Calhoun’s Cannons, The Bay News, Tolosa Press, SLO, CA for Sept 12, 2008
There go the people. I must follow them, for I am their leader.
In a recent commentary titled, “McCain’s clarity vs. Obama’s nuance,” Sally Quinn of the Washington Post, wrote of a recurring dream she had as a child. An earthquake had happened and her “father, his body a horse with wings, swooped down from the sky, kneeled so [she] could jump on his back and flew away . . .”
For her, it was a comforting dream from an earlier time when all fathers had wings and the complicated scary problems of the adult world could be solved with the appearance of a flying chevalier. For Quinn, that world was personified by candidate McCain during his “interview” with Pastor Rick Warren at the recent Saddleback College forum. McCain played to the crowd with snappy sound bites, exuding confidence and absolute certitude --a warrior with wings -- and at the end of the interview, writes Quinn “. . . I was curled up in a fetal position in my chair, wrapped in a mohair throw, practically sucking my thumb.”
By contrast, candidate Obama’s answers left Quinn in a far different chair. His answers were loaded with complex nuance, no certitudes, just more questions, more choices, “Obama’s world can be scarier. It’s multicultural. It’s realistic. . . . It’s honest.”
And she then penned an amazing cri de Coeur that is undoubtedly also resonating secretly throughout the country in so many other hearts: “I would rather live in McCain’s world than Obama’s. But I believe that we live in Obama’s world.”
What’s so astonishing to me is that such an incredibly sophisticated, Washington-wise, politically savvy woman would have thought, even for even a moment, that McCain’s World ever existed, except in dreams. There was never a time when the world was that simple. That’s the stuff of fairy tales and Hollywood Movies. And a corporate manipulated media, a sound-bite-driven politics and a dumbed-down, deliberately polarized electorate that allows itself to mistake reality for a sit-com world where problems can be pitched and solved in 25 minutes.
Worse yet, we groom, massage, manipulate, market-test, package and sell our presidents like soap. John McCain has voted with President Bush 95% of the time, yet he’s being portrayed as a “Maverick.” Mavericks don’t consistently do anything 95% of the time. Barack Obama’s career and voting record show him to be a cautious, collaborative, incrementalist, yet he’s being presented and peddled as a wild-eyed reforming barn burner.
And the voters who too often buy into these phony images always get the surprise of their lives after the election. “Defeat Evil” is not even possible in this sinful world. “Drill here. Drill now” is not a coherent energy policy. “Mission accomplished” is not an accurate statement, let alone a competent battle strategy. Those are advertising slogans used to sell product. And only in the world of advertising would a photogenic, caribou-shooting, “soul-mate,” Hocky Mom, barely two years into her second year in public office as governor of a lightly populated, anomalous state, be offered up as a President-Ready Veep of the most powerful nation on earth, a nation beset with Obama-World complex and nuanced problems that cannot be solved by a Republican-base, Karl Rovian, McCain-World wedge-issue platform of God, Guns ‘n Gays.
Obama World – the real world in all its tiresome, scary, shifting, complex, nuanced, incremental realities – has always been with us. It is the stuff of our nightmares. It is the stuff that causes us to dream of Warrior Daddies with Wings coming to save us.
But the only wings we have ever had are our own wits, our own willingness to think hard, work hard, and make sound judgment calls in everything we do, knowing that in this democratic society, it is the citizens – not their clay-footed elected representatives – who have the power to change anything. It is the citizens who must understand the nuance in that ever-changing reality and be prepared to make some complicated pragmatic tradeoffs in order to keep ahead of a Real World that constantly offers hundreds of options at lightening speed, and if the choices made are the wrong ones, gives no quarter and takes no prisoners.
There are no wings in that world, except our own. And that is enough. It’s always been enough. We forget that at our peril.