Thursday, September 04, 2008

Empathy for the unsympathetic

Remind me not to turn on a Rudy Giuliani speech at 2 a.m. The neighbors hate it when I shout.

Rudy and Sarah Palin reminded me last night why I could never be a Republican. I almost feel sorry for conservatives, so intensely defined by what they hate that their beliefs often clash like inbred chromosomes. Really, who wants that version of the world to be reality?

Let's assume for a moment that everything the GOP currently touts is correct. Let's say that the only way to ensure peace is to start war, that an intelligent and rousing candidate beloved the world over is bad for the U.S., that Sarah Palin doesn't need experience because John McCain has it but hey she does have executive experience and all women will vote for her because she has babies, and that the way to get Americans excited is to accentuate the qualities that divide us, real or imagined, etc. etc.

How can anyone find this even remotely appealing? What about this sneering, divisive, hateful, condescending, smug, petulant, ignorant, anti-intellectual, win-at-all-costs attitude is supposed to make my heart swell with pride? Am I supposed to well up with tears of joy when "America's Mayor" uses "community organizer" as a punch line for laughs and jeers? Is my heart supposed to palpitate with euphoria when 17-year-old Bristol Palin takes the stage with her boyfriend, both doomed to an extremely premature marriage caused by societal pressures and lack of sex education? Am I supposed to enjoy the whiplash my brain feels when GOP leaders flip-flop between trashing "career politicians" and praising "experience" and back again whenever expedient? Am I supposed to look up to people like Karl Rove, Dick Cheney and Ann Coulter as paragons of success? Should I accept a parade of reduced civil liberties because, "I have nothing to hide?" Do I feel patriotic when I watch what I say? Would I find America less of a country if "under God" were not in the Pledge of Allegiance? Am I supposed to feel relief when I hear the latest Angry White Male repeat the same old Angry White Male ideas, with the assurance that they'll actually work this time? Is my entire outlook on life destined to be defined not by what I stand for, but what I despise? And, finally, should I celebrate a complete inability to adapt to new facts, ideas and ways of life in the face of an ever-shifting humanity? And will it be satisfying to ruin others who can?

In a way, the divisive attitude exhibited at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday night has been effective; whereas before I was simply uplifted by Barack Obama's call to unite America and take it in a positive direction, I am now further grateful that my concepts of success and humanity clash sharply with those espoused by conservatives.

I've never been prouder not to be somebody.


Jason said...

"sneering, divisive, hateful, condescending, smug, petulant, ignorant, anti-intellectual, win-at-all-costs"

And you don't think the Democrats can be described that way as well?

Rob Guillory said...

Just an observation, but the vibe I got from the RNC was one of a really aggressive, "anyone not with us is completely irrelevant" attitude. They have the answers, and they're just not interested in hearing anything from anyone outside of their own cloister. At least, that's how I read their sneering, eye-rolling at "the Opponent".

On the other end, my take on the DNC was that it was a room full of people who want to believe desperately in something again. And that's why Obama's ascended to this almost messianic status with them...which is dangerous on its own, but that's a whole other bag.

Personally, I'm fed up with both sides. But if one side can be read as being more "hateful and smug" than the other, it's definitely the Republicans. At least, the ones in that room last night.

Ian McGibboney said...

Jason, the attitude could certainly be attributed to many, if not most, politicians of every party. But only one party at the moment has made those qualities a central theme of its campaign. McCain's campaign is such a morass of nastiness, especially since Palin has forced them on the defensive, that they're faltering for the same reason that Kerry did in 2004: it's not enough just to position yourself as not someone else. Especially when the burden's on you to prove that you're not Bush.

Which brings me to your point, Rob. Obama as messiah is a tempting angle, but it overlooks a few things. I, for one, was fully prepared to support Hillary or Edwards or any Democrat who ran against whoever won among the GOP clones. I wouldn't have been super-enthused, but that's always how it is.

Obama gave me someone to vote FOR, because of his eloquence and stated desire to overcome divisions meshed with smart fuel and foreign policies. It had nothing to do with being a cult figure or because he's the black guy. I'm certainly not one easily swayed by charismatic people, and I'm definitely cynical. So maybe Obama, who can make even me feel earnest about America again, is someone worth my support.

Politics is almost universally bad, but I'll take hope over fear any day.