Sunday, October 5, 2008

Dr. Dumbass, or How we Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Hockey Mom

Alright, before I get into the post I recognize that I probably owe you some sort of “explanation” for my long absence from blogging. Its like this: as you may know, we started this blog because there’s a lot of really f*cked up shit happening in the world that makes us mad. Hence the tagline “we rage, so you don’t have to.” Blogging is actually a really great way of channeling some of that rage into slightly less negative energy, I’ve found. But recently, what with the presidential campaign heating up and the economy spiraling down the drain, there’s just been so much to rage about its hard to make a coherent sentence. So I’ve been reading a lot, writing…not so much.

BUT good news: I’m back. Time to channel all that rage into something productive again. If things go well, expect this to be the first in a series of blog posts that are NOT weeks apart from each other. And I apologize in advance: they may be lengthy. The topic of this one: well, the title says it all, I think.

Ok so down to business:

The remarkable and terrifying ascent of Sarah Palin to the national stage is so problematic in so many ways that I could probably write quite literally a hundred separate blog posts about it. There’s the sexism, the republicanism, the global warming, the foreign policy, the fucked up campaigning, the terrifying ambition, the cold heartless and oh-so-creepy way in which she responded to gwen iffil’s question about “what if the worst were to happen,” the accent that I think she may be exaggerating…seriously, the list goes on for miles. But today I’d like to focus on just one issue, and this is one that is not entirely Sarah Palin’s fault, although she’s surely not helping. I call it the war on intelligence.

This has been a common theme in politics for frankly as long as I can remember, but now that I’m old enough to care, I have to point out that it’s getting dangerous. The idea that it’s more important for a candidate to sell him/herself as likeable, and “average,” than it is to provide policy recommendations and prove him/herself knowledgeable in areas of domestic and foreign policy is deeply, deeply troubling, and nowhere is it more clear than in the Republican Party's marketing of Gov. Sarah Palin.

As Palin quite literally can’t seem to stop saying, she’s a “Washington outsider,” a “hockey mom,” and all those other run-of-the-mill, joe six-pack type terms that, when overused, can turn a vice presidential debate into a disastrous drinking game. Say it ain’t so, joe! Doggone it, she’s gone just a little overboard trying to be folksy and down-home. But my real problem with this is not how f*cking annoying she gets when she says “you betcha” for the ten millionth time, its that people actually LIKE this shit. People enjoy it when she replaces substance with fake authenticity. And yes, I realize that’s an oxymoron. at least i know what an oxymoron is.

As Barack Obama would say, “let’s be clear:” I understand why people want a president or vice president they can relate to. You want someone who you think you can trust to share your values. You want someone who appears to have respect for people like yourself, because if they don’t respect you, they may not have your best interests in mind. I get that. I agree with it. But that’s no longer what this is about. With Sarah Palin, you’re not getting a politician you can relate to, you’re getting a politician who IS you. And YOU are not qualified to run this country.

I think it was Maureen Dowd, shockingly enough, who verbalized it so well in a mock-conversation (god, she loves those) between Barack Obama and President Bartlett from The West Wing. Bartlett, in Dowd’s column, says, “Elite is a good word, it means well above average. I’d ask them what their problem is with excellence.” That’s just it. What in the name of all that is holy is everyone’s problem with excellence? Relatability is important, but more important, I want the person or persons I elect to office to be intelligent. I want someone capable. I want someone who understands economics better than I do, not someone whose confusion reminds me of my own and evokes my empathy. I want someone whose foreign policy plan would consist of something more than not second-guessing Israel. Sure, I want someone who reads the newspaper often enough to know which newspapers she reads, but that’s setting the bar a little low, no? I’d rather have someone who reads several newspapers and understands the nuance of what she reads. I’d rather have someone who not only understands economics better than I do (another seriously low bar), but understands economics well enough to handle the current crisis. I’d rather have someone excellent.

Running the country is a big job. Its one that I, after four years at an “elite” college, am in no way qualified to do. I would hope that the people who are actually campaigning for the job would have an interest in proving to me that they, in fact, know more than I do. But instead, the Republican Party seems intent on proving that they’re exactly like me. Worse, they seem intent on proving that I, with my Ivy League education, my love for arugula, and my newfound ability to pronounce Ahmadinejad, am “elite,” and that they are even more “average,” which in their twisted world means “better.” *I* recently injured myself trying to hang a picture on my wall. I like to dream that come January, our country will be led by people who pride themselves in being smarter than me.

To be honest, the really troubling part about all of this is the fact that I think we all know by now it’s not just the presidential election. The war on intelligence has permeated most aspects of American life. Being smart is just not cool. Our public education system is terrible, but being a champion of education will not get you terribly far politically. Creativity is excessively undervalued in this country, and, whether it is an accurate representation or not, the image of the “average American” that is being put forward by politicians is one of an unambitious, hard-working, not terribly bright, white man who likes beer and hunting, loves his family, and has no interest in politics outside his home town. My suspicion is that very few people actually relate to that characterization of the “average American.” The idea that white Americans living in small towns across the U.S. care about nothing other than working 9 to 5 and getting health care is frankly insulting: my suspicion, and by all means correct me if I’m wrong, is that people all over America have diverse interests beyond their basic human needs, and that given the opportunity to give their children a better education, no one would turn it down because it’s “elite.” So enough of this nonsense. I say we fight back and say “no” to mediocrity. And while we’re at it, dear god can we please say “no” to Sarah Palin?

Ok, I'll leave you for now, but here are just a few things I feel compelled to share with you, that I couldn't quite work into the post:

a great op-ed in salon on media reactions to palin

and this:

that's all, folks!

1 comment:

kidbonita said...

egads, you write well.
i was saying some of the same things recently in a conversation - i don't want someone representing me / this country who is "6 pack joe" or "hockey mom". but you put it all so succinctly.
i hope you don't mind, but i am forwarding your blog post along. i really think you spoke well here.