This independence day week, amidst the fireworks and patriotic songs, I’d like to remember a fading American icon: Tonya Harding. Best known for her plot to hire goons to club the legs of rival figure-skater Nancy Kerrigan, she has since become a symbol of blue collar ingenuity.
After narrowly avoiding prison, Tonya set out to reclaim her fame in a series of failed publicity stunts.
Her pop band Golden Blades was booed off stage at a Portland festival. Then, appearing as Tonya “TNT” Harding on Fox’s Celebrity Boxing, she jabbed and bullied Paula Jones. Inspired by this win at age thirty-three, Tonya went on to fight in six professional boxing matches before turning to print, releasing a tell-all book called The Tonya Tapes, because Tonya is not here for friends:
[Tonya Harding: “If ya like me, great. If you don’t like me, that’s okay, that’s your opinion. But I betcha you’ll still pay money to come see me.”]
It’s this self-promotion and irreverent flare that hits some essential all-American nerve. Tonya Harding is the essence from which Sarah Palin draws, her sequined skating getup a glimmering Don’t Tread on Me flag. This is a woman that, ten days after Valentines Day was arrested for assaulting her boyfriend with a hubcap.
Now, Tonya explains that she wants a simple life of four-wheeling through mud bogs, and “put[ting] on a really pretty dress and go[ing] to dinner at a place like Applebee’s or something,” a universal desire that can surely lift our collective spirits in this season of life and liberty.