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Volume 14, Issue 6: Flotsam

Noblesse Oblige

Nathan Wilson

Jennifer Lopez is the queen. She does everything. She sings, she dances, she acts, she pushes the limit for necklines on the red carpet. And she's so down to earth. It really is beautiful. Her new hit single reminds us not to be fooled by the rocks that she's got. She's still just Jenny from the block. She hasn't forgotten the Bronx. She's in touch with her roots. She singlehandedly brought back the sweatsuit. The velure sweatsuit no less.

Ben Affleck's got her now. You see, they were in a moving picture show together. They grew fond. Now they are engaged to be married and she wants to have his baby. Her divorce may have been finalized before the engagement.
They are such beautiful people. He really got strong for his new film Daredevil, and she has that wonderful Puerto Rican skin.
Our aristocracy. Hip-hip hooray for our aristocracy.
Would you rather end up sharing a small plastic table in a nameless mall's foodcourt with Jennifer Lopez, or the governor of Kansas, whoever he is? You would have to ask him what he did for a living to even realize that he was important. Then you would brag to your friends, but the story would only be strange, not enviable. Had you shared several minutes over Chinese express with Jenny from the block, you would live in local legend for a good long time. You'd be a hit at parties.
Let us walk into the appropriate dorm or fraternity of our local friendly state university and find the fellow that holds the esteemed position of Student President. He has probably chosen politics as his dream, but offer him the opportunity to be Ben Affleck or Brad Pitt or Senator Frist. If you could guarantee him fame, fortune, beauty, and leading-man status, or six years in Congress even as majority leader, just where would his heart take him? Unless his high-waisted college republican conscience commanded him to resist temptation and pursue his duty, then he would want Jennifer Lopez on his arm. Have you ever really looked at Senator Frist's chin?
Our country is a democracy, but we do have our own aristocracy, our very own nobles. Though we don't have them for any good reason.
Most of our nobility are entertainers, though there are some in politics. Athletes, singers, actors, models, and the occasional president, these are the people on the throne of our culture, who determine what we do, what we like, who we envy, what stories we tell ourselves at night. They, like King Harry and Katherine, are the makers of fashion.
Of course there are powers behind the thrones. The ugly people called record execs, directors, designers, among others, are all back there. They have money, and they pull strings. But the people who got Clinton elected were not the president, despite the fact that they made him and could have broken him. So it is with the record execs. They make and break our nobility, but they are not nobles.
The foundation on which American nobles stand is made of discontent and envy. A man in our culture who is envied by the masses is noble. If people want to touch him or have him touch something of theirs, then he is noble. Will the 108th Congress gather on the steps for an autograph session before convening? Can you sell Rumsfield's signature on ebay?
Ultimately, America is junior high. The caste system that is inevitably created in every middle school in America is exactly what we have on our hands. There is a small group of people who are the cool ones—boys and girls that everyone else wants to be. They are the cultural rulers. They determine what jeans will be worn, and how high. They decide what hair should look like. There are others who plan the parties the cool kids dominate. Our junior high aristos do not need to call the meetings, set the times, and buy the door prizes. They are content to own the event apart from any formal authority.
Without any revolution, only the current aristos can induct any new members. They declare someone hip, hot, or beautiful, and it becomes so. If the coolest girl holds your hand, you are now cool. American aristocracy is a class of people with power, but no authority. They control apart from formal position. Jennifer Lopez, Halle Berry, can you tell me how you gained your thrones? We are beautiful. We kissed the cool boys.
Aschcroft might plan the class parties, he might have legitimate authority, but all this means is that he receives all the complaints and has to occasionally apologize for inappropriate remarks.
It is funny that the phrase "our country's leaders" brings to mind politicians. Because that is exactly what they are not. They spend most of their careers trying to achieve the muddy-flat personality that will accurately reflect their constituency. They govern by polls and shows of hands. Who wants pepperoni? Okay, how about mushrooms?
The celebrity is not thought of as a leader. They do not determine formal foreign policy. They define how the citizenry views the world, including foreigners, life, and each other. They lead. Celebrities make no attempt to represent the people from their home state. They are generally more masculine than that. They lead the people in lifestyle.
Prince William does not want to be the King of England. He wants to be a real king, a movie star. As for me, I would far rather spend a weekend with Michael Jordan, Van Morrison, or even Bono, than with Jimmy Carter. And he won a Nobel Peace Prize. Oh, and he was president.

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