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American Idol – Why Josh?

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Down to the final five contestants, Tuesday’s American Idol was outstanding musically and dramatically as all five did surpassing renditions of first, ’60s faves, and then guest judge Neil Sedaka’s songs (they now perform two songs each) – that is all five OTHER than US Marine Joshua Gracin, who was so clearly outclassed by the other four finalists that ALL of the judges commented something to the effect that he appeared to have reached the end of the line.

Clay, Ruben, and Kimberley were at the top of their considerable powers, and the vastly appealing Trenyce was up to the challenge again, rising to their level.

Joshua Gracin, a good guy, military man, and good but not great singer, was very, very clearly outclassed by the others, yet when the stunning vote was announced last night, Trenyce and Ruben [!!!!!] were the bottom two, and Trenyce was shown the door.

America (or at least those who voted) were dumb as dirt when they voted Rickey Smith off in early April, but in voting Trenyce off last night, and Ruben behind Joshua, the electorate proved themselves to be just above paramecium and just below liver flukes on the intelligence chart: so shockingly stupid that something other than talent must have been at play.

I fear what is at play is a bias in favor of a military man in time of war, even though, through no fault of his own, Josh Grayson was singing and dancing in Hollywood while his cohorts were in harm’s way in the desert halfway around the world.

On first thought it would seem obvious that America would reflexively rally round its military in time of war, and in this war it certainly did – just ask the Dixie Chicks – but it wasn’t always so: ask a Vietnam veteran. I believe the hyper-support of the military by the US public now – even adamant war protesters have made clear their support for the troops – is a psychological compensation for the decidedly mixed reaction the military received from the public during Vietnam.

There are many differences between the Vietnam War and all subsequent US military actions including Gulf War 2, notably the character of the war itself, but it seems to me the main difference between America’s relationship with its military then and now is the draft.

Conscription implies compulsion and this compulsion bred an attitude of fear and resentment felt by many draftees and the public at large, especially those within and near the sphere of eligibility, against a military-as-enforcer. The draft (which ended in 1973) has also been used to justify America’s “failure” in Vietnam – though most would argue our loss was political and not military – and this prejudice against the skills of a conscripted military is today dogma. Note the flap caused by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s comments in January:

    “As an organization founded by Vietnam War veterans seeking justice and fairness for all – whether military personnel or civilians – we are outraged by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s comments made at a January 7th DOD press conference when asked about the possibility of resurrecting the draft. Secretary Rumsfeld said troops from Vietnam War conscription, “added ‘no value, no advantage, really, to the United States armed services…'”

    As Vietnam veterans who served with conscripted soldiers, we find Secretary Rumsfeld’s egregious slur a grave insult to the memory, sacrifice and valor of those who lost their lives, and, further, dismissive of the hundreds and thousands of lives, both in the U.S. and in Vietnam, who were devastatingly shattered by the Vietnam War.

    We suggest that the Secretary choose his words much more carefully in the future, and be sensitive as to how they affect those who put their lives on the line for this country, whether drafted or enlisted. This is all the more critical as our country is on the eve of war with Iraq, and thousands of U.S. troops are again mobilized to potentially engage in battle.”

    — Bobby Muller, President of Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation [see Rummy’s furious backpedaling here]

A very sensitive matter, that. The draft was meant to do two things: ensure that the military, literally, had enough bodies; and secondarily, to create a more egalitarian military by forcing the middle and upper classes to participate in a historically working class-dominated sector. Of course, exemptions to students, teachers, family men and the well-connected tended to favor those same middle and upper classes, intensifying rather than mitigating the resentment of the less-privileged.

The grand irony here is that a professional, voluntary military, by disentangling itself from society, has in fact set itself up to be embraced by that very society. There is no longer a threat of compulsion from the military: the military is no longer in a position to DO something to us, it is now strictly in the business of doing things FOR us, and as such we feel unambiguously grateful for its awsome efficiency, skill, courage and POWER.

THAT is why Josh Gracinn got more votes than the clearly musically superior Trenyce and Ruben from the American public this week, which bodes very well for the condition of the American psyche, but is an outrage in a singing competition.

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About Eric Olsen

  • M Williams

    I want to make a couple of points. First, has anyone noticed that Simon has never said one word about Ruben’s weight? Why is it that he can put down the women for their weight, but Ruben’s Obeseness is never spoken of???? Also, why is it that Ruben is never told that he sings the same type of songs over and over and over??? He does, but is never told so. Also he is never told to be more animated, to move, to entertain more! In fact, there has never been anything said to Ruben, why is that? I admit that Ruben has a better voice than Josh at the moment, but I would never by a CD of Ruben singing the same old lounge songs over and over, and I would never go see him in concert, how boring!! At least Josh is easy on the eyes, fun to watch and sings many different types of music. America voted for who they liked and I agreed with them.

  • http://w6daily.winn.com/ Phillip Winn

    Eric, I was going to disagree with you slightly, but then M Williams posted and underscored your point – those who voted are stupid.

    I wasn’t surprised to see Trenyce in the bottom two. I was astounded to see Reuben there. So was Josh, who spent the entire rest of the show ashamed to show his face to the camera. I guess now we know what the hicks who voted for Nikki McKibbin last time are up to now.

    The sick part is, Josh might even sell records. Not to me, as I require a certain amount of talent to be present somewhere on an album before I’ll plunk down my money, but then again, I’m not buying whats-her-face’s new album anyway, so I guess I’m not in the target demographic.

  • Eric Olsen

    I should point out that I also think another reason for the weird vote was that Ruben’s fans have become complacent, and didn’t think they had to vote for him since he was considered to be in thelead. But as they now know, each vote is different, and I don’t think they will be caught off guard again.

    M, I don’t have anything against Josh – he CAN be very good on some songs – I thought he was better on his first song Tuesday than the judges did – but he just isn’t in the same class of overall talent as the others, including Trenyce. He will end up being the “singing Marine” or something and could do very well if sticks to country, which is definitely his strength.