Susan Boyle. Three weeks ago, the whole world would have said ‘Who?’
I stopped watching the numbers when the YouTube hits passed 100 million, but now everyone, the world over, knows not only who Susan Boyle is, but even the name of her cat.
Commentary about her overnight stardom isn’t scarce, either. Her choice of music certainly didn’t hurt. By singing “I Dreamed a Dream”, from Les Miserable, she set the stage. If ever a “les miserable” in terms of appearance, Susan Boyle was it.
“I looked like a garage”, she said, and most of us – before she opened her mouth – agreed. Pity came first, followed by vague embarrassment. We just knew she was going to make a fool out of herself out there on that stage. It was gonna be painful.
But boy oh boy, did she blow us away. As that incredibly beautiful and cultured singing voice poured forth from that hairy, ungainly body, the world darn near stopped turning. Both the show hosts and the audience rose for a standing ovation long before she finished. Today, she's a star, loved, praised and appreciated.
Why is that? What is it about Susan Boyle that so captured our attention? Google reports 2567 people have answered that question, but let me try one more. I think it’s because Susan Boyle is us.
No matter how beautiful we are, how talented, how poised, how elegant, all of us feel some degree of personal insecurity. Even at the pinnacle of success, somewhere within ourselves we know we’re not perfect. We have flaws, and spend an inordinate amount of time hoping others won’t notice. The beauty queens among us exaggerate their deficiencies,but even they fret over perceived lack of perfection. Self-doubt is just part of who we are.
So to see a Susan Boyle – an Edith Bunker clone, a woman lacking in every one of the trappings of beauty the glamour magazines promote – being loved and applauded, well, wow. Maybe that means we could be loved and applauded, too, in spite of our numerous imperfections.
In fact, Susan Boyle represents the corollary of Shelby Steele’s plea from so many decades ago. “Judge us not by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character.” Judge us not on our looks – our blotchy complexions, wiry hair or well-padded hips – but rather on what we have to offer. Judge us on our essence, not on our appearance.
Wednesday is Yom Hatzmaut in Israel – Independence Day, our 61st birthday. What does that have to do with Susan Boyle?
Just this: For 61 years running, tiny embattled Israel has lived most of the time in the world’s dog house. We are criticized and pilloried, lectured and punished, shunned and boycotted. Attacked by our neighbors in eight major wars – as of this writing – while enduring daily attacks, from one end of the country to another, by terrorists of many stripes. And all the world can focus on is our imperfections.
We are “disproportionate” in our response to nine years of missile attacks on our towns and villages. We lack sensitivity in dealing with the people who promise to kill every one of us. We don’t take good enough care of our enemies – we don’t supply them with the right kind of food, housing or medical care. Our ‘gestures’ for the ‘peace’ the world longs for are never enough.
Oh, how wonderful it would be if Israel could be judged on the content of our character. On what we have to offer.
Our assets are considerable. There's too many to list here, but you’re healthier and will live longer, thanks to Israeli innovation. Israel developed the first non-radiation diagnostic instruments for breast cancer; a pill-sized ingestible camera to take photos from the inside, to help diagnose cancer and digestive disorders; a blood-pumping device to save the lives of people with heart failure, to name just three.
You eat better, with less impact on the environment. We developed a computer chip to revolutionize drip irrigation and prevent water loss – for that matter, drip irrigation itself was invented here.
You live better. The cell phone was invented here, as was AOL Messenger and voice mail. Most of the Windows NT operating system was developed in Microsoft Israel.
We’re the world leaders in solar technology and in water desalination.
Most important of all, we invented the cherry tomato. For that alone, we should be loved.
Why can’t Israel, too, be judged on who we are? On the content of our character?
By the way, if you want to see something truly embarrassing, take a look at Susan Boyle’s first television appearance in 1996. She appeared on another talent show called, “My Kind of People.”
Oh – it isn’t Miss Boyle who’s embarrassing. She’s wonderful. But the host, Michael Barrymore, is probably looking for a cave to crawl into right about now. How wrong could he possibly be?
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