The post-State of the Union social media explosion of mirth over Sen. Marco Rubio’s slurp heard round the world — a phrase that appeared so quickly and ubiquitously that I don’t even know who deserves the hat tip — is a fine summation of a media that obsesses over irrelevant minutiae to the exclusion of substantive policy, manufacturing gaffes rather than explicating how our government functions.
Which would include me, given that I had as much misplaced glee as anyone else.
Actually, my husband was tsk-tsking me as I sat giggling at my computer and changing my Twitter avatar to a shot of Rubio ducking out of frame. I should point out that I was not actually watching either the president’s speech or Rubio’s Republican response. And I most definitely wasn’t watching Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul deliver the ”tea party” response, in part because of my political disdain and in part because I keep remembering that I’m from Kentucky while Paul simply moved there.
This was the first year in a while that I ducked out of watching the speech live. After all, 90 percent of the media and bloggers that I read would be covering the speeches, so I wouldn’t lack for knowledge of what went down in the Capitol. I’m also guaranteed to read quality coverage of LGBT perspectives on the speech because one of the reporters happens to work for me. (Definitely a perk when it comes to these things.)
I’d intended to watch. But shortly before the appointed hour arrived, I realized I had no desire to sit on my couch with my MacBook on my lap and a vodka tonic at my side tweeting out instant analysis and half-assed one-liners to a few thousand others doing the exact same thing. Well, maybe with different cocktails. Like so many others covering the speech, I had the prepared remarks beforehand. The only reason to watch live at that point was to see if Republicans would do something particularly rude (some did) or if Ted Nugent would go Rambo (he didn’t).
Basically, presidential speeches to Congress have turned into NASCAR races: People claim they enjoy the racing, but they’re just waiting for the crashes.
Look, it’s not particularly hard to make the case that politics has become a circus when a Republican congressman brings as his guest a has-been guitarist who claims to have shit his own pants to avoid the draft. With a government held hostage to people who define liberty as something they have that others should not — they get all the guns they want, we get told we can’t marry, etc. — we’re not exactly standing athwart a golden age of American politics.
But damned if I can’t look away. I’d intended to take a break, play some games, do some reading. Instead, I had my iPad at my side, Twitter feed spastically scrolling, compulsively tabbing back to my browser to follow liveblogs and see who would make the first animated gif of Rubio ducking out for water. No matter how much I believe in the importance of actual government policy — and I do — I still find myself laughing and joining the fray over an amateurish mistake of stagecraft rather than focusing on the fact that Rubio was outlining a political philosophy that would be (and already has been) a disaster for American people.
I’ve met the enemy and I am him. So I pledge to do better in the months that come, to not get distracted as easily by pettiness. But I’m not swapping my Twitter avatar yet. I can’t change the world in a day, you know.
Sean Bugg is the co-publisher of Metro Weekly. You can follow his instant analysis, half-assed one-liners and general navel-gazing on Twitter @seanbugg.