Friday, December 07, 2007

The Kucinich India Connection

The Washington Post has a rather odd profile of Congressman Dennis Kucinich and his wife, Elizabeth. It's essentially an account of how a 61 year old midwestern Congressman with political views considerably left of the American mainstream (and, yes, a history of spotting UFOs) got together with a 30 year old British woman who, in the reporter's words, "looks like Botticelli's Venus, only with clothes on."

It's a bit weird that people are paying all this attention to Elizabeth Kucinich's looks, rather than her husband's political views. The WaPo piece acknowledges the oddity of the hype (including the bit that ran on The Daily Show a few weeks ago), but in some ways this piece adds to the gossip-fest instead of moving past it.

The style of the writing does get on my nerves at times:

He says: It was an ordinary day in May 2005. There he was, Dennis Kucinich, congressman, twice divorced, looking for love, as always. He was on the floor of the House, doing ordinary congressman things.

"Tell her about the morning," Elizabeth says helpfully.

"Ooh! That's right!" Kucinich says. Here's the amazing part. (Things involving Elizabeth generally tend to be amazing.) That very morning, believe it or not, guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, who teaches peace through meditation and rhythmic breathing, had come to town. Dennis and Ravi have known each other for a long time. Ravi asked about Dennis's love life. Dennis said he was still looking for that special someone.

"And his response was, 'Stop looking and then she will appear,'" Dennis says. "And I said, 'Okay, I'm going to stop looking.' I said that. And that afternoon -- "

"I walked through the office door," Elizabeth finishes. (link)

On the one hand, this reads like political coverage as filtered through Danielle Steel ("looking for love... and doing ordinary congressman things" ?! Is this the same Washington Post E.J. Dionne writes for?).

On the other hand, if the Kuciniches really do say stuff like this in public, it's a bit hard to truly feel sorry for them.

There's more India a bit further on:

Her first inkling that Kucinich might be different from the run-of-the-mill congressman was the presence of two Indian nuns from the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University in Kucinich's reception room. She chatted with the nuns about India and felt herself being "opened" up by the conversation.

Then she and Zarlenga were called into Kucinich's office.

Dennis watched the young woman's eyes. First they went to a bust of Gandhi sitting on his bookshelf. Then they went to a picture given to him by the Hindu nuns -- a burst of brightness against an orange background meant to depict "conscious light." Then her eyes went to his.

"That was it," Dennis says now. "One, two, three." He knew.

"As soon as I met him I knew my life had changed," Elizabeth says. "I knew that he was my husband."

On the couch, they lean in for a kiss. (link)

Cho... Chweet.

Seriously, though -- what do you make of the role of these smatterings of Hindu spirituality in the Kucinich Romance? Does this apparently sincere interest in a certain Hippie-fied version of Hinduism lead you to like the Kuciniches more or less?

One does eventually learn some interesting things about Kucinich in the Washington Post piece (veganism, Crohn's disease, high school football...), but not without being subjected to more gushy commentary from the reporter about hot Elizabeth and her pierced tongue:

The world can be cynical, which is all the more reason why a long-shot presidential candidate must be pure and unwavering in his faith, must be unmoved by the vagaries of the public and the media -- by its interest in the superficial, in things like height and tongue studs.

"It's pathetic," Elizabeth says of the nation's fascination with her piercing. "I really wish people would -- "

She stops.

"Actually, it works okay with the young people," she says. She says some time back she was out in Los Angeles, visiting an organization that works with at-risk youth and former gang members.

"This young lad was taking me around, Hispanic chap. And he was really nervous," she says. "We just, like, chatted initially, and at some point I laughed and he said, 'Oh my God, you've got a tongue ring! That's so cool! I'm going to get everyone to vote for your husband!'"

"Ha!" says Dennis Kucinich, looking amazed.

The happiest presidential candidate laughs and laughs. (link)

(...and the reader squirms and squirms.)



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