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2008 Election: Seeking Reason Amidst The Rhetoric

September 2nd, 2008 | by Daniel DiRito |

For the most part, I’ve been in a funk since the Democratic National Convention. The question I’ve been unable to answer is why. Even as I write this posting, I remain unsure of the cause of my malaise. Regardless, it seemed appropriate to attempt an explanation…for myself and my readers.

As the convention closed on Thursday, I found myself inspired by the words of Barack Obama…but I also found myself even more cynical about the political process and the motivations of its participants. At one level, it seems appropriate to confine my criticism to the political sphere. At another level, I see no way to distinguish my discouragement with the political process from my ever increasing doubts about our discordant identities.

I’ve long argued that we’ve become a society of individuals who live in two parallel perceptions. On the one hand, we adopt the inane belief that our nation can be reduced to the rhetoric of right versus left, good versus evil, liberal versus conservative. On the other hand, our day to day realities are frequently devoid of the dynamics that define these distinctions. In other words, the rampant rhetoric is rarely relevant to our actual reality…and yet rhetoric rises while reality recedes.

In many ways, we’ve reduced our lives to a list of focus group tested talking points…pretending that our propensity for partisanship is a direct extension of our daily experiences…when it is actually little more than a lamentable lesson in the limitations of latching oneself to the self-deception that accompanies our lip service lives.

While the discourse of our democracy is so eloquently defined as an affirmation of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, an abundance of our actions abrogate this idyllic ideation in favor of inconsistent and inconsequential ideologies. Unfortunately, when the veils of our compartmental caricatures are pulled back, the view reveals a virtual vacuity. In the end, our allegiance is to intransigence…which is ironically matched by our unexplored rejection of the merits of vicissitude.

Should there be any doubt as to the degree to which we ascribe to unenlightened utterances in the pursuit of political power…and therefore mindlessly attach our personal worth to well-crafted words of suspect substance…one need look no further than the proclamations of John McCain’s campaign manager, Rick Davis. Davis, in attempting to define the 2008 election, offered, “This election is not about issues. This election is about a composite view of what people take away from these candidates.”

In other words, that which is unstated has now eclipsed that which can be deduced or discovered. Politics is no longer an exercise in objective observation but an unmitigated effort to nurture nuance in order to foster nascent innuendo. Such is the logical progression of a decision to divorce oneself from reality in favor of parlance and platitudes.

That brings me to the brouhaha about the pregnancy of Bristol Palin, the daughter of John McCain’s vice presidential selection, Sarah Palin. Rightly so, the Obama campaign has cautioned that the personal lives of the children of candidates should have no place in the political arena. However, there is both a need and a purpose in seeking to distinguish essence from expression…and therefore find that which unites us as Americans…and more importantly…as human beings engaged in the human experience.

All too often, the victims of our seemingly inviolable values are those innocents who are forced to reconcile our calculated manipulations of morality with their own advancing awareness of the unrelenting complexity of the human condition. What distinguishes the pregnant daughter of the conservative Christian from the pregnant daughter of the non-spiritual secularist? Does not the incontrovertible impact of the pregnancy exceed the exhortations of the underlying ideologies? Are not these daughters equal in their human frailty and therefore indistinguishable in their moral fitness?

As such, are our efforts to identify ourselves as distant and distinct points on a contrived continuum not merely the means by which we seek to stratify and separate us, one from the other? Does our need to define one doctrine superior to the other in any way alter the inevitable difficulty that will accompany an unanticipated pregnancy? That pregnancy need not be a moral disqualification.

The Palin’s undoubtedly see great worth in their daughter…just as they and all parents should see the worth in all daughters…whether they adhere to similar or dissimilar value systems. At what point will we decide that our fragile human similarities exceed our need to exaggerate our dogmatic differences in the pursuit of political power?

