The Body Politic – The Progressive, 3/02/2007

During our long domestic and international nightmare, it is perhaps no mistake that millions of people have paid money to determine their “personal sleep number.” By inputting height, weight, mattress preference, and sleep pattern data, trained professionals have helped the sleeplessly addled to determine the key to a perfect night’s sleep. It’s not clear if George has availed himself of the technology, but he has said, “I’m sleeping better than people would assume.” Some would call it passing out.

Perhaps more noteworthy than the upsurge of sleep numerology in these last years of the Bush Administration is the intriguing phenomenon of the traveling exhibit known as Body Worlds. In the last two years, millions of people in the U.S. have attended sold-out exhibitions of human bodies and body parts preserved and frozen in various poses through a process called plastination. Gunther Von Hagens, a German anatomist, invented the technique, put the show on the road, and put me off Rocky Road Haagen Dazs for a while.

The stated purpose of Body Worlds is the “education of the layman about the human body leading to better health awareness.” Thus the compare-and-contrast exhibit of the smoker’s and non-smoker’s lung, the free-standing circulatory system. The Swimmer, the Archer, the Equestrian, and the Pregnant Woman and her eight-month fetus are some of the more popular displays.

But we are kept from seeing un-plastinated bodies of our dear soldiers returning from war zones. We are all left behind.

Full disclosure: I have not attended. Whenever I saw the ads for the show, I mistakenly dismissed them as movie promos for Matrix IV with a filleted and bug-eyed, crouching Keanu Reeves. A surprising residual reverence for the body as Temple of the Holy Ghost keeps me away.

It can’t be pure sensationalism that drives people to the exhibit. Since most science has been transformed into political science, people want information. We used to just call it General Science or Biology. Now it’s all multiple choice.

Word has it that when he’s not deciding to surge, or bullying surge protectors in Congress, George W. Bush has been ruminating about his legacy. Southern Methodist University, whose motto is the unintentionally ironic “The Truth Shall Set You Free,” is the proposed and reluctant site of the Bush II Library: a half-stack of unreadable, blackened FOIA vetted documents, leather-bound copies of My Pet Goat, the French existentialists, and “some Shakespeares.” Go Mustangs! The money could more suitably be spent on the GWB Fitness Center.

Or the GWB Body World show? They’re generally money-makers, but W. can run it into the ground in a few years. We would select different personalities from the Bush years, determine their perfect sleep number, induce a state of even more suspended animation, and put them in dramatic poses. The War Criminal/Advisor (with Henry Kissinger, we won’t have to do much). The Anonymous Source. The Retired Military General. The Political Director. The Devoted Personal Assistant/Supreme Court Nominee. The Mother (at last Barbara would be silent). The Hunter. The Hunter’s Friend with actual buckshot in his face.

We could authorize a road show to travel the U.S., and if we run out of sleepinates, dip into the reserve of actual dead people. Ken Lay could at last be a cooperative witness as Corporate CEO.
If this gives you a creepy, quasi-necrophilia feeling, you don’t have to go to the show. But it could keep them all from starting their own consulting firms.

Kate “I Still See Dead People” Clinton is a humorist .