brien's hair, these two Democrat politicians would surely have bristled twice as much as they did. And for that very reason no woman running for office in America today would be subjected to the hairy assault now leveled at Senator Kerry. What does it matter if his haircuts cost $75 or $200? Is this question raised when Dianne Feinstein or Susan Collins runs for office? Of course not. Yes, what is happening to Senator Kerry is just bald sexism. Hillary's silence to date on this outrageous attack on her fellow Democrat's tresses is all the more disquieting since she and her husband have both been victims of the odious politics of coiffure destruction.

Los Angeles once figured prominently in all accusations of hirsute excess, from claims of clandestine hair dying by Ronald Reagan, to Bill Clinton's notorious "Hair Force One" episode where he was alleged to tie up La La Land tarmac, to Jerry Lewis busting the budget to fly out his West Coast barber to prepare for an "epochal run at the Palace Theater." Indeed, some considered Jerry Lewis' hair to be a star in its own right (some say the same of Hillary), and one imagines that there may yet be efforts to award it a special lifetime achievement Oscar. As the foregoing linked writer puts it: "Lit up with spotlights onstage or in movies, it could look like an ebony skullcap - a grotesque approximation of the black widow's peak of greasepaint sported by the Pierrot figure in the commedia dell'arte." Wonderful. So brooding and poetic!

But the willingness to pull hair into politics has clearly spread east. Even German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has been entangled in the uncomfortable but inevitable question: "Grey, mein Herr?" There is speculation that Iain Duncan Smith's lack of sufficient thatch could deny him leadership of Great Britain - placing him with the doomed likes of William Hague and Neil Kinnock in the arena of follicly-challenged challengers.

That both Clintons should be found close to the dark roots of modern politicized hair is no coincidence. "Hair" once meant "character" or "nature."

Hair matters. It matters in politics and it matters in religion. It always has mattered. Alan Bennett famously noted the significance of pilosity in the Torah, a point also well analyzed by others. And in a passage of Holy Scripture Saint Paul states, Both not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? (I Cor. 11:14) Could it be said any more clearly? These are eternal questions. Modern man is not the first to ask: If there is a God, why is there poverty, death ... and baldness?

Democrats must recognize the crisis and come together over the threat to Senator Kerry's topknot, just as in an analogous context Matt, 6 grade student at Bancroft, wrote on October 15, 2002 in his excellent and revealing review of Captain Underpants and the Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie Woman:

Mrs Ribble turns into Wedgie Woman. She spills Super Power Juice onto her hair which gives her hair super powers. Captain Underpants is in a lot of trouble.

Yes, super powered hair means Captain Underpants is in a lot of trouble. And just so, Senator John Kerry. Hillary and the rest of the Democratic Party should wake up and smell the pomade.

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