… or maybe dat course. Could even be da other course.
Horrible jokes aside, the tone of civil conversation in this country has been growing ever more un-civil over the last few years. This may be just another swing in the perpetual cycle of national enthusiasms here in the US, but the levels of cognitive dissonance recently have been incomprehensibly vile.
During the late, unlamented Bush administration, you may recall that swarms of self-professed lefties essentially went off the mental rails for eight years. Granted that Dumbya was not the best leader, orator, or philosopher to ever inhabit the Oval Office, the sheer vitriolic excesses of his ideological opposites were off the charts. Mind you, there were many excellent reasons to oppose the Shrub regime: botching the Afghanistan problem in mid-game in favor of a useless war in the sandbox, grabbing ever-broader executive power under the guise of “national security”, essentially nationalizing airport security, playing grade-school accounting tricks to thinly disguise the depths of shit in the debt-hole we were being driven into at full speed, etc. In lieu of focusing on these legitimate grievances, the left-wing scream machine was largely shrieking about Bush suspending elections and ruling by fiat or similar fictions. Not all of them, of course, but there were scads of folks way out in left field (pun intended) working themselves into a frenzy over the imagined abuses of the Shrub administration and drowning out most of the rational members of the Left through sheer volume and general dumbassery.
Let us contrast the behavior of the Left with those of the Right during the same period. The term hippie suddenly returned to the national lexicon after being declared officially demised three decades ago. Dissent was widely derided as treason, and the god-botherer segment of the country was practically wetting itself at the level of access it was granted. In lieu of of proclaiming some of the good works accomplished by Bush & company, too many on the Right were busy trying to jam their particular version of morality down the country’s collective throat and expending what little political capital they had left in the process.
When the two largest political parties spend all of their time declaiming each other as treacherous, diabolical, and un-American for years on end, it’s a sure sign that; (A) they’re both correct, and (B) the people in the political center- the ones who really matter in our political system- begin to feel marginalized and left out of the process. Worse still, those moderate centrist voters are bearing the brunt of the economic and civil load caused by each party spending all their energies doing what is best for the Party in lieu of what is best for the country.
When Obama got elected in 2008, political dialogue in the US underwent a rapid 180-degree turn. The right-wingnuts just could not seem to come to grips with the fact that they had lost the White House to a Democrat- a black Democrat. The Irish kid embodied just about every single quality the fundamentalist mental cases on the Right abhorred: Ivy-League-educated, from the fourth circle of Hell called Chicago, only casually religious, intelligent, and black. Despite the many protestations that race doesn’t enter into the Right’s dislike of Obama, the despicable and thinly-veiled bigotry displayed by the Republican “base” over the past three years leaves no objective observer with any doubt about the overtly racist underpinnings of the ideological fundamentalist Right.
Encouraged by their churches and the exhortations of pundits on TV and radio, the far right went completely berserk. The President was somehow illegitimate, a usurper, a muslim, a communist, an atheist, and virulently anti-American. Everything Obama said or did was part of a global conspiracy to destroy America and convert us all to Islam at gunpoint. Granted that these sentiments and conspiracy theories have always been out there, but since the 2008 election this dreary litany of bullshit has somehow become the mainstream message from the Right.
To be fair, the Left went from passionately decrying everything the President said or did during the Bush administration to loudly and passionately masturbating in public at everything the Obama administration says or does. All of the Left’s political opponents were described as venal, racist xenophobes, and any disagreement with any of Obama’s suggestions or policies became tantamount to treason. I’ll grant that the Left seems to have cooled off a bit in their hero worship of the Irish Kid- at least in public, but the Left-wingnuts still manage to grab some air-time to publicly display their fetish.
Now that I’ve described the extreme Left and extreme Right, what about everyone else? What bout the vast majority of Americans who aren’t partisan zealots? Judging by the tenor of the current political season, they’re being ignored at best and actively abused at worst. In order to get merely nominated to run against the President, the Republican candidates are desperately pandering to their base, the lowest of the lowest common denominators: the poorly educated, deeply religious, and casually racist who are often suffering the most from the economicalypse. In tight economic times, an incumbent President is often seen as vulnerable. The current crop of Republican candidates seem to be Hell-bent on winning the upcoming election for Obama by engaging in a vitriolic, nausea-inducing, scorched-Earth campaign which is driving away the centrist voters in droves. Those centrist voters- like me- are sick and tired of the slander and sleaze of this overly-long campaign season. Most of us are saying, “a pox on both their houses!”
I didn’t vote for Obama. I didn’t like his voting record in the Senate or his political history from Illinois, and I’m none too happy with several of his policies and positions. I’m not going to vote for him this November, either- for the same reasons.While the President has largely managed to maintain the appearance of being above the fray, this is mostly a carefully built illusion for public consumption designed to maximize his appeal to undecided and independent voters. I’m not going to vote for any of the gigolos currently vying for the Republican nomination, either. All of them together don’t add up to a single decent human. I will vote for someone who is passionate, articulate, dedicated, intelligent, and a demonstrably better human than any of the creatures trying to get into the White House or already living there. I am speaking, of course, about Neil DeGrasse Tyson.
Unlike the vermin desperately struggling for power and prestige, Dr. Tyson is genuinely likeable, good-natured, and good- humored. He is careful, when he speaks, to differentiate between facts and opinions. He is a familiar face to everyone with even a modest interest in science on both sides of the aisle, and he doesn’t speak to his audience as if their heads were solid bone. For his running mate, I would like to nominate Maurice Sendak, author of Where the Wild Things Are. He is almost a polar opposite of Dr. Tyson, being curmudgeonly uninterested in other peoples’ opinions and profoundly outspoken in the face of stupidity.
There may be a few people who read this and assume I am joking. Rest assured that I am not. I believe either Dr. Tyson or Mr. Sendak would be a far better President than anyone else in any political party in this country. Dr. Tyson would bring humor and intelligence to the office, and Mr. Sendak’s refusal to put up with stupidity would both be a refreshing change from just about every professional politician of the last thirty years. Furthermore, Dr. Tyson is a past master of public speaking, and is well-known for his ability to convert complex concepts into language the common man can understand. This last attribute- above all- is what has been missing from the country’s political communication for most of my lifetime. It’s time we returned civility to our political discourse. We can disagree without being disagreeable, and those who disagree with you are not necessarily your enemies. We’re all Americans, which means we’re brash, uncouth, quarrelsome, and unpredictable. We need to remember that the folks with different political views are also Americans. If we continue driving a wedge into every artificial division in our society, being American will no longer be a Good Thing.
Current status: Nauseated
Current music: Helena Beat by Foster the People