Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

Commentary

February 5, 2013

Paul Harvey's triumph

(Continued)

In its pacing and its imagery, the speech is a kind of prose-poem. Delivered by Harvey, who could make a pitch for laundry detergent sound like a passage from the King James Bible, it packs great rhetorical force. Listening to it can make someone who never would want to touch cows, especially before dawn, wonder why he didn't have the good fortune to have to milk them twice a day. In short, it is a memorably compelling performance, and without bells or whistles, let alone staging so elaborate it might challenge the logisticians who pulled off the invasion of Normandy.

That was left for Beyonce. Someday a cultural historian will write the definitive history of the Super Bowl halftime and how it morphed from a showcase for the likes of the Grambling State University marching band to a platform for gyrating pop stars. (Michael Jackson started the trend in 1993.) Beyonce dressed like she was headed for a shift at the local gentlemen's club, and put on a show that was an all-out assault on the senses. She was stunning and athletic, as well as tasteless and unedifying.

The Harvey ad was schmaltzy rustic romanticism, to be sure, but it celebrated something worthy. It was uplifting rather than degrading. It spoke of selflessness and virtue in moving terms.

The farmer is patient. He is willing "to sit up all night with a newborn colt, and watch it die, then dry his eyes and say, 'Maybe next year.'" He is ingenious. He can "shoe a horse with a hunk of car tire." He is hard-working. He "will finish his 40-hour week by Tuesday noon and then, paining from 'tractor back,' will put in another 72 hours." He is a family man. He bales "a family together with the soft, strong bonds of sharing."

Harvey's speech has such resonance because what he describes aren't agrarian qualities so much as stereotypically American qualities. They represent what we want ourselves to be like - even if God didn't make us farmers.

(c) 2013 by King Features Syndicate

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