Like A Persian

LIKE A PERSIAN: Madonna the Rebel

This will be a short digression from my series titled "The Kabbalah", which has featured reflections on the spiritual evolution of the pop singer Madonna. The singer has recently announced that she is taking on the Hebrew name Esther, after the Jewish woman who went undercover in the high courts of ancient Persia to save the Jews from genocide.

A recent news item on Madonna's politics and spirituality discusses the singer's involvement in the Kabbalah, and her staunch opposition to President Bush and the Iraq war. Madonna, according to the article, compared President Bush to Saddam Hussein.

“I don’t want to equate George Bush with Saddam Hussein. But I believe that George Bush and Saddam Hussein are both behaving in an irresponsible manner. So, in that respect, they’re alike,” Madonna said.

Well, all of us behave irresponsibly from time to time and so, in that respect, we're all alike. As you can probably guess if you read this blog, I'm not impressed by Madonna's politics. And I'm going to come back to that, but I want to look at some of the other things she says in this interview first.

Regarding her move away from sexual exhibitionism, Madonna was quoted in a CNN article as saying she regrets none of what she did in the past. But her words in the PA News article seem to contradict that:

“The stance of a rebel is ‘I don’t care what you think’. But if it’s just for the sake of upsetting the apple cart, you’re not really helping people. You turn the apple cart over and then what? Then everyone’s looking at an apple cart that’s turned over and they’re like, well, now what do I do? ...

"I thought I was liberating mankind but, like I said, I wasn’t really offering an alternative.

“To a certain extent I was saying ‘Look, you know, why do men only get the job of objectifying women in a sexual way? I want to do it too.’

“There was an element of that, but there was also an element of being an exhibitionist and saying ‘Look at me.’ It wasn’t that altruistic. I can admit that.”

Here Madonna is saying some very, very intelligent things. Unlike so many of today's "radicals" who fancy themselves participants in some grand revolution, she understands that true progress requires more than anarchy and exhibitionism. While her analogy between Bush and Saddam is appalling, she is at least careful to qualify it by saying that she is not "equating" the two - which is more than can be said for many antiwar activists.

And, contrary to Yossi Klein Halevi's assessment in The New Republic:

She is very different from her husband, film director Guy Ritchie, who is “always trying to recapture his youth”. “He did so many fun things as a child that he still loves to do,” she said. “And I don’t. I’m not interested in recapturing my childhood at all.”

Madonna Ciccone has spent all of her adult life in the world of show business, among the left-leaning self-styled "artists" and "intellectuals" of the pop culture elite. She is no more a foreign policy expert than Dick Cheney is a fashion model, and the temptation to say "Shut up and sing!" is strong. But while I don't excuse her ignorance about the liberation of Iraq, I do think she is operating on a different intellectual and spiritual level from most of her comrades in the entertainment world.

It's ironic that the media are toying with the idea that her involvement with the Kabbalah is mere trendiness, while ignoring the leftist political conformity of the pop-music world. (And no, I'm not talking about country music, so don't start with me about the Dixie Chicks.) How typical that the media are unwilling to examine their own biases.

For her part, Madonna will be coming more and more into contact with traditional Judaism, or at least some form of it. I would like to hope that the process - along with her own intelligence - will eventually lead her to a better understanding of the Jewish people and of the enemies of the Jews. Perhaps one day the fate of the state of Israel, and the danger of present and future holocausts threatening Jews and other peoples, will loom larger in her mind than the political fashions to which she still clings.

I'm sure of one thing. Madonna's Biblical namesake, Queen Esther, used all the survival skills at her disposal to secure for herself a place of power, from which she could then intercede to protect the innocent. If Madonna can learn this lesson from Esther, she will have much to be proud of.