I received an email from a relative after the election. It was the first time we’d spoken since I’d more or less hung up on him a few days before the big event – after screaming that the blood from the pointless human and ecological carnage of four more years of George W. Bush would be on his hands. He wasn’t happy to hear this.
In the email, he said “my” party was “too extreme” and “out of touch.” I think this was his way of gloating. Yet I read these words as nothing more than parroting of right-wing talking heads, so I took them with a grain of salt. It’s sad, in a way, since it lends credence to my theory that people are no longer interested in making up their own minds (were they ever?) They have become conduits of whatever media they pay attention to.
I’d become accustomed to hearing this relative's chest-thumping conservative bluster. During one memorable argument, he said he wouldn’t vote for John Kerry because he was planning on implementing “socialism.” Which fanatic dreamed that one up? Wouldn’t a Republican-controlled House and Senate completely cut Kerry off at the knees anyhow? It’s quite possible Kerry would have been a eunuch in the White House, setting the Democrats back another 12 years and opening the door for another top-notch “uniter” like Jeb Bush to restore order.
Throughout our bickering, I can only recall one point he made that sounded like an honest opinion, that hadn’t been planted in his head by a pundit. He said he couldn’t stand to look at Theresa Heinz Kerry for four years – “and that hair; she should do something with that hair.” This confirmed my suspicion that he preferred his wives to be of the Stepford variety. Laura “I bake cookies” Bush actually looks a bit like his current spouse. At least his feelings toward the Ketchup Lady inspired honest vitriol. To me, that’s more valid a reason to vote a certain way than spewing the Fox News Kool-Aid.
But this is what it’s all come to, I guess. Truth is no longer absolute. We’re at a place where everything is subjective. If you believe – be it Fox News or The Nation – it must be true. My own opinions were formed largely through reading The New Yorker, whose political coverage I have found to be well-researched, well-reasoned and clearly articulated. I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve wanted to give an article to someone in order to convince them of my point of view. But my well-reasoned material is someone else’s liberal pinko manifesto. Like anybody else who paid attention, I saw the polarization every day. I’ll admit that I was unable to have a political discussion with people who were on the other side, because I’d become so worked up over what I perceived to be their inability to comprehend what to me was common sense. But who the hell knows. Maybe it was me. That’s what I’m now supposed to believe, right?
The bottom line was simple: More people believed Bush’s lies than Kerry’s lies. Bush is a better liar than Kerry. Maybe people get all hot and bothered when Bushie says “nuke-u-ler.” Or maybe it was that people would just rather have a leader they feel more comfortable having a beer with. (Bush won this very poll. The irony is that Bush is a fire and brimstone teetotaler; Kerry’s actually the guy who would’ve hoisted a few pints at the corner pub. C’mon, dude’s an Irish Catholic.)
One thing is certain: the last six months have been ugly. How do we just dust it off and pretend it didn’t happen because Bush says he has “a duty to serve all Americans.” Does that include the “liberals” he castigated in his run for the throne? So now I’ll play the parent card. What kind of message does all of this send to my young son? That rules of fair play have gone the way of the Backstreet Boys?
Am I insane, or did the underlying Republican message boil down to this: “If you vote for a democrat, we’re all going to die.” Great, our guy’s a proven badass. But doesn’t that make our enemies just salivate and mobilize? Last I checked, the world at large wasn’t begging the U.S. to offer its soft touch in whipping up democracies.
I tell my son to share. Bush says play the game my way or we’re gonna blow your ass all to hell. Jesus.
Maybe I’ve become extreme and out of touch.
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