Saturday, November 28, 2009

Spectacle, Security, and Dinner Manners

Old news now, but after reading the NYT's report on Michaele and Tareq Salahi, the two uninvited guests at the White House Indian state dinner, I remembered hostis, the Latin word that can mean stranger or enemy (which, indeed, they were). All for celebrity, most say, downplaying the very real threat any guest poses to a host.

Doesn't their intrusion seem almost literary? Two uninvited guests turn up in the house that represents national ipseity (our home, our place) two days before the national holiday that celebrates England's New-world occupation. Hostility in disguise.

The final words of another NYT commentary by Alessandra Stanley are even more provocative:
The Secret Service is a security force entirely devoted to protecting the president and his family from assault and assassins; it is not trained to screen for people who will risk arrest and breach every safety barrier — and sense of social decorum — for something as mundane and flimsy as media attention.
But how flimsy is the desire to become an overnight celebrity? Isn't a state dinner also mundane? I know there's a larger moral question beneath all these details, but I haven't quite reached it. I just love how a simple dinner party faux pas foregrounds all the problems of hospitality.

The Salahi's have earned their clout, though who knows at what cost? We'll see what happens after their 20 January subpoenas.

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