Saturday, April 2, 2016

Blood and Privilege

It was one of those familiar moments, as I struggled to prepare my Easter sermon.  It's the Pastor's Cascade of Distraction, as an idea leads me from what was to be one illustration down a rabbit hole of related concepts.

In this case, it came as I boned up on the film that was part of my sermon illustration.  Being There was the film, that brilliant 1979 Peter Sellers comedy, and I was perusing the IMDB data on it before sliding it into my message.

Only something caught my eye.

It was the name of the cinematographer: Caleb Deschanel.  It wasn't that the name was familiar in and of itself.  I wasn't aware of his work with American Zoetrope, or his academy award nominations.

I just knew the last name seemed familiar.  And I thought to myself, I'll bet he's Zooey Deschanel's father.  Which, of course, he turned out to be.  If Dad worked with George and Francis Ford, that can't hurt career-wise.

Then, this week, there was a bit of gossipy-fluff-nothing in my feeds about Anderson Cooper talking with his mom about some time she fooled around with another woman.  This was meant to give some serious consumer-grade ElGeeBeeTeeCue warm-fuzzies, but it played out across my soul another way.

Because his mom?  She's a Name.  I hadn't realized he was the spawn of Gloria Vanderbilt.  Who, beyond being her own "brand," was also the heiress to the fortune of Cornelius Vanderbilt.

These familial connective resonances are consistent in our culture.  Like, you know comedienne Amy Schumer, who just happens at total random to be the niece of Senator Chuck Schumer.

Blood ties matter.  Oh, we like to think they don't.  We pretend that power doesn't pass on power.  But connections are connections, and blood is thicker than the ideals of American egalitarianism.  The creative and the wealthy love their kids, too, and do what they can to insure their success.

If you can insure that your children succeed, you'll do that.  It's natural, straight up evolutionary biology.

There, neither the opium-fantasy-bootstraps of the lumpencapitalist American right nor the neo-Marxist pifflepoffle delusions of the academic left mean a thing.  You protect and care for your babies.  It's a primal thing, deep meat organics.

And if you're socially powerful?  That drive is not diminished.

Which is why, try as we might, aristocracy just keeps on keeping on.