The other big female media star last week, besides Saint Teresa and Princess Di (see previous post), was the heartrendingly ill-starred Miss Teen South Carolina, Lauren Caitlin Upton, whose haplessly thrashing (and unintentionally question-answering) response, at the Miss Teen USA Pageant, to the question of why it is that a fifth of Americans can’t locate the United States on a map

provoked a firestorm of knowingly guffawing posts and linkages all across the Web, and presently across the wider media as well.

It has often been noted that going to war seems to be the principal way most Americans learn their geography (we invade you, therefore you exist), but Miss Teen South Carolina’s dizzily careening answer put me in mind of nothing so much as another webcast one-week wonder, from several months back—this one documenting a passenger’s-eye view of the transit of an American military Hummer through the streets of Baghdad,

one which, at the time, helped to answer the alternate Beauty Pageant question as to why it might be that America’s occupation of the Iraqi capital didn’t seem to be getting met with unalloyed enthusiasm.

Now, granted, in both instances, there are mitigating (if not altogether redeeming) circumstances that call out to be noted. As for the tragically tongue-tangled Ms. Upton: Who among us hasn’t succumbed to such brain-freeze and word-crush at similar moments of high-pressure self-display (in our dreams if nowhere else)? And, for God’s sake, the girl is only a teenager. As for the Hummer ride: How would you like to be driving an American military vehicle through the streets of Baghdad, subject to improvised explosive devices and potential ambushes at every turn, such that your safest possible option is a speedy, if somewhat bump-and-grindy, dash through the capital’s thronging thoroughfares.

Still: Ms. Upton chose to subject herself to the pressures of that pageant circus—nobody was holding a gun to her head—and, similarly, we Americans chose (either actively, through our electoral collusion, or passively, through our collective failure to find a way of wresting control of the vehicle of state in its hell-bent rush to war) to occupy Baghdad, with all the dangers such a venture portends in clear sight all along. Such that mitigation is not much comfort, certainly not for most Baghdadis with blithely ignorant (what’s the opposite of worldly—_worldless_?) Americans crashing heedlessly down their crowded streets.