Monday, March 12, 2007

It's a Big Big World

I was up till 4am reading at Obama's site, watching his YouTubes and typing a letter to him (which was embarrassingly autobiographical, and will need heavy editing before anyone but me and my cats see it). I finally got my copy of The Audacity of Hope from a long hold list at the library, and the library clerk told me that Obama is on her friends list on MySpace. How bizarre. It reminds me a bit of Clinton's sax playing on Saturday Night Live.

More than the intricacies of the internet, I'm a little shocked that politicians have time to write books. As I skim Audacity, I'm feeling grateful that this politician has written a book. It seems like a remedy for the sound bite. The idea of a sound bite offends me in part because I worry that someone (ie the politician) will think that I choose to get my information about a topic in that manner. I'd like the book, instead of the movie trailer. (Unless the trailer is for a two-hour documentary by Al Gore in which he sums up his life work thus far with heart-rending animation of floundering polar bears, in which case the movie will be an acceptable substitute, and the trailer a good teaser.)
An excerpt from The Audacity of Hope that caught me where I stood yesterday:

I understand the frustration of these activists. The ability of Republicans to repeatedly win on the basis of polarizing campaigns is indeed impressive. I recognize the dangers of subtlety and nuance in the face of the conservative movement's passionate intensity. And in my mind, at least, there are a host of Bush Administration policies that justify righteous indignation.
Ultimately, though, I believe any attempt by Democrats to pursue a more sharply partisan and ideological strategy misapprehends the moment we're in. I am convinced that whenever we exaggerate or demonize, oversimplify or overstate our case, we lose. Whenever we dumb down the political debate, we lose. For it's precisely the pursuit of ideological purity, the rigid orthodoxy and the sheer predictability of our current political debate, that keeps us from finding new ways to meet the challenges we face as a country. It's what keeps us locked in "either/or" thinking; the notion that we can have only big government or no government, the assumption that we must either tolerate forty-six million without health insurance or embrace "socialized medicine."
It is such doctrinaire thinking and stark partisanship that have turned Americans off of politics. This is not a problem for the right; a polarized electorate - or one that easily dismisses both parties because of the nasty dishonest tone of the debate - works perfectly well for those who seek to chip away at the very idea of government. After all, a cynical electorate is a self-centered electorate.
Typing this out made me read much more carefully! I hadn't seen how skillfully he enumerates the tactics of the Republican party, while ostensibly discussing the habits that thoughtful citizens should avoid. And on my first and second reading of this passage, I kept thinking of that study about how narcissistic college students these days are.
But on this reading, I'm struck by how he has captured the feeling that I have when I hear Cheney say things like "The American people won't tolerate a policy of retreat." Actually, that's exactly what I'd like to request, sir, and furthermore, it makes me feel hopeless, excluded, and insulted to hear my exact sentiments negated. Yes, I feel Cheney is still dangerous. He's certainly dangerous in a foreign policy sort of way, but he's also psychologically dangerous to Americans, when he reinforces ideas that are not held by the majority, with that nasty sneering tone that dares anyone to countermand him. It's bullying, and it makes me feel useless.

I've used up my blog time getting all these links (why can't research papers be written with links instead of those pesky citations!), and I haven't got time to wax poetic about political crushes. I need to think that one through anyway before I post it - it may be a bit heterocentric.

And I need to remember to add Suzette Haden Elgin's LJ to my links, as she is certainly one of my Favorites. Check out the entry on March 4th. Good stuff. She makes me want to make new words.

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