Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Rocking politics

I heard Peter Garrett on the radio this morning. He’s the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts in Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s Labor Government. He was talking about a government funding program to give people money to insulate their houses. It’s part of the Australian government’s economic stimulus package, and an environmental initiative as well (because if your house is insulated, you won’t use as much energy heating or cooling it).

That’s Peter Garrett, former lead singer of Midnight Oil. One of my favorite bands of the '90s.

Okay, I know that we had Sonny Bono in the US House of Representatives, and before that we had Fred Grandy, better known to most people as 'Gopher' from The Love Boat. Plus that guy who ran for President—Fred Thompson? And probably a few more besides—not forgetting Ronald Reagan, who before he was Governor of California and President was the star of such cinematic masterpieces as Bedtime for Bonzo. And, of course, the Governator. But these people’s previous careers are kind of a cultural joke or, if we’re going to be kinder, a cultural curiosity. (Also, they’re all Republicans, which I never thought about before. What’s up with that?)

I feel differently about Peter Garrett, probably because I vividly remember standing against the back wall of the Paradise Rock Club, mesmerized, feeling like he was speaking directly to me as he passionately expounded on his political views, and then he and the rest of the band ripped into “Dream World”.

I always knew he was political; that was part of the band’s appeal to me. I even knew he was in Parliament in Australia. But he was always in opposition, always fighting The Powers That Be. Now he’s part of the system. In the inner circle, even—the Cabinet. It’s a little weird.

Especially because even his speaking voice is so distinctive that, half-listening to the radio as I made toast, I dropped the butter knife when I heard it and said out loud, “Hey, isn’t that Peter Garrett?” And then realized that it was, and that he sounded like a bureaucrat.

Who knows? Maybe tomorrow President Obama will announce that Chuck D is going to head up HUD. Which is not a bad idea, actually. I just hope his income tax records will stand up to scrutiny.


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