We took Sidney to her first political rally on Monday in Portland, Maine, at Deering Oaks Park – just a short walk from where we’re living. One of the major political issues in the Northeast right now is gay rights, particularly gay marriage and the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, which would’ve been decided on in the Senate this week had Republicans not blocked a vote. Anyway, the rally in Portland was uneventful – and would’ve attracted only a few hundred people if Lady Gaga hadn’t spontaneously shown up to make herself the Maine Attraction.
Perhaps 5,000 people gathered in the small park to await Gaga’s arrival in a large, sleek black tour bus and cram themselves forward to get excited glances and pictures. The ridiculously popular blonde-haired singer, holding several ostensibly hand-written pages of a speech, emerged around 5pm in a black suit, tie, and over-sized glasses that recalled Elvis Costello. She walked through the crowd onto a humble stage and ripped into homophobic soldiers and senators, angrily stressing that soldiers who do not want to fight with or for homosexual Americans should “GO HOME!”
Probably because I don’t watch TV or listen to the radio, I had seen and heard Lady Gaga’s name many, many times but never heard her voice or any of her songs, so I was anxious to get a feel for who the most famous modern pop singer is. Gaga has been compared to Madonna, David Bowie and Marilyn Manson, and I got the Manson comparison after hearing her over-the-top rant against inequality in a loud, shrill voice. However, she’s obviously not in the lofty realm of intelligence that Manson, Bowie and Madonna inhabit, and her arguments lacked the cohesion, sharpness and sense that Manson has exhibited many times, most notably in the Michael Moore film Bowling for Columbine.
I agreed with many of the points Lady Gaga made in Portland – most notably that if you’re going to fight for the United States of America you damn well better be fighting for all of us, and that anyone who is physically able to fight for our country should be allowed to if they choose that noble path. But what Gaga billed as a violently delivered diatribe against hate was ironically hate-filled. What’s more, she failed to question why our soldiers are currently waging war in the first place, a topic that must be included in any conversation about our armed forces.
Sure, as a good friend told me when I criticized Gaga’s fiery rhetoric this week, “not everyone is Ghandi.” But as for first impressions, Gaga’s successful campaign to convince thousands of men, women and children in a Maine park to furiously raise their fists and repeat the mantra “GO HOME! GO HOME!” as the capstone of her speech Monday didn’t do much for me besides flash the Citizen Fish lyric “when you scorn the system but fight each other you’re behaving exactly the same” in my memory. Fighting hatred with hatred, saying you’ll accept anyone except those who aren’t accepting, is as faulty an undertaking as war itself.