Alex Blaze

Welcome to Masterpiece Theater, starring Mary Cheney

Filed By Alex Blaze | May 24, 2007 9:46 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Dick Cheney, Heather Poe, Mary Cheney, narrative construction, theater

In case you don't follow the news, Mary Cheney just gave birth to her baby. I'm sure it was a happy day for her, and I'm very glad that her baby was born healthy. I wish Heather, Mary and Samuel all the best.

She's going to get a lot of attention for this, even though what it comes down to, two people who love each other starting a family, isn't all that uncommon. And she's going to complain about all that attention that will be showered upon her, and maybe even repeat herself that her child isn't "a political statement" and chide the queers by saying something like "It is not a prop to be used in a debate by people on either side of an issue. It is my child." She already pushes most of America away because of her identity, and she's been pushing most of the rest away with her actions.

It must be dehumanizing to know that such a personal decision is a piece of theater to others. But then again, she worked to reelect a man whose entire presidency has been based on theater. Whether they're doing photo-ops in the rubble of New Orleans, raising a "Mission Accomplished" sign on a boat, threatening Americans with the specter of Osama bin Laden to justify a war on an unrelated country, or using gay-bashing to paint a megalomaniacal millionaire who never worked an honest day in his life as someone with whom anyone could possibly enjoy drinking a beer, this administration has mastered theater.

In fact, this is how I taught a unit on American politics to a group of elderly French people: American politics is based less on actual reasoning and material arguments on important issues, and more on working into people's own narratives of "how the world works" and casting oneself as a "good guy". Missteps are more important than ideas; appearing to be one of the guys, as John Kerry learned, is more important than fashioning a coherent policy.

It's only in that context can we understand how Mary Cheney got to be the daughter of the Vice President of the United States of America. The seat of privilege that she occupies was given to her by this theater, but does she really think she's entitled to stop it when she thinks it goes to far? (And apparently going to far for her is defined as when it hurts her instead of helping her.) As someone who has been cast as the bad guy in this play, very much against his will, I don't mind the change in roles. In fact, this little bit of dramatic irony is where all of us who were made outlaws by the new Republican politics can enjoy the script she thought she was co-writing turning back on itself, if only briefly and modestly. But after this mini news storm is over, we'll go back to having our bodies put under the political magnifying glass and having to justify not only every private decision we make to people with no desire to understand sexuality outside of the context of the heterosexually-headed McFamily, but also justifying the private decisions of others who may not be even remotely like us. The politicization of every choice, every action, naturally leads many a gay man, lesbian, bi or trans person, or queer to cultural schizophrenia, a distancing from one's identity induced by constantly asking "Does this make me look me too gay?", "Does this make me seem not gay enough?", "Will I seem too abnormal to straight people if I do this?", "Will I not fit in enough with the latest trend in Out if I do that?", or even "How can I do everything I do in a way that's more straight-acting?"

So understandably Mary wants an out from the insanity that comes with being cast as Lesbian #4. And she doesn't want Samuel to have to grow up in that spotlight as people take him to be a representative of all children raised by same-sex couples everywhere. But the only possible alternative to this monstrous vehemence in this theater absolute erasure. Who's going to forget that first photo from the White House with Lynn and Dick holding their grandchild and little Samuel's mothers no where in sight? Who can forget how Dick refused to even defend her from the Religious Right when Wolf Blitzer presented their "arguments" about her? And who can forget that photo of the entire Cheney clan, sans Mary and Heather, after Dick's 2004 RNC speech to rally the troops to get him re-elected, while the two black sheep of the family clapped on in the audience? In fact, erasure is a necessary part of this theater - don't give the bad guys too many humanizing lines or people might like them. And don't let them appear too close to the good guys; that confuses people.

When the narrative of who we are and what we're like is drawn, it's flat, dehumanizing, and at times violent. Mary's insistence that she not be part of it when she doesn't want to but part of it when it does doesn't change the nature of the beast at all. Being silent on motherhood and her partner while working quietly to demonize lesbians and all women who want control over their own bodies, who don't want to be politicized, is in fact the best role a lesbian can play to prop up the very system of power she says she's trying to avoid.

But maybe she saved her favorite role for herself. Seriously, it pays better than mine.

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David Wene | May 24, 2007 11:27 PM

Take a look at this picture...

Obviously, they are ashamed of Mary and her partner---oh---this is a picture of Philip Richard Perry, their grandchild of their other daughter, Liz and her husband Phil (July 2, 2004) which was probably used on the website when he was born . I guess they are ashamed of both their gay and straight children.

I think sometimes our own bias allows us to draw some conclusions that may or may not be the actual truth.