At what point will we cease our efforts to evaluate the wherewithal and worthiness of our political opponents by tabulating how many of their cohorts have succumbed to the human condition? In this attempt to establish relevant value and measurable morality, we divorce ourselves from each other and therefore our shared humanity.

This years election, like so many before, has seen the emergence of two competing slogans. On the one hand, John McCain presents himself as the “Straight Talk Express”. On the other, Barack Obama, when speaking of change, tells us, “Yes We Can”. Regardless, unless and until we unite our unexamined external personae with our shared…though often suppressed…internal and innately human identities, our politics will be about a distinction without a difference.

Bristol Palin is every American’s daughter. This election and all others ought to be about the promises we make to her and and the children her generation will raise. The difficulties she and her family will face are not unique to Republicans or Democrats…Christians or secularists. Neither party and neither ideology has a monopoly on morality. Those who assert as much do so as a matter of political expediency.

If we care about our future, we’ll begin the process of admitting as much. If we don’t, I expect that each future election will seem increasingly disconnected and disconcerting. I for one have had enough.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

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  1. 2 Responses to “2008 Election: Seeking Reason Amidst The Rhetoric”

  2. By rube cretin on Sep 3, 2008 | Reply

    Thanks Daniel,
    I have been waiting for your wrap up post. It did not disappoint. It immediately reminded me of the following quote. “There is no place in this new kind of physics both for the field and matter, for the field is the only reality” Albert Einstein.

    I realize this may seem an extreme reframing of your excellent ideas and thoughts, but please allow me to paraphrase a couple of paragraphs from Joseph Campbell and hopefully you will understand the delusions of an old man and why i believe you have really put your finger on something very important.

    “It is the point of the Einstein quote that eastern mysticism and western science meet. “Thou art that,” is the bottom line of Campbell’s philosophy. There is no matter; everything is the field. The separations and limitations are in our own minds. To separate oneself or one’s group–to say, “Oh, no, we are different”– is to set oneself against wholeness. To separate ourselves from the whole is to cut our options and erect the walls of our own prison. When we create duality in our thoughts and lives, we have created opposition.” I too have had enough.

    Wish i could spend more time discussing this matter, but got to go. I am leaving in a few minutes for a few weeks on the AT in the mountains of North Carolina.

  3. By Liberal Jarhead on Sep 3, 2008 | Reply

    Thanks, Daniel. A needed call for civility and principle.

    We’ve spent the last several years criticizing the Rovian tactics of ugly personal politics at the expense of debate on the issues. Rightly so. If we turn around and do the same thing, we’re affirming those tactics, and showing that we’re hypocrites - that we only disapprove of sleaze when it’s the other guy’s sleaze.

    Of course the McCain campaign doesn’t want this election to be about issues; if it is, they’ll lose. So why are we going along with that? It’s not only wrong, it’s stupid.

    The Palins’ daughter is in a scary, painful, humiliating situation, regardless of what joy and fulfillment may ultimately come of it. It is made worse by her parents’ political and cultural baggage, for which she isn’t responsible. The young lady deserves everyone’s empathy and respect. If instead we respond by mocking, it’s a reflection on us, not on her, and an ugly one. How would we want people to act if she were our daughter, or if we were in that situation ourselves?

    If we have any chance of changing the course our beloved country is on, it has to be by insisting on making the election about issues and principles, and within that domain, about solutions and repair of the damage that’s been done over decades from Nixon on. That is what American voters are hungry for - it’s sleaze that we’re all sick of. It’s sleaze that makes us angry, that makes us cynical, that leads people to throw up their hands and decide to go fishing on election day.

    I’ve been working hard lately to teach our grandsons the golden rule, and to teach them that they need to be ready to protect themselves from bullies but they should never be bullies themselves. And the spectacle of a bunch of adults heaping ridicule on a teenager is despicable and something I want no part of. We rightly blasted Rush Limbaugh for cruelly making fun of Chelsea Clinton, and I for one am utterly unwilling to make Limbaugh a role model for so-called progressives.

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