The Relative Comment

soothing waves of relativity

President Gentle and Infinite Jest–American Politics Never Changes

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Relative to: the fictional political commentary from David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest regarding the President of the Organization of North American  Nations.

There’s a lot going on in the world of odd political developments in this country. In my opinion. One of them is the Tea Party, and there are few political stories that are likely to bring about more devotion or disgust than discussions about the positive/negative impact of the Tea Party on the US. Thinking about this, I had a delightful time reading the following section of the Infinite Jest, in which Wallace describes the rise of President Gentle, former hearthrob crooner and  germophobe (“the cleanest man in entertainment”), who creates the Clean U.S. Party, who rises the power on a wave of, well, unique circumstances, and brings about the inter-dependence of North America, creating ONAN (Org. of North American Nations, whose backers are termed supporters of ONANism, har har). Since most normal people will never read Infinite Jest, I thought a two-sentence demonstration of awesomeness would be in order. This really has nothing to do with anything Tea Party or current US Politics. It’s just a whole lot of fun.

The facial stills that Mario lap-dissolves between are of new ‘Clean U.S. Party,’ the strange-seeming but politically prescient annular agnation of ultra-right jingoist hunt-deer-with-automatic-weapons  types and far-left macrobiotic Save-the-Ozone, -Rain-Forests, -Whales, -Spooted-Owl-and-High-pH-Waterways ponytailed granola-crunchers, a surreal union of of both Rush L.-and Hillary R.C.-disillusioned fringes that drew mainstream-media guffaws at their first Convention (held in a sterile venue), the seemingly LaRoucheisly marginal party whose first platform’s plan had been Let’s Shoot Our Waste Into Space, C.U.S.P., a kind of post-Perot national joke for three years, until — white-gloved finger on the pulse of an increasingly asthmatic and sunscreen-slathered and pissed-off American electorate–the C.U.S.P suddenly swept to quadrennial victory in an angry voter-spasm that made the U.W.S.A. and LaRoucers and Libertarians chew their hands in envy as the Dems and G.O.P.s stood on either side watching dumbly, like doubles partners who each think the other’s surely got it, the two established mainstream parties split open along tired philosophical lines in a dark time when all landfills got full and all grapes were raisins and sometimes in some places the falling rain clunked instead of splatted, and also, recall, a post-Soviet and -Jihad era when — somehow even worse — there was no real Foreign Menace of any real uniified potency to hate and fear, and the U.S. sort of turned on itself and its own philosophical fatigue and hideous redolent wastes with a spasm of panicked rage that in retrospect seems possible only in a time of gelopolitical supremacy and consequent silence, the loss of any external Menace to hate and fear. This motionless face on the E.T.A. screen is Johnny Gentle, Third Party Stunner. (382)

This goes on for several crippling pages of delightful, political and social destruction. And it would seem not much has changed in the 15 years since Wallace published Infinite Jest.

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Written by Christopher ZF

February 7, 2011 at 19:50

Posted in books and reading

2 Responses

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  1. I tried, and nope– I can’t go immediately go back to reading Chesterton after this. Talk about the sin of Onan!
    By the way, I’d love to discuss the Tea Party sometime with you, as I’d guess we are generally on opposite sides related to it. I’ve yet to read an honest, principled critique of the Tea Party platform (instead of a discussion of the Tea Partiers themselves) and I think you might have some good things to say.

    brandon

    February 7, 2011 at 23:07

  2. That sounds lovely, Brandon. I would love to have that conversation, probably for the same reasons. We shall do so soon.

    czfinke

    February 8, 2011 at 07:32


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